(This blog was originally written as an e-mail to friends on the Monday after the Women’s March.)
This is not a moment; it’s the movement Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton
Today is our holy moment to quantum leap over the impossible and make love to the Possible. We-M00n Calendar
Joy doesn’t betray but sustains activism. And when you face politics that aspires to make you fearful, alienated, and isolated, joy is a fine initial insurrection. Rebecca Solnit
I am lying in bed in a motel in the Detroit area stuck in airport limbo for the second time in less than two weeks. On our way back from a family trip to Kauai, Hawaii, my husband Cam and I spent an extra couple of days here in lower Michigan as heavy winds and snow blew across our northern woods. It was a chance to acclimate once again to our time zone and rest up before heading back into our busy lives. And during this travel delay, I received an e-mail reminding members of our community about a project, a one hundred day challenge to open up to some sort of daily creativity, a challenge that was to begin on January twenty-first. I’ve participated in this challenge in the past. One year, I focused on photographs of fashion and the fashion of living; the next, I dug into my grandfather’s archives. This year, the theme centers on “Where dreams and darkness meet.” Two weeks ago, the challenge wasn’t lighting my fire. I already claim time for daily creative practices, and, in my Capricorn step by step way, am pretty good at the follow-through. Besides, as the new year began to unfold, I was wanting something different, a form of expression that could shine my light outward, something to connect me with the world at large. But this morning, as I woke up in motel limbo, I was clear. I am participating in the challenge, have already started the project, on time, and will continue it for one hundred days, a project that is both self-reflective and outward-focused and exactly right for me in this moment.
Last night, when I arrived at the motel, I plunked myself down on the bed after a weekend of so much fullness, and I listened to it all, to every speaker whose voice had risen out into the forty-five degree Washington air at Saturday’s Women’s March, to all the women and the men who had sung and spoken so passionately, who I could see two days before on a screen when signs were not entertaining and inspiring and blocking the view, but could not hear. In the sea of half a million people, our group of eight college students and my political science professor niece, and I, the grandma, were not that far way, just around the corner from the stage, squished against a tree, connecting and visiting with those pressed up against us while one speaker after another said and sang their piece. I told my new friends, college undergraduates from a university in New Jersey, that we were soaking it in, receiving the vibes, and I believe we were. It was palpable the excitement in the air, and, when Gloria Steinem, cloaked in a bright red shawl, took the stage, the air was hair-standing-on-end-electric. We cheered as Gloria spoke. We cheered often during our standing-still time, we people pressed against each other, for the words we are just now hearing on cell phones and computers. And it seemed okay not to hear at the time. We were present, part of a sea of people envisioning equality and inclusivity and love for our planet and for each other. And most of the time, we only could see our one bay in this ocean of people. But, once in a while, a boy or girl on a mom’s or dad’s shoulders would report down to us from a broader view, tell us how the sea spread in every direction and you couldn’t make out the other shore. That’s how big it was.
And then, we, in our bay in the sea, who could not hear instructions and could not stand still forever, noticed that the speakers seemed to be leaving the stage, and, in a great single wave, we began to move, slowly at first and then a little faster in the direction of the monument. For a few minutes, it seemed as though we had more space and a broader perspective, and, it was from this broader perspective, when I looked around in all directions that my breath escaped with a gasp. It was the “ocean” I saw, an expanse of people in pink hats of all shades and styles, and of signs bobbing up and down like waves on the sea’s surface and a sea of sounds too, of chants. And that’s what I want to tell you. Even as we became squished again, even as we halted our pace to a skitter-walk down the mall and into the streets, even as we spilled this way and that, not in one path, but in many toward the house of the president, the sea remained buoyant. There was empowerment in the air. And hope. And vision, too. “Black Lives Matter!” we chanted. “This is what democracy looks like!” we cried out. My niece and I remarked that this was historic, that we were changed. And as we walked along, my niece, who knows Washington, commented on how little security there seemed to be, how relaxed it all was. Officers were leaning against their cars chatting with women wearing pink-eared hats. There were smiles everywhere you looked and an ease underneath the charge of excitement.
From the moment I got on the plane in Detroit late Friday night, to the hotel shuttle ride in Washington even later to the walk to the metro the next morning, to the packed-with-pink-hatted-marchers-ride over to Navy Archives to meet my group, to the day that stretched out before us, I was heartened by the smiles — and by the kindness and the humor, the determination and the strong focus on inclusivity in this sea of pink-hatted humanity. Feminine power was unleashed by this march and I was uplifted and carried forward and a part of it. We did make it to the White House and the Treasury Building, without water or pee breaks — we skittered and marched, chanted and sang and kept track of each other, and, finally, in the early evening, we squished our way onto the metro heading toward the Greenbelt, tired and happy, hungry and thirsty. And even a broken-down metro train and an almost two-hour wait with us inside stacked like pink-hatted sardines didn’t dampen our spirits. There was more singing and a sharing of water and candy and a great buoyant cheer when another train pushed ours to the station. And later, after a much-appreciated dinner and a four-hour van ride back to New Jersey with my new student friends, I fell into the guest room bed at my niece’s home, filled up with it all. The whole event had meant the world to me.
And we are the world. And that brings me back to my community’s creative challenge. Two weeks ago, stuck in the airport after the family trip to Kauai, I hadn’t been clear about a project. It was the March on Washington that brought me the clarity, the March that brought speaker after speaker onto the stage, challenging us to stand up for what we believe in, to find our voices, to take action, to get involved, to write letters to our congressional leaders, to make phone calls, to make it easy, a habit. I don’t know whether I will do these things daily. I do know, however, that my desire to attend the March had been fierce, that a cancelled morning flight due to fog, an afternoon delay, a missed connection to Baltimore Friday evening, that none of these things had stopped me from showing up in Washington with literally nothing but the clothes on my back. I see now that my spirit had depended upon it, that I had needed to be a part of that great sea of people, to feel that wave of positivity washing over the world that day. It was a patriotic march and I am feeling patriotic. And every day, for one hundred days, I will do something that reflects my patriotism. Yes, I will make phone calls and sign petitions and take action that feels inspired from the inside out. And I will smile at my neighbors and at strangers, too, and I will reach up and I will remember to hold on with heart and soul to that high vibe energy that I felt at the March, and from that place where a positive inclusive loving vision is possible for this country and for this planet, I will rise up and speak out and shine my light brightly.