Lights for Liberty and more
I went to a small vigil that was part of the Lights for Liberty the other day. We met at the fire pit and the lovely Chantel talked about the humanitarian crisis at the border with passion and compassion in a way that made it real and was both terrifying and also oddly comforting. She taught us a song that we sang a bazillion times and I already forgot it. (If you want to hear the song, you can watch the video of my dog listening to it. Nothing happens. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. I didn’t video the people, which would have been more interesting, because that would have been creepy.)
I spent a lot of the vigil crying because I get choked up when I’m with a group of people who all care about the same thing, that isn’t about everyone’s own micro-drama self-absorbed stuff. Especially when there's singing.
We walked up to Main Street and stopped right next to a little family that was sitting on a bench eating ice cream. They looked mildly uncomfortable but stayed, probably because it's one of the best benches in town for sitting. (I said “for sitting” because there are other benches that have pretty art on them, but aren’t so great for sitting.) Maybe they stayed because they thought it would seem weird if they left, like leaving to eat ice cream in peace means you’re good with torturing children at the border. So they licked their drippy ice cream while we sang for a while, and we lit our candles and were quiet for a few minutes. Nothing really changes by having a vigil like this. There’s still a whole lot of torture going on, but it felt right to be with neighbors who care about the horrors on the border.
We snuffed our candles out and as I walked back to my car, my friend L. caught up with me. She’s in the venn diagram of my life; our circles have overlapped for 20 years but we don’t live in the exact same circle. That’s one thing I love about living in a small town, by the way -- , but that’s a different matter.
I happened to have a few beers in my car so I suggested that we go sit at the river with a beer to watch the darkness arrive. It was one of those magical coincidences where something good comes together without planning. The evening was beautiful and the sky was just beginning to turn cobalt blue, the way it does just before the day completely disappears. Large bats were flying around, and we’d just had this moving experience together, trying to do something good for the world, even though we both knew it was insignificant. But at least we didn’t feel quite so complicit. We opened our cans of Bottom Cutter because I drink from cans now, and it turned out to be pretty yummy. Just as we started chatting, a guy walks up and sits down three feet from us. To be clear, it's approaching dark there's not another soul around, and there are 40 acres of park and miles and miles of river to sit by, and he chooses to sit three feet from us.
My first thought was GRRR. Why do you need to sit here? Do you even notice your male privilege? A woman sure as hell couldn't walk up to two guys sitting on the beach at late dusk and ask to join them, at least not without risk. They would likely assume the woman was hitting on them sexually, and their response would be related to whether they were pro or con on the idea of sex with her. It would either be laughable or they would have that high five energy that guys get when they think they’re about to score. But as a woman in my late 50’s, I don't need to worry or wonder if anyone's hitting on me, because those days are long gone. I have new freedom of movement. So I'm 75 percent thinking about all of that, and 25 percent curious about who this guy is and why he's at the beach. He’s 30 something, and drinking red wine directly from the bottle, which is becoming fairly rare in my circles. He tells us that he has a job that starts in a few days and he plans to sit at the river and drink until then. He bought 12 bottles of wine because it was cheaper by the dozen.
I follow L’s lead, and decide to quiet my 75 percent pissed off response, and wait to see how this unfolds. I’m curious, but also, I’ve just come from an event that’s about welcoming the down trodden, and being inclusive, and treating all humans with dignity. A guy drinking alone directly from a bottle could probably use a little dignity. Or at least a glass.
And I’m prepared for the usual “blah blah let’s all listen to me talk about me, shall we?” that’s typical of the sort of guy who crashes your party, but he opens with, “so, what would be in your emergency kit?” Which is a good topic. L. says a harmonica, and he pulls one out of his pocket. He says a candle, and, having just come from a candlelight vigil, we pull candles out of our pockets.
We talk about the high points of our respective weeks, and his was something about witnessing a little fight that some birds were having on his father’s property. And L’s was also about some Swainsons thrushes whispering to each other. Who knew the birds whisper? Do you need an inside voice if you’re a bird? My high point was about a bee that I saw last Tuesday at the hardware store, and went back to visit every day. Bombus vosnesenskii. I saw her on a Tuesday and couldn’t stop thinking about how pretty she was, so I went back to visit her every day.
I ended the evening more on the 45% irritated, 55%” that was kind of an interesting diversion from my regular life”. Somehow, this encounter with a random lonely guy at the beach lives in the same bucket of heartbreak as the people stuck in cages at the border. I can’t quite articulate it yet but it feels like there’s a bucket of pain in the world and everyone’s trying to do what they can to cope.