“Bright Light and Shadows” © R.L. Herron

Just when you think you have things all figured out and your resolutions for the new year are made, something comes along that makes you re-think everything. Not just the resolutions, which are almost always made half in jest each year. But everything.

Yesterday morning was one of those ‘somethings’ here. Three young schoolgirls, all 14 years old and freshmen at a local high school, were killed in an auto accident on the way to school. They were less than a mile from my house.

No one was speeding. No one was drunk. No one was really at fault. The car in which they were riding, doing much less than the speed limit, just hit a patch of glare ice on a curve and careened into the path of a large SUV.

No more algebra tests. No more giggling over the cute boys. No whispers and laughter of any kind. Only silence, and the crunch of ice under the ambulance driver’s feet. All three girls were declared DOA at the local hospital.

Sobering reality, so close to home.

I didn’t know any of them, but I feel the loss. Not in the sense of what their poor parents and relatives are going through. But in knowing that all that potential, all that young optimism, is gone.

Bright light, like the sunlight in the picture above, always has a shadow. If we are fortunate, we don’t ever have to look that closely or that often into those dark places.

2 Responses to “Transitions”

  1. Ron Herron Says:

    Peter – you should start a blog of your own. Very worthwhile comments. Thanks.


  2. Peter Wallage Says:

    Your writing really made me think, Ron. Think, among other things, of the power there can be in writing

    The sad and sudden ending of three young lives makes you wonder what their lives might have been like had the accident not happened.

    Inevitably it brings to mind two lines from an otherwise undistinguished poem Maud Muller by an undistinguished poet John Greenleaf Whittier:

    “For of all sad words of tongue or pen,
    The saddest are these: ‘It might have been'”

    Thinking of this, and the power of writing, brought to my mind a parody of Maud Muller written by Bret Harte which ends:

    If, for all sad words of tongue and pen,
    The saddest are these “It might have been”
    More sad are these we daily see:
    “It is but hadn’t ought to be.”

    I got to thinking that writers and poets who are remembered mainly as humourists could often, in the midst of their humour, write with an insight so telling that their words ought to be remembered.

    Many people have never heard of John Greenleaf Whittier yet his two most famous lines live on. In contrast, many people have heard of Bret Harte but how many remember his insight in the last four lines of his parody of Maud Muller?

    Then there was the shock tactic used by another poet, an Englishman named Thomas Hood, deservedly very popular as a humourist.

    One day in 1843 Hood heard about, and saw, the conditions of the pitifully poor self-employed home-working seamstresses.

    He was moved to write the serious poem for which he is probably best remembered, The Song of the Shirt. It started:

    “With fingers weary and worn, with eyelids heavy and red,
    A woman sat in unwomany rags plying her neeedle and thread.
    Stitch, stitch, stitch, in poverty, hunger and dirt …”

    This poem possibly did more to influence public opinion than all the speeches of reforming politicians because Hood had the ability to reach into peoples’ hearts, not with high-flown prose but by using everyday words with almost awesome power, a power given to very few orators

    The poem led directly to a series of Acts which gradually improved the conditions and payment of the lowest type of worker.

    Kipling, when deeply moved, also had this power. Most people have heard of the last line of his poem Gungha Din though they may not have read the full poem.

    Kipling was a very popular writer in the late 19th century with first-hand experience of army life in India. He became, among other things, the champion of the ordinary soldier and often wrote in soldier’s verrnacular.

    One of his poems, A Shillin’ a Day was about an ex-Troop Segeant Major from the cavalry, time-served and dismissed from the army, in which he had served his country fighting all over the Empire for lifetime, with a pension of a shilling a day.

    To make ends meet, his wife had to work as a charlady, scrubbing floors for a few pence a day, and he tried to earn what he could as a courier, standing outside top-class London hotels offering to deliver letters by hand faster than the Post Office could.

    Kipling’s poem ended:

    … can’t do no better,
    Late Troop-Sergeant-Major an’ – runs with a letter!
    Think what ‘e’s been,
    Think what ‘e’s seen,
    Think of ‘is pension an’ …

    The poem was widely read and swayed public opinion to campaign for better pensions for long-serving soldiers which eventually brought improvement.

    Truly, the pen IS mightier than the sword.


    Liked by 1 person

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