As I started my jog down the road, I thought I heard a meadow lark. Wishing, hoping, I glanced over to the one remaining apple tree in the center of the field, where, in the past, right at the tippy top of its artistically gnarled and twisted self, the meadow lark would perch.
He was not there. Far too early. I knew that, but I was SO ready for warmth and wishing for spring.
Our wishes often outpace reality, but maybe Grace puts wishes in our hearts to sustain hope.
If wishes were birds, nightingale songs would drown out the sounds of air raid sirens and mortar shell explosions throughout Ukraine. If wishes were wheat and sunflower seeds, the fields of Ukraine would shine yellow under blue skies, instead of the gray, black and ash white of burned-out military vehicles and abandoned bodies.
The ubiquitous colors of the flag we now see so often haunts me with its symbolism for the beautiful, bountiful, peaceful land before the carnage. What does it say about a people that decide to put the colors of their landscape on their flag? I am convinced the spectacular resistance to aggression that we have seen is for more than self-determination. It is a visceral commitment to something even more than family, culture, language: it is to the land itself which, alongside the atrocities to the people, suffers being brutally violated.
I knew very little about Ukraine before the war. The internet taught me about the swath of the Carpathian Mountains that stretch across the far west corner, home to wolves and bear and lynx, and the huge protected area of virgin steppe (grassland) with herds of multiple hooved animals grazing, including the Przhewalski horses restored from near extinction. It taught me that conservation organizations in Ukraine have now switched to preservation of people. Tragically – the land and the other-than-human species of animals and plants will have to wait. Now, there will simply have to be prayers for their resilience.
The internet taught me about how this “bread basket of Europe” is relied on even more by Africa for wheat. Europe might be feeling supply crunches for croissants and strudels; people in Africa may starve. The discussions about reliance on oil far overshadows this discussion about the poor of the world, and once again, the brutal inequities of supply chain distresses are revealed.
Let them eat cake. Fossil fuels run our lives….
I ask myself why, every time I think about Ukraine, I am almost fixated on the yellow wheat fields and the blue sky. It is probably because my mind simply cannot deal with the reality of the other images. Wishes seem so timid and ridiculously ineffectual in face of the reality. Prayers – for me, are stronger, have more agency. And, of course, we are all called to send money or show our support in whatever way we can.
I can do these things.
But also, the fact that Ukraine came into my mind as I looked eagerly at the top of the apple tree for the meadow lark seems important, a moment of grace. As if my gentle wish for something happy and lovely and healing – for the sight of the lark will be healing when it comes – is an offer to the Ukrainian people of a bit of hope –right at the tippy top of the artistically gnarled and twisted apple tree.