Green Glass Sea
Dewey Kerrigan was almost eleven when she moved to Los Alamos, New Mexico in the 40’s to be with her Dad, a scientist at a super-secret location. He and some other scientists, including J. Robert Oppenheimer, were working on a project known as “the gadget”.
Not your everyday gadget, it was the atom bomb.
This fictional account by Ellen Klage builds up around a very real historical event, in the novel “The Green Glass Sea”.
Dewey’s Mom had disappeared when she was a baby, so she’s often on her own or with neighbors. Everything is hush-hush as they wonder whether “the gadget” will help them win the war against Japan.
Finally, the Los Alamos community gathers one night to see an explosion miles away, an eight-mile high, glowing mushroom cloud. It leads to celebration, to cheers, to drinking.
Until the end of the novel, one wonders what in the world the title is referring to. Much as I hate spoilers, this one is central to my topic.
Dewey joins the family of her friend Suze Gordon on an unusual birthday-celebration trip, where they drive out into the middle of nowhere, where it is impossible to imagine anything worthwhile seeing. When they finally walk out into the “flat, featureless desert”, first they come upon charred bushes and small scorched animals.
Suddenly, they discover a “huge green sea”, which instead of being water, is glass. It looks as if “a giant candle had dropped and splattered green wax everywhere”. Suze’s father proudly identifies “the first mineral created on this planet in millions of years”, Trinitite. (Yes, this mineral exists, as a result of those bomb tests!)
Dewey’s friend thinks it looks like kryptonite. Dewey herself puts her hand on the green, pebbled surface in awe, whispering, “Papa helped make this.” She remembers how her Dad’s voice used to sound when he talked about “how beautiful math and science were”.
Dr. Gordon uses a Geiger counter to make sure the girls don’t keep any pieces that are too “hot” with radiation, before they leave
After a bomb test of deadly proportions, beautiful glass!
How telling, that the author should seek to find meaning and beauty in the midst of a story which is ultimately related to destruction. The protagonist herself lives great personal tragedy, which I won’t go into to avoid further spoilers, yet this last memory speaks of hope arising from the ashes, like the mythical phoenix.
Beauty after Bullet Shots
Real life abounds in stories that show how ultimate meaning can come from what seems cruel or meaningless. Recently I read about the horrifying experience of Lisette Johnson of Virginia. Over the years, her husband’s violence had escalated, culminating in a shooting incident where she was left badly injured. Her diaphragm was ruptured; a bullet nicked her heart, and she nearly died.
A bullet is still lodged in her liver.
Lisette’s husband took his own life afterwards.
After such a traumatic ordeal, it is encouraging to read Lisette’s testimony:
“I have a great deal of joy and purpose in my life now. I’ve worked to help pass a law in Virginia that requires people who have a permanent protective order against them to give up their firearms. The law could have made all the difference in my case.” (Woman’s Day, Sept. 2016)
In addition, this survivor works with victims of domestic violence and trauma, helping them to find healing. Out of evil has come healing and help for others, as well as an important step forward legally for protecting potential victims.
Beauty after Loss
Finally, let me refer to two books by Nancy Guthrie that touched me deeply. The first one, “Holding on to Hope”, follows the author’s faith journey as she and her husband made the decision to let their child live after a diagnosis of a rare congenital disease, Zellweger Syndrome. The baby girl, Hope, was given less than six months to live.
The Guthries, knowing the illness could be repeated, decided he should undergo a vasectomy. To their dismay, Nancy became pregnant with a second child, who was born with the same syndrome and also died not long afterwards.
Another book by Guthrie, “Hearing Jesus Speak into Your Sorrow”, reflects on grief and loss in such a way that has surely helped many make sense of their suffering.
Much as I question whether I can classify illness as “evil”, it is certainly, for some of us, rooted in the coming of evil to this earth. Without denying the heart-wrenching pain involved in her loss and that of her husband, Nancy Guthrie recognized that good had come as a result.
“To experience and exude peace when life is crashing down around you, to have the lightness of joy when the weight of sorrow is heavy, to be grateful for what God has given you when you’ve lost what is most precious to you– that is God at work on the interior of your life, on display in your life. It is the light of God piercing the darkness of this world.”
Beauty at the Cross
Once I was watching TV at the home of a Laotian immigrant family, who hadn’t lived long in Canada. “Jesus Christ Super-Star” was on, and a young daughter was getting at least some of the story (perhaps totally new to her). Shocked at the crucifixion, she asked me, “Why did they do that? He was a good man!”
I was at a loss for words, particularly knowing that her English was barely functional.
Evil was at the heart of it, in a sense. Ironically, the “father of lies” hoped to destroy the “Author of life”.
However, God was in control and actually was not taken by surprise. He had a purpose in what to some was apparent “failure”, but was meant to save humankind. That sacrifice put the terrible weight of the sins of the world on Christ’s shoulders, to be taken off ours! Later, he burst the bonds of death and beauty reigned.
A sea of beautiful, stunning green glass… daring evil to have the last word and triumph!