If the bogeyman’s brains are blown out but you didn’t see it, does it still make a splatter?

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Imagine an entire weekend with your sweetie at a lovely, secluded hot springs, surrounded by the hush of nature. No cell phones allowed. Not a single television or radio on the property. Nothing there but the Earth and like-minded souls who love Her. The only thing missing is angels.

The only glimpse of “reality” at Harbin Hot Springs, nestled in green oak-covered hills in Lake County, is a small stack of San Francisco Chronicles that arrive each morning in a tiny coffee nook. Most folks are more interested in a chai latte. “Reality” is easy to ignore on a spring day there. “Reality” at Harbin is blue sky and cool breezes, music and massage, warm soaking pools, and the chortling and chirping of songbirds in the tall trees. Everything beyond its borders falls off your radar.

This is where we got married, so it’s where we return for our anniversary to hit the “reset” button, to get back to center. Remember, it’s about us … not the fuss and frustration of perpetually chasing a paycheck.

The only downfall of going to Harbin, if there can be one, is that eventually you have to go back home. At least the drive back home through the Chiles Valley provides a perfect decompression zone — miles and miles of oak trees, pastures and vineyards before rounding Lake Berryessa and gliding back into Winters.

How peaceful is Harbin? Winters, by comparison, seems like a jangling metropolis. When we get home, we let the serenity linger by chilling in the backyard with a glass of wine. Until one of us cracks and checks her/his email, which is the gateway drug to checking Facebook. On this particular Monday, Joe cracked first.

I wasn’t going anywhere near a computer. Joe came back after a few minutes and I asked him if anything happened in the world while we were off the grid. He said apparently Osama bin Laden was dead. Haha, good one. Does our “While You Were Out” message also say we landed on Mars? But when Joe later called his parents, they commented about the same thing. And they don’t go online.

That prompted both of us to rush to our respective trustworthy news sources — he to the internet, me to the evening news. Whoa. Ding dong, the bogeyman is dead. Not just merely dead, but really most sincerely dead. Going from a Harbin state of mind to MSNBC-land is a shock to the system — ironically, not unlike soaking in Harbin’s hot pool and then plunging into the cold one. Yikes! Why’d I do that! Didn’t I learn anything from Goldilocks?

Much as I wanted to remain in my serene little bubble, how could I not be transfixed? Amid the news bites and commentary, however, were clips of people dancing in the streets with joy. Maybe because I’d just been immersed in nothing but love and human kindness for an entire weekend, the celebration seemed jarring. Inappropriate. We didn’t just win the Super Bowl. We assassinated one of the most vicious, cold-hearted mass murderers in history. Our sworn enemy. If anyone ever had it comin’, bin Laden did. But what’s the appropriate reaction?

WWDHD: What Would Dirty Harry Do?

He’d plug that punk through the head, and yes, it made his day. But he doesn’t leap up and do an end zone jig. That’d be frivolous and trite. It would cheapen the moment. No, no revelry for Harry. He’d just shove the gun back in the holster, wipe the blood and brain spatters with his sleeve, and walk away. Now, that’s classy.

And, that’s essentially what our government did. We went in, did what we had to do, and got the hell out with as little collateral damage and destruction as possible, followed by a quick, clean burial at sea – Harry would approve. It’s not a victory, really. It’s a mitigation. And while many Americans went all Super Fan with the news, some in the Muslim world objected to such “disrespect” to bin Laden’s body. Excuse me? Maybe they’d prefer we handled it in a more culturally sensitive way, like beheading him on You Tube or tying his naked corpse to a car and dragging it the streets like the American soldiers killed in Somalia?


For those of you old enough to remember, that’s the sound of a stereo needle dragging over the record. Stop the music! Back up! I don’t want to think any of these thoughts or be sucked into the whirlpool of perpetual hatred, anger, strife and despair! Danger, Will Robinson!

But it was too late. I’d already leaped into the mental cold pool, and it was deep. Sadly, there’s no way to unleap. And the reemergence was too swift. I got the spiritual bends. My mind drifted back to the “reality” of a few hours earlier, which consisted only of the present moment — what I could see, feel, smell, taste and touch. If I were still there, I still wouldn’t be aware of anything other than golden sunlight twinkling through towering green gingko leaves, the scent of lavender oil on my warm, bare skin, my fingers entwined with Joe’s.

So, what’s the real “reality”? The world around you, or clamor and chaos on a television or computer screen? Is it still “reality” if you don’t actually experience it? If a bullet pierces a bogeyman’s brain and you aren’t there to see it, does it still make a splatter? I don’t have the answer. I’m merely pondering the question. And the reality.

— Follow Debra DeAngelo on Twitter. Links are posted at http://www.edebra.com and http://www.wintersexpress.com. Find Debra’s columns online at http://www.wintersexpress.com, http://www.edebra.com and http://www.ipinion.us

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