'Nothing to see but streets, streets, streets. Nothing to breathe but streets, streets, streets.'
-So said Dickens long long ago, really not so long ago . . .
I live in a curious (and beautiful) region where the signs of change are continuous and variable, as I suppose change must be, but still it is sometimes confusing when signs of winter's onset appear simultaneously with signs of birthing spring and the demise of summer.
The last leaves are dropping from the Ginko trees and at the same time, the tree branches are prickling with buds. For these trees, winter is a silly inessential comma shoved between summer and spring. Beneath their temporarily barren branches, green green grass is frosty white in early morning hours, but spring bulbs ignore the cues of winter's entry and take advantage of increased sunlight to proclaim the arrival of spring. The first hyacinth is in full bloom, and its sweet perfume tangles with that of dozens narcissus flowers opening; indeed, some of the earliest spring flowers are already nodding, their bloom finished.
What to make of this signatory confusion? That the signs we read, those we recognize as measures of certain 'truths,' i.e. the reality of seasons, are not concrete markers but flickering shades, anchored not to any concrete reality but tied loosely to shifting context?
I tend to think that we might try abandoning our notions of knowing and instead dive into what surrounds us, swim in it, feel it, breathe it, swallow it, live it. Of course, there are things we need to know, we need to consider, to manage, if we are going to create useful joyful communities focused on the future, but we also need to dive into dream, even if the sign reads STEEP DROP. In this past year, we have all come to the edge of one cliff after another, fiscal or otherwise, and, at times, ignoring the warning signs, stepped over the edge. We haven't crashed yet.
As I write this, I hear my neighbor's wire-wheeled high-polished purple hot-rod fly by at super-speed. I look from my window and see him flash by and note that he ignores the red light on the corner and the one by the school and the one beneath the BART tracks. No one follows. This is not a good 'sign,' I think; it does not suggest peacein the New Year . . .
But is it a sign and if this is a sign, what kind of sign is it? One easily ignored or one arriving with as much vigor and determination as the fragile pink of the hyacinth beneath the leafless still-blooming rose? Is it sign of continued decay, rising anger? A sign of dismay or simple youthful recklessness? Or one of bizarre hope, the extreme hope to get from here to there at speed without crashing?
The pink heart above covers a hastily spray-painted swastika, a sign emblazoned on two phone poles at the opposite ends of one block by some misdirected (or angry) individual. Some days later, another more concerned and thoughtful resident (or passer by), stenciled pink hearts over the swastikas, imposing a beauty and grace over disorder and suggested mayhem. The signs shifted and the social environment of the block shifted. Anger was translated into peace.
How do we discover harmonious solutions to complicated life puzzles? By ignoring signs, or by recognizing signs and then re-imagining them, re-purposing them? By translating the negative to the positive? By learning a new language, unearthing a vocabulary of justice, discovering the grammar of love?
Maybe the only solution is to open our arms to life, to wake, to rise, to sleep, to be.
I suppose it's all in how we sing it.
And dance it.