A while ago, someone set a box of miscellaneous items on a nearby street corner -- mostly mismatched shoe but also a well-loved one-eared teddy bear with a pink heart hand-stitched onto its belly, a potato masher, six plastic sippy cups, a grease-crusted stainless steel pan minus its lid, two garden trowels, and a plastic lemonade pitcher. There also might have been a t-shirt or two, at first neatly folded but well-crumpled after the passing of a week. And several baseball caps.
The baseball caps disappeared on the first day as did the garden trowels. The cook pan left on the third. The shoes stayed but the potato masher found its way on to a near-by tree branch where it lingered for several days, swinging like a soundless wind chime, until it too disappeared. The teddy bear went face down in the grass, and then, someone added six paperback romance novels and a stack of magazines to the box.
Two days later, another someone set the box on fire. The cardboard charred; the paper went to ash. The plastic sippy cups melted into goo but the shoes didn't burn. Except the laces. The burned box and the smoky shoes are still there, a smudged thumbprint, taunting passers-by to pay attention but to what? The ash? The destruction? Useful goods turned to trash?
I walk by and think about impulses -- the impulse to beauty, the impulse to kindness, to set down a box filled with unwanted but still useful items free for the taking and another impulse to see all those "goods" burned to ash -- ideas as well as things. Burn the sharing; burn the goods.
Days later (or was it the same day?), more burning but this time on the highway. A pack of speeders -- at least six cars, probably more (safety in numbers) -- held a "sideshow" on I-880, laying down rubber from their tires in great black circles as they spun doughnuts across all lanes of the freeway, stopping traffic in both directions. An impulse to wreak havoc, destroy order, or a simpler impulse to be seen? Look at me, look at me, look at me? I'm here! I live.
Maybe we better start looking before the city starts burning. We all enjoy the beauty of the dancing flames of a campfire on a beach, sparks taking off after stars, but there's not much beauty in fires of destruction.
Can we recognize poverty and its sources, finds ways to eliminate poverty by rediscovering kindness, rekindling impulses to share and care for others and this damping down impulses to destroy?
I'm not sure.
We have written destruction into our national psyche. How else can a consumerist society continue to "expand" except by replacing the old with new, destroying what has been to "make way" for what will be -- even if all those "has-been"s are perfectly sturdy, functional and useful?
Capitalism, sadly, depends on the tear-down.
You finish the paragraph.
High tide, the bay lies still, windless blue marked
by sketched gold ‘vee’s, rising like so many
exotic butterflies newly arrived
from other lands, exhausted but unable
to clasp tight wings to rest. Instead, they leap
and dance, flutter and fall, dance again.
My eyes want to close but can’t, mesmerized
by white light dance, choreographed by tide.
The rituals I trust need these waters this light.
When my loved ones leave, I come down to the sea
and place my hands flat on water pushing
onto me, wait until waves pull back to free.
I accept the push, lay flowers on the pull,
watch as the blooms linger, bob, and drown
in the shimmer of the golden butterfly road.