I took this photo of a small portion of an installation in an empty Philadelphia storefront called "Ribbon Vault on Arch Street" (2009) by Robert Chambers.
Now that Christmas is over, and I'm back from the conference I attended in Philly, I am facing my house--my real house--for the first time since we returned from the island. Leaving a place alone for nearly five months, then suddenly dumping clothes and food and books back into it before rushing off again for family Christmas and a conference means that what one returns to is about as tangled as the photo above, although not nearly as pretty. The whole place is a pile of boxes and bags and gifts and wrapping and inexplicable sprinklings of glitter here and there.
And then there's New Year's Eve to contend with. I've never been a good new year's reveler. I don't feel it in my bones the way I feel Christmas or Halloween or Thanksgiving. Maybe it's because come the single-digit temperatures, I want to pack away my high heels and curl up with books and tea and blankets. We are heading back up to Maine to celebrate the holiday with my mum. I'm thinking, make some amazing pan-seared scallops, toast the new year together, and hang out watching movies. I don't know about anyone else, but as we stood in Penn Station yesterday waiting for our connecting train to Boston, watching the timetable register delay after delay, and feeling like we were living in a scene from Trains, Planes, and Automobiles, it suddenly dawned on me that I was bone-achingly tired. People were grouchy, understandably, especially since that damn station doesn't offer benches to anyone except Acela riders. Talk about classist! Plus, the numbers of homeless folks looking for a dime are way, way up this winter. I read the IRS statistics about incomes in America this year, and if the cold doesn't chill you, those numbers will. People are in desperate need. Far too many. Philadelphia, Boston, my own city of Lowell--they are full of people without a place to sleep or a crust to feed their babies.
Please forgive me for being so real and not very fun-blogish tonight. I'm trying hard to feel the cheer, but as I walked through the beautiful old Art Deco train station in Philadelphia, watching people trying to beg money, watching the guards armed with machine guns as they led bomb-sniffing German Shepherds around the station, watching the homeless woman who had set up a makeshift desk on the diaper-changing station in the filthy women's bathroom, I asked myself again and again, "What are you doing to help? What are you doing to make a change?" And I couldn't answer those questions.
I don't write this because I want assurance that I am making a change. Besides, no external assurance I receive will suffice. I simply must do more to help others. Period. I started this post by talking about our possessions--how they are in post-Christmas, post-moving stacks and piles all over our house. These things are lovely, and I am grateful for them, but my mind keeps going back to that woman in the bathroom. She was bent over a worn notebook, and she wrote quickly on its pages, intently, never looking up, mouthing words as she scrawled them, words that obviously needed to come out, be on the page, even if no one else was ever going to read them, even if they made sense only to her. Tonight I am typing, typing, spilling my own words onto a screen, because I cannot contain them. I must not, even if they make sense only to me. They, each of them, are more precious to me than any possession I own. The fact that I have the privilege--and I do mean privilege--to share them with you is something that I will never take for granted.
I am wishing you blessings and health in the new year. I wish for you a warm bed, a vocation you love, and the comfort of being needed.