all at once

i am driving crosstown on a late September Seattle Saturday
there is only one cloud in the placid bluesky;
a long white wisp clinging to the summit of Rainier

in traffic on the West Seattle bridge, I notice a plane towing a banner
it is difficult to read
and i see other drivers craning their necks upward
squinting
is it a marriage proposal? an advertisement?
finally, i make it out.
“WHO CAN HELP?” it asks
the answer is printed too small to read.
i wonder if it is a rhetorical question,
or if someone simply planned their banner poorly.

at 14th and Dearborn,
I sit at a traffic light and watch two homeless men
argue
one is shirtless, well-built and very aggravated
he shouts unintelligibly,
lunges at the other man in sudden, abrupt movements,
arms darting out from his sides
in a way i associate with methamphetamines
his adversary is smaller, quieter, and carries a backpack
the light is long,
and they advance and retreat on each other like animals
fighting over territory*
(*I second-guess this simile a dozen times.
am I trading in on their humanity for the sake of a satisfying metaphor?
)
i am worried for the smaller man
he is less angry, but unwilling to back down
other homeless men look on,
their faces tell the story of a thousand altercations
the experience of knowing better than to get involved
i wonder if the cops would even show
and if they did,
would their actions be called “helping”
?

a few weeks ago, I heard a man relate
that his work with the incarcerated has led him to the observation
that since the shootings of police officers last year
cops are more rigid
more likely to throw a homeless person in jail for urinating in public
than to help them find the services they need.
we get hurt, he mused, and we become tighter.

ravens swoop over the intersection
one carrying a piece of bread
the light changes
i drive on

a few minutes later i am sitting in soft grass
breastfeeding in the warm sun beside the car
waiting for my husband
C eats with calm, focused intensity
two gulps
then a breath
two gulps
then a breath
i am thinking about my dharma homework for the week

“is there anything that does not change?”

as i struggle to come up with more than a yes/no answer
i wonder if the cloud has drifted off the mountain
if the plane is still circling the city with its inscrutable banner
if the men are still arguing on 14th and Dearborn
if the ravens have finished the scrap of bread
i look down and realize my son will never be this small again

perhaps the only thing that does not change
is the capacity of the world to contain every emotion
every kind of experience
in every single moment
of every single day.

so much beauty
so much confusion
so much anger
so much love

all at once
if only we are paying attention.

getting started on a fall hat for a friend while Ryan paints the laundry room and lil' C kicks it in the bouncy chair. photo by Andrea Fuentes-Diaz.

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6 Comments

Filed under autumn weather, Change, Dharma, motherhood, Ordinary, poetry, september in seattle, watching it all go by

6 responses to “all at once

    • theresa

      You are spinning again.
      On an old wheel.

      That spinning is life.

      What comes around

      Goes around

      and continues into one long, strong, colorful thread

      a boy lifting his head up

      Flipping over

      A mom finding her breath, letting it out slowly and… taking another

      A father finding awe at his baby boy changing day by day

      the grandparents seeing precious moments again from a most treasured past….

      People finding time to slow down and savor the joy of life’s most precious moments

      the grace of paying attention

      You at your wheel, w/ wee boy and partner, paints the sky

      What a way to start “vacation”

    • sarahalisabethfox

      thanks so much for taking the time to read it, Peter.
      !!

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