the only reason to have a house (part 2).
we left the living word baptist church early in the morning. we had conflicting reports as to whether we'd be welcome there. frankie and lewis, two 10 year olds we met riding their bikes in the parking lot, seemed to think we'd be fine camped out behind the church. we startled the neighbors across the street and they thought we might just want to move along. so like i said, we got up early and crossed the st. john's river into palatka proper without coffee pretty early.
we found a nice little grassy park right on the river banks and settled down onto a bench that went all the way around a nice shady live oak. we made coffee and saw lots of people walking along the river. everyone seemed to know each other and there were signs and posters along the way. i took my cup of coffee down to get an idea of what was going on. there was a scroll of little baby footprints unrolled on one side of the walking path. there were other signs. signs documenting how many abortions take place in florida every year. signs linking the number of baby footprints to that number of abortions. a lady told me that it was a walk for life.
...it was a lot to take in that morning.
in a similar way, we hit the road early on the way out of high springs. the first baptist church of high springs has a pretty thriving day-care and the minister asked that we not be around in the morning as the kids were dropped off. so once again, katie and i packed up and headed across the street to the civic center for breakfast and coffee. before we sat our bikes down, before we got our stoves started, we saw local, small town politics in action. kirk eppenstein, larry travis, johnny thomas, were running for two seats on the board of city commissioners. there were banners, signs, and twenty people reminding traffic on US 441 to get out and vote. larry travis even had a go cart covered with his name.
katie and i were stopped and asked to sign a petition to place an amendment to "protect" marriage on the florida constitution. as much as i love the morning and the sunrise, thinking before coffee is a struggle. i got out that we weren't registered to vote in the state of florida and continued on to our picnic table. i spent my breakfast digesting the scene and keeping score on the lady petitioning voters. who signed the petition? who didn't? who did they target? were they hitting voters on the way in or out? i leaned in to try to overhear different conversations. i thought about protesting the petition. heckling them. making signs against their signs. i thought about taking a petition to keep the amendment from coming to vote in the next election. i had those upset shakes. i could tell that if i started talking about it, my heart would come out of my mouth.
coffee was how we met loren and found a second place to stay in neptune beach. shelby's coffee has a wonderful front porch running amuck with dogs and little toddlers and shaded by palmeto trees. turns out that loren, two tables down from us, was one fourth of the nicest group of musicians you would ever want to meet. the whole band lives together in a house named for the band, the chroma-dome. they have two bounding dogs, one playful cat, a living room that is one mic short of a full-on recording studio, and a stack of rolling stones. katie and i sat in the kitchen after dinner and got to listen to a chroma practice / jam session. i was looking over the october 20th issue of rolling stone and reading an article entitled 'the war inside the peace movement."
i thought the article was well written. i would say it is well worth taking a couple minutes to head on out to the local public library to check out the stack of rolling stone back issues. the article talks about groups such as operation truth (www.operationtruth.com/) and cindy sheehan (http://www.meetwithcindy.org/), and how they grapple with other peace organizers like the international answer (http://www.internationalanswer.org/). my new sources are a funny blend these days. katie and i stop at lots of gas stations to fill up our water bottles in the bathrooms. i always scan the headlines. local papers, usa today and when i'm lucky the new york times ... the rolling stone article was especially topical considering the headlines lately have been "2,000 Americans killed in the war in Iraq," "Lawmakers spar with execs from Exxon, Chevron over high prices, record profits, consumer pain."
a big reason for this trip for me is bike advocacy. i figure the more people that see bikes, the more people that start talking about bikes means the more people will remember how much fun pedaling around can be.
the only problem is that no one believes their home is bike friendly. really, i've ridden across north carolina, down south carolina and georgia, and i've come across florida into alabama. no one in these places thinks of their community as being safe for bikers. it was a big argument with my mom. her point was that it is not safe to bike around my hometown because people aren't used to seeing bikers. my point was nothing will ever change if people don't sart to see bikers. so i told her i would bike now and hope the streets got safer later.
wow. so far we've jumped from an abortion demonstrations in palatka, to a petition to ban gay marriage on the florida constitution in high springs, to an article about the peace movement across a nation, to me biking across the country in hopes of making roads safer for biking.
i've got the coffee shakes here on the back computer in the dizzy bean cafe so i might not be able to pull all of this together on my own. i also don't think i could put it so eloquently so i'll let wendell berry help out with a quote taken from the hidden wound.
"it occurred to me that there was another measure for my life than the amount or even the quality of the writing i did; a man, i thought, must be judged by how willingly and meaningfully he can be present where he is, by how fully he can make himself at home in his part of the world. i began to want desperately to learn to belong to my place. the test, it seemed to me, would be how content i could become to remain in it, how independent i could be, there, of other places."
- wendell berry. the hidden wound.
nothing really matters if it misses people, if it misses a community, if it has no home. no amount of theory or doctrine or petitioning or marching matters at all if it doesn't connect with people.
what is a walk? a sign? a scroll of baby feet? if it doesn't help families or mothers or babies.
what is a petition? or a sticker? or a website? or an organization? if it doesn't work on marriage enrichment or activities to bring families together or communities together to support better families.
what is a peace movement? a march? a protest? a demonstration? if the point is lost and it doesn't connect people with people and faces and hearts and real stories you can touch.
and what is a bike ride? what is bike advocacy? if it flashes through town quickly, whizzing downhill too fast to count. wouldn't a community benefit more to see the same rider all day everyday. doesn't a point need to be repeated to be remembered? doesn't your point need a home too.