I don’t remember the earth ever seeming quite this fragile. Of course, we are contaminating it with all our plastic and cast-off-old-electronics etc. wastes. Still, I have always thought of our planet as essentially impervious, a solid stable mass suspended in space.
But with all these natural disasters seeming to come at once, this solid sphere has begun to seem as precarious as an egg. Threatening to crack open and fragment. There was the devastating earthquake in Haiti. Then the one in New Zealand – I have a relative there who says the aftershocks occur every ten minutes. As bad as that quake was, especially as she is in the midst of it, the damage there is minimal compared to the devastation in Japan. Then came the tsunami. A huge wave washing in and sweeping away thousands of lives, is beyond comprehension, and I find myself trying to envision it. Much like the replayed YouTube videos of cars being tumbled around like so much ocean flotsam. Bits of seaweed. At the mercy of Mother Nature who has turned mean.
Those thousands who didn’t die along Japan’s coast are left stranded, and in the shadow of a nuclear disaster. One mother interviewed wished only for a chance to bathe. She couldn’t think much past that. I think about all this, as I go about my daily routines, grateful for the mundane, getting the mail and bringing in the garbage pails.
One afternoon, when I was doing just that, my seven year old called to me. I’d just picked the boys up from school and it was an unusually warm March day. They lingered slowly up the walkway.
Ryan had dropped his backpack to peer at something in the grass. “Mom, a bug! Spring’s first bug!”
“Yeah?” I called distractedly, replacing the garbage pails and picking up Ryan’s stray scooter from the driveway, wondering why I didn’t tell him to do it; I was tired and it was easier just to do it myself, so my husband wouldn’t run over it when he came home.
“MOM!” He yelled, knowing my tone, the one when he knows I’m not paying attention. “Spring’s first BUG!”
I was thumbing through the mail. All junk mail, catalogues I refuse to open because I don’t want to buy anything we don’t need. Solicitations. Nothing ever personal anymore, except birthday party invitations for the boys.
“Mom LOOK! SPRING’S FIRST BUG!!”
His excitement was genuine, and I realized he really thought he’d discovered the very first bug of the season. He was grinning from ear to ear. “You have to see!”
I knelt down. It was hard to see the bug, black against the brownish grass. But I wanted to get closer. “I see it.”
Spring’s first bug. I was grateful for this moment. I was grateful for the escape from the world, from my worries, into a small safe haven, however fleeting.
And I was glad that my son so easily could escape into such moments, still too young to know life’s real risks. At the same time, this innocence breaks my heart; there is finally no fool-proof shield against these risks. We all live on the same vulnerable planet.
Now I think about that, what my own desire to escape into that small moment meant, my guilt in this desire to turn my back on the misery of all these earthly devastations. To not even want to read the news anymore.
But in that moment of watching spring’s “first bug,” I did find a short reprieve. The afternoon sun was on our backs. We peered down into our own shadows, at a tiny creature in the grass. A creature most miraculously it seemed, oblivious to all the earth’s perils.