Sunday, July 29, 2012

On the proximity of death

This is a November picture. I remembered it (because of the lovely light) and went to find it, to look at the steeple of the church that was damaged by last week's fatal lightning strike. Because yesterday, looking at the steeple through the - cheap, kit-lense - telephoto, I saw that one entire turret is missing from the tower, not just a few stones. And not only that, but when it came down that entire NW corner's support structure was ripped out with it, like pulling out a vein from the surrounding muscle. The damage is extraordinary.

I walked past the church on Friday on my way to buy some new herbs on Court Street, but left the scene quickly. It was buzzing with television trucks and satellite dishes and newspeople in polished suits and bright ties and fake faces and it felt awful. Like flies buzzing an accident scene. Big stones lay on the sidewalk. A piece of the scaffolding you see above lay bent over the wrought iron fence on the ground. It was only in a news photo later that I saw that most of the stone had plunged directly through the roof of the church, making an an enourmous, Blitz-like gash in it.

We walk past here quite often, and every time we do I stop and search the small front garden next door and in front of Christ Church for a brown Abyssinian cat I saw there, once, who was very friendly and came out and played with us on the sidewalk. I always hope to see it again. I love Abyssinian cats. We used to have one - Minky. How odd that the man walking there that prematurely black night had no idea that these were the last steps of the last walk he would ever take. And perhaps he was scared of the storm, but stuck in it anyway, on his way home, nearby.  He was even conscious when a neighbour reached him. He spoke, and said he thought he was OK. 

My father once heard a crash outside his office (we say "chambers") in Cape Town. He looked out and saw a man, a colleague, lying on a roof far below. As he lay there on his back he reached into his shirt pocket and took out his glasses and put them on his face, a calm reflex. And then he lay back and died. He had jumped.

I know it's ghoulish. 

But I can't get over the fact, ever,  that we just sit eating our dinner with no idea of what is happening a couple of blocks away. Why don't we feel it? I know that that is life. That right now people might be dying or suffering, or hurting (we live near a hospital and a nursing home), and that if we knew all of it all of the time we would go mad. And if we spend a lot of time thinking about it we go mad, anyway. But surely if we felt it more we would have fewer conflicts, and no war, because we can imagine the unimaginable and cannot live with the sensation. 

Instead we go on dropping bombs in absentia. Flying killer drones from comfortable chairs in Colorado. Or Syracuse

We'll be back to flowers and food tomorrow. Because they are my antidote.
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