and so we begin.
yesterday was the day for wiping away tears, for feeling the swell in the deep of our hearts. yesterday was the day for sitting mesmerized before the screen, taking it in, all of it, aretha franklin’s gray felt bow, outrageous bow, flamboyant bow, just-how-we-all-felt, crystal-studded bow. for taking in the tears, welled-up and streaming down the cheeks of an immigrant from gambia, among the many tear-streaked faces i won’t forget. for taking in the poetry of hands that laid the tracks, raised the bridges, picked the cotton and the lettuce, built brick-by-brick the towers “they would then keep clean,” and brought us–two million, flesh and blood; a globe of others through the miracle of satellites and wires, screens and speakers–to the mall, to the reflecting pool, and to the spaces in between the chiseled monuments of those now-hushed american heroes.
but most of all it was a day for taking in the words, the cadence, the power of a president who’s had his eye on re-stitching this torn tapestry for a long, long time.
i sighed out loud when he spoke of whispers from the fallen heroes who lie in arlington, when he reminded us of those who toiled in sweatshops and settled the west, endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth. when he spoke of hands worn raw.
i held my breath. held it so hard i was dizzy by the speech’s end, the end of the inaugural address, the end of the words that marked the start of what just might be something very, very big.
and i prayed, prayed mightily, prayed without end. prayed, amen, amen.
will keep on praying, so help me, God.
i am teaching myself, reminding myself, to breathe again, breathe a new oxygen.
and for just one day, one sweet fine chill january day, i shut out all the cynics and the critics. in my mind and heart, his speech was a great one, no modifiers need apply. in my eyes, her gown was perfect, and so too the lemongrass one she wore all day. i gasped when i first saw both of them. don’t give a hoot what the sharp-eyed ones have to say. the sharp-tongued ones, i wish they’d just keep quiet. just for one sweet january’s day.
yesterday was not a day for judging. only for reveling. and savoring. and sucking the sweet marrow from the makings of a new america.
today, then, is the beginning. is when we all pick up the mantle laid before us, draped across the bone-cold mall, and across the frozen farmfields and the cities and the backroads and the riverbeds of this once great and once-again, i sense, great united states.
today, if we listened to his words, is the day we all begin anew. begin to be and act and dwell as if we are made of holy fibers and corpuscles and muscle with the strength to do the work, the necessary work.
today, then, is the day we don’t do what we’ve always done.
we start small, i’d propose, and we let it grow from humble shoots and sprouts. we start out wobbly, maybe, a little bashful, perhaps, but then we catch the wind, and, oh lord, who knows where we go.
we begin, just maybe, in the little universe that is our everyday.
we pick up the trash blowing through the alley, not because it’s ours but because it’s there and it oughtn’t be and we shouldn’t let its provenance dictate the hands that do the picking.
maybe, just maybe, we practice a whole new way behind the wheel. we don’t honk for no reason. we let the car coming from the other way take the parking space, and then we wave and nod and make it clear we’re making room for a whole new kindness and generosity.
we look, i hope, into the eyes of the man stuffing cartons of milk and cottage cheese into our grocery bag. we say, have a lovely afternoon. and we mean it.
we go into our children’s classrooms. we tell stories. turn pages. help the one who struggles with a pencil try to find his curly loop, or the ledge on the paper where the letters sit.
and then, more boldly, we go beyond the school where our own children sit, we go to ones where mamas and papas don’t have the chance, maybe, to sit and practice number drills. where there’s no globe at home, so the children in the desks have never really seen just where their city sits at the edge of the lake in the middle of the land mass that seems to run from top to bottom of that globe.
and then, after we read with them, and turn pages, maybe we go make lunch for them. bring cupcakes, for crying out loud. because have you ever met a kid who does not deserve a cupcake for no reason at all? maybe we bring our own children along. watch them make friends. watch them start to understand that the world does not begin and end at the borders of the village or the block they call their own.
maybe when we’re walking down the street, or through the office, maybe when we hear the gossip start to roll off tongues, we say, hey, don’t. please don’t.
maybe all the hundred little choices we make in a day, maybe they all add up.
maybe we start to do what the man at the foot of the capitol meant when he stood up against the chill wind and said, starting today, we’ve got to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking america.
maybe that’s why this morning i am sleepy-eyed from staying up late to watch the ballgown swirl, the white one with the single shoulder sash and all the poofy little posies, the one she kept lifting from beneath the tips of her shoes where it was getting caught while she was dancing cheek-to-cheek, maybe that’s why i’m sleepy, yes, but mostly why, this brand-new morning, there’s a pumping in my heart that tells me there is work to be done.
work for all of us, not just the one who is the forty-fourth and the first, all at once.
let the work begin.
what will be the ways you begin again the work of remaking your corner of the universe? what frames from yesterday will you not forget, not ever?
Two questions – both thought provoking. I think the best way to remake a corner of the universe is to start small, leaving the big issues to those more capable and knowledgable. So, it’s safe to say I need more patience at the grocery store, letting the elderly beat me to the line. They probably have more of a need to be first toward the end of their lives than I do during my middle years. And, those moms with all those small children?? I need to let them get in line before me just because there is seldom a lot of patience with children who have been contained in the store too long. I can easily change my schedule for these accommodations. Another quick and easy way to bring about change is to say hello or smile to those we pass by. Mine might be the only cheerful face that person sees. Never will I forget that huge sea of people who witnessed history on such a cold Inauguration day. And never will I forget the steadfast gaze of our new President as he walked to the platform before the ceremony began, looking amazed, steadfast, and somewhat over-whelmed at the same time. And then a few minutes later, that boyish grin, telling me that everything was going to be okay, and we can still be happy while we go about our work..Most of all, I will remember Aretha’s hat! I love a bold fashion statement, and our Queen of soul did not fail to deliver. :)) Her choice of head covering seemed to sum up the day, a bit daring, somewhat gray and subdued, but wtih enough sparkle to give us all the hope we need. Our country faces difficulties and challenges, but I am extremely confident that President Obama will find a way to make positive changes. It won’t happen this week or even next month, but given time and enough cooperation from those who look to him for leadership, he will get us through this time of darkness. It is up to us to help any way we can.
amen. now pass me a tissue please. have i ever shed more tear just from hopefulness? may it continue to motivate us all in our small, profound ways.
John Williams’ piece perfomed by smiling YoYo Ma, Maestro Perlman, Gabriella Montera and that marvelous horn player, with its colliding vitalities, visceral expressiveness, simultaneous ambiguities, to me it was America, the colossal experiment in self-government, where the land is free only to the degree the brave are still fully engaged. This was an enormous musical mural that I just stood back and took in–its mystery, its pulsating beauty, its raw passion and elegant poetry. And lastly, the tip of the cap to Grampa Copland, but then the winds of change took his ideas into an entirely new context, which, is somewhere between yesterday and tomorrow.
It was the collection of self, his centering as he closed his eyes to pray and listen to YoYoMa et al play Air and Simple Gifts – then her green gloved hand reached behind him to touch his left shoulder that said everything – those moments were the slow dance.