Imagine the world without anger, without greed. We have the power, the tools, the skills and the resources right now to build a peaceful world, where people live in harmony with the Earth and each other. This blog explores ways we are doing just that, one post, one change, one day at a time. Join me. Tell your stories. Ask for help. Spread your ideas for making the vision real and, well, ordinary.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

What the plaza teaches me when I stand for peace today

Elderly couple, two of the regulars we see
each week during our stand
© L Kathryn Grace - All rights reserved
Sharon, the other grandmother with whom I stand for peace in front of San Francisco City Hall each week, is sick today--flu bug. For the first time, I stand by myself. Surprisingly, I do not feel alone.

It is chilly this morning. I wish I'd worn longjohns under my trousers. Seeking comfort, I stand close to one of the pollarded trees at the front of the sycamore grove.

Suddenly, heat flows from the tree, mere inches away, as though she sensed my chill and radiated extra just for me. Somehow she has warmth to spare until the sun peaks over the tall buildings behind us, casting its bright rays across the plaza, dancing off the gold leaf trim on City Hall.

One by one, the Saturday morning regulars file by: The young man with the long, blond hair, always in sweat pants, pacing steadily and slowly round the plaza perimeter, a half smile on his face; the two Chinese women, about my age, who take their exercise in the grove, vigorously stretching, their voices happy, animated, sometimes laughing; and finally, the elderly couple.

At first, as always, she pushes the wheel chair just behind her husband until, fatigued, he stops and steps back so she can help him sit down, ever so gently. She turns the chair and waits patiently while a family of tourists--little ones, teenagers, moms and dads, perhaps an aunt or uncle, grandparents--pose for a picture. The gilding on City Hall's rotunda and doors sparkle behind them.

Each member of the family must have a picture. In twos and threes, they trade places, stepping from the little group to face them, shouting instructions as individuals regroup and pose for the shot.

One of the older men coughs violently, walks all the way to the street, spits into the gutter and returns. Having lived in the city for a number of years, experienced all manner of rude behavior, so much that I expect it rather than thoughtfulness, I feel a heart-tug blessing at this simple gesture: Showing respect for his family, the plaza, for the people who walk and recreate and work here.

While she waits for the family to get their photographs, the old woman removes a glove from her husband's hand and rubs it with both of hers, massaging his arm through his jacket, all the way to the shoulder. He leans sideways in the chair, as though their short walk so fatigued him he cannot sit straight.

All the while, his wife smiles at the family and their children, at their happiness in being here together, their animation.

Happy tourist family posing while other family
members snap their pix
© L Kathryn Grace - All rights reserved
A man with a dog, blind in one eye, comes along. The dog is as big as the Shetland pony we saw here last week, (America's Got Talent was auditioning and yes, people brought their dog and pony shows). The children ask if they can pet the dog, while the entire family gathers round, admiring this enormous animal, asking questions. Soon the cameras come out once more. Everyone must have a picture of the family posing with the tall American and his enormous, fluffy, one-eyed dog.

When they've finished with their pictures, one of the men breaks away from the group and approaches me. In age, he is nearly in the middle: Younger than the senior couple of their company, older than the young couple, possibly grandfather to the children.

"Excuse me," he says in broken English, gently polite, smiling. "Do you know name of these trees?"

His question touches my heart. He has noticed them, these trees in whom I take comfort each week, cares enough to wonder what they are. Behind him, his family eagerly watches us. The trees matter to them as well.

They may be sycamores, I tell him, judging by their mottled bark. Later, I'll confirm my guess online; I've always meant to look it up. He smiles again. So do I.

Giving and receiving small blessings, we make peace

Such small things: The warmth and strength from the tree next to me; the woman rubbing her husband's arms to keep the circulation going while she waits patiently for the family to finish their excited picture taking; the man and his family, joyful in their time together, giving care for the other people who use this plaza, and curious about these trees, standing military-column straight in their truncated deformity; the man with his dog, engaging with this family from another land.

These small things bring peace to my heart as easily as my grandaughters' smiles. Taking my meditation in this public place, I am blessed. My heart beats softly in my chest, my limbs supple, warm in the sun.

I give gratitude for my stand today, for these trees, for their ability to communicate if we are still enough to pay attention, for the laughter and smiles and love of these people, one for the other, and for the privilege of witnessing their love.

May each and every one of them, each and every one of you who find this page, be so blessed, wherever you may be, whatever your day may hold.

I've been absent from this blog for a few weeks. I'll tell you about that in a couple of days. At least, that's the plan. I have posted pix and short bits about each of our stands for peace on another page. You can see it here: Two Grandmothers Stand for Peace.

We make peace in a million small ways every day.
All text and images, unless otherwise noted, copyright L. Kathryn Grace. All rights reserved.


kario said...

I love that you find peace as you stand for it and I love that you continue to do this. Thanks for this glimpse in to life in SF that I wouldn't otherwise know existed.

Rita said...

This warmed my heart. I could imagine standing there with you. You were my eyes. I could feel the love you radiate! What a wonderful thing to stand for peace! Kudos. You made my day! :)

Sharon said...

Oh Kate, this is my favorite Stand post so far! I can see all I missed so easily as I read this. I can also feel the gentle compassion and love in your heart as you tell the story. That is the peace and the reason to stand... to experience the moments you describe, to be able to share the story with others and have them say to you, "I get it."

I will rejoin you Saturday, come rain, cold or cane!

Kathryn Grace said...

Kario, Rita and Sharon, you are welcome all. I did not know, when I first agreed to do these stands, how deeply they would affect me. They are a gift. Thank you, each for stopping by and for understanding.

Dee said...

Dear Kathryn Grace,
Thank you, from the bottom of my heart where the Holy Oneness of All Creation of which you and I and the cats and all those gracious people of your post and the sycamores are a part. This posting inundated me with peace and contentment. With the calm certainty that where I am today is where it is good for me to be. You truly inspire me.


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