MOUNTAIN - It's a multi-faceted relief to find out who robbed the Tupper Lake bank in April 2009, to know that's the worst we got from serial killer Israel Keyes (as far as we know now, anyway), and to know he won't kill or rob again. We cannot be happy about his death, or anyone's, and we wish he had lived long enough to tell the FBI more about his murderous past and thus solve other crimes, giving more answers to grieving family members. He chose instead to kill himself, which is sad but consistent with the other terrible choices he made throughout his life. He did much evil in this world, yet he was loved; his family is having a funeral for him, sermon and all. Imagine being there for that. Perhaps this family is grieving even more than those of the victims. By all accounts no one knew he was a killer; his mother was pleading with him to repent being an atheist. To learn what he really was, and to lose him in such a way, is a loss that's hard to fathom. To love him through such obstacles would be great love indeed.
VALLEY - As one mystery is solved, another is opened. How much time did Israel Keyes spend up here in the North Country? Where did he go? What did he do? Anything bad - like, really bad? We know he owned 10 acres in Constable, in northern Franklin County near the Canadian border, and that he kept up with his property taxes. We know he robbed a bank in Tupper Lake in April 2009. We know he stashed a bucket filled with guns and gun components - including the weapon he used to murder a Vermont couple - near a reservoir in the town of Parishville. We know he was a wanderer who moved around a lot. We know he liked to pick crime victims far away from his haunts to reduce the chances of getting caught. Also, the FBI told North Country Public Radio he said he hid a body somewhere in northern New York. Those things provoke a lot of curiosity, and some dread as well. It's chilling to know that this man, who killed for thrills and was amazingly good at getting away with it, spent so much time in our backyard.
MOUNTAIN - to inspiration from Hanukkah, which begins at sunset today. The festival of lights reminds Jews - and everyone else who is open to it - that no matter how dark the prospects look, no matter how mathematically eliminated your hopes might seem to be, there is reason to hope. The lamp oil might - mysteriously, miraculously - last long enough. The crisis will end, and when it does, we should emerge with our better qualities intact. Hold on. It gets better.
MOUNTAIN - Speaking of patience and optimism, of watching, waiting and hoping, that's the theme of another religious season going on now. Advent, which many Christians celebrate in the lead-up to Christmas, started last Sunday, Dec. 2. As with Hanukkah, you don't have to be a member of this religion to take inspiration from it - in this case, a sense of patient and joyful anticipation. That involves preparation, for sure, but it shouldn't be stressful. It's less like spring cleaning - that would be the Christian season of Lent - and more making up the spare room for a beloved guest, one who won't care if everything isn't perfect but whom we still want to welcome properly. Think of that the next time you start feeling stressed about the holiday season.