Posted in Essay, Michael Watson

The Past Two Weeks: A View from New England

Grace Church, New Bedford, MAThis past weekend we were visiting family in southeastern Massachusetts, and decided to attend a concert by the virtuoso classical guitarist, Eliot Fisk and friends. The concert was staged in the magnificent Grace Episcopal Church in New Bedford. As we listened to music ranging over several centuries, I found my mind wandering far and wide.

Earlier in the day we had received a phone call from a woman who had run the Boston Marathon and now was preparing for another. She was feeling fearful and becoming increasingly hesitant to run. Could she come in and speak to one of us, maybe get some help sorting out her anxiety? We set a time to meet and went on with our day.

The prior couple of weeks had been quite difficult. We have family and adult children living, or going to school, in Boston. On the day of the Boston Marathon I went in to work as usual. Late in the day a client came in and told me his wife had called and said there had been a bombing at the Marathon. We turned on the office computer and looked at the news feed. At that point, there was a fire at the Kennedy Library as well as reports of possible new bomb blasts, and rumors that additional devices had been found. I explained to my client I have family in Boston, picked up the phone, and called home. Everyone was safe and accounted for. I then called my daughter who lives in the Midwest and reassured her we were all safe. Only then did we settle into the routine of our therapy session.

That session was unique in all my years of practice. I spoke about how surprised I was that I called home instead of forcing myself to wait til after the session. He spoke to feeling remorse at being the bearer of bad news. I expressed my gratitude to him for sharing the news and for being generous in allowing me to check on the safety of my family, and for simply being another human presence in a difficult moment. Together we shared our experience of living in a world where people harm one another in the service of ideology.

On Wednesday I got together with a group of old friends. Naturally, the conversation turned to the week’s events. I spoke about imagining I understood some small part of the anger and hopelessness of the two brothers accused of the bombings. I added I thought they were probably doing their best and we could detest their actions and still hold on to the brothers’ humanity. Perhaps we are all doing as we are able, and sharing, ultimately, a common bond and fate. None of this went over well.

Then came Friday, and New England was back in the middle of terror and chaos. We were hosting Bangladeshi friends who were visiting the U.S. for the first time. I was up early, turned on the radio, and was greeted by reports of shootouts and bombs, again in Boston. One of my stepsons posted to Facebook that his street was blocked off, police were everywhere, and the neighborhood was in lockdown. Once again we were on the phone to Boston and the Midwest; our family members were safe, at least for the moment.

When our Bangladeshi friends awoke and came downstairs (they had luxuriated in long, hot showers, so different from the cold showers available to them at home), we explained the situation to them. They spoke to their compassion for our plight, and told us about one day, a few years ago, when Bangladesh had suffered 400 separate blasts. By early afternoon it was apparent the situation in Boston was under relative control, so we drove up to the mountains where our friends met snow for the first time. They proceeded to frolic, build snow people, and have a snowball fight, all in near 80 degree weather. The next day was cold and windy and we built a fire in the wood stove…… Welcome to Vermont in April!

All this came back as I sat in the enormous vaulted church, surrounded by family and and friends, listening to a remarkable concert drawn from the Western canon. A reception P1050301followed the concert, but we went straight home. Although it was late (the concert lasted well over two hours), the Red Sox were still playing, and winning to boot! It was then, sitting in the family kitchen, surrounded by loved ones, drinking late night decaf cappuccinos, that I finally grasped the healing, normalizing power of baseball.

Sunday we drove home via Boston where we visited more family. The world was abloom, and the streets were filled with happy, playful people. Surprisingly we spoke very little about the events of the proceeding two weeks, other than brief recaps of how folks spent their time during the lockdowns, or decided not to attend the Marathon. Rather, we spoke about the tenacity and resilience of the people of Boston. I guess we should not have been surprised at their resiliency, given their decades of loving support of the Red Sox prior to 2004.

– Michael Watson

© 2013, essay and all photographs include the portrait below, Michael Watson, All rights reserved

michael drumMICHAEL WATSON M.A., Ph.D., LCMHC (Dreaming the World) ~ is a contributing editor to Into the Bardo, an essayist and a practitioner of the Shamanic arts, psychotherapist, educator and artist of Native American and European descent. He lives and works in Burlington, Vermont, where he teaches in undergraduate and graduate programs at Burlington College,. He was once Dean of Students there. Recently Michael has been teaching in India and Hong Kong. His experiences are documented on his blog. In childhood he had polio, an event that taught him much about challenge, struggle, isolation, and healing.

5 thoughts on “The Past Two Weeks: A View from New England

  1. Michael: Your reflections makes me so appreciate music as path beyond all this suffering. Also makes me so homesick for Vermont! It is so nice to hear your words and enjoy you “spirt” and wisdom!

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  2. Resiliency…such an interesting concept. What is resiliency in 19th century immigrants to Wisconsin? What is resiliency to people in Bangladesh? What is resiliency to Red Sox fans…or Cubs and Bulls fans? Humanity and adaptation to Life: suffering, dukkha, stress, distress and ‘eustress’. This discussion could go on indefinitely! Thanks for an interesting snapshot of this and the juxtaposition of your experiences.

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    1. Yes, the discussion could go on and on, and maybe must. Our Bangladeshi friends are remarkably resilient. So are many of my friends, students, and clients. Ceremony builds community and resilience. Maybe Red Sox or Cubs games are a sort of ritual that substitutes for ceremony in mass culture. We sure need those community building rituals (Thank you, Victor Turner.). Maybe speaking to this should be a blog post?

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