Friday, August 26, 2011

Anniversaries & a Tour

I splurged today. In an annual tradition which began in my teen years, I bought the September issue of Vogue. I generally read magazines at the library, but I bought the September issue because it is my birthday month and because it is the largest issue with the fall fashions- so many pages to rip! I would save my favorite photos in a box. As time went by I enjoyed looking at the saved pages again and again to see which images stuck with me, what I continued to like over time. Every now and again I would purge the box and wonder at my interest in keeping fashion magazine spreads for which I had no outlet. I never came up with an answer, and I can't say I knew of anyone else doing the same in those years. Now I understand the box of ripped pages more as an idea board. I wish I had kept them in books though to see the evolution of my tastes and interests over time. Now you can copy images from the internet and make idea books on your computer, but I never print those out and it is not the same as ripping all of those pages out and going through page after page on a lonesome rainy day.

Happy birthday to me will also be the tenth anniversary of 9/11. I was driving by the Pentagon that morning- I missed the plane crash by twenty minutes. A friend of ours was in there and managed to both survive and save someone that day. I mostly remember when I finally got back home to Capitol Hill, where we lived at the time, that there wasn't much to do and that it was a beautiful day. It seemed the whole neighborhood was out, we had no commute, no work, and no idea of what to do. We sat in cafes and drank coffee discussing that if another plane came that we were likely toast so all the better reason to be savoring the moment. There was a plane meant for us but thanks to others the Capitol was spared. The year before I had been in the Middle East. It struck me that day that I had been safer in Bahrain than there in the capitol city of America. In the year that followed, a heated and painful debate began escalating about Iraq. For me that was the darker time- too many unknowns and too much trust placed in the hands of warmongers. I am not surprised we are still there and still trying to get out.

Batteria de San Antonio
We toured Fort Barrancas today. The Moose and Mule enjoyed going through the fort with it's tunnels and cannon stations. Thanks to the thick walls, it was pleasantly cool inside. We trekked out to the Spanish Water Battery known as Batteria de San Antonio and climbed up top for the view; that was a sweaty affair. In the museum, the Park Rangers kindly showed the kiddos the various gadgets for firing cannons and had cannon balls to attempt to pick up along with bags of "powder" in six pound increments to give us a sense of the physical labor involved in the process of firing off shots. The Moose called it, "the best day ever." I wondered about war and peace, but kept my thoughts to myself. Later he had a giant meltdown and reversed his decision, calling it "the worst day ever" and something about "a bad old mama." He was overcooked and hungry, but food eventually restored him to himself, thankfully.

There is a tradition of soldiers from the front returning home and writing of their battlefield experiences that speaks to the pain of war better than any pacifist. For example, I have on my bedside table a copy of Robert Leckie's Helmet for my Pillow. He was inspired to write of his war experiences after walking out of the movie South Pacific saying, "I have to let people know the war wasn’t a musical."

How to reconcile forts and cannons, instruments of war, with children? It is all so muddled and difficult for me. How to explain to a six year old boy that the sword and mace were used to brutally kill another man at close range? You don't, but I wonder how we teach conflict resolution and peace when we spend so much money on weaponry and warfare. Once, in a state of frustration, I asked the Moose, "How many people do you see with guns everyday?" My point being that guns are not an everyday item. However, my children noted, "There are guns at the base." The Navy base guards wear guns, the kind I don't know, but the counterpoint was that there, on the base, they are an everyday item. It will be interesting to see where this interest in warfare and guns ends up in another fifteen years. The fort was awesome to explore- we had the tunnels to ourselves. The older parts of it kind of glow a golden pink color from the brickworks, the repaired parts are whitewashed and bright.
Tunnels inside Fort Barrancas in Pensacola, Florida

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