The Ice Plant

Inspired by Dennett


I’ve just finished writing for the day, and stand looking out the study window still numbed by the events happening around the world. Today in California is glorious. So glorious it is hard to imagine a hateful thing in the world. As far as I can see, the horizon is without blemish, and Point Arena lighthouse, three miles to my right, looks fit for a wedding, standing tall in her white gown.

In my stories I love to use the landscape, for what a visual feast it is. More often than not, it opens me up to a scope of expression. I’m a hopeless friend, you must trust me on this, always with my head in some place that is kind, or a place of contentment. Even today, and you’ll know this to be true, I conjoured up images of sandy shores, blue skies, and rugged romantic terrain. California keeps me safe a few months of every year just for these reasons.

When I’m eventually pulled back home to Scotland, it is for a different kind of splendour; farm trucks and tractors, cattle roaming, gridded roads, heather covered hills, and the way a sky can turn black from blue over a cup of tea. There’s a cycle of decay and renewal to Scotland’s scenery that cannot be found anywhere else. California has never made me cry the way the Hebrides can.

Wait…is that…it is…Lori, why are you hiding beneath the Sage bush. Oh my, you’re sobbing child. Come here, darling.

Her cheeks, wet with tears, and her eyes so reddened and puffy.

I’m scared, Mr. Harry, she said

There, now. Let me dry those eyes. What’s wrong, Lori? The day is so beautiful.

Why do people want to hurt us, Mr. Harry?

Oh, dear child. You’ve heard those dreadful, hateful things, haven’t you. Come here, jump up.

Lori crawls onto my lap, snuggling her face into my chest. I feel her heart fluttering in panic. The poor child, like so many, sees only the obscenity of violence in her future. Their simplest questions can’t be answered with anything but complex answers. We can do our best to shield them, avert their eyes, love them, and hold them close, but we cannot answer their fears.

When young, I learned about the defeats of Islam by Christian adversaries. The loss of Spain, Portugal, and the rise of Russia, and not least the growing European presence in South and Southeast Asia that weakened and made vulnerable an entire belief system. How do we explain to a child that what is happening is an ongoing fight for the balance of power between the Islamic and Christian worlds?

I just want them to stop, Mr. Harry. Can’t you stop them? I don’t want to feel frightened. I want to run free, and play in the world. Can’t you write something, make them understand that we just want to live in peace, be friends, exist together. Can’t you write that, Mr. Harry?

I pull her body in, wanting to stop the great sobs of distress, comfort her with calming noises. What a story that would be; a story that would unite the world, open understanding, and bring closer together all humankind. Maybe it was tried already. Maybe it was called the Bible, the Qur’an, or Tipitaka. Maybe it wasn’t even one of the great writings of religion, maybe the Treaty of Carlowitz, and the Ottoman Empire.

The realist in me wants to tell Lori: Listen, darling. You must think of love, you must be love, give love, act with love. The world is a garden. Democracy is a kind of ice plant. Its nature is to be invasive, even where it is not accepted. Before I lived in America, before America was discovered by Europeans, native Indians roamed its prairies.

When people like me came from Europe, we were like the ice plant. We covered the United States. Today the Native American Indian is in decline, the beauty of that culture lost. The American Indian didn’t willingly accept the European invader without a fight, even when the pioneers wanted to live and spread out across the land they believed they were entitled to without thought for the native peoples. But the ice plant of European Democracy is tenacious.

But our children shouldn’t know such modern terror. They shouldn’t hear, speak, or see such an invasion of hatred. Not all children are Christian, they are of many faiths. Some are the children of parents who have lost their homes, even their lands, their faith ridiculed, clubbed together and linked as peoples of extreme radical behaviour by the ignorant among us.

This ignorance exists in very high political places who know nothing, have learned nothing, but instead want war to prove that might is greater than right.

To hold a child is to hold innocence. To watch a child sleeping is to watch a world without pain. The new world order has become one of extremes. We are all touched by its cruelty, its unfairness, its regret. It’s an environment that is seeding deranged monsters against the force of love, dignity, and civil rights.

Not all the world advances so quickly, or so well. There are still peoples of different faiths threatened by the ice plant of democracy. It is not the last time a unique civilization will become obscure and disappear due to progress and the ice plant.

Violence should not be tolerated. Terrorism should not be tolerated. I fear for everything of beauty. But like it is in a garden, the roots of weeds are buried beneath the soil. With strength and conviction, sound level-headed leadership, we can learn to understand the complete spectrum of human emotion…we can find a way to deal with the weeds without cutting down flowers.

We can find a way to live together.

Did I fall asleep, Mr. Harry?

You did, Lori. Do you feel better?

Yes, I think so. I better be going, she says, scrambling from my lap.

Her darling breath is sleepy, moist, and warm. Children of all faiths need to be kept safe, to grow up like fern, or ivy, safe in the shade of the towering trees, parental strength, and compassion. They need open fields, vast spaces where they can run and challenge the wind, they need blue skies; skies where birds bring joy…not missiles.

They need love.

The planet needs love.

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