"The pigeons were the most attentive listeners that day," he said to me as we marched down the sidewalk. My gaze shifted upwards and landed on said pigeons lined up like Christmas lights on the building's edge, so still they could have been statues. From up above we must have looked tiny, our bobbing handmade signs and small voices:
"SHEL-TER, NOT NEGLECT! SHOW FAMILIES SOME RESPECT!
D-H-C-D HOW HOMELESS DO WE HAVE TO BE?!
WHAT DO WE WANT? NEW REGS! WHEN DO WE WANT THEM? NOW!"
...and then that one in Spanish, the one that we chanted along with though we were unsure as to what we were saying. (It's been a few years since I've been in a Spanish class.)
We were first-time protestors, wanting desperately to better understand the act of demonstrating - struggling to grasp the meaning and value of raising awareness with shouts and signs and feeble feet marching. My voice felt small in the crowd of people, not being much of a shouter I am certain my contribution made little difference. I did not even make a sign.
We were out of place, and yet right at home. Home among the homeless. Solidarity reaps hospitality it seems.
After a bit of protesting "the raging grannies" sang a song into the bullhorns about the new homeless shelter regulations. We clapped and cheered at the appropriate times.
Around us the city bustled with holiday life. The musicians we first marched past yelling were still singing as we walked back in silence the second time. Our protest voices were gone, and again I found myself in the tension of enjoying the city and harboring guilt at the very notion of enjoying what others cannot hope to experience...
We wondered into Starbucks and I considered how lovely the city of Boston is. It is such a treat being in a town brimming with people to watch and meet and encounter. So many things are happening all at once: dog walkers walking, street lights changing, squirrels scurrying, children walking to recess, coffee brewing, money exchanging... it is a nice change of pace. It is good to scoot off this picturesque campus and remember that the world is big - that people elsewhere are doing important things, hard things: struggling to pay bills, making espresso drinks, sitting in offices, playing at recess, protesting...and all the while I'm walking across the grassy quad, sitting in the library daydreaming, and easily convinced that exams and friday nights are the biggest headlines on the life's newspaper.
Before driving back we stopped to watch the squirrels digging their noses in the dirt - they all seemed to have forgotten where they buried their food. We noted their plump bellies and I wondered what human hibernation would be like. They looked frazzled and concerned - stressed out over an unforeseen circumstance. Darting to and fro they looked at us quizzically, they could not sit still.
This semester I have been a scurrying squirrel when I so desperately long to be a pigeon: listening intently, practicing stillness, truly knowing the world around me.
For new semesters, I am grateful.
Tuesday, December 4, 2012
About two years ago I decided to start signing letters, emails, (blogs), other random forms of communication, "with a heart so full." It seemed fitting; I still think it is.
I only use it if it is true.
I can not always pen it, type it - with honesty. My heart is not always overflowing with joy and gratitude - I do not walk around feeling like I am going to burst with praise every moment of every day... In those cases I think of something else. "with a heart so stumble-y" "with a soul uncertain" "with hope for (insert anything here)" ..."with whatever the honest closing gesture is," you get the idea.
I begin by saying that, so that I can honestly and sincerely say that these days my heart has been SO FULL. This blog may not represent it, my empty journal pages sure do not and certainly the *busyness of each day does not seem to scream "HOORAY!" But if it could, it would.
*A sidenote: I always think that busyness should be spelled business, which I find highly ironic.*
These days my heart is bursting. Today I passed a friend on my way to the library and told him to be sure to enjoy the beautiful day. He looked skeptically at the very grey, very overcast sky, and then back at me with a smirk. I laughed and assured him that beauty exists even in the grey - especially in the grey! I am overwhelmed with gratitude: for timely conversations, for picture texts of new born babes!, for the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice, chocolate covered pomegranate seeds... for snow and sunshine, a car that drives, a cozy nest to sleep in, a tree outside my window, an avocado seed sprouting!, the season of advent and glorious expectation, and good golly so many things in between.
This state of mind seems to be rare on a college campus at this time of year. It's the season of all-nighters. The season of burdens and stress and "dear GOD please don't let me fail this exam that I'm not prepared for." The stress is thick; irritated people are everywhere.
But last night sitting in an art gallery, I had a realization. I felt so full of joy - so full of joy in a room of people so worn out. So I stood up and shared with them my epiphany.
This time of year it is as though everyone is walking around campus with huge buckets of confetti on their heads. They take careful and cautious steps, flitting to and fro SO WORRIED that their bucket is going to fall off. They keep their eyes glued to the ground (because we all know that gluing our eyes to one spot helps balance...) but in doing so miss so much around them. The thing is, no one knows that their buckets are holding confetti! They think their buckets are filled with lava, or acid, or something dreadful and terrifying. The very act of balancing keeps each of us from living fully in this moment - the very thing that we are tied to is the very thing we must stop doing! We need to take our buckets off of our heads and look inside, and then promptly throw the confetti into the air! In celebration! Celebration of the gift it is to learn! The gift it is to be alive! The gift it is to study under professors who care about us! The gift is is to change! and grow! and question! and seek! and know! Throwing the confetti sets us free. It helps us to remember that these exams and papers and projects do not define us. There is much more to life and SO MUCH to celebrate. This balancing act need not be burdensome; our lives are full of so many reasons to be glad.
In these last few weeks of the semester I want to strive to get people to realize that (contrary to popular belief..) their buckets are full of joy! It might take some tripping, but I think I'm willing to trip people into joy. : )
Go throw your confetti, my friends.