I don’t know how to write about war.
But I do know how to get up in the morning, after an election, a pandemic and an invasion in Ukraine, wipe the sleep from my eyes, and stumble into the day, angling myself to the promise of hot coffee, music and poetry.
I don’t know how to write about war, but I can tell you about the picture I saw of a row of strollers that Polish mothers had left at a train station for the arriving Ukrainian mothers and their babies. And while I can’t tell you where the human corridors were supposed to be in Kiev, I do know how to cross a busy street in Oakland with my 26-year-old daughter, our elbows interlocked, me looking left and right, protecting my child as we head toward an outdoor cafe for a meal.
I don’t know how to write about war, or how to pack a bag in ten minutes, or what to do the night before a war, how one young man in Kiev said he had planned on making a banana chocolate pie to bring to his work mates, how that same night he was online looking to buy a new game for his PlayStation, but how the next day there was no work, and no pie and he was researching Molotov cocktails instead.
He is the same age as my daughter, who told me that she realized that for two years she has been working for 9 hours a day in her apartment for a large company that she is making rich, and that she is selling things that will end up in landfill. I think I knew that, but I didn’t know that she knew that – not yet anyway – not for a while, because at 26 isn’t she still supposed to be infatuated with her great climb upward and all those plans you make when you’re young, when you don’t live in war time?
I don’t know how to write about war, but sometimes I Google the time in Ukraine so I can imagine what people are doing, whether it’s dark or cold and what has happened in the night. I think about children bundled, and the story about the doctor in the Nic Unit, who had a small 10-minute window to decide whether to stay or go, and how his family said stay, so they did, and how he said he will think about that decision for the rest of his life. And so will I, because I heard him say it on a radio seven time zones away.
And I can imagine what the three-year-old boy felt, who upon learning that his father was leaving to fight, began hitting his father over and over – and what it is not to have the words for a feeling so horrific that you have to use your hands instead.
I don’t know how to write about war, but I do know how to change the laundry and wash the breakfast dishes, how to move this pen, and to change my shirt three times this morning because nothing felt right, and because for two years my central nervous system has been wobbly, and because after I read the headlines yesterday I got online and bought a dress and two sweaters, and it felt emotional, like I was stuffing a cloth into my mouth to suppress a scream.
“You work hard,” my friend tells me.
“It’s alright,” she said.
I don’t know how to write about war, but I remember that every time I asked my father to explain something to me about war, or why a certain group of people were fighting, he would say, “it’s not so simple,” which is why I didn’t know what to think when I heard that Ukrainians were telling brown skinned people to wait, that the white Ukraines, the real Ukrainians would board the busses first, or when I heard that the Ukraines had killed the Jews with their bare hands in WW2. Or how silenced I felt when my one black student, upon hearing me say that I wanted to give a trigger warning before I read a piece about war from a Ukrainian poet, told me, “that’s bullshit. I wish someone had given me a trigger warning before I was born.”
And how little I know about that.
I don’t know how to write about war, but I do know how to listen to my youngest child on FaceTime when they tell me they’ve reached out to another doctor, that they just want to feel better, and how I have learned to nod and say yes, and to trust that for now, that nod is enough.
And how different and not so different I am from the mother in Ukraine who said she was the happiest mother alive because she had finally gotten through to her son.
I can’t tell you about war, but I can tell you how we rode our bikes around the peninsula last weekend with all that water, green grass and pretty homes. There were boats out on the bay, and we split a brownie and a can of sparkling rose for the 45-minute ferry ride home.
And when the ferry master told us to look starboard because there was a whale out in the bay, everyone clamored for the right side – so many of us, I joked we could tip the ferry – but no one saw the whale, so everyone moved to the left side, because we didn’t know starboard from cardboard. We didn’t see the whale, but we were glad to know that one was out there somewhere. That there were still whales alive in the bay, even if we never got to see one.
I don’t know how to write about war, but I will start here, with what I know, talking about whales in the bay, a mother who found a son, a row of strollers in a train station, and me, here, angling toward the music, toward the poetry, toward the day.
Listen to Laurie reading the post …
I love this! Resonates. Thank you 🌻
I love this piece. ❤️
Thank you for opening a door that both defines and connects two very different worlds …
that in observation and with open hearts there is unity and grace and love
That little boy using his fists because words couldn’t
Starboard and cardboard
Thank you Laurie
Laurie, thank you. Your piece resonates to me too. It feels like we are all fumbling through the emotions of what we are witnessing on the news, in the contexts of our own experiences, past and present. And hoping and praying that this does not become our new normal. In any way. Here’s to a peaceful resolution.
What a beautiful piece, Laurie! The prompt is one we can all carry forward at this time. Thank you. Sending wishes for peace your way!
“and it felt emotional, like I was stuffing a cloth into my mouth to suppress a scream.” I want to paste the entirety of this piece here and underscore it all.
Thank you! Love you, love to you ❤️
Really lovely. Thanks for sharing L! XO
Beautiful heart tugging poem. Thank you Laurie.
I knew it was you. I don’t know how to organize a slide but I know all the photos that I want to show.
I don’t know why I dreamt that crazy dream last night but I know that it had an even crazier and wonderful ending.
…. Thanks Laurie for sharing
Thank you for mentioning the racism that manages to rear its ugly head, even when everyone, regardless of color, is fleeing for his or her life. Sadness upon sadness.
These images are so grounding amidst the chaos. Sending love.
Should have said slide show
So Beautifully written. Feeling the same emotions. Thank you for sharing Laurie. 💙🌻💛
Oh wow this piece is so beautiful and emotional. Thank you for sharing it!
Thank you. The 3 year old with his fists, the stuffing of the cloth, the line of strollers. It’s hard to have the words, but my body shivered and sighed while I read this.
Wonderful piece – captures that distance between the USA and Ukraine – in our minds but also in our hearts. Thanks Lauri!
yes yes yes yes yes yes thank you
Your words really touch me. Tears in my eyes for me, for them, for all of us. Thank you, Lauri.
Reading this piece made me cry. Thank you.
Perfect as always, you captured everything I’ve been feeling all week.
This is the mix of emotions and coping skills exactly, jumbled together as we move through this surreal (yet all-too-real) new chapter of horrors. The as-yet-unspoken fear I have already is how far this will go, how far it will spread because NATO is dreaming if they think he will stop at the border of Ukraine. I was born at the end of WWII and I am feeling I have lived too long, seeing things I hoped I would never live to see. Wild Writing is helping me get through. Thank you for that.
Just gorgeous, thank you for saying what is hard, for yourself, and for me.
Your beautiful writing makes me weep.
Just beautiful. Captures so much in so little. Thank you ❤️
Thank you for sharing this. Thank you for being you. Thank you for your leadership, Laurie. <3
Your piece goes to so many places, Laurie. I’m reading the 1619 Project and felt the power of your Black student’s words and what happens in the piece when you include them. Powerful writing.
So much yes! Love to you.
Beautifully authentic, Laurie. Thank you.
Incredibly beautiful writing. Real, honest, powerful. Knocked my socks off. ❤️
Thank you, Laurie. Thank you, thank you, thank you
Thank you for honouring these lives and your own prolific talent reaching out to so many while including so much. <3
Oh, Laurie. <3 That is all. Sigh.
Thank you for this Laurie – oh so beautifully written/spoken
Thank you for this. So many things named. (Call a cranberry, cranberry!) I think we must have listened to the same podcast… that man in Kiev who was getting ready to make a banana chocolate pie, when suddenly everything changed. So many stories, but his story is really sticking with me.
Thank you, Laurie.
For reminding me to start where I am, when it comes to writing, when it comes to not knowing what to do about war, when it comes to just living each moment and being grateful for that. All of that and more is starting right where I am, which if I’m paying attention, is right here with what I know and what I feel in the present.
Thank you so much Laurie! 💗💜💚
I don’t know how to write about war, and I found out how to sub in a 5th grade classroom as an emergency waking at 8 and being the classroom by 8:24, no coffee no breakfast. The day went OK.
Holy shit, that was good.
Thank you for finding a way to make the impossible possible with such humanity, honesty and tenderness Laurie. Your piece touched a very deep place within me.
Thank you Laurie for this tender and honest piece. For your voice recording which is always a treat❤️🌟
You put into words what I didn’t know I was thinking about. The contrasts between life here and there and everywhere. The not knowing what to do and feeling so very much. Thank you.
makes me cry
and want to scream
but they don’t come
So beautiful Laurie. Each of us should send it to our lists so others can feel the pain, sorrow, gratitude for being alive.
Thank you Laurie for your beautiful, raw heart in your writing about war. You are a peacemaker at heart, connecting with the humanity within us all. Sending you much love.
This is awesome. I just shared it with some of my friends who will inevitably love it as much as I do.