Battlefields


Battlefields

Driving through the country I came upon a field of wild flowers.  They were very pretty, for they were in bloom.  I stopped and looked and smelled them for a while.  The gentle breeze moved them back and forth as it did some wisps of my hair.  The field was large, and I pondered the thing, it seems that is what I do…. I left after a bit and down the road was a gas station, so I stopped for a coke and conversation. 

The Man behind the desk asked if I was new around here, and I said I was simply passing through.  A visitor to the state and the area was unknown to me.  I enquired about the field of flowers that I had passed and who tended them.  He looked at me deeply and I was not sure what was to come.  “That was the battlefield, son.”, “no one tends the flowers, they just grow there.”  “Did someone plant them?” I asked?  “Long ago?”  The interesting tale that followed made me think about things differently.

The battle had lasted many days and killed many men.  The field was torn by the cannon, the horses and the digging of the men for safety. The rain made the field a mess as the cannon had torn the soil as it had torn the flesh.  After the battle, and the dead had been carried off and the war had moved to other fields in other places, the people that were left here simply tried to survive as best they could.  The battlefield was a mess, so they left it.  After the war, and the survivors  returned, it was decided to let the field be a memorial to the ones that had fallen.  And that is what I had seen.  Untouched by anyone since, except a few re-enactors that come each fall and a few school kids that take a trip each spring.

“Who planted the flowers?” I asked again.  With the gaze of a man who was helping a fool he said,” The seeds were always there, boy.” “No one needed to plant them.  The soil needed to rest, and they simply grew.”  “After the battle had stirred the soil the seeds that were there were what came up.”  I needed to go sit down a while.

The list of battlefields reads like a map of the years that had gone by.  Each with a tally of the wounded hopes and slain dreams.  The fields, with their stories of valor, or the ignobility of ones that ran away.  The dates and the names and the cemeteries litter the landscape.  The markers of the dreams that had succumbed to the raging inferno of the battles in the night and the early morning raids.  All was written in the minds of the participants but only some would send notes home to loved ones and friends.  The papers seldom were accurate and never complete anyway.  There was always more to the story.  Always.  The battles that damage and rip and destroy the peaceful surroundings is powerful.  The yelling and the fear and loss of companionship.  The tears and exhaustion and the hunger.  The hunger for the end as much as a meal.  The desire that it simply stop.

There is always collateral damage.  The innocent and the ones that simply wanted to pass by.  The size and shape of battles is always curious.  The simple skirmish or the great assembly of massed armies.  The preparations and the supply lines.  The reserves which are held back, in case things get out of hand.  The surprise tactics and the new weapons that come out of nowhere.  We have watched it all take place before.  Movies show the pattern and the history books tally the wins and the losses, the wounded limp past while those killed in battle are stacked up and history takes on a face and a name and a place.

The cupboard shows the scar of the cup that was thrown.  The friends that always seem busy now, after that one surprise battle put them in the middle of a war that was old, and they simply weren’t aware.  Caught by surprise as emotional shrapnel was flying through the air.  The look of fear on the faces of the young and the old alike.  The timid approach as you wonder what kind of mood the enemy will be in “this time”…. The battlefield is a mess.  So am I…. The desire to simply find someplace else to go for a while is heavy.  To rest, to think, to heal.  To wonder how long this will continue.

Perhaps it was the house next door, the couple upstairs, or perhaps it is your own history.  Perhaps it is your today…. The damage to the field of battle leaves long scars as do the trails of the tears on the cheeks.  Sometimes there is more.  The absolute realness of the sounds and the concussions of the heavy weapons, the blurred vision from the smoke, and the fear of more which blinds the vision of a clear tomorrow that does not include the death of your dreams.  The ability to see past this present is impaired.  This is so very current.  I cannot even think about the days to come, when the field will be peaceful, and the flowers will grow.

The list of small battles that I have partaken in is long.  Many are so very small and petty. Some are of great magnitude and seemed quite worth the fight at the time.  To be the defender of the right thing, on this hill.  That may be true, but not all of them.  Some just became a history of the habit.  The expected skirmish about the “old behaviors” that were a bit irksome and easy prey for a sniper shot of a comment.  Not all was the noble defense of the valiant cause.  Some were simply petty.  War crimes might be accurate here.

Like any war that is done, there are the stories that are told.  Some among fellow warriors, and some in small groups that are working through the pain of healing.  These, the survivors, are fully aware that there is no glory in war.  Only suffering.  Some more and some less.  Some with lifelong wounds.  Some that are left to die on the field of battle, no one to bring them a drink…

But what of the coming of the spring?  When the field that has been torn apart has rested for the winter, and the spring rains smooth some of the ridges.  The moist ground warms to the sun and the heat of the day tells the germ in the seed to awaken.  That hope can rise from the place it has been resting, just under the surface.  The time after the battles have ceased has taken you through the fall and the winter which are the decay and the death of certain dreams.  The resting of the hard and the frozen parts of you that are fearful to reach up again.  To dare to dream, again.  That part of the seed that carries forth the anticipation and the potential, that knows it cannot remain dormant.  Permanently frozen in the ground or hidden in a jar on a shelf, the result is still the awareness of the potential.  There will come a day that the moisture and the sun and the time of spring will bring forth that which has been hidden.

Once in Ireland there was an old building that had been in decay and was finally torn down and the ground was cleaned up.  A month had gone by and some people noticed that there were flowers growing that they had no idea what they were.  After some investigation it was discovered that the building had been built in the 1600’s and that the seeds that made the flowers were from the time period.  Books were found with drawings and notes that spoke of the flowers, which had long since been thought extinct in the entire country.  Potential and the surprise of it coming forth.  It is inside and it wants a place to grow.

The place of the battle is real.  It has a memory and a story.  It has potential as well.  It is inside.  Waiting.  Waiting for the battles to stop and the ground to heal and the spring to come.  It is this cycle.  Simply stopping the battle is not to bring the flowers.  It will take some time, some decay of the damaged reeds and grass.  A winter of the hard cold and the dark nights.  Time…. And then will come the spring.  It cannot be rushed.

There is a place for some help though.  You can get some additional seed and spread them around.  In the torn soil of your story.  After the shelling and the yelling and the torment of the stinging shots from across the field have stopped.  It is not wrong to add some of your hopes and dreams back in to the field… New ones this time.  Different than the thorns and the brambles that had been part of the history of the field.  This field of battle that is now silent. That is now at rest.  What happens to a battle when one side stops fighting?  When they take their shield and go home?  When they stop shooting?  When they realize that the hill that they planned on dying on isn’t really as important as they believed.  When the engaged skirmish is not worth the cheap shots and petty digs.  Am I willing to let that bit of ground go?  To let the battlefield, go quiet, for a season.  If only to see what flowers bloom?

Perhaps I am simply incapable of stopping.  Incapable of believing that the fight cannot be yielded.  There is only winning or losing, and I cannot see a third path.  Perhaps I have not looked at a field of flowers in a different way.  Perhaps I have not considered the idea that the seed is already in the ground and simply waiting for the battle to cease.  To allow the germ inside that seed to do its magic.  To reach for the sun and the warmth and the rebuilding that are the new seeds that come with maturity.  To spread this bounty for others to be witness to.  That the field that was once torn in battle has become something of beauty and peace.  A place that can be the reason to tell a story to a stranger that happens by, on their way to someplace else.  Perhaps the potential can be released, for another to see.


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