“Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world.” ~Howard Zinn.
I don’t have many memories of changing seasons from my childhood. Perhaps, before global warming, the weather in England went from cold and rainy to cool and rainy! I am sure I must have seen the autumnal colors, resplendent in oranges and reds. I probably kicked through dried leaves, jumping on them to hear the crisp crackle. I remember singing songs about the cold wind blowing, a sign that ‘we shall have snow, and what will poor robin do then?’ I remember foggy days, and did I mention rain? Probably it was the Christian celebrations that had more of an impact on me, I noticed Easter for the chocolate Easter Eggs rather than the Spring buds, and of course Christmas was noteworthy, with all the joy that that entailed.
When we moved to Jamaica, with its round the year tropical sunshine, we discovered that there were two seasons, rainy and dry. Living up in the hills we could always notice a cool feel to the mornings, before the sun climbed up over the neighboring ridges and burnt off the dew. If the dry season persisted too long, the scorched ground became dusty and brown. Fields cried out for water. When the rains came, they drenched everything. The clouds would build and darken, and often, if you were home from school, you would hear the rain coming through the cane piece long before the first huge, cold drop hit your zinc roof. That rain did not play! If caught in it you would go from dry to drenched in 3 seconds flat! The earth would show its gratitude, green growth springing up everywhere. But oh, the mud. We used to wear ‘galoshes’, rubber boots that would wrap around our regular shoes. If you weren’t careful those would fill with water too, sloshing cold water inside them, freezing your toes. Umbrellas were no use against the force of the tropical downpour. You were better off in raincoat and rain hood. Better yet, stay put indoors until the rain passed, and it went from cool rain to steamy heat.
It is now what passes for Fall in South Florida. In years gone by we would have been appreciating a cool start to the day, a need to walk with a sweater in the evenings. Nowadays we are given a break of a few degrees drop in temperature, a small break in the humidity. And so we watch with longing and a little bit of jealousy as our friends from northern regions post pictures online of a riot of colors, that rich autumnal palette. We don’t have to worry about a garden full of fallen leaves which can turn to a mushy mess if the rain should fall. We don’t feel the bitter turn of the wind as it tries to bore through layers of beautiful sweaters and handsome leather jackets. From a two-dimensional window we stare at the views provided by our friends and bask in the air-conditioned comfort of our Florida homes.
Even as there is ever more news of the dangers of social media, of the potential abuse of this medium by political operatives, sneaky spies, malicious bots, I cannot imagine a world without my community of friends. This visual storybook gives me access to people and places; I go on travels with people I only know by name; I see the antics of the children and grandchildren of family members who live thousands of miles away. I am kept up to date on milestones, on celebrations, on tragedies, so that when I meet people in the flesh I can sympathize or congratulate.
Last weekend, as I celebrated with friends and family the 40th birthday of my firstborn, I also heard a beautiful interview on the radio. Two church women spoke of the magic of ‘accompaniment’, a word which I associated with singing, with the piano, organ, guitar, drums that can accompany a choral performance. But they were using the term to describe the joy of traveling through life with others. They were talking of the act of eating together in a community as an occasion for sharing, for breaking bread, but most of all, for being in one place and treasuring the diversity and richness that can ensue when people come together joyfully.
This week we lost an icon, a giant among men. Elijah Cummings stood for many things, but what was most noteworthy as a politician was his ability to reach across divides to pull people together. At a time when subversives have managed to draw stark lines between our communities, his call to us to be ‘better than this’ should echo in our heads like a drumbeat. When forces work hard to keep us apart, we should work harder than ever to find community.
To my friends up north, please keep sharing your shots of autumn leaves, and when those cold winds disrupt the piles that you had just raked up, I hope our photos will comfort you. To all of those friends and family that have been accompanying me on my journey through life, I give thanks for the jokes and stories we have shared, the moments of pure joy that can gladden the heart. As the year winds down and in the US, Thanksgiving approaches, let us do our part to reach outside of our own immediate community, to find those who may be left out, and bring them into a new community.
Have a wonderful weekend, Family!