I know I’m not alone in feeling a monumental sadness this morning.
Crawling out of bed, picking my feet up, getting dressed, clinking my dogs’ food bowls as I scoop out their food, stroking their heads and rubbing their ears as I put their coats and leads on, then ushering them out of the door for their early morning walk is normal procedure.
Usually I’d take their morning walk time to slowly wake myself up and start to sketch out the day ahead.
But not today.
I remember very clearly standing in the back garden of my old house in Stratford on Avon at the start of the Iraq war. I was 12 I think. We lived near several RAF bases, and as a jet flew overhead, I couldn’t help but wonder how long it would be before I needed to worry about enemy fire. Perhaps a little dramatic in hindsight, but the fear was very strong and very real.
A couple of years ago, I visited the Imperial War Museum on Salford Quays. I had watched it being built when I worked in an office further down the quay several years before, but had then moved away. The building is designed around the concept of a shattered globe, and is absolutely stunning.
Inside, there was a timeline of wars over the last few centuries, and as I followed it along the years to the twentieth century I was stunned at how much there was within my lifetime. The Gulf War(s), Kosovo, Rwanda, Palestine, so many more.
This summer, I visited a friend in Austria. She lives just over the border with Germany, so I flew into Munich and got a train to Freilassing where she met me, still within Germany. As we left the platform, she told me they had just met some people they thought were Syrian, possible refugees, who seemed to be trying to get to Munich. They had a train ticket and the clothes they stood up in. It was gone midnight, the weather was bad and they were just waiting and hoping.
The next morning, I woke up in a warm comfy bed in a beautiful old house in an Austrian mountain village.
That week, we crossed the border several times, just going about enjoying the weather and the scenery. In and out of Bavaria, a bus to Salzburg in Austria, stopping off for a wander round Bad Reichenhall in Germany, back home to Austria.
The week after I got back, suddenly continental Europe seemed very different as the borders were tightened, closed, fenced, guarded, blocked.
As I walked along this morning, pausing for sniffing time and all the other things that dogs do out on a walk, I thought also of the latest shootings in America.
I know there is much, much more that is unreported, under reported, scanned over, passed by. I don’t know what to do, how to help. But I don’t know how more violence can possibly be the answer.