Breathe deep the gathering gloom

Breathe deep the gathering gloom

By Rod Myers, Naturalist

Recently I witnessed something I’d never seen before. It was the exhaled breaths of sparrows. The birds were clinging to a withered sunflower stalk anchored in a large flower box. The sparrows were backlit by the rising sun illuminating their tiny exhales. They were fluffed up and waiting for the feeder to be filled. All of them were jittery, and all looked tilted on the crooked stalk in my slanted yard.

I’d seen the exhaled breaths of larger birds in cold weather, but never in any bird nearly as small as a sparrow. Had my observation skills been faulty or had my physical and/or my emotional sensitivities changed, allowing me better sight? While approaching the intersection of State Street and Alpine on Saturday, Jan. 18, 2003, shortly after noon, I could see the anti-war protesters. For the first time in my life, I saw the exhaled breaths of anti-war protesters in person. The breaths of the 350 people were not lit by the sun, but by their convictions. They were pumped up by their emotions and the cold, and they all looked tilted on the hill along the tilted streets.

Two Saturdays later, the space shuttle crashed. The next day, the headline read: “They’re Gone.” Just what we don’t need, I thought to myself, a month of media mourning while a war hangs in the balance. The headline bothered me immensely, but a sentence from a JFK speech about space exploration gave me some peace of mind and rationale. Kennedy said, “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”

Space flight is extremely dangerous, and the astronauts know that. No other job in the world requires as much training, preparation and caution.

As the week following the space tragedy played out, America got over the accident quickly. Attention shifted back to the president’s timetable for war, which is probably waging by now.

Millions are jumping on the George W. bandwagon, where no pride shall hide. I hope they’re hunkered down after our armed forces scour and gouge out Iraq because repercussive hatred will bring hundreds of Islamic terrorists to the United States, and they won’t be killing us with comedy. Or will they? This is George W. doing an impression of an al-Qaeda terrorist comedian: “I had a friend named Habeeb, who was a suicide bomber; he should have started his own weight loss clinic in heaven because he lost 161 pounds in one second!”

OK, that was out of line, but so is war! Laughter comes too easily sometimes, and so does anger. How easy would it be to let the anger flow, kick Iraqi butts and drill for blood? It’s too easy to turn an Iraqi war into a sporting event, making up for personal frustrations in the NFL playoffs. Besides, we haven’t won a war since ’45, while Saddam boasts of winning the last one, which, in certain ways, he has. Saddam and Osama are likened to resilient strains of bacteria, and overused war is the penicillin that’s made them strong.

Both deranged leaders have weapons of mass destruction, but war will only be a testing ground for such weapons. I cling to the Kennedy quotation because it’s applicable to the peace movement. Peace is not often the easiest road; most times, it appears unattainable. In our country, war hawks outnumber the peace doves, or should I say, peace sparrows, as doves are big and aggressive, while sparrows are small and meek.

During a popular war, those protesting against it are portrayed to be off-center and more tilted. But to me, they are right on, baby. I feel there is hope as long as the breaths of anti-war protesters are visible. There’s hope as long as you can see the breaths of sparrows.

Rod Myers is a local resident with an interest in the environment and disability issues. He has an associate’s degree in science and a bachelor’s in fine arts. Rod is a member of the Audubon Society, the Wild Ones Natural Landscapers and Rockford Amateur Astronomers, Inc.

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