It has been a long time since I last wrote. This is partially because there is a lot to share and partly because it takes some grounding and purposefulness to write these, normally. But today I shall just write.
Sun blazes off the water, a path of blinding light on glass leading across the ocean into the horizon. I have to squint to make out shapes or the shadows of waves on the water. I have been feeling bland this week. Or perhaps more than bland, it’s a numbness. I’m not sure why. Life just feels like that sometimes – everything is good, I’m just tired and worn out. But as I gaze squinty-eyed down the road that leads to the sun, I feel lightened, weight lifting from my shoulders, as if the burdens just can’t resist leaving me to walk out, across the water, toward the sun. The sand sticks black and wet to my feet, the cold licks my toes like an eager puppy. I look away from the water to the people, and there are many people at the beach on this glorious Saturday afternoon. The walk has done me good – through a forest of eucalyptus in the midst of this rather small metropolis. My friend talking to me on the phone asked about the riots in Oakland, and I was embarassed to say that I know very little about them. (I talked with my housemates about them today – due process it is, innocent until proven guilty, but when you’re not on the side of power, it’s hard to prove anything; so much for justice.)
The sour sops, I don’t know what we call them here, but that’s what folks call them in Australia (if you suck on the stems they have a wonderful lip-puckering sour flavor to them), smile sunnily at me as I walk back towards home. The ocean has cleansed my soul, reminded me of the smallness of my being, of the vastness of the world, of the beauty of all of it. I pass families on their way to the Zoo, children running ahead of their parents, pausing, “Hurry up! Let’s go! Let’s go!” Sunshine does something to the disposition. Quite wonderful, a blessing. I pass by Lowell High School where my uncles and my best friend went to high school. Four young women in leggings and sweatshirts twirl and kick with the grace and recklessness of the young who take this ease for granted. It’s just fun. A woman walks toward me with a dog on the end of a leash. I meet her eyes and she says, “It’s a beautiful day, no? You have to be outside on an afternoon like this. No inside. And I have to look after my little one.” She gestures to the dog who looks like she is also moving on in age. She wags a slightly matted tail, and I bend down to rub her head.
“It is beautiful,” I tell the woman.
“Happy New Year, sweetheart,” she smiles and takes my hand. I smile back, warmed by a combination of this woman’s warmth and the sun. She glows. “In this New Year, we have to have a lotta hope,” she continues. “What with the new government and all. I pray every day that things will get better here. I come from Greece. Way back when, I came from Greece because things were better then, in America. Now, the same problems in Greece, they’re here. Nothing is better anymore. America is going down. So I pray for this country every day.” Her smile brightens once more. “I gotta have hope for the new generation. I want things to be better for my son and for you.”
“We have to make things better,” I say. “And I believe we can. I believe we must.”
“Yes, sweetheart. We have to bring America back. Alright now. What was your name?”
“Thandiwe,” I tell her. It takes her a couple of tries to get it right, but she does. “And yours?”
“Francis,” I repeat.
“Well it sure was nice to talk to you, honey. Thank you,” she tells me as she steps away.
“You take care. Have a happy New Year.”
“You too. Thanks. I’ll see you again.” Then she turns and walks away.
These encounters. It seems like such a long time since I have had one like this. I guess it has been a while since I have been centered, grounded, present enough to really engage in this way. To be in the present so that I am not too busy. Francis has made my day. Here she is, an immigrant from Greece, talking about hope for the new generation in the United States. And she thanks me for talking to her, as if I have done something remarkable, taken time to meet her in her humanity with mine. Is this not what we must each strive to do each moment? Is this not all there is?
I have been thinking a lot about relationships – friendships, family, romance, since my time here in San Francisco. I have had several conversations recently about counting on people and have been reminded that when we count on others, when we have expectations of others, we are guaranteed to be disappointed and let down at some point. This is true, and we/I should be prepared for this. However, I also want continue to engage, to count on others and to strive to be someone that others can count on. We cannot live as islands on a sea. There will always be that road stretching from the seashore into the horizon, connecting here with everywhere else. It’s not always illuminated by the evening sun, though, so let us do our best to remember and to remind each other. Each of us can be someone who shares love, and beauty and ourselves with others.
Much love to each of you. And happy New Year.