The clouds had scattered for the moment. The night air was still. And high overhead, one half of the moon had gone into shadow.
I went inside and studied my picture of the so-late-it’s-early eclipse. Perfect. But something was … different. Somehow in the dark, my natural coordination (which makes Maxwell Smart look like an Olympic athlete) had bumped one of the camera settings while I was lining up the shot. The result looked less like a photograph and more like a painting, framed by trees that seemed to be the work of careful brush strokes.
I loved it. It was like tripping over a rock that turns out to be a diamond.
Late-night magic had struck again.
Like the Phantom of the Opera, I long ago fell in love with the music of the night, that wonderful time when the demands of the world are few and the mind can go where it will. It can be a time to write and reflect. Or to chat with fellow owls. Or to power through my mountainous reading pile, including the final few (hundred) pages of The Wheel of Time.
It’s a time that’s set aside. That’s ready to be whatever you make it.
And if that sounds familiar, you’ve probably glanced at the calendar.
We’ve reached another Memorial Day. Another time that’s set aside from the usual demands of work and daily life to be more or less spent as we please. (Especially with the gradual easing of the pandemic in this country.)
For many, it’s a time to break out the grill, the steak and the sunscreen. And that’s OK. There’s nothing wrong with a good cookout.
For many of us, it’s also a time to reflect. To think about who isn’t at the barbecue. Maybe even to raise a flag or leave some flowers.
That’s where this began. Not with the grill. Not even with a “thank you for your service” to living veterans (though you certainly don’t have to wait until November to do that). But with a moment to remember the price that others have paid.
Not just out of respect, though that’s important. But because it may also help us weigh the costs of what we do as a nation going forward.
No action happens in a vacuum. Everything we do touches someone or something beyond the immediate moment. And there’s always a price to be paid. Maybe it’s in literal dollars and cents. Maybe it’s an effect on the physical environment, Maybe it’s an impact on how others live their lives – or whether those lives continue at all.
When we remember that, we remember each other. And maybe, just maybe, we learn to consider and to care for each other on this journey together as well.
But it’s our choice.
It’s our choice whether to remember those who gave their lives for the nation … or to regard their sacrifices as ancient history and war as someone else’s video game.
It’s our choice whether to build a nation that remembers and includes all of us … or to throw up walls and barriers, turn away from uncomfortable truths and perpetually see an “other” instead of a neighbor.
And yeah, it’s even our choice whether to season all this thought with the offerings of a backyard grill. (Weather permitting.)
It’s your time. Your choice. It’s whatever you choose to make it.
And if that choice keeps you up a little late, maybe I’ll see you around.
I might even have my camera figured out by then.