Human answer to conflict continues to be senseless loss of life

April 26, 2013 

Last week I painted my dining room a color called Shaded Spruce. I walked into Home Depot after dinner and hovered over paint chips until I found just the right hue.

Shaded Spruce sounds more sedate than it is. The paint should have been called Peacock Feather or maybe because of its richness, Teal of Fortune.

My dining room walls didn’t need painting. They were a respectable beige, a color that doesn’t fight with anything, not a Christmas garland or Halloween ghoul, and yet I returned from Home Depot and stripped them bare. I poured the paint, thick as blueberry yogurt, and with each swipe of the roller, I watched all that respectable beige disappear.

I blame the compulsion to paint on the news last week. I guess I needed to take an action, any action. I couldn’t do what I wanted, which was rewind the clock, find the Boston bombers and plead with them not to do it. I couldn’t show them the picture of that little boy, Martin Richard, the boy they were about to kill, smiling that glorious smile of his and holding up the sign he made, “No More Hurting People. Peace.”

Those men will never know, nor care, how the world is a lesser place because Martin Richard isn’t in it, and how we suffer because others in Boston senselessly lost life and limbs. Those killers had no heart, but we do.

And I ask, what are we to do with this wrath and grief?

When we complain publicly about our angst over the Boston bombing, we are reminded by those who wish us to zoom out and see the bigger picture, that little boys all over the world, little boys like Martin Richard, die every day, because we as a species have not evolved.

Our answer to conflict is still the same. We throw stones at one another, only our stones are explosive now, and some of them cost billions of dollars to make.

“No more hurting people. Peace.”

We hear you, Martin Richard. We hear you.

Last week I learned that when the going gets tough, the tough get painting, or at least I get painting. Some folks reach for a cookie, or carbohydrate of choice; some folks reach for a department store credit card. But me, I reach for my overalls.

And by the way, my daughter informed me that only two kinds of people wear overalls nowadays: “hipsters and cat ladies.”

“Can’t a person be both?” I asked.

“One of ‘em,” she said, peeling a cat hair from my lip, “cancels out the other.”

What are we to do with this wrath and grief?

Charles Lamb, the 19th-century author who rewrote Shakespeare’s plays for children, once wrote, “Let us live for the beauty of our own reality.”

I take his advice as prescription.

Last week, when the world outside, full of violence and chaos, came in on me, made me feel as helpless as a raft at sea, a fifteen-dollar gallon of paint made my reality a little more beautiful. I turned up the music and painted into the night, and me and Ray, we sang about how we have a woman, way over town, who’s good to us.

Perhaps one day, I will look around my blue dining room and wonder what the heck I was thinking, choosing such a bright color, and I’ll trek back to Home Depot and buy another can of respectable beige. But for now, I’m keeping the walls blue – Shaded Spruce, to be exact.

Karen Irwin of Tacoma teaches writing at Clover Park Technical College. Email her at irwinkd@yahoo.com.

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