The image is extreme but so is the situation: in describing the horrific living conditions near Calais of those everyone insists on calling “migrants”, volunteer medical personnel write, among other things, of the difficulties in repairing in untenable medical conditions hands mangled on barbed and razored wires. Suturing the ripped skin, tendon and muscle without leaving scars that will cause permanent pain? Near impossible. They also compare, from personal experience, refugee camps in places such as Albania and what they are seeing in France at the moment. Albania wins, no contest.
Now, for the tough part: I’m not a doctor. I live in a run-down and economically depressed town but surrounded by friends, and vast tracts of natural beauty. Among other activities yesterday, I visited a spot just outside of town where a young man mills his own flours, raises his own yeast and bakes breads so good friends and I held a bread and cheese supper last night.
True, I work with children and families for whom life is no picnic but I have my health, my interests; favorite books and objects surround me. That’s one piece of the skin, bone, sinew. It’s the place from which I wake and understand – oy, how I understand – the urge to look away from the pain and ugliness. I like neither. Nor do I like the frustration of powerless hand-wringing or attempts to rationalize, explain and/or deny the Janus quality of reality.
Seeing the two faces at the same time in some kind of meaningful way. Story that manages to do that. Living that manages to do it.