Tuesday, March 15, 2011


I like to write.  Beyond liking it, it's therapy.  I wanted to write something today, something about the earthquakes and the tsunami and the radiation, not to mention the volcano, but I just didn't think I had anything insightful to say.  What, I thought, could I possibly say that isn't already being said?  I feel like adding my words to the melee would only diminish the magnitude of the situation.

That pun was not intended, unless subconsciously.

I like words, too.  I like using the right words in the right ways.  What if I used the word 'devastation'?  If I have to pick a word, that one suffices in the dictionary sense of things.  But I think some words have been wrung out and hung up too many times.  This word has been applied to every disaster to come along since newspapers, which is why I think the word 'devastation' creates an instant detachment among listeners and readers.  Some words bounce off leaving only a trace of effect due to maybe overuse, or maybe a worthy human defense that makes us incapable of comprehending the meaning of the word outside of physical experience.

You say 'devastation' and the listener's brows furrow, the head shakes, and something goes through the mind resembling oh, my, it's terrible.  And then they go blow dry their hair.

Life has to go on, of course, and it should.  I just have to find new words.

Perhaps I'll begin with someone else's?  

Among the residents rescued was a woman carried into a shelter by a civil defense solider, NHK reported. After he gingerly set her down, the woman rose to her feet with some difficulty and bowed to the soldier, told him she was all right, bowed again and then collected herself to briefly tell her story, paraphrased by an NHK interpreter:

"She had been waiting for help all night outside. She had been washed away by the wave. ... The moment she opened the door of the house, the water flooded in. ... She grabbed hold of a tree and hung on, hung on for dear life with the water all around her. A ... floor mat floated by, and she grabbed it and held on to that."

As the woman spoke in Japanese, the interpreter's voice trembled in English: "Her daughter was washed away. She was washed away, and she has not found her."

Try to understand the mind that is washed free of everything except survive.  She must have used muscles that weren't really there, fueled by an animal rush of adrenaline.  Her eyes saw her flesh and blood, a precious child, float away in an impossible, insane scene of meaningless mayhem.  Maybe she didn't even feel the cold.  She is rescued.  She is wracked with fatigue.  But there's more.  Imagine her pain.  Feel the tightening of her stomach and the welling up of sickening acids at the thought of her beloved labeled: Presumed Dead.  Feel that pain expand to overflowing and gush out as tear after tear after tear.  Hear her cathartic moans and her cries, letting out the vastness of her fears and sorrows.  

That's devastation.

Now imagine it again.  And again.  And 20,000 more times.  Then maybe we can begin to describe what Japan is bearing.

I think it's ok to use the word 'devastation'.  If you can barely see your screen through your tears, then you can use it.  If your writing is practically illegible, done by trembling hands, you have earned it.  To casually throw that word into the world to encompass some great deal of pain and suffering discredits the sufferers and robs the writer of an opportunity to feel, understand, and love.

I hope these words, my words, serve more purpose than my own therapy.  I hope the perspective that only I can share will help in some way to provide people a medium through which to feel their connection to other human beings who are experiencing a desperation that some of us have already known and others hope never to know.     

Pray for Japan. 

Please consider giving to the  Japanese Red Cross Society .  All you have to do is click that link and it will take you to the right place.  The money equivalence is described right above the donation box.

From Japan,


PS:  Here is the letter I wrote to my supervisor within days of the tsunami and nuclear meltdown.


gnacres said...

Your writing brings those incredibly painful tears to my eyes. Thank you for your incite and ability to expound on it. Just enough...not overdone....precise and exactingly painful. Writing:priceless

Megan said...

It is hard to imagine but this piece you shared is helping. I almost don't even want to imagine it, but...to truly empathize one must.

Nataila said...

WOW Tiff, is all I can say..... I had to fight off the tears from reading your last paragraph! I don't think anyone but those experiencing it can even begin to imagine what this must feel like but as humans we can all feel the sadness, despair and pain of what we can only remotely rack in our brains and our hearts of what it must feel like. You are so close to this nightmare I just hope you stay safe so I can give my Tiff a huge hug when we meet again!

Greg said...

Recently experiencing a similar loss, I know the pain, and it resonates with me...it always will...

raulito said...

Moving. Thank you for sharing. Big hugs to you and your family from a coffeeman from your past... R