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A Walk in the Woods


By: Victoria G. Smith


“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way—in short, the period was so far like the present period,….” Thus began Charles Dickens’ “A Tale of Two Cities”, a novel set in both London and Paris at the inception and immediate aftermath of the French Revolution. But as Dickens so rightly presaged, he could have as well been writing about present-day Paris, London, Washington, D.C., and many other major cities around the world.

After two and a half decades of unprecedented blatant globalwide racism, genocide, white slavery and other forms of slavery and human trafficking, misogyny and sexism, terrorism, gun violence, and economic class warfare that culminated in the election of Donald Trump and other populist authoritarians to the highest positions in governments around the world, we could, at least in the United States, now almost catch a whiff not only of spring arriving, but also of winds of change. Due to the brave fight of our activist youth, women, and LGBTQ communities, we are possibly standing at the threshold of revolutionary changes to our gun laws and, on the feminist front, heightened consciousness and intolerance against sexual assault and unequal wages between men and women in the workplace that could pave the way to realizing real social and economic equality between the sexes, inclusive of equality for everyone who identify themselves within a range of gender A Walk in the Woods orientation. On other fronts, such as women’s reproductive and immigrant and other minority rights, we appear to be at least on a competitive holding pattern if not on the winning edge, which is something to celebrate, considering the viciousness of the opposing side’s program. As regards increasing polarization between rich and poor and environmental protection and global climate change management, however, we’re still on a losing streak in the United States.

Nevertheless, we’re riding a tide of rising expectations that, as in all revolutionary periods, promotes a delirium of goal entitlement— that nothing and no one could stop us now—pretty much how we, Filipinos, felt during the 1986 People’s Power Revolution when we toppled the corrupt, otherwise ironclad reign of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos, his family, and cronies, and how Muslims must have felt during their own Arab Spring. But as we Filipinos, Yemenis, Libyans, Egyptians, Tunisians, Syrians, and many other peoples who’ve fought and are still fighting the good fight well know, there is no such thing as goal entitlement here. Liberty’s prize is won, without exception, at the price of its sacrificial victims’ and advocates’ blood—both literally and figuratively. We know this is just the beginning of the end that, in reality, has no end—thus, the need for paramount and persevering vigilance and courage, so that the core principles that fueled our historic humanistic revolutions do not regress into their corrupted forms that only breed new bigotries and crimes against humanity. Oh, how the pendulum swings from our better angels’ side to that of our bitter angels in what seem like seconds in a process that repeats eternally!

In my neck of the woods, it is literally a walk in the woods that saves my sanity from the insanity of the outside world. I recognize I’m lucky to even have such woodland around me to give me sanctuary, as I think of friends and family in the Philippines and other peoples all over the world who, due to their local and national governments’ lack of consciousness and commitment to basic standards of environmental protection and preservation have been deprived of easy and affordable access to natural retreats such as I enjoy right outside my door. It is precisely because I am privileged to have my own personal retreat that I tell my self to stay vigilant against the isolation and possible apathy that such a sanctuary could lure one into. I suffer the guilt of “the one who got away” that many survivors of trauma and terrorism describe they feel in the aftermath of their tribulation that prevents them from fully enjoying their change of fortune, for I’m always aware my life could just as easily have turned into the opposite direction. When I watch the carnage happening elsewhere in the world, the words, “there, but for the grace of God, go I” haunt me. Thus, I hear a compelling call to contribute more substantially toward creating a radically new and better world. Some days I am tempted to tell my husband I’m leaving the cloistered confines of our home to return to the revolutionary that I was in my youth who dared stare death in the face to fight the good fight of all struggling peoples; some days I realize how crazy that sounds. And in between, I write and walk, write and walk. Turns out, my walk in the woods is no walk in the woods. I am both humbled and frustrated by how petty and puny my words sound compared to the sounds of street battle cries amidst bombings and gunfire, of children gasping to breathe in their poisoned atmosphere, of a shoe dropping from a lifeless limb.

Somewhere in our woods, there is a fork on a path a branch of which leads to our house. I’ve always followed the sure way home, though the other trail intrigues me. The lines of Robert Frost’s poem come to mind: “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— / I took the one less traveled by, / And that has made all the difference.” Who knows where I’ll turn up next, next time I emerge from the woods?

(All rights reserved. Copyright ©2018 by Victoria G. Smith. For updates on her author events & publications, go to VictoriaGSmith.com. “Like” her on Facebook at Author Victoria G. Smith. “Follow” her on Twitter @ AuthorVGSmith)

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