What drew me to Irish literature initially was its pacifist themes. Among the magical, violent and heroic acts, the greatest were acts of compassion- forgiveness of self and others. These are not political stories, meant to draw lines or assign blame. All victims of violence deserve compassion. These same notions are reflected in the poetry and prose of some of my most gifted writing students, themselves Vietnam veterans suffering from PTSD. Their lives are different from mine; I experience war through literature and film, while for them the suffering is real. Telling stories is a part of healing, as the Irish have always known. The stories come out of Ireland's gentle landscape, grass, and stone, from the ruined forts now ringed with hawthorn and furze. Those hurting from the effects of Soldier's Heart are wise to seek wild places and the comfort that nature brings.
Men and women with Soldier's Heart have a hard time coming home. Many who have seen violence, or lived with violence-those for whom dreams have no refuge-are drawn to wild places. Nature gives no sympathy and no judgement, only the certainty of instinct. In the lee of the mountain or a stream, we may find what we have lost- instinct, purpose, and peace.