This morning I went to the Babi Yar ravine in Kiev, where a large massacre of Jews took place in September of 1941. I wasn’t quite sure why I was going, but I went anyway, open to whatever I might find. What I found profoundly surprised me.
I found Beauty.
The ravine is a lovely forested place. I was expecting something barren, devoid, lifeless, and instead I found something stretching for the sky with the energy of rebirth. There was a heaviness to the place as well as I sat there and imagined events that transpired back then. I sat for awhile with my prayer beads, sending prayers of love and release with each bead to another batch of 10 people killed there. I had hoped to cover all 33,000+ people with perhaps 3,300 beads, but after about 2,500 people, my attention couldn’t quite handle staying with it. I kept seeing the play of light, hearing the rustling of leaves in the wind and smelling the fall leaves. There was too much beauty around me today for my mind to attend to the suffering of the past. Perhaps I prefer beauty. I do. I try not to shy from suffering, because in my perspective and experience, it is the fullness of life that brings the deepness of Joy that I so love. But it is beauty that I love.
People had thrown trash into the ravine as well, perhaps from hatred, perhaps callousness, perhaps simply ignorance, but somehow it seemed OK. Not sure why exactly, but it did reflect the truth of human nature, and to me there is always beauty in truth.
Here is a poem I wrote this evening.
The shadow of leaves flutter nervously, excitedly,
On the ravine bank opposite where I sit,
Shuddering with aliveness.
September leaves fall in batches to the bottom,
From unfair gusts.
Those torn too soon, not prepared for release,
Fall more heavily than those
Praising God or Love.
Crimson swirls gather at the bottom,
Some curled, closed.
Some open in Revelation.
The sun lovingly strokes the cheek of the newest of trees,
Guiding it’s spirit with golden thread skyward,
Leaving me to marvel at the triumph of light
From within this pit of darkness.
I leave Kiev tomorrow and move back down towards my grandfather’s village of Khotyn.