When I go in, the store is a mardi gras of tinsel and light. From the speakers play the jingled beginnings of the month-long audio loop of happiness and joy. Vintage is this year's must-have, so I weave between displays featuring apple-cheeked children with cherry-red sleighs, a handful of triangular fir trees, snowmen with glittering bellies. On the bottom shelf, a resin nativity dutifully subdued, a splendor of crystal angels. To my right, the Santas huddle in groups around pine-scented candles and gold leaf reindeer; one of them is tilted out, leering at passersby with a cat-grin, as if he is the bouncer for this brazen gathering of celebrities: Nothing going on here, move along now, move along. I am tempted to reach out and turn him to the wall. I have come for paperwhite bulbs to fill a planter at home. I saw them last week, grocery-sack brown and round with secrets, in the transitional displays between autumn and Christmas decorations, but this week they're gone. The clock turns fast and I am out of sync as usual. In the car on the way to the store I listened to the radio and heard the world break apart in a hundred ways. This week a friend said our country has no money or resources to care for more, so the only obvious solution is bombs and troops and I went sick and still inside and I wanted to ask if she imagined that "over there" there are no families? No elders? No neighbors? Does she look on the map and see a flat, dry land thirsty for explosions and populated only by people deserving to die? But I held my tongue, because words would not make it over the wall of her fear. Scott Russell Sanders, who grew up on a 50's military base, played among the remnants of bomb-makings, on ground spoiled with toxins. "In my bone marrow," he says, "I carry traces of the poisons from that graveyard of bombs, as we all carry a smidgen of radioactivity from every atomic blast. Perhaps at this very moment one of those alien molecules, like a grain of sand in an oyster, is irritating some cell in my body, or in your body, to fashion a pearl of cancer." What if, I wonder, every bomb we readily drop so far away, is even now ruining us? "No man is an island," John Donne wrote. "Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee." There are bells on stockings and bells on ornaments and bells to hang from wreaths. All at once, among the chocolate santas and the plastic wrapped candy canes I feel small, and frightened, and weary. It is not terrorists I fear, it is the taste of lotus-flowers on my tongue. I turn to go. On my way out the door I brush against the display of early poinsettias. One tips and I bend to catch it, put it back in its place. A leaf has bent and torn and I touch it; along the edge a string of milky white beads is forming, small and round and glistening like blood.