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Blood Red Sky

Yesterday the sky was blood red.  I never saw anything like it.  I thought of taking a picture, but I figured the camera couldn't capture it.  I would just look like I shot a picture through some kind of red filter.  The red dust comes all the way from Syria.  A person who knew enough about dust could probably tell you exactly where every storm started.

I cleaned out my can yesterday.  In anticipation of my imminent departure from Iraq, I swept out the whole place and mopped the floor with Pine Sol.   The red dust storm negated all that effort.  You can shut the door and all the windows and you still cannot keep it out.  This would have bothered me a couple of months ago, but no more.  I have gotten used to it and now that I will not have to experience it much longer, the various textures and types of dust merely amuse me. 

A few days ago we had a real wrath of God storm.  Columns of dust blew toward us, accompanied by a fantastic show of lighting bolts that walked across the sky in all directions.  When the storm arrived it rained mud for around ten minutes.  Then it passed and rumbled away in the other direction.

The day before yesterday was a non-dusty nice day.  I got up early in the morning and went out to run about 0600.  It is already around 80 degrees at that hour. It feels like a warm October afternoon in Virginia; you just have to time shift.   As I walked to the starting point and looked out over the low dirt bluffs, I appreciated the beauty of the sun and shadows on the different shades of khaki.   I was seeing beauty in the dirt that I had not seen before. 

O happy living things! no tongue

Their beauty might declare:

A spring of love gushed from my heart,

And I blessed them unaware:

Sure my kind saint took pity on me,

And I blessed them unaware.


That, of course, is from the "Rime of the Ancient Mariner,"  for no defensible reason, I once made the effort to memorize it.  These lines have some application to the subject at hand.  The Mariner for the first time can see beauty even of the ghastly water snakes.

Looking is a physical process, but seeing is an act of mental interpretation.   I don't think that I could see these colors and contrasts before.   I still think that this is an unpleasant place, but the brown desert of Al Anbar is not completely devoid of attractions and splendor of its own.  I wonder if I might have been here long enough.   I guess I have seen the elephant.

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I appreciate your serious dedication to your job and the sensitivity with which you describe your situation.
Still, that Americans are presuming to bring social organization to the cradle of civilization is embarrassing.
This place has been the home of civlization a long time, but its current civilization is not that old. I understand the danger of our interference, but the alternative is not helping and letting the place go to hell. We have a concrete interest in making this place stable. That means changes to the way things have been done.

BTW - there is remarkably little sign of the ancient civilizations because they built with mud brick. The local people were generally unaware of the history of the place until 19th century British & French archeologists dug it up and revealed it. How much the modern Arabs are related to the ancient Sumerians, Hittites or Assyrians is also an interesting topic.

My theory of history is that after several generations, all people's history merges and it becomes a general heritage of mankind. Where you happen to live is not that important as your relationship to and knowledge of that past.

Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for your service to our country and the world. You demonstrated true heroism - sacrifice and facing unknown danger - for the benefit of others. I know I am not alone in my gratitude.

Thanks, but it really is not that bad over here.

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 09/16/2008 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.