The light is falling off and fast, mornings now dark as dusk. These gloomy early hours, the lateness of dawn, remind me of the shroud of withdrawal which seems to wrap itself around my son, strangling him with seizures, shrieks, shudders and insomnia.

Even so, when Saturday I saw a photo of the body of a three-year-old Syrian boy face down in sand and surf so far away from his home, I bowed my head with gratefulness for what I've got, for my fortune in life—a mere accident of birth—and that I can call this beautiful, safe place home.

Later, we received an invitation to go out on our friends' boat. The weather was perfect, in the eighties, albeit a bit windy, and Michael and I were eager to put off our work for a day, though he and I would still be taking pictures and I'd still be worrying about Calvin and thinking about what I'd write.

Our friends Jeff and Teresa, with their daughter Elise, took us to a place in Casco Bay called Long Island, to a spit of beach maybe fifty or a hundred yards wide at its most narrow. On either side stretched crescent beaches with sand so white and waters so green it was hard to believe we were still in Maine until we dipped our feet into the cold wet. There, we beached the boat and set up near a smooth driftwood log to eat spicy pickle chips and sandwiches we'd bought from an island cafe, then chocolates wrapped in purple foil.

As I tossed sticks into the water for Nellie, I thought of the dead boy in the sand, and grieved for the thousands of refugees worldwide fleeing for their freedom from war torn lands. I thought of how inhospitable and callous some people appear to be—insulated and perhaps blinded by simple privileges—to the plight of those who take their kids on perilous voyages across seas and deserts because life in their homeland means danger and, perhaps, death.

I was thinking these thoughts when our hosts told us of several private islands. I mentioned how the thought of owning a chunk of this earth always seemed an odd notion to me. I recounted how, while on camping trips as a child, my parents schooled me in various ways to keep outsiders, particularly Californians, from dreaming of moving into "our" territory, instructing me to emphasize how awfully rainy Seattle was. I suppose this kind of claim to place may have lead to my deep desire to get out of dodge and move to San Francisco where it seems most everyone is a transplant from somewhere else and outsiders are welcome.

Once back on the mainland I pondered how different my adventure had been to that of refugees fleeing in boats that capsize, parched in deserts, crammed into trains, penned into cyclone fences and walls strung with razor-wire, and all because the accident of birth put them there instead of where my feet find me.

Yes, the light is falling off and fast, but it's not as dark and dreary as for those refugees without a home.


  1. yes, your humanity and impulses are front and center, and we are moved by your response to the cruelties wherever they occur. We share the feelings. Good people must keep these impulses alive. I'm glad you both had such a rare day in the sun.... we had one like it in Colorado, and hiked a trail in Rocky Mountain National Park, feeling the same nourishing sun and air on our backs....

  2. Syria is now my reality measure. What is happening to these people is beyond me, and every time something seems insurmountable I remind myself that I have a roof, a warm bed, food, clothing, and a job. These basic needs we so take for granted. Even in the face of the daily chronic illness we both care for, we still have these vital, basic needs. I share in your gratefulness.