E on DC
In Search of Blessings Everywhere
It’s late morning on a Thursday. I’m sitting in Busboys (Takoma Park) waiting for my friend Susan to make the trip into the District from Virginia. Susan teaches at Marymount University, a school I’ve grown closer to over the years as a result of good friendships. In the last innings of life you want to look around at the team you’re on. You want a life filled with rookies and seasoned veterans. I like associating with young artists who are at the beginning of their careers. I try to keep my eyes and ears open to new ideas. At times this can be difficult. Values and beliefs can often turn from flesh into stone. It’s hard for the old to embrace the birth of the new without the realization that one’s own cry has an echo.
I look around at the tables in Busboys and Poets and quickly observe that the majority of the people are around my age or older. This is what I’ve always liked about Takoma Park. It’s that place far away from the open mic. This part of the city flows into Maryland and always seems to be carrying a yoga mat. The politics here are liberal and progressive; if you’re from Texas it’s best to tell folks you’re a vegetarian.
My friend Susan arrives and has a surprise for me. She digs into her bag and pulls a flag out by its ears. It’s the papal flag – the flag of the Vatican. Now I’m feeling as good as the lamb burger I’m about to order. Susan knows I’m looking forward to Pope Francis coming to Washington in a few weeks. This is the year the Pope should offer a special blessing for the poets. We poets have much work to do in our city, nation, and world. I fear another long hot summer is just the beginning of a long hot century.
Death seems no longer willing to wait for old age. Too many young people are going to sleep with anger. If you find yourself sitting in a cafe or restaurant you are among the blessed. Around the world thousands of homeless migrants are fleeing war zones. Meanwhile in our city men near Metro stations beg for coins, and even the Good Samaritan is cautious when riding the Red or Green Line.
The best way to navigate the streets of life is by finding those small quiet moments of light. Call them bright moments or silent times of mindfulness. I take the flag Susan gives me and I place it in my bag filled with newspapers and books. I’m ready for the exploration of goodness. It’s time to get ready for the heat that comes after August. Hatred, racism, and wars seem to always bring the steam. Madness will make you sweat. Hope can be as simple as a cool drink of water. But is this how we want to live?
Are we to confine ourselves to our own hospice and simply wait for the air to disappear? I reach across the table to thank Susan; our hands are black and white. It’s a beginning. Soon will we eat, we will bless our food, grateful for friendship and another day of grace.
E. Ethelbert Miller is a literary activist. His collected poems edited by Kirsten Porter will be published next spring. In April 2015 Miller was inducted into the Washington Hall of Fame.