Tuesday, the boys and I visited the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival with my friend Aran and her son and daughter. It was the morning after the bombing at the Boston marathon. We’d made our plans over the weekend, and as I helped her load things into my car, our murmured conversation indicated that, though we were going forward with our lives, it felt a bit shocking to do so. We didn’t know what else to do. We drove the 60 miles north of the city with the kids chattering in the back seat while we talked about homework and liberation theology and what it was like to experience winter in Alaska. We made sideways references to the bombing, mindful of our young audience. Periodically, I noticed one or the other of them listening to us, and I tried to remember what tragedies I knew as a kid. Tragedy and violence are not always the same thing; the memories that surfaced were mixtures of the two. I recalled the wretched loss of my older, teenaged cousin Janet, killed in a car accident. The stories on the news of Jonestown and the people drinking the Kool-Aid. I thought about the anxiety I felt as Walter Cronkite gave his nightly update on the Iran Hostage Crisis. Still, it seems my kids are growing up in a harder world.
After exiting off I-5 and driving through the town of Mt. Vernon the fields of flowers came into view, and it was like accompanying Dorothy to Oz. The farmland is magnificently dazzling. We parked and walked the fields of tulips. The sun shone while the kids played in the puddles and then argued about who was the muddiest. I wondered if it was obscene to take in so much beauty at such a sad time. We ate the picnic we’d packed: apples, a salad of mache, tuna, rice, avocado and cherry tomatoes, and hazelnut banana bread. And then we drove home, mindful of those suffering such gaping, irreparable loss, sending our love out into the world.