"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.