On Watching the News of the Tsunami in Japan

As I grade papers today, I want to ignore the background buzz and flicker of a news channel showing footage of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.  I watch someone’s home burst into flames and float away.  I watch a cargo ship turn over on its side as simply as a man changing positions in his sleep.  From an aerial vantage point, it seems like someone has poured buckets of black paint over the farmland.   I want to turn away from this news and this reality. 

I see a minivan turn circles in the water like a silver leaf.

Not until the voice behind the footage reminds me that I’m watching a wall of water moving at 500 mph do I suddenly imagine the noise, the wind, and the smell of it.  I look at that minivan and think of a family going about their day.  It’s not a leaf.  It’s a family in a vehicle. 

Just this morning, my youngest daughter hears the radio announce that an earthquake has hit Japan.  Tears well up and she says, “Mama, Aki is in Japan.”  

We leave for school and go about the day with that tsunami in the background of our minds.  I force it to the forefront–choosing to remember, choosing to pray.  It’s too easy to forget.  It’s too easy not to hear that background story of a country in crisis. 

I force myself to write about it.  But I don’t want to think about it.  It’s not happening here.  It’s over there

I go back to grading.  A student has written an analysis of W.H. Auden’s poem, “Musee des Beaux Arts.”   Auden writes about how, in the face of widespread human suffering, “everything turns away / Quite leisurely from the disaster” because we have “somewhere to get to.” 

I don’t want to turn away.  I’m in this, and for me, being in this means I write.  That keeps it in the foreground.  That’s keeps me from turning away today. 

I write and pray for Japan today, and that’s how I’m choosing to live with flair.    

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Journal:  How can I stay “in this” today?  Is it important to do this? 

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