On a recent Sunday morning, I was off on my regular journeys to the top of Mount Davidson, but instead of going straight up the steep street, I decided to take a detour. When our dog Angus was alive, we often went up through a forest, which is one way to enter Mount Davidson’s 40-acre park just down the street from our home. Angus loved our excursions—just like other dogs and their owners whom we encountered.
Like the previous Easter Sunday, I was expecting to find a lot of people at the top. After all, it was an orthodox church Easter and the Armenian community, which belongs to this religious group, actually owns the land surrounding the cross. When the public land (Mount Davidson) was sold to a private organization, the cross was saved. However, apparently the celebration of Easter at sunrise happens only once a year.
The plaque at the bottom of the cross commemorates the site of the Armenian Genocide or Holocaust perpetuated by the Ottoman Turks, which started on April 24th, 1915, with an estimated 1.5 million Armenians killed. Pope Francis described the mass killings of Armenians by Turkey as “the first Genocide of the 20th century”
It was not the first mass killing in history, and not the last one. An estimated 6 million Jews were killed by Germans, Latvians, and Polish during World War II. It was commemorated yesterday, April 16th, as Yom Hashoah—Remembrance Day. Recently, there were genocides in Rwanda, Tanzania, and the former Yugoslavia. Photo images of the survivors were recorded by the great photographer Sebastião Salgado. There is a must-see documentary showing his life and work called “The Salt of the Earth”. His other monumental project, called “Genesis: Photographs by Sebastião Salgado”, is his collection of photographs of nature. This project restored his belief that despite human atrocities, life goes on.
While on the mountain, I was thinking how could those who survived those atrocities, go on and keep living? How is it possible to find strength, knowledge, and the ability to survive? I think it is part of our composition, our DNA—so to speak, and I found proof of it at the top of the Mountain. There is a bench underneath a dead tree facing a view of Downtown. I was sitting down and noticed a little bug that had fallen down from the rock he had climbed and was lying on his back. At the beginning, he wiggled his tiny legs—nothing happened. He tried again and then stopped. I thought he was dead. Of course, I could help him (or her), but I remembered that we have to leave nature to run its course.
After resting a while, the bug became active again. But this time, he only wiggled his legs on one side and suddenly he was lying on his side. After wiggling a little more, he was back on his feet moving on his bug journey. I realized that we humans are not different. When something or someone throws us on our backs, we can just take it easy, wait, and as long as we are alive, there is going to be a way to get back on our feet.
I hope that the images from the top will serve you as a reminder. Life is happening. Let’s enjoy it together.
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