Somewhere out there there is a field, a field full of silent meaning and distant regret.
I’d like to see this field, to experience the meaning of a poem up close. I will get there one day. I will stand in that spot.
It’s a field full of red…red flowers that grew out of the mud and the graves.
Red blood, having made way to red flowers.
I don’t know why I’ve developed such an attachment to this particular field, so far away. Why does its sadness mean anything at all to me?
Most times I get concerned when November 11th approaches. I feel anxious, like I don’t feel what everyone else is feeling. I know it’s no jolly holiday to celebrate, but there is a certain intense pride that comes out in the hearts and voices of many Canadians, with the ceremonies and the laying of wreaths in remembrance. Canada has lost a lot in war and I can’t feel proud of this.
I am proud of the poem one Canadian doctor wrote, one hundred years ago. He lived, not so far from where I live. He did, what I know can be done with literature, he used words to mark so many things, a shared humanity.
He went to fight in France and Belgium and he lost his life, but not before he composed a poem that would one day be read to me, every single year, in school, when November arrived.
In Flanders Fields’: Canadian children recite our 100-year-old poem
What did my four-year-old niece’s school do, with her and the other children today?
What did they say to explain today to her and the other children?
I can’t even explain it to myself. I listen to stories of loss and death and suffering. I don’t want this to happen to anyone else.
I don’t always understand poetry, as much as I love literature, of all sorts. So why do I want to cry, any time I hear the lines about those red flowers?
Pieces of red velour, representing all that valour. A moment of observed silence. Eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.
The pride I can’t quite feel makes me worry about my level of respect toward so many humans, those who lost their lives, fighting for so many reasons, but I know it’s not about me anyway. I am not the point. I did not have to fight directly, to sacrifice, for the freedoms I have.
The closest I’ve seen the affects, happened, not in a distant world war, but in the 21st century.
It happened to family, family of family.
I did not know Tyler Todd, but he was only one year older than I am, when he died. This fact practically knocks the breath from my body.
I feel like a jerk because I don’t know why we were there, why that happened, why why why?
Afghanistan is so far away, farther even than Europe, even as the veterans from the conflicts of the last century fade, there are those who are suffering the loss, new and again.
I am just some silly idealist, who doesn’t understand why peace can’t be maintained. I want peace, don’t understand why we can’t just have it. What am I missing? The realist in me knows.
And so I return to the poetry, because that, at least, is something strangely beautiful I can cling to, when I need to feel more. When I need to try hard to understand. It makes sense of the nonsensical, or at least attempts to put the images and the realities into an order out of all the disorder and the chaos.
It’s a hard life. It’s a hard life. It’s a very hard life. It’s a hard life wherever you go. And if we poison our children with hatred, then the hard life is all that they’ll know.
It’s A Hard Life
And so I look to the markers of the past, like poppies mark graves of unknown soldiers, unknown to me anyway.
Ever since I wrote about the start of World War I,
I think about the war that began these rituals we follow.
And I will mark the occasions, as 1914-1918 and one hundred years hence.
I try to write in eloquence, as McCray wrote on that battlefield, but I fall short of the mark. When I hear the stories, when I think about the life that was lost, of the family who know loss now…
I can’t just sit back and feel pride, when I put my own brother in that place, when I think that he could be that one taken by war, in a day when we should not romanticize the idea of war, as was done in 1914 and I am unable to let go of my reaction to this day.
This is not the time or the place, some would say.
Or is it the perfect time to say so?
I can’t speak the words “sacrifice for one’s country” without the lump in my throat and the feeling of something so wrong. No disrespect meant, really, to all.
With the swearing in of Justin Trudeau I hope for peace, with Canada leading the charge. I hope for it, while so many acknowledge the losses suffered.
I want to explain myself, to discover my own paying of some tribute. Instead, the lines of “In Flanders Fields’” run continuously through in my head.
I am sure the feeling must be strong there, on 11/11/11. I have never experienced those bagpipes up close. I’ve only listened on the television. I hear the pain in the voices of the families. I watch the broadcast, live today.
What War Memorials Say About Us
I can now say I’ve been at the memorial, in Ottawa, but the crowds weren’t there. The day, though just as grey, was silent and still.
I don’t wish to stand amongst the crowds, but I do long to stand in that silent field.
I want to write (a blog post, a poem, a work of fiction about WW I/II). I want to pour out my idealist/realist thoughts. I need to see it for myself, that field.
I’m rambling, I realize this now, and still I press on. I’m free to pour out my thoughts, to write, and no war rages on around me as I do so.
John McCrae fought and wrote, in that war so long ago now, so one hundred years later I could write in a peaceful time and place, about war, about peace.
My country is silent now, but I write. And as I write…
The planes fly low and the bagpipes play their mournful song.
Gun shots. I will never understand such symbolism as this and I hope my insensitivity isn’t a problem, but I need to speak.
Isn’t that why all the fighting was done? So I could be free to state my feelings on what war means to me, how we mark the peace and the lives lost to achieve it, and why I just can’t follow the crowds?
McCrae wrote of poppies, crosses, larks, guns, torches, loved ones…
We are the dead.
Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved,
and now we lie
In Flanders Fields.
I feel pride in the poetry and I always will. This is why I keep writing, why I wanted to write, not to let these words ever be forgotten.
Why I am proud to be Canadian.