Sunday, May 29, 2011

A week after the destruction

Just a week ago, I was sitting and doing emails and projects when I heard an odd sound like a freight train approaching the house. I looked up to see wildly thrashing trees, doing bends that trees aren't designed for. I grabbed Charlie, the dog, and went to sit in the hallway, out of direct view of the windows.

My ears popped. The electricity went off. It was over in a minute or two, and I looked out the door and called Peter to describe what I was seeing. The tornado warning sounded just as the wind moved on, and shortly afterward, sirens near and far. We had just experienced a tornado, a half-mile wide, which touched down twice, going through the heart of the Minneapolis north side.

Our own losses were not large, though sad: We lost two and a half trees, which all fell into the street and were cleared out by the city the next day. Two days without electricity were novel experiences, teaching me how much I rely on the Internet.

The main impact on me personally was the emotional exhaustion from rambling around the neighborhood and seeing
so much damage, especially to the trees, but buildings as well. A positive experience was actually seeing so many of my neighbors out in the streets checking up on each other - many of whom I hadn't ever seen. What a rich diversity we represent - in age, race, and culture. I hope to find more opportunities to connect with neighbors in happier ways.

Monday, May 2, 2011

A Happy (Chilly) May Day to All!

I wrote this earlier today while waiting for a ride home.

Last year, the May Day festival in my town was held in a summer-like glow of blooming lilacs and late tulips, the leaves fully emerged on most trees.  This year, the tulips are up, bravely, but the tree buds have been shy to come forth, leaves still mostly just peeking their noses out, but unwilling to spread out into the chilly air.  Around Powderhorn Lake, after the parade, the temperature seemed to drop even more, as a few flakes of snow skittered into my face.  I got too chilled to stay for the pageant, in spite of full winter garb (heavy fleece pants, long johns, heavy fleece shirt, winter coat, winter gloves).  Children's faces were a bit pinched from the cold, yet they called out, "Happy Mayday!" with gusto.

Now I am taking refuge in the May Day Cafe, a block or two from the park.  There were lines when I came in - for the hot drinks and bathroom - but most people have filtered out now, either back to the park or home for the day.

The walls here are decorated with photos from earlier May Day parades, the well-worn wooden tables littered with the program from this year.  The theme was "Caws to Unite!"

Thinking of the images and of the parade itself makes me a bit teary - not in a sentimental way, but from a place of deep unease.  Our generally progressive state ended up with a Republican congress and a Democrat governor.  So to avoid having legislation vetoed, the Republicans are proposing two state constitutional amendments: one to (in perpetuity) define marriage as between one man and one woman, and the other to require a state-issued picture ID with current address for someone to be able to exercise their "privilege" (as one legislator put it) to vote.  The estimate I read this morning is that up to 440,000 people could be potentially disenfranchised in any given election .  This is being rammed quickly through despite no evidence of any measurable voter fraud.  I have seldom felt this sucker-punched.

Yet - these happy children today, dressed as crows of warning on their stilts, or carried in wagons as seedlings and hatchlings of the future, do provide hope.  Surely - if not in my lifetime - the powers of love and respect in this country will overcome the powers of fear and ignorance.
Click to see the sleeping fledglings
This gathering was more somber than some, in the black garb of the crows beginning and ending the parade, and in the wintery gray sky -- yet surprisingly, the crowd lining the streets was large and glad.  The goodness and power of the springtime is free for us all.  Laughter can't be taxed, or packaged for the market.  Our children to come won't hate us if we fail to hold strong against the political backlash of fear and ignorance, but they will pity us.

May we hold strong instead, and leave a legacy of celebration, inclusion, and wisdom.  From the street chants of my youth:  the people // united // will never be defeated.