Tuesday, May 15, 2007

from ground level

yesterday was a night out with my movie buds which means making the trek from my home on the west side of cleveland over to the east side (where the monday night cheapie theaters are located). generally, the trip to the other side of town via public transport takes about forty minutes, but I give myself a good hour, as I seem to have a propensity to get to the bus stop a minute too late. by giving myself lots of extra time I don't get stressed or worry about being late - always nice to have a little buffer. some might think this is a hassle - how much easier it would be to just jump in a car and go. jumping in a car may be easy and if I wanted to I could get a car to replace the car that died last year (unlike many of my fellow bus and train riders who are riding not out of choice but necessity).

but over this last year of being voluntarily car free, I've grown to love my choice and I don't want to take the easier 'route.' being car-free has made me feel so much more connected to my community. using public transportation instead of private transportation increases my chances of having a conversation with some interesting person, of stumbling on some 'everyday' miracle, or it just gives me some extra time to read a book or to gaze out the bus or train window taking in the sights while moving about the city. I have found that choosing public transportation can be, well - if you let it, be very centering and has helped me act on my beliefs about community.

when we first moved to cleveland I got a job working in medical education in the city's big public hospital. although I loved my job, I only stayed for seven years, it took that amount of time before the 'politics' of the hospital and my department got to me. during the last year I worked there, the atmosphere of the place became increasingly difficult and it seemed as though the mission to service, education and health was becoming secondary for so many of the 'higher ups' - what mattered more and more was 'the bottom line.' I was instructed that I needed to concentrate less on education and community-building and instead pursue activities that would contribute monies toward the 'bottom line.' let's say that did not sit well. around me my fellow workers were getting increasing frustrated, disenchanted, and morale was low. for myself, I thought 'time to make a change!' which I did - I have always taken the view that change is good especially when we are able to initiate the change ourselves and work on creating a better situation. okay, I digress, there is a point, while I was in that job, one of my titles included the word "community" - which of course did sit well very well with me. I felt that since I worked in a 'public hospital' and was an appointed 'community guru' (self or other appointed who is to know) I would work and try to enhance the sense of community in any way I could. it might seem silly, but one of the first things I did was order a few 'how to build community' posters for the clinic from the syracuse cultural workers catalog. these posters, by the way, were wonderful catalysts for initiating conversation among the clients in the waiting rooms. nurses, doctors and other clinic staff were often asked where the poster came from. over the years this poster has become a kind of 'talisman' for me, while I'm sitting in a bus or on a train or walking about my neighborhood or city, I often think about the 'laundry list' of community building advice offered on this poster -- powerful 'mouse medicine' for a building a healthy community.

anyhow, back to yesterday's journey (my tangents and digressions connect, I promise, I promise), instead of giving myself one hour to travel to meet my buds, since it was such a beautiful day and I had spent most of the day inside stitching, I gave myself two hours to head to the east side. I figured I would spend the extra hour wandering around lee road (the cedar lee theater is located on lee which is one of cleveland heights art and retail districts). the movie started at 7:15 and I left my house at 5:15. and yes, my propensities toward arriving a minute too late were in order - as I was walking out of the convenience store on the corner where I popped in to get change for my pass (a great deal, by the way, only 3.50 to ride the city's buses and trains all day! right now this is just a bit more than the cost of a gallon of gas - which would take me 25-35 miles depending on the car but not cover other hidden costs!), I saw a bus drive by - but no worries, I had no more than 15 and possibly only 5 or 10 minutes before another bus would come by. when I got to the rapid station surprisingly my timing was perfect, I was on the platform just a minute before a train came. when I got to the university circle rapid station I found I had a lot more than an hour before I had to be at the theater, I decided instead of jumping on a bus to lee road, I would walk. I'm not sure, but I expect it's only 2 1/5 or 3 miles from the rapid to the theater and on such a beautiful evening, it would be a lovely.

as I walked up the hill the first thing I encountered was a rabbit, sitting peacefully just five feet or so from the sidewalk. me being me, the first thing I thought of was drat, no camera! but then I realized I did have my cell phone which has a camera in it. so I stepped off the sidewalk bent down and snapped a picture of the rabbit. I felt terrible, the sound startled the rabbit and she jumped up and hopped a little way off. but when she did there was one of those little everyday miracles I'm so fond of - the rabbit was a mama rabbit and she was sitting on a litter of baby rabbits! I didn't want to 'contaminate' the area and make the mother rabbit abandon her babies, so after a quick glimpse of the sweet little fur balls, I turned back to the sidewalk. I proceeded to walk up the hill wondering why in the world a mother rabbit would choose that spot right along a noisy road just a few feet from a busy intersection. most curious. after meeting the rabbit, I soon found myself walking by a house under construction. I've driven by this house dozens of times, in a bus or in a car, but it was only yesterday while I was on foot that I noticed that this house being built is a straw-bale house.

I thought can my walk get any better - first baby bunnies and next a straw-bale house? no sooner than this thought entered my mind, I looked to my right at this wonderful old house with a great wide porch - two elderly black guys were sitting on the porch enjoying the fine evening. I saw them and smiled, they waved and shouted a friendly hello. I replied that it was a beautiful day. they nodded, said a few words and waved again and I proceed with my walk. how nice to be on ground level - it's at this level where one really feels part of the community - where one can see rabbits and baby bunnies, people helping the planet by building straw-bale houses, and where I delight in the fact that I live in a city of established neighborhoods with old houses with front porches where people like to sit and wave and say hi to passers-by.

today there's a campaign going on to not buy gas for the entire day of may 15th. somehow this act is supposed to send a message to the oil companies? while the intentions are noble, my basic reaction to this idea of not buying gas for a day is: geez, how bogus. if people really want to send a message to the oil companies we don't need to not buy gas for a day -- we need to change our habits - we need to not drive our cars for a day, a week, a month. we need to be part of our communities. we need to embrace sustainable practices and habits. we need to not always take the easy route and join the action at ground level - we need to walk, ride a bike, take a bus, take the train! let me tell you when you do, it's a gas!


Anonymous said...

Beautiful column, but please don't transgress the English language! You digress in your column, not transgress! ;-)

mouse (aka kimy) said...

merci! my secret editor....i knew I was 'gressin' just chose the wrong one.... thank you, I fixed my transgressions of the vocabulary (now I think I'm accurate??) peaceon! :)

Anonymous said...

I loved this one Kim--Feeling in need of a bit of a change from working in a "caring organisation" myself. Looking forward to being away and I'll see you soon