Tonight I awoke from a dream of sweet, citrus-scented blossoms of some unremembered, exotic paradise, that burst with fragrance as their fleshy, trumpet-shaped petals were plucked and spread with childlike glee on temperate spring mornings.
I ruminated, in that half-awake state, simultaneously on every blessed day of peace my soul has ever lived, and I realized all too late that I had lived far too few of these. I had taken these days of sweet blossoms in so many a carefree childhoods for granted, wasted, threw them away, and lost them in the tides of war again and again.
Why does war seem to follow me, cling to me, always show itself and come calling to claim me for its own? I stayed home from the wars in the 2000s, instead wandering English gardens made bittersweet with nostalgia for lives half-comprehended while friends I had known in high school breathed the sickening smoke of oil fires and IEDs in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Now I fear that I may not be able to avoid war so easily. I see my country now, riven with division, brother against brother, mad men at arms keening their bills on the promise of revolution, and I am pulled from these flowered dreams into a grim future.
How long will I have sunny days unpunctuated by the crack of the rifle and unsoiled with mud churned by artillery? How long may I enjoy the sound of children playing before these children grow, and I hear their groans as they die on battlefields that were once their playgrounds? How long before I must once again take up arms for a cause that I scarcely believe in?
Perhaps, if the war comes to me this time, I’ll not answer. Perhaps the only shot I fire will be the one that ends me in some scenic place, where the guns of monsters who know neither peace nor tender emotion are still silent for now, and I can slip just a little while longer into my dreams of blooming far-off Edens until I am pulled back to this realm of heartbreak once more.
Or- God willing- this time I may live my whole life untroubled by war, to live and die in sweet necatared groves. But with each passing day, this longed-for peace grows more remote and I am left ever more despondent.
Come dawn I will be out the door ready to serve at mass, the last one before election day. With every swing of the censer I’ll whisper a fervent prayer for peace.
Such is the refuge of the desperate. Κύριε ελέησον.