The mail piles up...
The mail carrier brings me handfuls of mail each day, bearing the names of dozens of friends and travelers. No, not writing to me, but being written to. If your home is an overpass, a bike, the nearest comforting oaktree, a moving target…it is hard to find a place for long term mail. General Delivery is only for a month in our area. So I receive boxes of plantains from the Virgin Islands for a guy whose cousin wants to make sure he has good food; boxes with cookies and boots from a worried aunt, letters from courts, from social workers, from parents and lovers and hospitals and insurance companies. From jail.
Lots of names, lots of stories, lots of people. Some of the stories and the people dart close to my life a moment and then…there’s silence. Departure, disappearance. Sometimes a vaguely unsettled feeling, and sometimes calls from across the country: “have you seen our boy/our daughter/our dad? He said he spent time with you there”. Those are hard ones.
But when I’m lucky I get a few check in calls, or a sudden appearance after months away. A baby has taken her first steps in Seattle after her stormy advent here more than a year ago. A young woman in San Diego has made contact with her family for the first time in years. Friends call in from Occupy (everywhere) and talk of squats, arrests, recipes, and greetings, and friends call from jail, on smuggled cell phones or on their one call out. The pretty young girl from China via Australia is on her way back to her mother; she came by the week before her plane left, after 4 months travel. I was glad to have her check in.
It’s like the sound of the blackbirds settling for the night. They fly together & apart & keep up this constant call & response, this mic check, this connection. I’m here, you’re there, we’re alive, all’s well another night.
But there are spaces. And I wonder. I wonder about the 17 year old who’d been released from mental health hold after his last suicide attempt, the one who told me he slept roadside under a cardboard box, shivering with cold and fear. Or the kid who managed to annoy everyone, he whose cute puppy played with my dog, he who was last heard of going to a nice warm place to “make it big” and probably not legally. Or the veteran, whose wounded body ached so, who gave me his food money to help with the park I tend, to do a good thing. He believed in and dreamed the same dreams I do. Dreams of beauty, public space, compassion. And the kid from the Mexican jail, and the Canadian wanderer who was waiting for god or healing or something to tell her what to do. And the handsome, broken soldier back from Afghanistan, and the mother with the scared 14 year old daughter, living in her car.
I haven’t heard from them, or from dozens others, but I turn them over in my mind and heart each day and night and hope they are well, alive, happy, in this world in which brittle and abrupt endings happen all too often. Those are stories I know too; I have a litany of vanished friends.
The other night my partner left for a half hour radio show at a bit before 8, and didn’t return…well, he didn’t return until the wee hours of the morning. Yeah, I knew the clutch of darkness on my heart that night, and very close. He’s fine; he was distracted by music and conversation and the sparkling lights. It made me think more of my disappeared, now and in the future.
So..I hear the winds are rising. They are blowing strong tonight, and bringing storm. The blackbirds are coasting on the thermals…apart, together, apart. They are keeping contact. In the coming storm winds of this world we too need to keep contact with one another. With our dearest, but also with the strangers at the edges, with those who may not have many to miss them. We need to watch over each other.
I’m here. You’re there. We’re alive. It’s a dark and creative night. Let’s see , together, what dawns in the morning.