I have traveled across the ocean to do nothing other than to meet humanity.  All of it.  For Bosnia is the human soul torn open for all to see.  Here, I begin to ask what, really, is the language of the soul?  There is so much more here than love.

There is darkness and light and when you lift the lid to look under, deeper, there are many, many shades of grey.  Handfuls of color, too.  Brilliant blue skies, never-ending green hillsides, deep brown eyes and golden-tinged curls of a girl, her hand outstretched for coins, and the red of a Swastika smeared with dirt.  Because it’s been worn.

The blue and the green take my breath away with their beauty.  Nature has painted her masterpiece here in this land.

The brown and the gold tug at my heart.  Yet they also delight me as I watch this young girl.  Hungry, yes – and twirling a Hello Kitty pink parasol in the raindrops.  The spark in her eye tells only the story of the vivacity of youth.

The red of the Swastika brings nausea to my belly and shaking through my Jewish legs.  I rush out of the shop past shells from the siege – retrieved and decorated.  Our stories begin to blend.

Bronze is the color of an Orthodox cross – the church claiming the top of the highest hill.  It is beautiful and sacred.  I stop myself mid-admiration… aren’t these the people who killed those people?  But I see grave markers speaking of loss.  And I know that is someone’s son or husband or mother or daughter.  I know someone grieved when the grave was dug.

Below this – along hillsides and through valleys and around the turn of a road and nestled under trees and by the waterside – White – the markers of thousands and thousands of Muslims ripped from this life through horrid acts that together we call genocide.

And I spin and I spin and I spin.

These white stones strong with Spirits – by no means at rest – spilling somehow up the hillside – up to the idyllic houses, red roofs warmly casting the glow of the evening sun, haystacks piled, birdsong drifting through the air.  I breathe in that same air, and it is so sweet that I begin to drink.

As I look, my eyes spill back down, down, down the hillside to dark, rich brown hair.  Telling his story. Sixteen years old.  My son’s age now.  Hunted.  Hunted for what?  The crime of his birth?  The crime of his beautiful life rushing forth from his mother’s being?  Bringing miracle, joy, love.  For I know this truth.  THERE IS NO CRIME IN THE INNOCENCE OF OUR CHILDREN.

There she is.  A story told to me so many years ago of soldiers playing football with her daughter’s dolly.  I came to this country to find that dolly.  And there she is.  Black and white photo claims the wall.  Her head is broken, ants cross her body.  She is left as a message atop the surface of a mass grave.

And I spin and I spin and I spin.

A message of what?  What?  I ask.  The question tremors with rage and grief and horror inside of my body.  Here I lift up the lid to peer at the dark.  I can say I don’t know.  I can say I don’t understand.  And while the grief would grip me, I would also free myself from looking deeper.  This would remain the story of the country I came to visit.

But we have done this again and again and again.  My heart pounds violently in my body as I hold open the cover and look.  We have done this to my people in Germany.  We have done this to your people in Rwanda.   We have done this to my people in my country.  Or did my people do that to your people in my country?  For I am a child of both.  And was my birth generations ago a coming together across cultures for love?  Or another form of ethnic cleansing?  A group of boys, around 19, board the bus.  Our stories begin to blend.

And I spin and I spin and I spin.

Because something tells me I have to keep looking under that cover.  That this day, I don’t understand.  But that I would never understand is too dangerous.  That there’s something – some thing – in this murk, in this dark grey of the human soul – that will answer our unknowing.  That somehow the genocide doesn’t end until we look at it.

Here I wish I had a neatly packaged answer.  A sentence, beginning with a capital letter and ending with a period.  Perfect punctuation.  Perfect answers.  Truth and light.  A path.  Something that separates then from now; here from there.  An answer for an unanswerable question.  I don’t even know what that question is.

But I feel it in there.  And I clench my teeth.  And I open my eyes.  And I stare at the blinding darkness of a battery factory holding those about to be sent to their deaths.  And I smell the bodies huddled together.  And I hear the voices.  And I feel the touch of my own children’s hands.  And I feel my hands wrap tightly around theirs.  This deepest blessing of humanity – to feel another’s cells press against my own.  To hear the breath of those I love.  To brush soft hair aside from brown and blue eyes.  To smell the lingering scent of baby even in their eleven and sixteen years of life.

And gas silently kills in Germany.  And machetes butcher in Rwanda.  And knives mutilate women in my homeland.  And guns and shells spray down life right here where I stand.

And I spin and I spin and I spin.

A woman smiles as she welcomes me to her country.  A gracious gift of sweet candy.  Flavors of sugar, coconut, and peanuts mingle in my mouth.  Others share their art and their name.  I am graced with a never-ending abundance of food.  Puppies jump on my lap.  Song fills the air.  Water, precious life force, flows from springs bubbling up along the roadside for all who pass by.

I see brown and gold and grey and red and light and dark and bronze and white and blue.  And green.




One thought on “Bosnia

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