Avril is a woman I met back in Los Angeles while volunteering down at Kulak's Woodshed. I think her accent is Australian? Or maybe she's British? I keep forgetting. Anyway, Marc Platt, who runs the workshop, told us all to write a song -- we had an hour -- featuring the word or the concept of "joy."
I think our group consisted of four women that night -- and myself as a kind of facilitator.
We were hemming and hawing, trying to come up with an idea. Finally, Avril stood up, stone-still as was her way, and simply said, tearlessly, soberly, "I don't much joy right now. I sent my kid back to Iraq this morning."
That stopped the conversation.
Silently, I wrote down, "I sent my kid back to Iraq this morning."
It was an electrifying moment, because, when you're suddenly very sad or angry or whatever, your first reaction is to sit down and take a break so that you can start breathing again.
She stood there, staring off. So, I just started asking her questions. I think I said, "Okay, now that you've said that, what's the next thing that comes to your mind?"
She said, without taking a beat, "That now I have to clean up all his mess."
I think we all laughed out loud. Avril smiled, but she didn't move. I wrote down what she said.
And over the next half hour or so, I just kept asking questions and writing down, as word for word as possible, what she said. Then, I went home that weekend, found that sheet of paper, and converted it into music and lyrics, using her words and phrases. The video clip below is from our benefit concert earlier this year:
As we cruise through the holidays, we see lots of soldiers on the TV saying hi to their family. I'm totally a sucker for it, because they are real people, and there really is a war going on.
But, just like when I was writing about AIDS, it's not only the patient who suffers through the war of the disease. It's the caregivers, the family members, the workmates, best friends, shopping pals, hunting pals, movie pals, who all feel the emptiness of that person they love not being present, we're all in it together.
Except we're not. We, at home, are not getting shot at.
Because that's the part we don't want to look at.
And because the war is so amorphous --who's the enemy again? can it ever be over? will it ever be over? what does it mean if we "win?" who will we have defeated? a people? an ideology? a culture? a religion? -- it becomes very sad and unsettling for everyone, whether they have family members in the service or not.