something scattered

falling leaves and falling bombs

something scattered

A quick note. I use the word “bomb” in this. But some people are upset that I did not instead use “rocket” or “missile” or “piece of rocket” or “explosive” or “blast.” 

Here’s the thing. We actually don’t know what exactly exploded in that hospital courtyard. Some people say whatever it was hit its target. Some people say it did not. Some people are reporting craters, which could imply one thing. Some people claim there are no craters, which could imply another. 

And you see, the journalists that were already in Gaza are being killed. And it’s nearly impossible for other journalists to get in to cover the war. 

But we do know the explosion was caused by a weapon of war. So I use the word “bomb” here. If and when we know more, I’ll update this with different words. But I think once you read the piece, you’ll see that one word is the least important part. Okay. Onward. 

December 2023: As promised, the update. As Israel continues to escalate, getting information from journalists on the ground in Gaza becomes more and more difficult.
Currently, Human Rights Watch says they believe a rocket misfire - perhaps from Hamas - resulted in the explosion. Many governments and newspapers agree. A senior Hamas official contests this. I don't know more than any person reporting on this. But I can say this: We've seen what it looks like when Israel attacks a hospital in Gaza. It's far more brutal than the explosion I detail in this piece.

Last night, Brontë pointed outside and asked if she could eat the rest of her dinner on the back porch. I turned to look into our backyard. Everything was an impossible autumn pink. You know the pink. The kind that steals across leaf blades, during a dry, sunny fall with dry, cool nights.

Did you know the orange and yellow of fall leaves was always there? They were just overcome by the green. The rosy colors come from sugar. Without chlorophyll, there’s nothing to break the sugar down. So it makes the leaf blush.

I told Brontë we could eat outside. Dinner was just peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with a side of salt and vinegar chips. A moveable feast if there ever was. So she and I went outside . And then everyone else followed. 

Someday we’ll have a table and chairs out there. But last night, we sat on steps. The color of the sunset was so vivid, it felt thick. Like I could lean against it and it would bear my weight.

Light is made of wavelengths and different wavelengths have different colors. When the sun is very low, its light has to travel through more air to reach us. That air is full of molecules. Short wavelengths are more likely to bounced and scattered by molecules than long wavelengths.

Blue has a very short wavelength, so it is scattered easily. Red, yellow, orange have long enough wavelengths to reach you just before it gets dark.

The light was pink because there were clouds in the sky. The sky blushes when the longer wavelengths pass through and reflect off of them. I wish I could tell you exactly how that works, but that is all I know.

It’s funny, I guess. How pink light can make a backyard feel like a chapel. A sanctuary full of holy relics in the shape of children’s gardening gloves and wild-eyed dolls.  Holy people in the shape of children. 

I was glad Brontë asked us to go out. The dinner table hadn’t felt like this. I don’t know why. Maybe the holy of holies exists to give people a reason to gather on the porch outside it.

Brontë asked if she was turning pink too. Her sisters told her to stand in the middle of the yard. She ran out with her arms stretched out and then turned back towards them. Pink! Her older sisters declared. Pink! She shouted back. I love you, sugars I yelled. And then I put my last sour chip on my last bite of sandwich. I popped it in my mouth, and it tasted like communion.

As I considered my children in that light, I couldn’t help thinking we’ve missed something. A piece of evidence that what we call the laws of physics are really just the contact points where we can sense existence being held together.

I mean, it’s wonderful, isn’t it? To know that everything is made of the same thing. Energy and mass, one which equals the other. And somehow this sameness yields differences that stretch out across spectrums too vast for our detection but also knowable enough to keep in a crayon box.

Yet we still need sanctuaries, from things made of the same things we are. People in sanctuaries are supposed to be immune from the systems of the world. And so I found myself wishing the blue light would stay scattered.

After the light was gone and the children were in bed, I let myself look at the news. A hospital was attacked in Gaza yesterday.

The explosion mostly damaged the hospital’s courtyard, where hundreds of Palestinians had gathered to seek safety. It is a reasonable thing to do. Surely, even in war, hospitals will be kept safe from the systems of the world. But a mother’s logic is not the logic of war.

When the munition fell, the courtyard was full of women and children. It is now full of women and children’s bodies. Reports say that many of the dead are too damaged to be identified. They will be buried together, in a mass grave.

“Every time there’s bombing, every time there’s an airstrike, people flee to the hospital,” Mr. Naoum said. “This is a sanctuary for them.” - New York Times

Hamas says Israel sent the missile into the courtyard on purpose. Israel says Hamas sent it there on accident. And the United States says “data” indicates the bomb did not come from Israel. 

I know the source of the explosion matters. I understand that. I do. We will never have a world without war. Tracking and punishing violations of international humanitarian law is one way to protect the vulnerable. I know that.

But I also know each denial has more to do with reputation than intent. All three groups are going to keep the earth pocked with mass graves. They just don’t want to look like bad guys while doing it.

I can’t stop thinking about the mothers in that courtyard. They were there seeking a sanctuary for their children. As the sun set each night, they leaned against one another and watched their babies stretch their arms out into the pink light. A sanctuary full of holy relics in the shape of lined-up shoes and baby blankets, and holy people in the shape of children. 

The night they dieda bright light rose into Gaza’s skies. It arched through the air 30 minutes after the sun finished setting. And then it fell on their sanctuary. I could tell you exactly how shock waves pass through and destroy bodies, but I wish I didn’t know.

As I consider the children outside my house and the children outside that hospital, I can’t help but think we’ve missed something. A piece of evidence that proves what we call the laws of physics are really just the cracks that show where existence is broken.

I mean, it’s ridiculous, isn’t it? To know that everything is made of the same thing. Energy and mass, one which equals the other. And somehow this sameness yields a world where children can turn pink because blue is scattered and red because bombs are not.