Have you ever stood really close to a great work of art? Your nose practically touches the canvas. The smell of the pigment makes the little hairs in your nose itch. The click of hard-soled shoes on granite tiles tips you to the fact that you’re about to be on the receiving end of a sharp lecture from the museum guard.
Okay. Me neither.
But if I did, I’d see not an artist’s painting of a winding country road or a young girl in dress with ruffles at the neck or. . . well, you get the idea. My view would be blotches of paint. I wouldn’t comprehend the picture at all. In order to make sense of all those bright slashes of color, in order for my brain to form a cohesive image, I need to step back.
Lately, I’ve lost perspective on life. I’ve been overwhelmed and just flat knocked-on-my-ass by glorious blotches of color. I’ve stood in awe of that streak of red, and over there, that striking dot of orange, and look at that, a near perfect circle of purple. Two new books released, both dealing, in one way or another, with post-traumatic stress. I’ve spoken at four absolutely wonderful events this month. A barbecue for veterans and their service dogs (ah purple!) A library. (Glorious flash of vermillion!) Joined veterans in sharing readings in the gorgeous, bustling city of St. Louis (Silver threads woven through shimmering light) Delighted in the privilege of speaking with combat veterans who opened their lives to me. (Gold. That’s pure gold.)
All of these magical flashes of color have touched me, changed the way I view the world, enriched my life. But as dawn broke today, sitting quietly in the sun-room watching burnt-orange leaves swirl on a dead-brown lawn, this morning for the first time, I began to see the whole picture of this last month. Began to see how a question asked by a WWII Navy pilot at a reading in Harrison, Arkansas wove seamlessly with the voice of a vet in St. Louis who was newly returned from Iraq, blended with the tears of a Marine who walked the jungle of Vietnam, mixed with words of a very young and wise man fresh from the desert of Afghanistan. All these men, these warriors, shared with me a glimpse of bravery only attainable through great struggle and unfathomable personal loss.
This next month will bring slower days for me.
I intend to enjoy them in contemplation of true courage. Oh, I don’t mean charging up a hill into battle or storming the beaches. No. My perspective has given me the gift, the joy, of celebrating warriors who do everything they can each day and every night, to return to us from those battles. These are my heroes and I count it a privilege to walk among them.