Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Richard... 'to spin a life'

"...after all, one can set up a home anywhere, and 'spin a life', as M. Dabrowska was writing..." 

- this came in an email from a long-time friend in my country of origin, in response to my mentioning  the tent-city in seattle.  i put into google the quote by the writer she mentioned, because it captured so well the essence of human efforts to just keep on living sometimes.

unfortunately, the quotation search came empty - i wanted to see the context of this beautiful phrase which i roughly translated above.  the meaning of the words  i translated as 'spin a life'  is easily lost in english, where one has to chose between 'spin', reel off', 'warp', 'maunder', weave', and 'conjure up' - it's all of that and more, and brings an image of life wafting like a chimney smoke - up and who knows where...

my good old friend picked up on the theme of human kindness that goes on in nickelsville, especially on the news of  Donna and Bruce honeymoon in vancouver  - she wrote how uplifting she found to know this.  but the potted pansies adorning someone's tent (i forgot i mentioned that bit) was to her an utmost symbol of all that is beautiful in life for those in the tent decorated such way, and those lucky enough to stumble upon it to see it.

"... and by the way, how are these tents heated?..."  she wanted to know.  

why, when i lived where she still lives i, too, would have thought that even the tents for the homeless in the mighty-rich america MUST be heated somehow,  some way:)...  NO?!!!  my friend doesn't know english language well enough to read this blog  so i'll have to write her back that the tents, sadly,  aren't heated:(...

which brings me to Richard, who is probably right now again pushing the snow down the hill in nickelsville,   hoping it melts soon.  it stopped snowing now,  and we didn't get that much of it, but the temps hovering around freezing keep on the ground whatever we've got.

at least he has some warm clothes now - Richard told me that when the december cold snap happened, someone actually came to nickelsville and made a list, going from tent to tent, and asking what specifically everybody needs.  much better targeted help than what the neighbors of nickelsville did in the instant  attempt of help when the first flakes started falling:  within hours nickelsville was covered with bags and bags of clothes.  the sea of swelling black garbage bags was quite a sight, conjuring an image of u-district people all at once busily going through their closets to share any warm clothes they could spare.  but i wondered how on earth anybody can sift through it under still falling snow and in freezing temps.

i never found out who (or what organization or elf) came up with the idea of asking personally who needs what, and Richard didn't seem to know, either, but he was very happy to get really warm pants, a pair of sturdy shoes and a warm fur hat only 2 days into the freeze, and with 10-12 days to go, as it turned out.

Richard has been coming  to greet and chat with me since i started coming to nickelsville.  we always share a hug and he kind of briefs me about the news of the camp.  everybody is friendly and waves, but nobody besides him  interrupts his/her live to step into mine, except for helping me with the soup. long before i started this blog i used to think of Richard as some sort of a chronicler, who always finds a few minutes to put things in perspective and make some oral record of nickelsville's life to whoever would want to know about it.  i'm very much drawing on things Richard told me over the months to now write down all i know.  without his short but steady commentaries my own nickelsville's experience would be that of soup-to-soup only, with probably not much continuity to it.

it is Richard, who told me about efforts/ideas to buy a land for the camp, instead of risking being let go from every place they have rented so far, although he says  he doesn't know if they'll be able to collect enough money, ever.  from him i know that on the average the camp turns away several people each night due to full capacity.  he also, if i ask,  sometimes tells me about people  leaving the camp, which is how a learned about my very first friend there, Brian, breaking some rules and being booted out of nickelsville with no hope for return;  the sad post about Brian is yet to be written.  

but i know surprisingly little about Richard himself - his commentaries are of societal nature, not personal, and until recently, he studiously avoided actually going to the church kitchen.  he never explained why;  asked if he would like to help, he would only smile and say before departing:  'i'll find someone'.  he was usually back within 5 minutes with a said 'someone' - that day volunteer-cook.

last week the camp was decimated by too many new people breaking too many rules at once, or something similar, i gathered from Richard's answer to 'where is everybody?'.  it looked like many residents were gone, tents folded and no usual crowd milling around.  breaking the rules means police being involved and being booted forever, i think.  there seem to be no '3 strikes and you're out' rule here. one strike is all the chances you get to stay in nickelsville.

so, for the first time Richard trekked to the church kitchen with me to cook the soup, as there was not many 'some-ones' to get at this time.  he cooked just fine, and it was obviously not his first contact with kitchen and cooking - i thought that maybe he doesn't like to cook, it happens, but no, now he told me about pleasures of cooking for friends.  why he avoids going to warm kitchen i'll probably never know, all i learned  is that he was born and raised in seattle, with some time living in california, but now back to his home state.  he is  one of the few true seattleites i met in the camp so far.  so many people are from far away places:  how they ended up in seattle from texas or virginia would be a good topic for a separate blog. 

i'll sign off with a quotation i came across from the same writer Maria Dabrowska, who inspired the title of this post (my own lousy translation):

'in the droplets of everydayness, one can see, like in the ocean, the entire sky reflected.'

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