Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Walking in L.A. and Different Ways of Seeing: a dog's bow, a vision in a chipped wall, re-imagining

I felt my anxiety spiking more than usual, my chest tighter, my motions jerky, my muscles almost spasm-ing as I went about my morning routine today, making coffee, feeding kitty, washing dishes.  I had 45 minutes before a scheduled Action Kivu call, and threw on my running clothes and shoes, to work out some of the anxiety through movement.

It helped. It almost always does. At the top of our hill, I saw the woman with the wiry gray curls and colorful mask with her dog whose head reaches almost to her chest cross the street; yesterday Patrick and I had seen them for the first time, and stopped in the street as they strode by on the sidewalk, to admire the dog’s beauty. He’s nine years old, she told us, I rescued him nine years ago off a highway in Mexico. (A tall, lanky dog, he looks around two or three. She clearly cares deeply and well for him.)

Take a bow, she instructed him, and the regal creature stretched straight his long forearms and slightly bowed his head and upper body over them. That was just for you, she told us. With mutual parting words to stay safe and well, we continued our opposite paths.

On my way home, the morning light striking the leaves of a tree stopped me, and I noticed this wall and gate, that I’d passed hundreds of times before without seeing. 

Seeing a bird, an old bird, somewhat dejected or tired, making its way from a closed door.

Then a young girl, facing the gate, her oversized coat jutting out in front of her, a lumpy package balanced on her back as she waits for someone to greet her at the gate.

Then a bowed head, nestled and hidden from first glance between the bird’s head and body, looking down at oversized shoes and a pair of sunglasses tucked into a hidden pocket.

As I read about the number of coronavirus-related deaths and the increasing cases and the concept that even asymptomatic folks will experience lasting lung damage and I see photos of groups of 20-somethings partying as if nothing is wrong, and hear warnings of massive evictions and unhoused communities and hunger, and pass my neighbor rummaging through our recycling before moving on to rearrange the scrap metal tower in the back of her truck, to be driven to a scrap yard and exchanged for money to buy food and pay her rent, driven there by our other neighbors as she doesn’t drive, and the truck and scrap collecting used to be done by her husband, a 60-something Latinx man, but he passed away earlier this year, as I watch more and more people call out, cry out, for a city budget that invests more in people and health and human services and education than it does for a militarized police force,

I feel hopeless and hopeful.

To examine and explore the image of our shared humanity from all angles, to see what I may not have seen when I was hurrying home, without a glint of light to stop me in my tracks. To allow space and time for different ways of seeing what appears to be the same thing.

To close my eyes. Let my imagination run wild. And then, as Angela Davis instructs us:

“You have to act as if it were possible to radically transform the world. And you have to do it all the time.”

(What do you see? In the image, perhaps, but also in your imagination? In your neighborhood? In your city?)

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