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Walking Carefully Through the Bluebonnets, Looking for Trip Wires

The Monday after SXSW, or "South By" as Austin folk call it, is usually accompanied by the calm feeling of returning to routine. Our kids are done with spring break and are back in school, all the out-of-towners have returned from whence they came, and we're back at our desks, cash registers, or if you're a minister whose day off is Monday, out enjoying a rare temperate day before the crushing heat of summer. The wildflowers are being led in their season by the bluebonnets, transforming parks and highway sides into bunches of blue.

Most of us were, this year, back to that routine, but the calmness was not.

I walked to my favorite bench by the creek, uncharacteristically keeping my eyes a step ahead of my feet. Not for the snakes we begin to see at this time, but, of all things, for trip wires.

"Would you even know what a trip wire was, if you saw it?" I asked myself, mocking.

It felt ridiculous, but there it was, a warning we were hearing from radio, tv, and internet. Be on the lookout for strange packages, trip wires, backpacks.

This is how terrorists work, of course. They put everyone on alert, everyone on edge, moving through your ordinary day in a most unordinary way.

I checked my email and messages. The synagogue shared tips about safety, a colleague whose city also went through trauma offered help. Sadly, the clergy in our area will now have our own helpful hints to offer in the future. What To Do When A Serial Bomber Is Active In Your Town.

It is a privilege, of course, for this to be unordinary. Plenty of people around the world are already trained to matter-of-factly check cars, bus seats, for possible explosives.

There will be much analysis of the bomber, as his neighbors are plied with questions, his scant social media presence scrutinized. Many questions, and opinions, about white supremacy, toxic masculinity, violence. Good for those who do that. I hope they come up with answers.

John Donne's famous poem has always resonated with me, but I will confess that when I woke up this morning, and bleary-eyed, heard not the bell tolling but the news notification pinging on my phone, and read the news that the bomber was dead, my first feeling was one of relief.

I will be watching where I put my feet for a long time, I feel. But I am not an island, and there will be others doing the same.


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