When I wake mornings, I look out the window and across the street at ‘my’ trees first, which are not mine at all except in the sense that we come to think of as ours all the things we truly love. I see them bare and bony right now, though they toss with buds in spring, and are all ruddy at the top, like kitchen matches, in the fall.
Watching them yesterday as the sun edged up over the horizon, I saw something I had not noticed before: cast into perfect silhouette by the horizontal rays of its rising light the familiar peaks and gables of my own house, sewn like Peter Pan’s shadow onto their barky breasts.
It startled me, as a reflection caught and given back to us in passing shop windows startles; and it reminded me of something, elusive at first, but then coming clear: Old photographs taken at the dawn of my life, in those dear quiet days of the corduroy overalls and the very-early suppers.
I have these photos, as everyone else does, piled in a shoebox, recording us children costumed for some school play, or rosy-cheeked in snow. And in many of them, more than our photographer-grownups ever intended, appear, lying in the foreground across the swath of green lawn or white snow, the shadows of the grownups themselves, with the hairdos and hats of another era, heads inclined and shoulders hunched in concentration over the small magic boxes of their cameras.
They thought to record us. I see now with keener eyes that they also recorded themselves.
Thus do we sense the light press of our presence in the world, I thought yesterday when I woke: intermittently, and almost by accident.
But we are in the world, and we can do more than we think.
Watching the outpouring of emotions here on the internet stands as testimony: we can rid our society of gun violence. We can make the world safer. Think of the saying widely attributed to Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
This next week: the mourning. Then, the work.