Monday, June 1, 2015

working witness

Today I paused at the top of the hill where the school stands, looking down over the nursery fields laid over the river flats like a banded quilt.   

Rows and rows of roses.  

I said this to my son and he repeated it delightedly.  We were like two birds, calling back and forth, claiming space for ourselves or just for the joy of the sound.  

Rows of rose in rows, he said again, his golden hands moving like birds, his dark eyes shining.  

We laughed.  Variation an intensification of delight.  After he had run inside to beat the bell, I stayed, watching the dark bundled forms of workers move through the fine drizzle, through the field of flowers.  

I try not to presume misery, nor content.  If I can,  I would always wait to hear from those whose story it is.

And though I can say this outside work in all weathers is some I've done for the next farm over and done with deep pleasure and occasional grumbling -- I can only say it for my own experience, once a week and by choice and for only a year or two.  I do know it's hard work.  Not well paid.  With little legal protections, nor net of support.  But also good work, wholesome, honorable.  Which I sometimes think we have forgotten.  And which we too often dishonorably disdain. 

It was in itself a beautiful scene, the darkly defined shapes moving across vivid bands of red and rose and pink and white.  Men and women who could be my son's aunts and uncles, long lost cousins.  I had paperwork to do with me in the car and so sat, overlooking the flowered field, working at my own less fruitful work, glancing up from time to time, until when I glanced up there were no more workers.  

Where had they gone? Into the two small disused school buses? To another field?  The rows of roses were less interesting without them.

I turned back to my stack of papers.

And then glancing up, I saw a mother with her daughters coming from my son's school for some early appointment.  Smiles flashing, their dark shining heads bent towards each other, papers flapping in the wind from their hands.  As they passed in front of my window, the youngest, with a long black braid, turned and, stretching her hand high, waved.  Thin and vivid as a bird, she stood looking out over the field below.  She stretched to her utmost height, waving with all her might.  

Down below in the field, the bundled figures had re-emerged.

The bright-faced girl blazed with joy when one of them straightened and waved again up to her.  Her grin, the ecstatic intensification of her returning wave,  re-echoed in the even more emphatic waving arm below. I recognized that call-and-response of love and delight.  The bridge they made between them, connecting field work and the hilltop school. 

And flaring up in me also a sudden hope, a bridging gratitude to have been a witness of this all.  My true work, as always, witnessing.

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