Sunday, May 27, 2012

Memorial Day

The race is on.  No, I don’t mean that race.  I’m talking about how time, the rotation of the earth and the rate of it’s revolutions around the sun accelerates wildly.  WHAT?  You don’t know what I am talking about?  Watch, tomorrow will be Memorial Day, and then, the day after that it will be the Fourth of July.  Really, just like that.  And then, a couple weekends later it is Labor day, and well then things start decelerating rapidly so that it seems like we will once again be spending 18 months locked in the cold dark grip of winter.  Ugh.

I first noticed this years ago when I worked for the US Forest Service and lived up in the Cascades of Washington.  Winter in the mountains packs a little more punch than down here in the flatlands, and it kicks in a little sooner and hangs on a little longer.

The employee parking lot at the ranger station was plowed all winter long so we could get in and out.  That five months’ worth of snow got piled down at the shady end, away from the office building.  I always had a little bet with myself about when the last of that snow pile would finally melt away.  It was usually in Late May, but sometimes June.  It seemed such an irony to me that Memorial day would mark the official invasion of the city people coming to commune with nature just as the locals were stacking their snow shovels and nudging their snow boots to the back of the closet.  

Memorial day, the start of ‘camping season’ and then just a few days later - the 4th of July widely, considered the peak of camping season.  From Memorial day on you would make a point of trying to get to the store by Thursday night to get groceries because from Friday afternoon through Sunday evening the grocery store was no place to be, (if you were a local) and seemingly THE place to be if you were a camper. 

Yes, the time of easy living, fish jumping, and high cotton is now begun, but Memorial Day is about more than that, more than sales at the mall, or noisy cars going around in circles really fast. 

Memorial day is the generational descendent of Decoration day, a moment in time set aside to remember those who gave their lives in wars. ‘Gave’ their lives?  Perhaps some, but more likely for many, those whose lives were taken from them thanks to the whim of some potentate or dictator. Not just veterans, or people who sacrificed, but those who in fact died.  The history is interesting if sad.

I don’t think you have to be a flag waving xenophobic patriot to appreciate that regardless your leanings, there is a reason to pause for a moment, at least once a year to contemplate the loss of a loved one, or to consider how many people have died in war.  Perhaps if we all stopped and thought about this more often than once a year in May, we might in the future have fewer victims of war to remember, to mourn, fewer wars to be proud of, or regret.

So, sure, head out for that fabulous 18 hour sale at the mall, pluck another dog off the grill, ride a little farther on your bike, or watch the marathon reruns on the bass fishing channel, but sometime before Tuesday rolls around, think about someone you knew, or all those people you never got to know who died in a war.  If no one comes to mind, head out to a cemetery, I guarantee if you spend a little time there you will encounter the name of someone who was killed in a war.


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