|A caterpillars' nest in a tree near my house. A walk outside, noticing the details of nature, is a balm to me.|
Until I started working for the newspaper almost five years ago, I had been a part of a court proceeding twice. Once when I was 16 and got a ticket for improper driving for hitting a mailbox during driver’s education training (Yes, embarrassing. No one was hurt, thank goodness). And once nearly 20 years ago when I was a victim of a crime.
One of my regular beats since I started with the paper has been covering the courts. I’ve covered all kinds of crime: murders, drug crimes, burglaries, robberies, assaults, and on and on.
One thing I’ve discovered is that if you want to see drama, a wide range of the human condition, sit in court for an afternoon and watch the cases that come up.
I’ve heard wailing, laughter, defiant words. I’ve heard pleas of innocence, apologies for horrific crimes, promises to live in such a way as to never have to appear in court again.
I’ve seen family members of victims and defendants bend at the waist, crying in sorrow. I’ve seen law enforcement officers stand around the victim’s family protectively as the convicted defendant leaves court.
I’ve waited in the courtroom after the hearing is over so I wouldn’t intrude on family members standing outside in the hall, consoling each other. I’ve taken the stairs instead of the elevator so I could have a moment alone. I’ve sat in my car outside the courthouse crying too hard to drive.
The last several weeks, I’ve been in court a lot, covering cases for the paper. The tragedies I witness are not my tragedies. I don’t have the pressures that the prosecutors and law enforcement officers have.
But my time in court takes its toll.
One way I’ve coped it to write about it. Of course, I write the stories about the court proceedings for the newspaper: man found guilty, judge sentences defendant to 25 years, mistrial declared.
And that writing is a way of coping because I’m taking what I’ve observed and learned, and I’ve told the story of what happened in the community. I’ve documented a piece of the community.
But I’ve also been writing on my own, typing out thoughts I’ve had about my experiences in court, what I’ve learned, what I struggle with.
I’ve been holding on to these thoughts and feelings for nearly five years. I’ve made little notes of observations in the backs of my reporter’s notebooks, but I’ve never sat down and written with purpose the things that weigh on my after a difficult hearing, that have kept me awake many nights.
That’s where I’ve been mentally and emotionally lately. I’ve taken few photographs. I’ve been visiting my blogger friends’ sites less. I’ve been contemplating the unanswerable questions more often.
I think the writing is helping. And I have to remind myself, with deep breaths, with thoughts of Larry and Chase Bird, that my life is not the courtroom or the cases that I cover.