I read the news today. Thousands of people buried under crumbling piles of concrete and metal, people screaming for help as the earth continues to judder and heave. Snow is falling. Freezing rain. It becomes difficult, thinking of it, to stretch the mind toward misery as acute as this. I saw a little girl carried aloft by a sea of men whose hands are raised in thanks and prayer and I thought, oh, she’s smiling, thank god, until I rotated the photograph and realized it was a grimace of pain.

Cruel as they are, these acts of nature can’t be avoided. Our planet is alive and moving, hurtling through space, rearranging its furniture. It’s too big and too old to care about the cracking rails of a child’s crib, about walls descending over dinner tables and marriage beds, about the snow it sends to bury people who were busy and laughing yesterday. The Earth is not like Putin, doing it all on purpose.

Here in America, on another plane of existence, we’re discussing whether or not it’s okay to notice that Madonna now looks like a frog. She’s a victim of our beauty-obsessed culture, apparently, instead of one of its authors. We’re not allowed to talk about the role of vanity in this transformation, or how it might be better to evolve out of this thirsty quest for youth and try to become a human, and grow the fuck up, and accept the limitations time places on all of us. I don’t feel sorry for Madonna.

I feel sorry for that little girl and the men who saved her. For the life they were living before the quake and whatever fate befalls them now. For the people of Ukraine, trying to sleep under an explosive sky. I feel sorry for the broken backs and the buried children, for the mothers whose arms are empty tonight.

Sisters, I hope you find your babies. I hope you find some peace.