07/14/2017 by syrbal-labrys
The Labyrinth is very dry this year. Many mole tunnels, taken over by rats, do not collapse and fall in – but gape open like tiny doorways to some suburban hell beneath this stone and that. Today, doing the ‘Friday rounds’ where I pull obvious weeds and fix askew stones of the Walk, I notice the deer are busy in stripping the apple tree. I suppose it is just as well, since the dryness in well-failure-ville here means the apples are staying small and dropping off anyway. A tiny red squirrel surveys me from the firs; the bird feeder is empty and it is hungry. We take peanuts and bird feed out, my youngest son and I; then that wee red and black bit of utter charm and delight, sits drinking less than a yard from us. We are enchanted and the stress and misery of the world falls from our shoulders for a few magic moments. It grabs a peanut and scurries up one of the towering firs. We step back into what the Catholic Church and many pagans would call “ordinary time.” But here, on the Walk of the Fallen, increasingly – no time is precisely “ordinary.”
On Fridays, if no other time, I walk my labyrinth. I will walk it later today when I’ve recharged again on red squirrel cuteness. I have the names of the men who died fighting ISIL this month. I also have a dozen names of the men who died in the C-130 crash; for though they didn’t die in a war zone, they count to me. Which brings back to the forefront of my mind, who does count in my books of the dead? I’ve often listed men and women whom others did not count as part of the tally of extremism — those killed in Texas by an Army doctor gone nuts-fundamental-murderous, the men killed in the Embassy attack that drove the GOP out of its collective mind. I list and count military and veteran suicides when I can find the names. Whenever I walk with no list on Fridays, I often think about the “un-newsworthy” suicides – forever war deaths to me.
Today, I acknowledged a much belated task. I used to string counting beads every 200 deaths. Now, the war is more a “sitz-krieg” without WWI type trenches; commanders do their jobs, but try very hard not to get troops killed in the process. So there are not usually 200 combat zone names in a full year. So, I’d made no bead strand in all of 2016. Part of the issue was what to include; I often walk in names that I do not list in my books — like the 16 C-130 crash victims. Last year, when I could find the names, I DID list civilians killed by extremists — the French at Nice, for instance. They were victims, like the fifty killed at a wedding a month later, but whose names never surfaced. The victims at the Pulse nightclub got listed in my book, even though I feel that shooter killed more because he hated his own denied sexuality and claimed ISIL affiliation to literally church-up his murders.
Today, I sat with beads to make that strand for 2016. I could easily have gone over my usual 200 for a counting strand had I strung beads for the civilians killed by terrorists. I could, for that matter, string one for the nameless suicides at a rate of a strand every two months, couldn’t I? But I couldn’t. In the end, I strung the names of the people who died in combat and not the civilian victims. After all, I can’t even begin to guess how many hapless victims never even made the news who died in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and elsewhere. When would the counting beads stop?
So, I walk in the known victims – but likely will stop trying to find names that more often than not elude the news. I will walk on Fridays even without names on hand, for those I know are dying as suicides or of war-related wounds and ills.
I walked in that slim strand with numeral beads for 2016, singing the song I sing. I will walk a second time with the names of those killed. I know where I usually “am” on the walk at every verse. But not today: no matter how fast I walked or how slowly I sang, I was never at any usual appointed spot on those stones. It felt like time was coiled and ready to strike like a snake. I should have been freaked out, perhaps? But I was not; it has been almost 14 years since I first walked that then newly constructed labyrinth – now, no matter what occurs there, I generally feel calm and in my element. The occasional “distortions” feel, if not normal exactly, not really abnormal, either. It is as if the place has its own moods and mind.
Perhaps it is age, perhaps I am crazy as only shamanistic practitioners can be – but more and more often, the only time I do feel normal is out on those stones.