Tragedy in Sandy Hook
I am not a religious man, this I have never made secret. I have lived through and been affected by three national tragedies such as the shooting this past week in Connecticut. I was the same age as many of the students who were victims of the shootings in Columbine, and I remember learning about it in the newsroom of my high school paper (how appropriate for the son of a journalist). On September 11, 2001 I was still on summer break from university—solidly out of contact with the outside world, but as it turns out, only a few hours delayed from learning. On Friday I was simply reading the news at my desk—so inundated with these horrors that I, at first, thought the coverage an extension of the Clackamas killings of three days prior.
In none of these incidences have I felt a compunction toward belief from atheism—though I have no doubt that the religious find much solace in faith at times such as these. Funny then, that I should have found myself drawing upon bits of The Prayer of Saint Francis when thinking of a title for this post.
Who knows where I have heard the lines—but there they were: Where there is darkness, light.
What I like about the text (aside from its attribution to the namesake of my favorite California city) is its empowerment of humanity to do the work of the divine. If we are to cure the ills that caused Friday's tragedy, it will be by our hands. In some ways, that work has already begun: the gun lobby faces a sea-change of public opinion and pressure from all sides. Progress will be made. And, though I do not advocate gun ownership, I recognize that the problem is deeper than firearms.
We ought not to miss this chance to address the way we treat mental health and care for the sick. Anyone who tells you we can solve the problem with one approach alone is not being truthful.
. . .
So there I was, briny from the knee down and sharing the beach with my father-in-law (a devout Catholic who no doubt could recite the aforementioned prayer from memory) on my own kind of photographic pilgrimage to see the daystar sink beneath the waves through an aperture of stone that looks for all the world as though it was cut precisely to hang a doorframe.
My father-in-law is a bona fide road trip and California coast junkie, so there was no effort needed to convince him to come along on the expedition—though he often referred (tongue-in-cheek) to the phenomenon I was chasing as "some druid thing," undoubtedly in reference to the countless equinox notches and stones that litter the ancient world.
The Pacific beats incessantly, and I doubt the Pfeiffer Beach doorway is a fraction the age of some of its man-made counterparts. We can only hope we outlast it, intact, with our ability to navigate the rising and setting of the sun via a wireless device in our pockets rather than notches or stone henges.
Somewhere east of where we stood, somewhere in the packed, brown-sugar hills that crumble to ruin in the lightest rain is the next doorway. Awaiting the rising tides and rising sea levels and setting sun and unborn photographer-pilgrims.