"Ah, it's good to be back in the land of the small car!"
This was one of the first things out of my mouth when I landed in Paris this past spring. It had been fourteen years; I had forgotten. And since then, with the introduction of the "Smart Car," they've gotten even smaller. But still, over all that time, so many Americans apparently remain quite infatuated with the 'bigguns'.
In my travels around metropolitan Boston, it is almost embarrassing how many Hummers I come across. Or Hummer Limousines. Or beefy, manly trucks or all-terrain vehicles that I swear are a safety hazard for how they obstruct visibility for the drivers in their vicinity. Yes, there are the growing numbers of Prius and the like, and the ubiquitous Zip Car. But more broadly speaking, one would think that this city (country?) is not daunted at all by the four-plus-dollar-a-
gallon-and-rising price tag on gasoline, or the read 'em and weep realities of global warming. It uplifts me when I discover evidence to the contrary.
Yesterday, I learned of a local project my neighbors Ken Ward and Andree Zaleska are undertaking which simply gleams with life, with the spirit of generosity, care, and consciousness--for one another and for this planet we inhabit. I find it inspiring; perhaps you will too.
...We’ve just bought the old abandoned house at 133 Bourne St. in order to rehab it as a model urban sustainable home, with wind and solar power, an organic garden, and creative use of recycled building materials. The idea is to do this mostly ourselves, and to make the process transparent, so that the community can benefit from what we learn.
After the rehab is complete, we plan to turn it into a small nonprofit, called the JP Green House, and use the house to model all different sorts of sustainability—not just of energy, but of community and connections. We hope to create a “Green community center” and use the large central room (which used to serve as a neighborhood store) for gatherings, meeting and activities. Some of the ideas we have in mind include: free space for meetings, tours of the house, gardening and building programs for kids, meditation and prayer groups, food-based gatherings, community songfests, and a center for climate activism.
You are all welcome to drop by and get a tour of the house and garden. We are usually working there most afternoons.
I'll take the vibrant garden over "the devil's bargain" any day!
A Place to Land
Love is so free, so generous with Its reminders. Sometimes I see them, sometimes I don't. Sometimes, the camera shows them to me.
It is not uncommon, when I do make a photographic record, to feel that I am not a primary part of the transaction at all. It's as if the earth calls from across the way, says, "Hey, you there," and curls its little green or brown or bone-colored finger to draw me in. I am duly drawn. Sometimes I think I see why. But it is often later, when I view the image larger, that something is revealed--its raison d'etre, let's say--which was blind to me at the moment of the "click". (Do you see a smiling, goofy, cartoon-like character in the image above? I didn't when I snapped it. I do now.)
Sometimes I want to tell the story of an image, how I came to be in that place on that day, in that moment. I always remember. Or, rather, know. I recognize the moment as I would recognize a sister or brother: this happened here. It was this time of day, the light was like so. It is not about remembering, really. It is about presence. I am there--where else would I be? where else would I want to be?--when I am taking those photographs. I am there as the sun is there, or the wind, or the bird song. No one is making me be there, no one is rewarding me for being there, and I am seeking neither reward nor recognition. Love moves me and I respond, that is all. It's kind of like falling in love for the first time--every time! And everyone remembers their first love.
Last week, I was present for the simplest of moments--so simple that it could easily be dismissed as unremarkable. I found it remarkable, deeply rich like a good French Roast. This time I wasn't the middle man, the intermediary between Life and lens. This time I saw, I got it, and I got it direct.
It started with the City planting a replacement tree across the street. What a crew it took to accomplish this! Many muscle-bound men, big trucks, a loud and formidable stump-grinding machine, even a tank of water to nourish the new arrival. Stakes and ropes: they had thought of everything.
No sooner had these men packed up their shovels and brooms and driven off did a big blue jay fly onto the scene and land you guessed it--as if it were the most natural thing in the world, as if it had always been there--in one of the tree's broadest limbs. Pure delight! I burst into smile. Just minutes earlier, only space had occupied the area where this tree now stands, where this bird now perched. Just like that, I thought. A branch, a perch, a bird.
He stayed for a bit, looked around. Then he flew off. It didn't seem that he had come out of curiosity; he had given no indication that he recognized the tree as new. I, however, was tickled enough for the both of us.
Love is so free, so generous with Its reminders. Love wastes no time coming when It has a place to land. And It is just that easy to receive.
The Tiny Whirl
[T]he earth tinily whirls* and I feel none of it--least of all when I am absorbed in the day's concerns as dense as rain clouds, worries as heavy as iron ore. Then I look up and I am taken away like broadcast seed stolen by birds or wind. We are all sailors here, you see: afloat, ever afloat. So why does it--how can it, at times--feel like we're drowning?
Oh to have it always, that freedom of remembering the tininess, that nothing looms large really, that all is manageable on this good green earth that is actually dominant in blue. Big blue: we call our ocean that: The Big Blue Sea. And it feels so: big and blue. But the poet's words points me to the speck that we are and that our pea-sized earth is from a cosmic point of view. I cannot comprehend the vastness of the Universe with my simple and yes tiny, no matter how magnificent, human brain. That's where the trouble begins, the forgetting. I am grateful to be reminded.
Tonight I remember: we are all small, a lifetime is a mere blink or two in the context of a cosmos. Some take this as a reason to throw up hands and lament, "What's the point!?" To choose resignation is to miss the opportunity. There is an opportunity. Which of the drops of the ocean are the insignificant, expendable ones? Which particles of air don't count? How could we name them? How could we possibly name them, and take that naming seriously?
There is order, deep order to the tiny whirl and all that whirls with it.