– Or If You Give an Emily a Creative Spark, She’ll Want to Accost You with Description –
This is going to be a slightly different blog post – if there is even a norm for my blog posts. What follows is an exercise in description, because…well, mostly because I can and I’ve been feeling overly creative lately. It’s not part of a larger whole – it just is, so take it for what you will.
Rain comes very rarely in the desert. You can feel it approaching – you wake up, and the heat seems closer to your skin, the air is still, and clouds black as pitch hang over the horizon. You spent months praying for rain; suddenly, it doesn’t seem so pertinent now. The rest of the caravan wakes and you hope against hope that the storm isn’t hovering over the town you’re steering towards.
This is a false hope, of course. When it rains in the desert, the rain becomes just as all encompassing as the heat. You march forward anyway, everything covered in tarps and children fumbling with ponchos.
The heat is still there, hung with humidity and dust kicked up by the returning wind. The thick air makes progress hard, pulling energy from the bodies of those following you. Fits of coughing rise in the stirring wind. Then, it comes – the deluge of water and wind, freezing in comparison to the heat before. You press forward, urging the caravan to move through the already flooding plains, moving feet and wagons through shifting sand. The heavy drops almost sting when they impact your skin, and you can’t see more than a few inches in front of you. You can’t stop. Lives ride on reaching the town, the oasis in the middle of the salt flats and deserts, and you press forward, grabbing the children that fall around you, desperately trying to keep together. Keep to the path. Don’t get turned around.
And, as suddenly as it came, the rain stops. The clouds roll onwards, and everything stops for a moment. It’s still. The air stops moving, the water stops flowing, and the caravan stops. You press forward still, gathering what water you can, who you can, and move on. The cool air will simmer in the sun; it is better to move forward in it than to pause and enjoy it. And so you move, as you moved through the storm, ever seeking a refuge that is so far off.
April 18, 2012
Just a Ditch, Really
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– Or Emily is Going To Accost You With More Description –
Yes! Another exercise in description. It’s happening. Hold on to your hats.
“It’s just a ditch, really.”
Well, of course it’s just a ditch, if you’re just looking at it. It fits the colloquial description of a ditch – low depression, usually made for draining water out of an otherwise flat field, but in this case they’re probably just totally normal scars in the landscape. Except they’re not. Except that a synonym for ditch is, in fact, trench.
It’s a trench – and what you fail to see for your act of just looking is that they are important and are more deserving of description than your – ever so clever – ‘just a ditch, really.’ This is a trench where people lived, ate, slept, read, and died. Rotted away, in some cases. Drowning in their own fluids in others. It’s a trench, in a country field in the east of France, where soldiers fought one of the worst wars in human history. More than a ditch, really. Closer to a grave, actually.
I could show you a picture, but I don’t want to – perhaps because standing here in a grass covered trench on a narrow brick pathway that, oh, close to 100 years ago now, was covered in at least an inch of water, mud on both sides, and miles upon miles of barbed wire, makes me a tad emotional. Though, that’s as much of an understatement as ‘ditch,’ considering I am about as close to all out sobbing right now as I ever plan to be in public. The history and importance of this place has that effect on me, I think.
You’re going on about how you don’t see the point in memorializing this place and I consider describing the effects of chlorine gas on the body and exactly what that looks like while you are desperately trying to flee the grenades and machine gun fire of the Germans just that side of No Man’s Land, but I don’t. I don’t because you don’t internalize history like I do. The images I would paint would shock you, gross you out, but little more than that. The horror of ancient battle formations meeting brutally efficient new technologies is lost on you, as it is lost on many, because it won’t happen again. A World War III would be all atomic bombs, incineration, and nuclear fallout – history won’t necessarily repeat itself.
But it still moves me to tears, because these trenches, these unassuming ditches in the French countryside, show cased the brutality of the human race, and the terrible things soldiers were made to suffer in the war that began, frankly, because everyone wanted ‘a good war.’ And they got one. Because it was a good war, really, if you just look at it.