24 July 2011

Ruminating on what won't be around the next corner

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.—My footstrikes on the rain-dampened trail establish a rhythm for my breathing and chanting, so I try to focus on each word of my chant, each phrase and line I concocted over the winter and spring and concentrate fully on what is before my eyes, unfiltered by memory, lest I fail to see a vista, a glimpse of joy that might open up around the next corner.

It was worth a try.

Jean MacKenzie was stationed in Kabul, covered the war in Afghanistan for seven years and knew when it was time to leave. “My hope for the future was gone, and my tolerance for the present was rapidly wearing thin. So, yes, it was time for me to go.” Yet after a month on the
Massachusetts coast, she writes, “the pull is still there” to return to Kabul.

I can’t say I feel the same.

The killing of Jan Mohammad Khan, a key advisor to Afghan President Hamid Karzai, and his bodyguards on July 17 forced some former colleagues in two nearby guest houses to sequester themselves into their respective “safe rooms,” which are typically an upstairs bathroom with a metal door stocked with a few necessities, like a flashlight. (As you might expect, everyone hopes that no one will need to use the toilet.) At roughly the same time, a suicide attack team was captured by authorities before a planned strike at a grocery store popular with international workers in the same neighborhood. “Let's wait and see who will come back, not to mention the new hires,” wrote a former housemate in a recent email.

Not me.

Photo: City of Albuquerque open space on the western border of the Sandia Mountain Wilderness.

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