Morning Thanks

Garrison Keillor once said we'd all be better off if we all started the day by giving thanks for just one thing. I'll try.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Hell to pay (2)

Not so long ago, I told myself I should really change the little picture that identifies me somehow on Google+. It is a shot like this one, a silhouette on a winter morning in a pasture, a kind of self-portrait. It was cold and crisp and pure that morning, and my shadow formed a dark outline against the snowbanks shouldering a creek. It like this one. (It shows up mysteriously if I make a comment below--check it out.)

I saw myself in this picture, even though neither subject nor setting is the same.  Why would someone take it? One answer is "because we can."  Digital photography makes three-year-olds into photographers. But why this particular shot? Some kind of mystery, maybe?--after all, there's something both real and insubstantial about a shadowy silhouette. It's as if we're there and not there simultaneously.

I think I was 17 or so when I sensed something of the odd brevity of life for the very first time. There was no sudden death, no lingering disease, no horrible accident; it was nothing more than a walk on some lonely section of Lake Michigan beach, my footsteps disappearing behind me. Something felt astonishing, the eternal beauty of the lake shore erasing, oddly enough, and in seconds, whatever trace of me I'd left behind.

I stole this silhouette picture from a Facebook site, same one as this picture, the first installment of what appears to be a series documenting a project--the rehabilitation of a backyard.  Look for yourself.

Obviously--I hope you can see it--it was raining or maybe snowing, long white lines veering toward the wet earth. Some work is being accomplished, a couple of tarpaper-covered holes have been dug in the ground.

Then, there's this one. Same backyard, same holes, one of them now holding a kid in a New York jersey, work tools slung hither and yon. Something's going forward here.

And then there's this one, thick with the pride that issues from accomplishment. Same two butterflies on the wall, but flowers everywhere around a little grassy infield.  Seagulls maybe?--on a big portrait hung from what looks to be a patio screen. The backyard is done, finished, and now livable. That's the story.

I don't know if it's legal to lift pictures from a Facebook site that isn't yours, but if it isn't, FB shouldn't make it as easy as they do. I know, I know--I'm blaming FB for my thievery, and I shouldn't. I'm the one who clicked the copy button. 

Here's the woman whose site I raided.

And here she is with her son.

I don't know her life story. It seems there was no husband. At least no appropriately-aged male appears in her photos, only her son.

And even though Facebook doesn't tell us that this big kid is her son, we know as much today because we know that the two of them (big-time travelers, by the way, if you look at more of her pictures), were on their way to Malaysia for some kind of conference for single parents and their children, just the two of them and 296 others aboard a jet zooming along at 33,000 feet in the air when it was shot out of the sky by a damned Russian missile. 

Her name is Petra H. van Langeveld and her son is Gary Slok. They're citizens of the Netherlands. He's 15. Was. They're both gone, no longer with us.

The sudden tragic loss of 298 lives in a plane crash perpetuated by drunken, mindless murderers is a devastating horror that makes us all reach for revenge. 

But they were 298 men and women and children, each with separate lives, individual human beings who loved and won and lost and laughed and cried together, who redid back yards to make their homes more warm and inviting, human beings who smiled on mountain tops and saw something worth remembering in sandy silhouettes. And they were, each of them, somehow cast in the image of their Creator, no matter where they stood and how they were clothed. 

Evil erased their footsteps. Once they were us; now they are gone. 

John McCain wasn't all wrong. There should be hell to pay.


J. C. Schaap said...

Here's my picture.

Anonymous said...


Stacie said...

Thank you James. Well said.

Anonymous said...

Really very creatively written, , I didn't see the
Malaysian airline disaster coming.
Amen, and yet the pro Russians Ukranians near the crash site still managed to shoot down two Ukranian fighter jets today.
It saddened me deeply to watch the parade of 40 hearses with 40 coffins in the Netherlands going to an inspection site to determine their identity . Pray for their famlies and an end to senseless violence

Anonymous said...

Nice recovery after your references to John McCain's reaction-"hell to pay".. in this post you wrote about the effects of this barbaric episode on a family... you showed a gentle human touch in your depiction.... describing the senseless ruthlessness of the "drunken mindless murderous" rebels.

John McCain was right...there should be "hell to pay".

Anonymous said...

So you're for vengeance when it affects your Dutch roots? I don't get this? Any other time John McCain is for justice, you're against him... except when it affects you [through your ancestry]???! Wth?

Anonymous said...


"Deterrence is the use of punishment as a threat to deter people from offending.

"A "hell to pay" response to this despicable act is NOT vengeance it is deterrence.