Wednesday Morning: Reflecting on Seamus Heaney’s “Anything Can Happen”

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by Dr. Crystal Hurd

It always comes on the morning mist, drifting gently above us as we rouse slowly toward consciousness. If we dare to open our eyes, there exists an uncertainty or even a nagging dread about “the day after”. First, there is that lethargic stage of first waking in which the full extent of prior harms has not rushed upon us yet. We shift, we yawn, maybe even hit the snooze bar, and then that malaise returns. The familiar feeling in the pit of our stomachs stirs again.

It is in that sacred moment that we are faced with a decision.  Do we remain paralyzed by calamity or do we carry on? Indeed we still revel in the astonishment of Jupiter’s devastation – the thunder rolling, the Earth trembling, fortresses toppling. It is truly the upheaval of normalcy. And what happens when our optimism is tarnished? A wound is created that may take weeks or months to heal, if it can heal at all. We consider these injuries with our hearts still broken, our minds still reeling. And then the next day arrives. What would be a rather mundane decision on any other day becomes a monumental one. Am I brave enough to carry on?  Do I have the strength?

Last year, I wrote a blog about teaching public school in the shadow of the Sandy Hook tragedy. I referenced the egregious acts at Columbine High School and Virginia Tech. The day following these catastrophes is always precarious. Students display an elevated level of anxiety, administrators fear a copycat, and the word “lockdown” becomes prominent in our vocabulary. Bullying surges as students who don’t “fit in” are accused of orchestrating similar episodes. Whispers swirl about “hit lists” and petty disagreements are feared to provoke retaliation. There is prevailing climate of apprehension but usually that day passes, for the most part, uneventfully. And then the next day passes and the next. Slowly we rise from our ashes and return to what is “normal”.

But that is just it. It technically isn’t normal because the experience has changed us. Our trust is bruised, our confidence swollen and stinging. Heaney writes, “Capstones shift, nothing resettles right, / Telluric ash and fire-spores boil away”. We must rebuild. As we stagger through the devastation and ash, one thing becomes clear: we are shaken but we are not defeated. Ache and mourn, but carry on.

The terrible events of 9/11 are etched deeply in our minds. We all were horrified at the sight of the twin towers – full of mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, colleagues and friends – tumble down from blue skies. We watched as people on the street were submerged in dust and confusion. Our collective hearts broke. We untangle life’s mysteries by reading and writing verses. Like Heaney, we glance into the past to investigate how our ancestors and mentors endured these atrocities. They writhed in pain but collected the pieces and moved forward. That is why Wednesday morning was so crucial to our nation.  It illustrates our resilience and enduring strength. We grapple for truth and wisdom and we find it echoed in words of the past. The words help us make sense and incorporate us into the long narrative of human suffering.

But most importantly, the words help us heal. 

Anything Can Happen, by Seamus Heaney

Anything can happen. You know how Jupiter

Will mostly wait for clouds to gather head

Before he hurls the lightning? Well, just now

He galloped his thunder cart and his horses

 

Across a clear blue sky. It shook the earth

And the clogged underearth, the River Styx,

The winding streams, the Atlantic shore itself.

Anything can happen, the tallest towers

 

Be overturned, those in high places daunted,

Those overlooked regarded. Stropped-beak Fortune

Swoops, making the air gasp, tearing the crest off one,

Setting it down bleeding on the next.

 

Ground gives. The heaven’s weight

Lifts up off Atlas like a kettle-lid.

Capstones shift, nothing resettles right.

Telluric ash and fire-spores boil away.

 

*****

Dr. Crystal Hurd is a writer, reader, public school educator, and adjunct professor.  She is happily married with three beautiful Terriers (adopted from local shelters).  She is a certified book nerd who loves to read and research works involving faith, literature, art, and leadership.  You can visit her webpage  www.crystalhurd.com , friend her on Facebook, (Crystal Sullivan Hurd) and follow her on Twitter:  @DoctorHurd and @hurdofficial.

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