Love. Food and shelter and warmth. Resources, health. Poetry.
You can see the cold hanging in the air this morning, and my husband gives me a ride to work, my bike in the truck bed so I can run some errands after my shift. I feel renewed by conversation with morning coffee drinkers, and a canvasser for Oxfam named Alexandra, who I stop to talk with on my way to the library.
Trees in brilliant red and gold along the river, exchanging a smile with joggers and other cyclists as I ride, the glint of sun off the water, and bundled-up tourists photographing the bridge. My heart fills with love for the city I live in.
But that love also wars with images and reports of violence– nowhere in the mainstream press, and hard to follow in the alternative press– against the Occupy protesters, here in Portland and in Oakland, Berkeley, New York. My heart goes out, but I did not go out to join the protests in my city. I thought the Occupy camp packed up peacefully here on Saturday night. I read the news, but the news was wrong.
Riding past Chapman and Lownsdale squares on my way to the public library, fenced off and bare, police standing watch. Where will all the Occupiers go, the ones who always sleep out, every day a protest? Where will they sleep, as it gets colder and darker? By bike, it’s harder to miss all of the sleeping figures bundled against cold, their supplies of bottled water and grocery bags. They could be any of us. They could be me.
I’m in and out of the library in a hurry, running up the stairs to find two books of poetry I need for my studies, then back down again and out onto my bike, so I can get home before nightfall.
At home, I read the poetry newsletter I get by email, and learn police in New York threw away over 5,000 books from the Occupy Wall Street library. In Berkeley, former Poet Laureate Robert Hass was among those beaten and injured in the protests at Berkeley. Then the open letter on the Occupy Portland site.
I connect to the writer’s closing words, echoing my own feelings from today: Portland is better than this. Portland is one of the most incredible places in this country, and it is not because of its amusement park, or its weather, or its well known tourist attractions. What makes this place so amazing is its people. We stop at cross-walks for pedestrians, we say hello to each other in the checkout lines, we enjoy our environment and our parks, and we sometimes are just a little bit strange.
Thank God for strangeness and strangers. Like the writer above. Like this poet and rabbi, who I don’t know but whose words help. I should be writing about Leave of Grass, reading Seamus Heaney’s North, but instead I am writing to you, whoever you are.
I’m wondering what Whitman would do. Wouldn’t he be at Ankeny plaza this Sunday afternoon, in love with everyone there? I open my book to Song of Myself, and read again:
In all people I see myself, none more and none a barley corn less,
And the good or bad I say of myself I say of them.
I know I am solid and sound,
To me the converging objects of the universe perpetually flow,
All are written to me, and I must get what the writing means.