"In Flanders Fields"
BY John McCrae
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
One hundred years ago today, at the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month (Paris time), World War I ended. Of course, then, they didn't know there would be a World War II. It was thought of as the "war to end all wars." Oh how wrong they were!
The poem above, "In Flanders Fields" by John McCrae was written after a friend died in 1915 at the second battle at Ypres. It was published in Punch magazine that December, and instantly became popular. Due to its popularity it eventually helped the poppy become the symbol of remembrance for soldiers killed in conflict.
In the United States, this is Veteran's Day - a day to honor those who served and survived. My father is a veteran of the Navy. My father-in-law is also a veteran, serving 20 years in the US Navy. I have two uncles who are veterans - one of the conflict in Vietnam. Both of my grandfathers are veterans. My maternal grandfather served in the Pacific arena during World War II. He was excommunicated from his pacifist church (The Brethren) for his service. He worked on an LST as a mechanic. My paternal grandfather served in Japan post-World War II. He served with the Army and taught electricians who then worked throughout Japan.
For some of the world, though, this is Remembrance Day. A day to honor those members of the military who didn't make it home.
This piece represents every casualty of World War I. Approximately 37.5 million people were injured or killed. This number includes victims and soldiers on both sides, as well as those killed in the Armenian Genocide, and those who died from starvation or disease. To bring that down to something I could comprehend, there are 750 lines here. Each one of those lines represents 50,000 people. I am still having trouble wrapping my brain around that, so here are some comparisons:
All lines are in Winsor and Newton Winsor Red watercolor. This shade of red was chosen to approximate the color of red poppies.
It's painted on 4x6" Arches hot press, 300gsm, 100% cotton watercolor paper.
I hope to make this conceptualization of numbers, loss, and great human tragedy into somewhat of a regular series. We'll see. Looking ahead I see representations of Iraqi citizens killed since the invasion in 2003, the massacre and destruction of Native American lives and homes since 1492, mass shootings in the United States, violence against people of color by police, lost of life and land in Palestine, loss of life in the Holocaust. I could go on forever. And, unfortunately, I might have to.