Sunday, October 23, 2005

unlocked doors & hurricane dogs

I haven't locked my cabin door for decades, except by sometimes tying a bit of rope from the doorknob to a nail outside, in hopes of keeping the raccoons from coming in (it doesn't work; raccoons are clever and really love cat and dog crunchies). In town I do lock the bookstore door when we are closed, except when I take my pitbull for a gallop. Then, figuring I will be back so quickly, and wanting to come in with the bouncing dog without fumbling for my keys, I leave the door unlocked.
This leads, sometimes, to surprises. Yesterday we came back and found a bewildered Black Owl standing in the main room, scratching his head. Black Owl is a local guy, grew up here, came from one of the local tribes (the ones the feds still don't quite believe are still existing, but they are organizing now, and telling their stories). Black Owl is probably in his 60's now. He held a big folder and gently rummaged through it. "I have something for you" he said. "You need to put it in your window". It was a photocopy, in color, of one of his paintings. "It is my father" he said. "The name of the painting is Blessings of the Mother".
A word or two about my windows. On one side of the store, near my partner's desk, we put up the ephemeral posters and flyers: a dance, a benefit, a meeting, a workshop, a protest. The window is covered with bits of clear tape from past posters. I am always meaning to scrape them off and start again, but I don't.
The other window, the one near my desk, has a constantly revised count of the casualities, civilian and military, in Iraq, and a changing series of photos printed from online news services. Today a little girl looks up from beside her father in Tal Afar; another child cries out because her uncle was killed in Baghdad; a grieving mother clutches a folded flag somewhere in a graveside service in the states; a man looks over a series of coffins; a mother in Lousiana holds her baby to her chest; a mother in Palestine holds her baby; a bunch of rescued dogs from New Orleans look frisky; a medical worker holds a kitten; a Guantamamo orange suit is glimpsed behind wire; some children in Afghanistan eat soup.
The photos started some years ago as posters for street demos. I was struck by the human gestures of grief and hope, universal. The pictures said more than I could. They said: look, we are human, we care, we suffer.
I don't recall when I started putting them in my window. I do recall some of the responses: the man who spat at the photo of a Palestinian woman and said I am a supporter of terrorists; the people who stood on the street and burst into tears.
It's that window that now holds Black Owl's picture. It does belong there. In it a seated man, hair in braids, feather at top of head, makes the center of a fan of stylized feathers. There are baskets and plants and symbols; the whole like a sort of mandala or blessing and energy.
And after I thanked him, and he left, the backpacker in search of sci fi came in, with his lively little dog named Gidget. He'd been sleeping under one of the bridges, having come here from the outskirts of Louisiana, with the rescued pup. Her mother and father drown; he couldn't get them out of the trailer in time. But Gidget made it. She wagged her tail and then went into a perfect sit/stay.
How had her companion decided to come here?
By throwing a dart at a big map. It landed here, somewhere between the two little towns. And so here he came.
Life pushes through the doors and windows. Every day.


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