Reaching from afar

March 3, 2017

I did not plan to be away during the inauguration and following rallies and marches. Last April when my dear college friend and I were planning our trip to Patagonia, there were not even formal nominees, let alone thoughts about whether to march or where. It wasn’t until December that we put together the timing, realizing that we were leaving two days before Inauguration Day. We were in Buenos Aires during the ceremony itself and in transit between Buenos Aires and El Calafate on the day of the marches.

El Calafate is the on-deck site for Perito Moreno glacier, one of the few glaciers that is maintaining itself; it is growing as fast as it is calving and is thus considered stable. Located in the middle of Argentina, it is a dramatic and stunning rendering of a moving river of ice.

I worried that there could be trouble at the marches. Although designed as a peaceful statement, crowds can be unpredictable, especially when emotions run high, and who knows what would happen? And what could I do from thousands of miles across the planet?

There was wifi in our hotel room and a friend from Scotland posted a photograph of throngs of people in Edinburgh. Tears sprang to my eyes at the thought of people from another country, in a city where my daughter attends University, gathering in acknowledgment and support of concerns on our soil.

In the next minute my daughter exclaimed about the planes that are loaded with people from the UK who are coming to Washington. The tears slipped down my cheeks as I thought about the kind of commitment of time, resources and conviction that this requires and wondered what I would do if I were home.

I believe in speaking up, in being heard, and I believe in people gathering to express concerns, but I am not thrilled about being in huge crowds. When I attended the Paul Simon/ Sting concert at the Garden, I vowed it would be my last concert in this kind of venue.

I posted a request for people to be safe, and went to sleep hoping for the best. The next day my friend and I headed out to hike on the glacier (on the sides, where it is more stable). Later we walked around to view its otherworldly and strikingly beautiful face, jagged jutting pieces of pale and deeper blue overlapping and looking so permanent.

As we gazed at it, we heard a crack like thunder and a small chunk broke off and crashed into the turquoise water. The height of the glacier is equivalent to a twenty story building, and the little chunk that came off was the size of a Mini Cooper, our guide informed us.

Upon return to the hotel, one friend described her experience in Washington, D.C., on the train, then walking as streams of people joined from different streets to converge in larger masses as they flowed together.

I thought about the tributaries of the glacier, rivers of ice and how even though they seem static, they are in fact dynamic, changing structures. It was a good reminder that the reality we are living today is not permanent. I was bowled over by how quickly so many people mobilized all over the world to make clear that threats regarding people’s freedoms and threats to our planet’s health are not going unanswered. Even as I heard people’s frustration about wishing there was more to do, it has become clear that leaders can and will emerge from this chaos. It is not clear yet who, or what forum they will take, but it is early days. The vitality, creativity, and passion are real, and I could feel it all the way in Argentina and Chile. Knowing everyone was okay, and seeing pictures of my husband and older daughter’s thrilled faces, the tears let loose. These are my people. They are all my people. And they are everywhere, ready to mobilize, protect and connect. The question of whether or not I might have marched fades away. We all have our parts, and they are all important, as long as we are all heading toward the same river.

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