I admit it. My excursion today to Fayetteville NC, at sixty-plus miles away the farthest I have ventured from Durham since late last winter, had more than one agenda.
On the surface, as was written of earlier this week, was to join a select company of women warriors for justice and equality in a somber annual witness.
A group of them, and a sprinkling of male fellow-travelers have gathered at the cemetery near the VA hospital in Fayettevlle each year in early December since 2007 to lay a wreath in memory of the victims of military-related domestic violence and murder, especially in this area.
We did it again today, December 5, our ragtag numbers dwindling but undaunted: older, slower, (maybe a bit wiser), socially-distanced & masked, natch, and sadly we had to skip going to lunch after (curse that pandemic!).
But virus or no, the other plague, domestic violence, especially in the military, is still real & serious & too-much ignored. (More about it here: )
We circled around the grave of Beryl Mitchell, who was murdered by her green beret husband in 1974. The installation of her marker, more than thirty years later, was a story in itself (recounted in the linked post).
It was also the beginning of our ritual. We recalled that, then silently remembered Beryl and the many others. The event was brief, but pointed.
Afterward, the other, less public item on my agenda rapidly surfaced. My daughter Annika, who was driving, eagerly headed across town so we could pay respects at another shrine, this one a fount of intercultural contact and nourishment.
I speak here of the Prik Thai restaurant, a hole-in-the-wall establishment in the shadow of a big chain drug store, yet the best of its distinguished kind in the East that I know of.
Its Tom Kha soup is to die for, and so we braved the wrath of COVID to get some.
Of course we couldn’t eat it there; Prik Thai has been take-out only since early spring, and the staff quite strict about masks and hand sanitizer for all who come to wait and collect their wares.
The same goes for most such enterprises in our dire times, So we had to carry it all the way back to Durham before we could reheat and savor it.
A good day, with a double journey, of memory for the unjustly dead and nurture for the perilously living.
And then a third wrinkle: on Interstate 95, in a roadside field a few miles north of Fayetteville, we passed a tall, oversized Confederate flag on a tall pole. It is one of a number who billow and brood along our state’s highways, as if to remind us that our efforts, however much they often feel as scattered and jumbled as the fallen leaves outside Prik Thai’s door, are far from finished.
It was wonderful and encouraging to see these stalwart friends and colleagues again, and remember those among us who weren’t able to attend, as well as the many victims whose names are known only by the echo of their cries on the wind.