Thursday, January 28, 2010
I am Peregrine
1. I am Peregrine. Who I was or might have become is no longer of consequence. Only these words exist, words that have rattled around inside my head unspoken and unheard for so long they feel like stone I must pry from the frozen earth. So pry I will, because I need conversation, even if it is only with myself.
This morning, I saw a woman, a bag lady, a homeless person, standing in the doorway of the bakery to get out of the freezing rain that coated the walks and roadways and every twig and branch of the wisps of trees the bakery girls planted in the circular holes in the sidewalk left by the dying elms. The woman clutched a whole-grain, three seed roll, the roll that the beautiful hippie girl, Flower always offers the homeless when they come in to get warm.
Flower. So radiant, so beautiful, her eyes so clear and blue like a cloudless summer day. Sometimes, I think she has known no pain, but then, a shadow passes, and I know she has somehow managed to pass through pain and come out whole, or nearly whole on the other side. She wears long old-fashioned gingham plaid or flowered dresses and white flour-sack aprons smudged with whole-grain flour. Her dark hair has a few strands of grey, not unlike my own, or not unlike my own a few years ago. Her face is roundish, with a pointed cheek and her cheeks are pink, verging on red from the heat of all the ovens. She ties her hair back with strips of leather, but sweaty wisps of it come loose and dangle at her temples. She wears moccasins, much like mine, and I know, like me, she prefers bare feet and probably kicks off the moccasins the minute she leaves the bakery.
The woman, the bag lady, stood in the bakery doorway, which is recessed and protected from wind and rain to some extent, and took great hungry bites of the steaming three-seed roll. I could see the “smoke” of her breath and the wispier bits of steam rising from the roll from the shadows where I stood watching. A flock of pigeons rose of from the alley behind the bakery and flew in a single fluid motion, like water pouring through air, over the street through the freezing rain. I watched.
Suppose the rain froze to their feathers and they fell like stones to the pavement and shattered like glass. I held my breath, watching. And as I watched, the bag lady stepped out into the freezing rain, raised her face, and watched the pigeons dance in the sky. Even from where I stood, I could see joy on her weathered face. My hearth thumped. I wanted to go and place my hand on her arm and say, “Sister, we share a love of life and beauty,” but I did not. Instead, I stepped deeper into the shadows and hid behind the dumpster. The pigeons seemed immune to the cold.
In that dumpster, I found this notebook and this shattered pen. It still writes, if I hold the thin sharp shards of plastic in a tight grip. When the bag lady left, I slipped to the back door of the alley and let Stormlight, Flower’s younger sister, hand me a three-seed roll. Stormlight has honey-colored, long, wavy hair and wears the same flowered dressed and sack aprons as Flower always, and her feet were bare, though she must slip on her moccasins when she goes into the public areas of the bakery. I know bare feet violate a code, and a violation could cause the bakery to be shut down.
One roll a day isn’t much to eat, but some days, it’s all there is. The bakery is only open for lunch. And they are closed on Sundays.
Of course, other food is available. Food lives in dumpsters, for example, behind the grocers and the restaurants and bars. Others beg on the streets for money for food, but I do not. I like to stay out of sight. And at the village of the homeless, the tent city beyond the bridge behind the bakery, it’s possible, if one is desperate, to barter for food with other homeless people. But the price is more than I am willing to pay; I would rather starve, which is part of why I don’t live in the tent city or even go there any more.
~ Mary Taitt, 1001-1533-1a Rolandale Silk Creek Retreat House