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The Heartbeat Goes On

Hello my friends, you the fast moving Musconetcong River and the woods that protect both banks and all the life that teems within. I see your trees are nearly done stripping down for the winter hibernation, creating a thick, six-inch deep blanket of mostly brown and lifeless leaves that covers the path although there are a goodly number of stubborn stragglers among you that cling to your trees, trying in vain to hold back the season but they too inevitably will become barren in a short time.

The tall, four-foot high grasses that line the path refuse to surrender quite yet as they have turned golden and they sway and dance to the wind in unison as if well-rehearsed, waiting to spread their seeds throughout the meadow for next spring. The early November sky is painted mostly grey with clouds and a few swaths of blue skies. The wind modulates with subtle sounds of a slight breeze to those of an oncoming train, as the momentum of the air creates varying temperatures between a slight coolness and winter cold.

Just a few short weeks ago, the sprawling mountainscape was a brilliant painting of various shades of greens, yellows and reds but now it is mostly grey, just waiting for the inevitable winter and the snow. Other than the leaves and the grasses, nothing is moving and there is no other trace of life with the various animals having collected food stores and probably getting ready to slow down or like the bears, consuming enough to create an added layer of fat to live off during their long winter slumber.

I can always count on you, season upon season, your predictability is soothing, providing protection from the noisy, frightening world we have created. There is no fake news, no conspiracies, no stress, no confusion and no changes here beyond the expected unless outside forces interfere. Short of any unnatural surprises, life goes on here in a rhythm of life that has gone uninterrupted for eons, there is no dizzying, disorienting fabulation here, only truth.

But and there is always a but, outside of the insulated natural beauty, their is chaos with a nation in the midst of an election that threatens to turn violent and could tear the country apart. People face the formerly unheard of prospect of being in danger while they perform the singular basis of a free country, voting.

Understanding between the polarized groups is vanishing, anger is growing amid fears it could explode out of control, while the future hangs on a thread. Our president lies while his supporters are duped into believing that he is one of them while they are encouraged by outrageous words of conspiracy that circulate unabated, constantly.

And meanwhile there is blood being shed 8,100 miles away, in the Oromia, a regional state in Ethiopia, the homeland of the Oromo people and the world’s 42nd most populous subnational entity in Africa, with 35 million people, making it most likely the largest subnational entity that you’ve never heard of.

At least 54 people were killed over the weekend in attacks by members of the Oromo Liberation Army, enemy of the ethnic Amhara in the Oromia region. The Oromo and Amhara, together make up more than 60 percent of the country’s population of more than 108 million people.

The attackers stormed three villages in the West Welega Zone, killing their victims after luring them to a school compound. When they were done with their murders, the attackers plundered anything they could carry from the villages and set everything else on fire.

Fighting has intensified while the nation has been faced with the COVID-19 pandemic, record floods and displacement while swarms of desert locusts have ravaged crops, further eroding the government’s fragile control.

And while the massacre was unfolding in Ethiopia, there was a miracle in the Agean Sea city of Izmir, the third most populous city in Turkey, where 3- or 4-year-old Ayda Gezgin was rescued after being buried for 91 hours in debris caused by the recent earthquake.

The earthquake that occurred off the coast of Izmir on Friday killed more than 100 people in Turkey, many of whom were in buildings and apartment blocks that buckled and collapsed when the temblor struck.

The Washington Post reported that Nusret Aksoy, a rescue worker, was the first to hear the girl’s voice.

“I told my colleague to stop the generator because I heard something,” Aksoy said.

“I’m Ayda. I’m okay,” Aksoy quoted the child as saying.

Half an hour later, a picture was posted of Ayda, with a glow — a ray of sunlight or maybe a camera flash — illuminating her face.

To temper that bit of wonder, an analysis by researchers at Duke University has shown that rich countries have scarfed up billions of doses of potential coronavirus vaccines, potentially leaving poor countries without enough supply for years to come.

There would appear to be not a place on earth that is safe from the insanity that people create and sustain.

So maybe the safest place to live is out of this world, aboard the International Space Station (ISS). In the face of the potentially devastating dangers of space, radiation, debris travelling faster than bullets, astronauts have lived peacefully aboard the station continuously for 20 years. And they continue to work, eat, play and sleep aboard the space ship.

Or maybe I’ll just pitch a tent in my forest near the Musconetcong River.

Journalist for 40 years and now a creative writer