At the time of this writing, ISIS was on the move in Northern Iraq, heading toward Baghdad, cease-fires were not holding in Gaza, Malaysian flight 17 was still not recovered, spread over a nine-mile swath in the sweltering heat of a Ukrainian summer.
The weekend came and went and a new work week started, and still I refused to watch the news, broadcast or cable, and I turned my attention instead to old reruns of “The Middle” and “The Andy Griffith Show.” And sometimes even Andy was too modern and I settled in for long evenings of British mysteries set in the 50’s, or costume dramas set in distant centuries.
Because I simply can’t take it anymore. The news is as distressing as I have ever known it, and I have lived through the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Kennedy and King assassinations, the Challenger explosion, 9/11, natural disasters splayed all over every channel on a continual loop, wars, famines, outbreaks of plague.
But never do I remember so many distressing things, so close together, and a feeling of such utter helplessness and…I don’t want to say it…but hopelessness, too, on really bad days. Each crisis seems to beget another crisis which backburners yet another crisis that stews away until it boils over and some invisible chef rearranges the pots on the stove and it starts all over again.
My mother, who was too young to remember the depression but recalls clearly the war years, says right now is as distressing a time as she can remember. The worst, maybe. She will tell you, though, that they only saw the news at the movies, on carefully controlled newsreels, but the newspapers, big thick things with tiny print, were full of accounts as were the news reports on the radio.
As it is, the 24 hour news outlets have done me in. I can’t watch any more. I can’t listen to one more “ping” as I receive a push notification of some on-line outlet updating me with news. I want off this ride.
So, I watch “Endeavor” and “Lark Rise to Candleford,” and maybe a Vera Stanhope mystery here and there. And yes, they are murder mysteries, but nothing gory or gratuitous and the plot just clicks along with Vera hurrrumping from one place to another in her baggy coat and unflattering hat.
She calls everyone “pet” or “poppet” but she says things like, “aye, you might be the murderer.” You gotta love Vera. She’s got issues but she is good at her job and all she wants to do is go home and put her feet up and enjoy her pint.
She looks out over the bleak Northumberland landscape and she seems, if not content, at least resigned. But we don’t live on the edge of the North Sea, where I am guessing television and cell reception is poor, and they are spared some of the bombardment of the news.
So, I have turned off the television. I allow myself visits to well-selected and respected web sites of new outlets where I read detailed reports and fair analysis of world events.
And I am looking forward to a week in the mountains, which might as well be Northumberland, at least as far as phone service goes, And there are no televisions. None.
Do you know what a rare and lovely thing that is? Not just now, but in general?
I will be at the writer’s workshop at the Hindman Settlement School and I should be learning a lot and reading good work, and laughing with my friends. We will make up things to laugh at. I call my mother a couple of times, check in with my messages off and on, and then don’t look at the phone for hours, days, because everyone I want to talk to is here.
I am looking forward to silencing the outside world more this year than any other I can remember. I might have reached my capacity for understanding world events. It’s all just too much, too complex, too something.
The forecast for Hindman is this. Temperatures in the 70’s, rainy but still, people, the 70’s. That has never happened. Almost every one of our group will be there, which also almost never happens. We haven’t seen each other in a while so that means pent- up stories begging to be told.
We will serve all our local delicacies at our impromptu late night soirees, things like pickled bologna and fresh-made pesto. I bring the hot olive cheese spread from J’s, and it goes quick. I always take extra but they are just pigs, what can I tell ya.
Maybe if the music is fine and the laughter loud I might be able to come home and face the news. Let’s hope.