I noticed it Monday. The light and shadows had changed in the kitchen. For some reason, it reminded me of a winter day, which was odd because here in Texas we are easily three months away from anything that resembles a winter day. I didn't give it a second thought until Tuesday...which was when I began to wonder if my senses were unusually heightened for some reason, beckoning me to notice a change of seasonal light earlier than I ever had before. You know...a new superpower or something.
By Wednesday I had it figured out.
The neighbor behind us had removed two gigantic trees from his yard. I listened to the chain saws and watched men swing from ropes for three or four days last week. The next door neighbor and I had puzzled over the work, in fact, wondering together if a pool or sport court might be on the drawing board behind us. Why else would you take out perfectly good trees? It certainly didn't occur to me to consider the absence of my neighbor's trees as having any noticeable impact on me.
It felt like winter in my kitchen because those trees that had filtered the day's early light were gone. I was being treated to an early and permanent version of the 6-8 weeks of the year when the trees were leafless. There is now a gaping hole in my morning world. I would be lying if I said that didn't unsettle me a bit. I had a real urge to ring my neighbor's doorbell and talk at length about the change his actions had made in my house. I really wanted, no, I needed to know what was behind the decision to fell two beautiful trees and rearrange my morning light.
I managed to breathe through the urge to impose my tiny whining misery on a perfectly nice neighbor.
Of course this neighbor did not consult me before moving forward on the tree removal project...it is, after all, his yard and they were his trees. We exchange occasional pleasantries across the back fence, but never discuss much more than the weather. The tree operation was not my business, really - it was simply an opportunity to adjust my expectations.
Realizing the powerlessness of my role in this mostly insignificant attack on daily reality took me directly from my cozy, safe, light-altered kitchen to Afghanistan...
Can you imagine waking up in Afghanistan 11 years ago (this week) to find American armies in your backyard for reasons you knew nothing about? Rather than adjusting to a change in morning light over the years that have passed, you likely would have had to adjust to fewer men and boys in your house, or one less cow to milk for your family's daily sustenance, or the loss of crop fields trampled by boots of marching troops. You might not even have a village anymore.
That's how it's happened for most of the people of Afghanistan, you know. A war they knew nothing about showed up in their morning light one day, and it has stayed eleven years. It is none of their business, really...just an opportunity for them to adjust to a new and lingering reality.
I'm betting it's been unsettling.
I'm guessing they'd like to know what was behind the decision to bring so many years of violence and unrest to their country.
I'm thinking it's time to build them a pool or a sport court...a hospital or a school...and leave.