Friday, December 14, 2012

The Fall of Icarus

I returned home at around 8:00 tonight, excited to journal, do a little cleaning, and call it an early night after a very long week. I was just about to crawl in bed when I opened up to see what had happened in the world while I went to university, walked through the stormy Hague, and caught up with good friends. But instead of the standard storm warnings and update on the current state of the economy, I saw reports of the most devastating tragedy I could have imagined: news of 26 murders in a Connecticut school shooting, 20 of which were children. I sat on my bed, audibly crying for several minutes, feeling tears for the first time since arriving on this continent. I cried for the children, for their parents, for my entire nation who will be in mourning tonight. But I also cried when I realized that I was probably making a joke or talking about weekend plans when the first bullet was shot. I cried because I go on living, studying and laughing while horrifying events take place all over the planet, every day. I thought back to last May, when I happened upon a poem / painting combination in a museum in Manchester.

"Landscape With the Fall of Icarus" is a painting by the 16th century Dutch artist, Pieter Bruegel, depicting a scene from Greek mythology in which Icarus drowns in the sea after the sun melted his wax wings and he fell from the sky. In this painting, however, the focus is on the world going on around the drowning- on the farmer plowing his field and the shepherd herding his sheep. 

The poem (with the same name) that accompanied the painting was written in the 20th century by American poet, William Carlos Williams. I can't think of a poem that describes my sentiments more accurately: 
According to Brueghel
when Icarus fell
it was spring

a farmer was ploughing
his field
the whole pageantry

of the year was
awake tingling

the edge of the sea
with itself

sweating in the sun
that melted
the wings' wax

off the coast
there was

a splash quite unnoticed
this was
Icarus drowning 
It isn't that this tragedy in Connecticut went unnoticed, that these children, their parents, their friends, will be easily forgotten. But it is true that I will go to a Christmas market in Dordrecht tomorrow, eat some Dutch oliebollen as I walk through the oldest city in the Netherlands, and maybe even bike to the beach one last time. 
I know that It is not heathy or desirable to always be in a state of mourning for all of the suffering that can found in the world, but it is sad that it took a tragedy like this to remind me that there is a world outside of my experience here in the Netherlands. That not everyone is going dancing every Tuesday or Christmas-market-perusing every weekend. 
I pray for these families and for our nation, even as my life goes on in the midst of this tragedy... as the people outside my window drunkenly sing Wonderwall by Oasis, as the farmer keeps plowing, and the shepherd keeps herding. Meanwhile, Icarus drowns. 

1 comment:

  1. I appreciate this post, Meg. It resonates with me so deeply... our first news after getting off the plane was this horrible tragedy. It shocks you into looking at your life in a different way. I love you, I love your writing, I love your heart for the world.