News Storms

“Are you feeling better?” my father asked me Monday morning.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

He looked at me, perplexed. “You’ve been sick,” he said.

I laughed. “No, Dad, I’ve been in Nashville at that conference I go to every year.”

“When I didn’t see you,” he replied, “I thought you must be sick and in the hospital.”

His world consists of a failing mind and body. To explain my absence, he made up a story that fit his world.

While I was in Nashville, I didn’t read the news. Not a once. For four whole days.

No news may not be good news, but sometimes it’s just good.

Oh — I thought about it. People talked about it. The news felt like a rip current that threatened to pull us under and drown us in our differing opinions.

But at Hutchmoot, grace, tenderness, and humility surrounded us like a warm blanket. Our commonalities pulled us close and the day’s political controversies didn’t drive us apart. In fact, when, one evening at Hutchmoot, that rip current threatened in a particularly diabolical way, Andrew Peterson, our proprietor and host, showed us how to handle even the most treacherous waters — reaching out like the very best of lifeguards to pull us to safety.

The Brett Kavanaugh – Christine Blasey Ford controversy is mostly over, ending while I was away. It was an earthquake followed by a tsunami — and now America moves on – battered, skeptical, self-protective, and uglified by debris.

I couldn’t help thinking about how my father truly believed his own story of me being in the hospital. It fit his world.

And I daresay people who could insert themselves into Christine Blasey Ford’s story, who knew what it was to be sexually assaulted, found themselves making their story her story. Perhaps they remembered how they couldn’t tell anybody because of the shame they felt. Perhaps they remembered how they wanted to move far far away and start over in a new place without the reminders of that terrible act.

On the other side, people who had been falsely accused, who had been doing their best to do their best, working hard and keeping their nose clean for decades, who suddenly had been falsely blindsided by some incident from 30 years ago — perhaps they watched Brett Kavanaugh and asked themselves, how would I handle this? Perhaps, they told themselves, This is so unfair. Perhaps they know that they, too, would have gotten a little testy under that questioning.

But we don’t take the time to stand in someone else’s shoes. We put them in our story and force it into a narrative that may or may not be true. We make it make sense in a way that makes sense to us.

Like my father putting me in the hospital.

At Hutchmoot, I found a tranquil haven from the current current-news storm.

My October 2 Inktober attempt. “May you find serenity and tranquility in a world you may not always understand.” — Sandra Sturtz Hauss

Thinking ahead to the next storm and the next — because we seem to be in a political hurricane season in the US — I’m going to try to do more listening, less trying to inject my assumptions into the news stories. More trying to understand the fraught emotions on both sides, less knee-jerk judgmentalism. More compassion, more looking for common ground.

I would rather be a safe haven than a whitecap on this stormy sea.

 

Society

S is for Society.

Maybe society isn’t the right word.

At Laity Lodge, though, we were cut off from society. My car companions were laughing about how friends and family were shocked that they wouldn’t be able to keep up with March Madness while we were there.

Laity Lodge has no televisions in the rooms and no cell phone reception. I wonder how many people pulled out their cell phone when they got there just to make sure that the warning was a truth.

I have a friend who rents out her home weekly during the summers in Cooperstown. Even though cell phone companies have upped the coverage in that area during the summer, the way her home is nestled between hills, she still has no cell coverage. The fact that there is no cell reception is clearly stated multiple places when people rent the home, but she said they still pull out their cell phone when they arrive to check to see if it’s true. It is.

I thought about that cut-offness one day as I was walking the grounds at Laity Lodge. All sorts of stuff could be happening in the world and I wouldn’t know. Plane crashes, racial tension, earthquakes, men kneeling in the sand, presidential candidacy announcements, March Madness.  Somehow I would survive three or four days without knowing whether or not any of these things happened.

Early in Fiddler on the Roof, the people of Anatevka gather while someone reads to them from the newspaper. The news they hear is already old, probably several weeks, ancient by today’s standards. Yet, they listen because it’s new to them.

Well, I was reading my paper. It’s nothing very important, a story about the crops in the Ukraine, and this and that…. And then I saw this….

“In a village called Rajanka, all the Jews were evicted, forced to leave their homes.”

Some news is just a kick in the gut.

Most news we hear is either nothing very important or it’s awful. I didn’t feel I was missing anything by missing it for a few days.

The truth is I was cut off from society, and yet I wasn’t.

I was in society with the 80-some people on the grounds.

And the hummingbirds.

And the Frio River.

And God.

It was good.

It was very good.

The highest society.