TWO HANDS

A devastating loss is heading my way. It isn’t my first loss and it’s not likely to be the last. I feel vulnerable and alone, but the reality is that I have lots of company. One of my closest friends is coping with her mother’s terminal illness, another with his wife’s death. Nor is death the only form of loss, as anyone who’s endured the end of an affair knows. Yet knowing how common grief is doesn’t comfort me. It only adds to feeling we’re all helpless in a dark world.

Francis Weller wouldn’t agree with me. He’s a psychotherapist and author specializing in what he calls the “wild edge of sorrow.” In the serendipity of the right words at the right time, someone sent me one of Weller’s most challenging quotes: “The work of the mature person is to carry grief in one hand and gratitude in the other, and be stretched large by them.”

I sit here looking at my two hands, pondering his words. Holding on to grief is my habit already and my fingers close around it. The fingers on my other hand are still open. I can’t grasp this impossible thing called gratitude. How can I be grateful for a future without the one I love? But let me try.

I am grateful for the moments my love and I shared – in museums, for he was an avid artist; on beaches, where we reveled in the ocean together; at the opera world he introduced me to. I have always found it too hard to look at what has been lost. But perhaps these scenes and so many more can still be mine if I let memory hold them. As poet Mary Oliver found, memories can be either a “basement without light” or a “golden bowl.” So let me have the strength to turn on the light when the difficult holidays come, and instead of sorrowing let me hear the echo of our laughter as we created our own greeting cards together.

Gratitude can spread to wider horizons. I’m thankful for the friends who take time to be supportive, despite their own wounds. For the fulfillment I still get from my work – and though I sink with each rejection, appreciation of the will to keep trying.

The man I’m about to lose is my partner. The cruel truth is that I have been losing him already, for dementia erases him more and more each day. Like so many others in this painful situation, I put on a smiling face, a cheery voice, when I’m with him. I’m grateful I have the strength to help him this way and to have whatever can be rescued from our fading days together.

Despite the inevitable cost, aren’t all of us who have the courage to love fortunate? My fingers curve around the gratitude hand.

WEBSITE: www.annehosansky.com
BOOKS: Widow’s Walk – available through iUniverse.com; Turning Toward Tomorrow –Xlibris.com; Ten Women of Valor and Role Play- both available through CreateSpace.com and Amazon.com; also Amazon Kindle.

SOME PERSONAL FATHERS’ DAY THOUGHTS

With Father’s Day on the horizon I find myself wondering why I’ve written almost nothing about my father. I’ve certainly mined other relatives – my mother, grandparents, aunts, even my children, but not my father. The sole exception is a poem I began soon after he died.

It’s not that I didn’t have a relationship with him. Actually, some wonderful writing has been done about absent parents (see Barack Obama’s ” Dreams From My Father”). My father was absent in a different way, emotionally. He was big on criticism, stingy on expressions of affection. I was a disappointment from birth, being the wrong sex. Not having a son added to a current of bitterness in my father. As a child and teenager, I hated and feared his critical attitude towards me. As an adult – and parent myself – I wish I could reach back across the years and try for the bond we didn’t have.

In a way I did this with my one poem. Originally I tried to include every memory I could dredge up,  draw what I thought was a full portrait of this inaccessible man. It ran to three typed pages –-single-spaced! When it was rightly rejected by numerous editors, I put the poem away for a few years.

But it meant too much to me to give up on. So I rescued the pages and began revising. As I stoically – painfully – started cutting, the poem began to breathe. Instead of throwing in every memory, I zeroed in on one: the young child I had been, clutching her father’s hand as we wandered past the scary dinosaurs in the Museum of Natural History. The poem tied this in with the adult daughter holding his hand as he lay dying. Eventually I discovered how much could be said without saying it. LESS IS MORE– an adage prized by writers.

The original three pages reduced to just one – and “On The Edge Of My Father’s Dying” became my first published poem.

It’s a belated gift to him that he will never know. But it’s also a gift to myself, as writing can sometimes be . For it not only helped me see my father more clearly, but to unearth the love that lay beneath the rage – in both of us.

WEBSITE: www.annehosansky.com
BOOKS: Widow’s Walk – available through iUniverse.com; Turning Toward Tomorrow –Xlibris.com; Ten Women of Valor and Role Play- both available through Amazon.com; also Amazon Kindle.

WHEN THE SKY IS A GLASS CEILING

Inspiration can be found in unexpected places – like an obituary. This one was in a recent issue of “The New York Times,” about a woman I’d never heard of, but should have . Geraldyn M. Cobb reminded me of NASA’s “hidden figures,” publicized in the popular movie. She wasn’t African American like those heroines, but she was the victim of the same prejudice: NASA’ s “men only” world.

An accomplished pilot , Cobb began by flying her father’s WACO aircraft in 1936 when she was just twelve years old. At 16 she was flying solo, and by 20 had earned both private and commercial licenses. Dropping out of college after a year, she worked in the local municipal airport on pipeline patrol or flying as a crop duster. But her dream was to fly into space. Despite her impressive credentials, NASA rejected her for being the wrong gender.

She then applied for a job as a DC3 co-pilot with a Florida company and was hired sight unseen. But when she showed up, the employers , shocked that “Gerrie” wasn’t a man, refused to hire her. So she went to an aircraft maintenance shop which did hire her – as a typist and file clerk. Eventually she found work as a pilot for an international aircraft ferry service, delivering aircraft and B-17 bombers around the world. By the time she was 28 she had logged 7000 hours as a pilot.

Then in 1961 it looked as if the doors to NASA might open. One of its research scientists believed that women could be excellent astronauts. He offered to give her and 12 other women the same strenuous physical and psychological tests the Mercury 7 astronauts went through. (The women dubbed themselves the Mercury 13.) In the overall testing that was primarily men, Cobb scored in the top 2%. She seemed on the verge of becoming the first female astronaut. But the project hadn’t been officially authorized by NASA and, without explanation, was cancelled.

By the following year young women around the country were applying to be astronauts and informed that NASA had no plans to include women. They lobbied a Congressional sub-committee formed to determine whether women were able to be astronauts. Cobb told the committee, “We women pilots who want to be part of the research and participation in space exploration, aren’t trying to join a battle of the sexes. We seek only a place in our nation’s space future without dissent.”

But she was up against a national hero. John Glenn had orbited the earth, but he didn’t circle around his objections to women coming into the program. “Men fight the wars and fly the planes,” he told the Committee, adding, “The fact that women are not in this field is a fact of our social order.” NASA’s doors slammed shut against “females.”
(A year later the Soviet’s Valentina Tereshkova, became the first woman to fly solo into space.)

The reason Cobb’s story riveted me doesn’t have to do with space. (I’m so afraid of heights I can’t sit on my friend’s 20th floor terrace. ) No, what makes me keep thinking about Cobb isn’t what’s been termed her “tragedy,” but the way she never let disappointment be her whole story. She turned her energy in a different direction, flying numerous humanitarian missions to deliver lifesaving medical supplies and food to isolated indigenous tribes in the Amazon jungle. She was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for this. She set new records for speed, distance and altitude, and her solo pioneering of air routes across the hazardous Andes Mountains and Amazon rain forest eventually landed her in the National Aviation Hall of Fame.

But space was still her unrealized dream. She saw her final chance in 1998 when NASA decided to test the effects of weightlessness on an aging body, sending 77- year- old Glenn back into space. Cobb, who was the same age, told the Associated Press, ““I’d give my life to fly into space.” The National Organization Of Women campaigned for Cobb, saying it was important to test the effects on an aging female body, as well. But NASA said it had “no further plans to send older people into space.” For the last time, the doors closed on Cobb.

Flash to myself and many writing colleagues, whose dream is to get a book published, but are repeatedly turned down by agents with the standard reply that our work “doesn’t fit their needs.” So what do we do when we’re surrounded by rejection? Give up? Crawl into a corner and cry, “Not fair”? If I had been Cobb in 1969 when the world learned we had landed on the moon, I might have beaten the trees in rage that I had been so unfairly denied my chance.

On that momentous July night she was alone in the Amazon when she heard on the radio that Armstrong had been the one to take that “giant step for mankind.”
What was her response?
She danced on the wings of her plane – by the light from that far away moon!

It’s a long way from astronaut to author. But like her, we can rise above rejection and proudly claim our strength. Because, no matter what the naysayers do to us, we are still writers.

WEBSITE: www.annehosansky.com
BOOKS: Widow’s Walk – available through iUniverse.com; Turning Toward Tomorrow –Xlibris.com; Ten Women of Valor and Role Play– both available through CreateSpace.com and Amazon.com; also Amazon Kindle

IS YOUR SENSORY IN TUNE?

The controversy about Vice President Biden giving unsolicited hugs reminds me of the importance of understanding what another person may – or may not – want. I, for instance, am a hugger, perhaps because I used to be in the theatre where a hug is as commonplace as a handshake. On the other hand, many people dislike being touched. One of my oldest friends is affectionate with me verbally, but all these years has refused to give or accept a goodbye kiss on the cheek.

What the Biden story should teach us is that we need to develop enough sensitivity to hear what that other person isn’t saying. How often has someone asked you, ”Tell me what you really think.” When asked that, I often fall into the trap, saying with misplaced honesty, “That color [dress, hair, tie, shirt ] doesn’t do anything for you.” This well-meant remark is usually met with resentment or a tearful reminder I’ve hurt someone’s feelings. The demand should have been: “Tell me what I want to hear.”

Another friend appreciates candor. Unfortunately, her daughter doesn’t. Recently she asked me to read a poem she’d written and to “be honest.” The poem was beyond rescuing. Straddling the truth I told her I found the subject “poignant.” Good enough. But then I added, “It’s helpful to read a lot of poetry.” In return I received an irate E-mail from the mother saying I’d hurt her daughter’s feelings. “She has always read poetry.” So if you’re going to venture into critiquing for friends, remember that evasion is the safest route.

This doesn’t apply, of course, to professional colleagues. I have a long- standing relationship with a gifted writer-friend. We exchange critiques within our writing group and outside of it – always confident we will speak and hear the truth..That’s because our mutual unspoken message is: Tell me what will make my story (book) better!

Sensing is especially fraught when it comes to someone going through loss. When a neighbor’s husband died I told her, “I know how you feel.” She erupted in understandable rage (anger is always beneath the surface of grief)). ”You don’t know how I feel because you’re not me!” She was right. Just because I, too, was widowed didn’t give me the right to presume I understood another person’s pain.

I’m busy sharpening my ability to hear with my heart – and to equally express what I need. Given our current environment I’m not too hopeful these messages will always get through!

WEBSITE: www.annehosansky.com
BOOKS:”WIDOW’S WALK” – available through iUniverse: “TURNNG TOWARD TOMORROW” – Xlibris.com; “TEN WOMEN OF VALOR” and “ROLE PLAY” – Amazon and Amazon Kindle.

LEGACY

When someone passes out of our life, we often discover we’ve been bequeathed a legacy,  but it’s not money or jewels or anything you can hold in your hand. The legacy may be just a few words that this person said to us,  a remark we took for granted that reverberates  long afterward.

The death of science fiction author Carol Emshwiller in February inspired my thinking about this. For many years Carol and I were members of the same writers’ group.  Invited by a member who had been her student, she visited our group one evening as a guest. I was intimidated by her presence, for here was someone well-known, already widely published, whereas I was putting a tentative foot on the bottom step of a tall ladder. Carol surprised all of us by being so enthusiastic about the critiques she heard, that she asked to be allowed to join our group.

It took a while before I felt at ease, not only because of her reputation, but because the work she submitted for our opinions each week was either an avant garde short story or a quirky passage from a science fiction novel. Both were inexplicable to me. I found them too daunting to comment on. One day I summoned up courage to tell her I wasn’t a fan of science fiction. She calmly replied that she, in turn, didn’t read “average-style “stories.  Having leaped over this uncomfortable hurdle ,we found we were able to give each other helpful comments, for what makes a story “work” is surprisingly similar in any genre.

We also discovered a mutual insanity: both of us so addicted to writing that being at our computers for hours on end  was more important that any socializing distraction. With that bond in common, we became friends.

I was aware that my biggest fault as a writer was overwriting, Even in college – decades earlier – a teacher had written across the top of my story: “Trust Your Reader!!” Good advice, but years later I was still constantly filling in too much, worried that the reader wouldn’t “get it.” Carol came up with more specific advice. One evening after I read yet another over-loaded story she said, “The most important thing in writing is what’s between the lines.”

I can’t say that comment changed my life or that I even grasped the full meaning. until much later. It was a while before I realized that my writing was changing. I was explaining less and leaving more room for the reader to move in. “Between the lines” echoed within me

We could all replay many words, sometimes too late.  Due to a variety of pressures, my friendship with Carol ended. What I most regret is that I never told her what a pirvital gift she gave me.

In a revised script we would recognize when a voice turns us in a new direction – and let that person know, yes, you once played a valuable role in my life.

WEBSITE: www.annehosansky.com
BOOKS: Widow’s Walk – available through iUniverse.com; Turning Toward Tomorrow –Xlibris.com; Ten Women of Valor and Role  Play –  both available through CreateSpace.com and Amazon.com; also Amazon Kindle.

GREEN IS THE COLOR OF HOPE

The meek may inherit the earth, but what kind of earth will it be? Despite a UN Climate Report warning that we have only a decade to radically reverse climate change, too many people either act as if this is some kind of fiction or give up. Yet where do we all go when the home we call Earth becomes unlivable? What kind of world are we leaving the children who will inherit this?

In a dramatic change, those young people are no longer waiting for their elders to do something. They are taking matters into their own hands – and voices – largely through a rapidly growing environmental movement known as Sunrise.

Co-founder and Managing Director, Sara Blazevic, is a 25- year- old activist who is also an award-winning poet. She could have focused her life on poetry, but she wasn’t interested in ann ivory tower refuge from the reality of global warming. As she says, ever since she was a child there’s been a “heaviness” within her, because of what she heard and saw about a Nature gone berserk: floods, draught, tornados, fires. At 16 she volunteered to go to New Orleans to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina. Earlier she spent her childhood summers in her father’s homeland, Croatia, with grandparents she adored. But while she was in college a massive storm struck the Balkans. She saw a video taken from a helicopter flying over the flood, people standing on rooftops in a desperate attempt to survive. “They looked like my grandparents,” she says. Worried about her Croatian family, Sara tracked the storm for days. It didn’t end up striking her family’s village, “but it could have.” Even worse, she says, was the indifference of the rest of the world. It lit a fierce desire in her to do something about climate change.

She turned her sights on a major culprit: the fossil fuel industry. While still in college (Swarthmore) she began organizing to persuade “fossil fuel billionaires,” (s term she borrowed from Bernie Sanders) to divest from these toxic fuels and convert to 100% reusable energy. Courageously Sara led a 33-day “investment sit-in” at Swarthmore.

After graduating she continued her organizing work through the Students Divestment Network. Then – about a year a and a half ago – she got together with other activists to found the Sunrise Movement. Its mantra is A Green New Deal, for Sunrise isn’t solely about seeing the sun rise on healthier fuels, it’s projecting that converting would transform our national infrastructure, producing millions of new jobs, and helping to eliminate poverty in America.

A naive dream? Tell that to the thousands of young people who have joined Sunrise, not only in America, but all across the world. ”Some are as young as 12,” Sara boasts. They don’t speak of topics like melting ice floes and starving polar bears, but relate personal stories about friends and relatives who have lost lives or homes through floods and fires;, and young relatives developing asthma from the polluted air.

The Sunrise staff may be idealistic, but they’re also politically savvy. They worked during the midterm election for politicians sympathetic to their goals, and afterward 200 members of Sunrise staged a sit-in in Speaker Pelosi’s office. They’ve won the very verbal support of new Congresswoman, Alexandria Ocasio-Ortiz, who put forward a resolution to form a Select Committee For a Green New Deal. Sunrise has the backing, as well, of a growing number of other prominent Congressional figures, including Senator Bernie Sanders who originally inspired Sara.

All this activity hasn’t gone unnoticed. Sunrise has had thousands of PR ”hits” in major publications ,including “Time Magazine”: and “The New Yorker, and on TV.

Personally, I feel hopeful for the first time – doubly hopeful because our young people are leading the way. In what’s been called a “generational switch,” they’re joined by the Parkland students I wrote about previously, who reacted to the massacre in their school, not just with tears, but by creating a huge global demonstration for gun control.

As a Sunrise member said, ”It’s our future that’s being impacted.” Let’s not fail our children.

(Donations may be made to sara @sunrisemovement.org)

WEBSITE: www.annehosansky.com

BOOKS: WIDOW’S WALK, available through iUniverse.com;TURNING TOWARD TOMORROW-Xlibris.com; TEN WOMEN OIF VALOR  and ROLE PLAY – Amaon.com and Amazon Kindle

REMEMBERING MARY OLIVER

When I heard the news about the death of poet Mary Oliver, I shouted “No!” at the TV. It was as if I’d lost a friend, one I turned to for inspiration and solace. The millions of readers who love Oliver’s work will understand. Those who don’t know her may wonder why she is so popular. Some critics have carped about her conversational style, her simple topics (an owl’s “binocular eyes,” a rabbit’s fur, the rocks and forests of her beloved Cape Cod). Yet Oliver, who disdained PR hoopla and shied away from interviews, became that rarity – a best-selling poet. The author of some 30 books, she also won the Pulitzer Prize.

It’s Oliver’s very simplicity that helped make her so popular. Her attention to – and ecstatic pleasure in – Nature. But that simplicity covers, like a thin veil,  haunting thoughts about the brevity of life, as well as its beauty. In a poem ostensibly about the delights of a summer day she asks, “Doesn’t everything die at last and too soon?” And she challenges us with what are perhaps her most famous lines:
What is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

I teach writing classes, with an emphasis on memoir. If I give students an assignment to write a nonfiction piece or to attempt fiction, they eagerly dive in. But if I challenge them to try poetry, they invariably draw back, daunted. Does it have to have a certain format, they wonder, unsure of poetic structures. And how can they rise to the eloquent verbal height they think is demanded? One woman raised her hand to ask timidly, “Is it okay if I don’t use rhyme?” Oliver, herself, didn’t rhyme. She wrote in blank verse, which is more freeing. And her “eloquence” lies not in lofty language, but the longing beneath the words.

Often I answer my students by referring them to Oliver’s work (and to Billy Collins, who is similarly accessible). These students are surprised to find that the language is like someone talking to them in ordinary speech. nothing flowery. As rhapsodic as her feelings were about nature, Oliver could also write with piercing directness about the parents who failed her, and about the loss of her beloved partner, photographer Mary Malone Cook, after some forty years together. ”She spoke to our hearts,” a reader says.

In class this week I will talk of Oliver, and how she found inspiration by walking in the woods or on the beach, always – I’ll stress – with a notebook! I will reassure my students that whether writing poetry or prose, they should speak not only to hearts – but from their own – with courage and candor, as she did.

One of my most talented students, Roberta Koepfer, is a retired science professor.She’s now venturing – and adventuring – into new territory by writing her first poems. Her lovely haiiku sums up our loss:
A poet has died
Although I never met her
We met every day
:
WEBSITE: www.annehosansky.com
BOOKS: Widow’s Walk – available through iUniverse.com; Turning Toward Tomorrow –Xlibris.com; Ten Women of Valor and  Role Play available through CreateSpace.com and Amazon.com; also Amazon Kindle.

NEW YEAR’S HURDLE

New Year’s Eve is a tyrant. It demands that we Celebrate (yes, capital C), and be ever so joyous. But what if we aren’t up to that? What about those of us wounded by the loss of someone we love, through death or a terminal disagreement?  What about those who won’t be at a party or invited to join “another couple,” because they, themselves, are no longer coupled?

Sorry if I sound like a post-Christmas Scrooge, but New Year’s Eve looms like an obstacle course for many of us. This year the challenge is staring me in the face, for I’ll be alone. If “Saturday night is the loneliest night,” as that old song wails, what do we say about a solitary December 31st?

Last year was the first New Year’s when I was alone and it was a disaster – or I made it one. After hours of boring channel surfing, at midnight I had a glass of champagne and chanted “Happy New Year” to the crowd of strangers in Times Square – only they were just faces on the TV. My loneliness multiplied into a genuine “pity party.”

This year I’m determined to create a better scenario. I’ve been researching the surprisingly large number of other women who’ll be alone this fabled eve. They range from those who say defiantly, “I’ll get drunk” to the surprisingly many who confess – or boast – that they don’t even stay up until midnight.

I’m heeding friends who say they stock up on favorite foods and favorite films. I’ve even thought of calling everyone I know at midnight, but what if I wake them or – worse– hear the revelry of a distant party? I remember a widow I interviewed for my book “Turning Toward Tomorrow,” who went to a party but hid in the bathroom when “everyone began kissing at midnight.” I told her I thought the holiday was terrible. “Not ‘terrible,’” she said.” I reserve that word for real tragedies like tsunamis. Holidays may be difficult, but they’re hardly terrible.” Turning down invitations, she now makes the evening something to look forward to by playing a favorite opera and “pigging out” on the gourmet dinner she orders in from a restaurant.

So this year I plan to customize the evening. Taking a cue from one of my most positive writing students I plan to turn to the friend I trust – my journal. I will confide thoughts about this past year. It’s tempting to say it was a “bad” year. Yes, many dark things happened – especially for our country – but there was light, too, that I need to remember. Finding an unexpected new friend, having a story I’d given up on accepted, even a stunning sunset I witnessed from the height of a plane. For the truth is, no one year is either “bad” or “good.” They are all mixtures. And though we may carry inner wounds of loss, we need to focus on the blessing of those who are still with us.

I will also forecast in my journal what I plan to achieve in the new year. What I will do to protect my writing time, make a massive effort to find an agent for my new book, try to include in my life friends who have a positive view, and free myself of those who are contagiously bleak. I will also treat myself to an expensive wine, but not drink it at midnight, choosing my own time – unchaining myself from that ball that hurries so predictably down the side of the building. And when I tire of writing I’ll turn to a book I have saved for this night: Michelle Obama’s “BECOMING.” Bound to be an inspiration, as being in contact with strong women always is.

In other words, I plan to “own” the night – not the other way around! Hopefully it will help me own the new year, too.

WEBSITE: www.annehosansky.com
BOOKS: Widow’s Walk – available through iUniverse.com; Turning Toward Tomorrow –Xlibris.com; Ten Women of Valor and Role Play- both available through CreateSpace.com and Amazon.com; also Amazon Kindle.

A SPECIAL CHANUKAH

For the many of us who are contending with loss,  the “season to be jolly” feels more like an  obstacle course. This year December is beginning with Chanukah, the eight-day Jewish Festival of Lights. The first Chanukah after my husband died I wanted to erase all of December from the calendar.
“I’m going to ignore Chanukah,” I told my bereavement counselor.
“How are you going to ignore your feelings?” he asked.
He was good at questions, the answers were up to me to find. I share with you the memorable night that helped me to survive.

It was just nine months after my husband died. In the past Chanukah had been a joyous family time, lighting the candles, opening gifts. This year the children weren’t even coming, perhaps it was too much for them, too. I couldn’t cope with the thought of lighting the candles alone..

Then I had a surprising phone call, from the social worker at the Catholic hospice where Mel had died. A place where I would have been uncomfortable among all the nuns, if my mind hadn’t been solely on the man I loved and was losing.
The nun was calling to invite me to a memorial service for everyone who had died that year. “It would be too hard for me to attend a service for my husband,” I told her.
“It’s for you, too,” she said. ”His pain is over, but yours is continuing.”
It was so rare for anyone to understand that I agreed to come. I told her I’d like to donate some items that might be helpful to other patients. Could they use three Marilyn Monroe movies my daughter had taped for her father?
“Our patients would love them,” she said.
So I went – but at the sight of that too familiar gray stone building I wanted to turn the other way, run back home. Home? That was where  he wasn’t.
I walked into a large room, carrying a shopping bag loaded with books and tapes.
“Are you the Marilyn Monroe lady?” a nun asked me.”God bless!’

It was a small gathering .I figured the majority of people couldn’t face coming. Men and women of various ages, even some children. I smiled at a little girl who looked four years old. She looked back at me somberly, the expression om her face too old for so young a child.
I stood there wondering how soon I could leave.
Then the service began with a prayer of Saint Francis’.
“Grant that I may never seek so much to be consoled as to console…”
(A good philosophy for dealing with one’s children!)

Then the Sister leading the service asked us to look at the cover of the program we’d been handed.
“I drew the picture,” she said, ”and tried to make it fit what each of you must be feeling.”
The childish drawing showed both a Christmas tree and a Chanukah menorah – but only half of each.
“Half,” she said,” because of what’s missing for you.”
There was pale yellow crayon around each of the lights. “That’s from the glow that comes from remembering,” she said.

Then- in this Catholic hospital – a young man with a guitar began singing a Chanukah song! It was written by Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary. Trying to follow the printed words we’d been given I found myself singing with him:
“Light one candle for the strength that we need, to never become our own foe…”
I heard the grieving people around me joining in. “What is the memory that’s valued so highly,” we all sang together, “we keep it alive in that flame?”

A few nights later I lit the first Chanukah candle.

[Excerpted from Widow’s Walk]

WEBSITE: www.annehosansky.com
BOOKS: Widow’s Walk – available through iUniverse.com; Turning Toward Tomorrow –Xlibris.com; Ten Women of Valor and Role Play– both available through CreateSpace.com and Amazon.com; also Amazon Kindle.

PITTSBURGH

I’ve never been to Pittsburgh, but Pittsburgh has come to me now. Haunting me – eleven people. I could have been one of them, for I attend a synagogue. True, it’s in a different city, but one day it may be the next scene of a massacre. For the past few years, every time I’ve walked through my synagogue doors I’ve thought I might not come out alive. Melodramatic? Unrealistic? Not for an America where mass murders have become routine.

I knew almost nothing about Pittsburgh before this. Now I know there’s a synagogue ironically named Tree of Life in a peaceful neighborhood called Squirrel Hill.  A rare neighborhood where it doesn’t matter if you’re “different” (read Jewish , Muslim, gay, et al).}

What do we tell our children about the atrocity in the Tree of Life Synagogue that fateful day? Saturday – the Jewish Sabbath. The children ask, why did someone kill like that and where did he get all those guns? No problem, we can tell them, because this is a land where it’s as easy to buy a gun as it is to purchase a new pair of sneakers. Shooting is the sport of the day. It doesn’t matter what age the targets are – from five –year- olds in a schoolroom in Connecticut to a devout 97-year-old great-grandmother who still went to Tree of Life every week to pray.

How do we tell our children? We don’t have to say much, because they already know. Hatred has a megaphone these days, and the children have grown up hearing hate shouted on TV by politicians who are supposed to protect us. Our children see other children – the terrified ones torn from their parents and locked up without them. They saw photos of a traumatized two-year-old questioned by a judge in an American courtroom in a language she doesn’t even understand.

I don’t understand this language either. I speak English, know a little Spanish and am familiar with sign language – but none of it enables me to answer the virulent language of hate.

Our children ask, Who are these “others” we are told to hate? Are they us? The Jewish children are frightened when they hear “Kill them!” So is the next door teen who’s come out as gay. So are immigrant men and women who came to America seeking safe haven for their families.

There is no safe place – not in Pittsburgh, not in the Charleston church where six people were coldly shot by a man they had invited to join their prayers, not in Las Vegas where vacationers were the targets of an invisible stranger in a hotel window far above them, not in the Pulse club in Tallahassee where young people who happened to be gay or trans were joying an evening with friends, not in…. Fill in the dots and leave room for the next times (s). For in 2017 these bloody events totaled 346, and in this year there’s been almost one mass shooting a day.

As parents,we try to protect our children. Don’t run into the street. Be home before dark, Careful on that skateboard. We also need to protect them – not from “invaders” – but from the more dangerous violence within our own land.

Wringing our hands isn’t enough. We each have the responsibility to do something. As writers we have the ability to voice our concerns and inspire action through books, articles, songs, poems, any form that reaches others.

As Edmund Burke famously said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men [and women] to do nothing.” We can tell our children that, too.

WEBSITE: www.annehosansky.com
BOOKS: Widow’s Walk – available through iUniverse.com; Turning Toward Tomorrow –Xlibris.com; Ten Women of Valor and Role Play- both available through CreateSpace.com and Amazon.com; also Amazon Kindle.