Out in the cold

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“You can present the material, but you can’t make me care.”
― Bill Watterson

Just another winter’s day, just another icy commute in the dark. You can hear the shuffling of footsteps on the frozen ground. No one speaks, no one smiles, we all just keep moving..

People waking to and fro, many in a hurry, most of them with the same look; that same glazed over gaze which extends beyond the person right next to them as if the other person, the fellow human is not there at all. It is a tunnel vision of sorts, it could be more of a selective vision. It is an acquired ability. We are not born with it; this talent for ignoring the obvious.

 

It comes out of necessity and takes practice.  In this rapidly changing world, many of us are getting a lot of practice. If you live in a large urban area you probably know what I mean…

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I know you’ve seen them: Their swelling number are almost impossible to ignore. The tents and blue tarps under bridges, the huddled sleeping figures in crowded doorways.  It’s not just in my city or yours, it’s everywhere.

And it scares the hell out of me. And I shiver. From the cold or that icy fear or both I don’t know.

Last night in my city of Portland, Oregon a newborn baby died possibly from exposure, sitting in its homeless mothers arms. This would be the 5th person to die from the cold in the last 2 weeks here.

 

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What kind of people are we? We forsake our most vulnerable citizens. It is a sickness I think this indifference. One of ills of our society and one that just seems to be growing.

We are told those less unfortunate deserve their fate. It is easy to want to believe that. That means if I work hard and toe the line and do what I am told. I too won’t be one of those less unfortunate ones, it is tempting to want to believe this; it feels safer.

At least I think it does…

I think of all the people in the US who have just lost their health insurance. Again I could be indifferent here, I have mine. To me, seeing a doctor is not a luxury…yet.

I have a warm home and enough food to eat.

Why should I worry about these strangers? Many of them are probably drug addled or mentally ill. They probably want to be out here. They like living on the fringes of society. No bills , no responsibilities. Not my problem… Right?

funny-sign-man-hookers

The man at the bus stop with the unkempt beard and the wild eyes. He is hard not to notice; wrapped in a tattered blanket he is shouting obscenities at the sky.  My pulse quickens;  I am scared and I tiptoe past him hoping he doesn’t notice me, I walk down to the next stop.

Nothing is all black or white. But we are all human from the innocent babe to the wild man at the bus stop. We are all part of the same human family. I admit it is easier to care about the pretty, the untarnished, the salvageable.

homeless-man-face

 

I imagine the man with the wild eyes was that too once; pretty, untarnished, salvageable. Now he is just part of the wreckage left behind to lurk in the shadows, in the cold doorways, watching everyone look away…

Something to ponder on…

 

 

~nlm

 

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“The most terrifying fact about the universe is not that it is hostile but that it is indifferent, but if we can come to terms with this indifference, then our existence as a species can have genuine meaning. However vast the darkness, we must supply our own light.”
Stanley Kubrick

 

 

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Winterbirds, Lost ducks and Moonlight

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Winter has come. It has descended from the sky like a great and terrible bird;  declaring itself with a wicked wind that howls and screeches. Gripping you in it’s talons and keeping you there–chilling you to your bones. Bringing along a blanket of snow and ice that has worn out its welcome days ago, much of it trampled on, trodden on and fouled with soot and dirt and yellowish stains.

It is dark and cold; about 15 ºF with the windchill. I have deemed this yet another “3 layer day”, I am bundled up head to toe, all in black except for a flourish of hot pink scarf. I stand out against the whitish snow and in the moonlight. The beautifully bright and full moon has been kind to us early risers sticking around for a viewing well past the time I catch the 4:59 a.m. train.

night-snow

These are the days that will make me appreciate summer all the more I think. It is hard to see out the windows out into the darkness but I can make out in that same kind moonlight Under some of the bridges and overpasses I can see the outlines of tents flapping in that horrid wind.

I don’t know how I would fare out there without a home in the cold. I bitch and complain bundled up in my new warm coat, on my way to a nice warm office building. I have nothing to complain about.

The train gets me downtown where I catch an express bus that takes me the rest of the way. It is quite a commute but affords me the time to think. This I haven’t had for a while.

The sun is rising as the bus careens down the highway, making up for lost time I suppose. The sky is pink and orange; strange and beautiful against the whiteness of everything. streets. Metal towers and giant apartments are starting to litter the skyline as never before. There is a building boom. It seems everyone wants to move to quirky Portland.

The bus takes me to a suburb called Tualitin. I have a new job. It is better than the last one.  I have a lot to be grateful for.

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I can’t help but laugh at the poor lost ducks on the frozen pond that is adjacent to the building, they stand there waiting for everything to return to normal.

Nothing ever returns to “normal”. Just the definition of what normal is, changes.

~nlm

 

 

 

frozen-crows-portland
“Crows in Snow”by Walter Berg. Portland, Oregon. January 2017

 

“All that you touch
You Change.

All that you Change
Changes you.

The only lasting truth
is Change.”

Octavia E. Butler