January 13, 2003
When I began writing this week's column, it was Saturday afternoon
in the country and I was snowed in, curled up in the office
scanning some tapes I needed to be familiar with and yet which
don't demand complete attention.
Tripp was in the living room, sprawled on the couch, recovering
from several hours outside when we had worked, he much more
than I, with Bill Baldwin, the gentleman who plows our drive,
so that we could get in and out and get the buried car unburied.
It reminded me of my childhood in Minnesota, rocking cars
free from the snow, shoveling their wheels free and shoveling
a path to the doors. Inside, the fire was stoked and we carried
in extra wood once Tripp had carved a tunnel through the snow
It was a time of watching the Weather Channel religiously,
and feeling cozy, glad there was nowhere to go, today, and
attempting to make sure that we could get back to the city
the next day.
That had been much of our winter sojourn in Claverack, dealing
with worst snow storms the Northeast has seen in thirty years.
It was a peaceful respite from the world to which we have
Now, back in the city, the world is picking up its pace and
my pace has picked up with it. NATPE is in front of us and
I spent part of yesterday booking my flights and hotel and
getting registered. It hadn't been my plan to go but one of
my clients asked me to attend so I scrambled.
Then, at the end of the day, Tripp and I went over to our
friends Andrew and Cheryl's to visit with them, their new
baby, Ethan, and Andrew's sister, Ruth, who is in New York
for ten days from London.
Before arriving, I was curious as to what kind of conversation
would fill the evening. Would we speak of the world situation
or would we ignore it? And for the first two hours our conversation
was all about holidays and Ruth's new consulting gig that
will bring her back to the States for three months in the
But then conversation moved to the world situation, which
has also picked up pace with the beginning of the year. From
London, Ruth reported that British reservists have been called
up, including some of her friends. Andrew is dazzled by the
toys of war that have been demonstrated in the last few months
though someone in the room reminded him that September 11th
was visited on us by men armed with box cutters.
On my biannual tune up visit to the doctor yesterday, the
nurse who drew my blood and I discussed her holidays, all
of which were centered on her stepfather, who is in the military
and who is now, according to her, in Iraq.
Surely, you mean Qatar or Dubai, or somewhere around Iraq,
don't you? No, he's in Iraq. We don't know where but that
is where he is, no matter what the newspapers are saying.
We have men in Iraq.
That, not unnaturally, left me feeling unsettled. As do most
things in the newspapers and on the news. As I write this,
the BBC News is on in the background and our world is boundlessly
dangerous, from Iraq to North Korea. In the elevator yesterday,
I rode with two Latin Americans, one of whom was leaving on
vacation. Would he go back to visit his friends and family
in Venezuela? He laughed, with a small, almost bitter laugh,
and said no, he wouldn't go to Venezuela. It was too dangerous.
He was going to Miami to visit all his family and friends
who have fled the country and are waiting out the turmoil
in Florida. He and they did not expect a happy ending in Caracas.
My friend Joe is, I know, preparing to go to the Iraq, with
his army unit that is responsible for getting rid of land
There is a part of me that is always saying, incredulously:
no! There has to be another way but the world isn't listening
to my voice and all around me, I see us marching toward war
with Iraq and my stomach knots when I think of the consequences
The quiet of Claverack Cottage is behind us and the pace
of the world is picking up and that pace seems to be hurrying
us toward war. Which contrasts with the beatific smile that
came to Ethan's face last night as he listened to the soft
rumble of his father's voice as Andrew held him.
This is the contrast of our lives, the innocence of an Ethan
and the joy of new life contrasted with war preparations,
high tech toys of destruction, and the ravage they can inflict.
It is the New Year; the pace is picking up, for everything,
from day to day business to the preparations for war.