Wednesday, December 21, 2011


New York City seems more than miles away from our home in Arkansas.

As I sit on the front porch surrounded by oak trees and silence, I could easily forget that civilization exists beyond our five rural acres. The solitude lends itself to reflection, particularly with Christmas only  days away.

I turn to selected lines from one of my favorite poems, "Dawn Psalm,"*  by Thomas Merton.

When no one listens
To the quiet trees

When no one notices
The sun in the pool

Where no one feels
The first drop of rain
Or sees the last star

Or hails the first morning
Of a giant world
Where peace begins
And rages end:

One bird sits still
Watching the work of God:
One turning leaf,
Two falling blossoms,
Ten circles upon the pond.

One cloud upon the hillside,
Two shadows in the valley
And the light strikes home.

*(Book of Hours by Thomas Merton, pages 93-94.)

Cardinal on our window ledge 

In the silence of Nature, we will find it.
May we take time this holiday season -- to listen.

Happy Holidays!
I will resume my blog from NYC the first week of January.




Monday, December 12, 2011

Santas Here, Santas There, Santas, Santas Everywhere!

I noticed one Santa,
That's it, only one,
On the corner at Starbucks
Soaking up sun.

Three more then joined him
coffee in hand.
Where had they come from,
but Northern Pole land?

Hundreds came streaming,
(or at least ninety-nine),
like ants down the sidewalk,
in sort of a line.

But it wasn't just Santas,
white hair on their chins.
Along came a dreidel
ready for spins.

The mystery was growing.
I joined in the flow.
I had to, just had to
be one in the know.

I followed a couple,
dressed to the nines
as Mr. and Ms. Santa
in snazzy designs.

came into view
awash in red costumes
and hullabaloo.

Twittering and texting
from hither and yon,
they joined as one body
called. . . SantaCon.

Then a small, furry Santa, 
the cutest in sight,
barked "Merry Christmas
  to all and to all a good night."


Monday, December 5, 2011


One of my favorite words. . . serendipity.  Dictionaries divulge its meaning as a "happy accident or pleasant surprise; specifically, the accident of finding something good or useful without looking for it."(Wikipedia)
It sounds like a word we should dance to, under a moonlit sky, with glistening fairy dust falling on our heads.  There's something magical about it.  Nothing we can foresee, control, plan for.  It simply happens, and it's always good.

Serendipity visited me this week.  It was "yoga night," and I was late.  I hurried down Broadway towards Trinity Church in lower Manhattan, where my class had already started.  I was going against the flow of workers headed in the opposite direction towards waiting commuter buses and already crowded subway stations.  I felt jostled like a silver-haired ball making its way towards the merciful hole at the end of a pinball game.  I allowed frustration to mount and stress seethe as I elbowed my way towards 50 (now more like 30) minutes of mindfulness.

Arriving amidst huffs and puffs which would have put the Big Bad Wolf to shame, I was greeted at the door by a fellow "yoga-ite."
"The teacher hasn't shown up yet, and I'm the only one here," she said.
Reminding myself to breathe calming rather than rant uncontrollably, I said "thanks" and left.

My yoga mat and I retraced our steps, more slowly this time, allowing the wave of walkers to push us down the sidewalk.  For some reason, just as I passed the glass-encased lobby of One Liberty Plaza, I glanced to my left.  The backs of about a dozen men dressed in business suits faced me.  Positioned in a semicircle around a conductor, they stood, holding music folders, obviously singing.  A smattering of listeners were gathered around, and for some reason, I suddenly decided to join them.  Unlike me, I didn't stop to wonder "Do I need an invitation?"  "Will I be intruding?"  "Am I properly dressed for the occasion?"  I simply went in.

A chorus of "Hark the Herald Angles Sing" welcomed me at the revolving door and invited me to stay.  I have rarely heard such a perfect blending of voices.  From one carol to the next, I was amazed by how a group larger than four could achieve the tight harmony and lyric flow of a barbershop quartet.  As the tenors broke away from the rest with their incredibly high, clear notes, I felt truly joyous.

With the final strains of "Auld Lange Syne" ringing grandly in the air, I turned to a woman standing beside me and asked, "What is this group?"
"Voices of Gotham," she whispered.  "You can google them."

I snapped a picture before the group dispersed, then resumed my walk home.  My feet which had been so intent upon rushing earlier in the evening, felt strangely like dancing.  Was that a full moon keeping company with the skyscrapers?  Tilting my head back for a clearer look, shiny particles resembling silver glitter fell onto the front of my jacket.

(For a sample of their music, you can hear Voices of Gotham singing "I'll Be Home for Christmas" on a YouTube segment filmed in 2010, at this link:




Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Walking Tours in NYC - Learning from the Ground Level

'Victorian Christmas: Origins of Christmas Traditions -- A look at the literary roots of the holiday with stops at sites associated with O. Henry ("The Gift of the Magi"), Clement Clarke Moore ("A Visit From St. Nicholas") and Washington Irving's character of St. Nicholas in his "Knickerbocker's History of New York."  At 2 p.m. Sunday, led by NYC Discovery Walking Tours.'

The Weekend section of the "New York Times" was full of goings-on in the city, from Christmas tree lightings to storefront extravaganzas; but for a writer, what could be more appealing than following in the footsteps (literally) of other authors?  What could I learn by walking in their neighborhoods over a hundred years later?  I was intrigued.  With directions in hand to the corner of 21st and Lexington (across from Gramercy Park), I set off to meet the guide, in a part of NYC I had yet to discover.

Brownstones surrounding the park date to Victorian years (1837-1901), and with twinkling lights peeking through windows, I imagined picture-perfect holiday scenes immortalized on the covers of Christmas cards.

Norman Rockwell, "Santa at His Desk"
Saturday Evening Post
Of course, as with any imagined scene, all was not coziness and hot chocolate. Christmas traditions evolved in the United States, our guide explained, as immigrant cultures converged (often clashed) and sorted out customs -- keeping some, discarding others and "melting" many into what today is often referred to as "American Christmas."

Two of the authors highlighted on our tour contributed to the evolution of the dimpled-cheek, pipe-smoking, overworked - but ever-jolly - St. Nicholas.

Using the pseudonym, Diedrich Knickerbocker, Washington Irving penned his first book, a satire, in 1809 about the Dutch founding of NYC, with an appropriate tongue-in-cheek title -- A History of New York from the Beginning of the World to the End of the Dutch Dynasty.  He included a description of the Dutch St. Nicholas.  Sound familiar?

"And the sage Oloffe dreamed a dream,–and lo, the good St. Nicholas came riding over the tops of the trees, in that self-same wagon wherein he brings his yearly presents to the children. . . And when St. Nicholas had smoked his pipe, he twisted it in his hatband, and laying his finger beside his nose, gave the astonished Van Kortlandt a very significant look; then, mounting his wagon, he returned over the treetops and disappeared." (Irving, Washington.Knickerbocker’s History of New York, New York: Frederick Ungar Publishing Co., 1928, p. 50)

Irving's youthful face faces the street named in his honor at 47 Irving Place (or 122 E. 17th), although myth is stronger than fact that he ever actually lived here.

Clement Clarke Moore, living a few blocks away in Chelsea, was clearly influenced by Irving's words (almost exact words - "laying his finger beside his nose") when he wrote "A Visit From St. Nicholas," in 1823, later re-named "Twas the Night Before Christmas."  His poem adds to and solidifies the character we know as Santa Claus, his eight reindeer, pack of toys and curious top-down manner of entering houses.
A sketch by Moore's daughter, Mary C. Ogden, in 1855, depicts the Moore's mansion on their Chelsea estate, now occupied by townhouses at 8th Ave. and 23rd.  Notice the numerous chimneys.  How ever did Santa choose?
The final author on the tour had nothing to do with Santa Claus and the evolution of Christmas into a commercialized frenzy.  Just the opposite.

Similar to today's writers setting up shop in a Starbucks,   
O. Henry ("according to local legend") occupied a booth in Pete's Tavern*, and wrote "The Gift of the Magi" in 1906.

*(at 129 E. 18th - between 3rd Ave. and Irving Place)


"The more expensive, the better, was the message of Christmas-giving during the Industrial Revolution," said our guide.  O. Henry's story of a young couple who sell their prized possessions to buy each other beyond-their-means gifts, not only twists the ending, but tests the conventional thinking of the day.

One of my favorite stories, it's worthy of yearly reflection, perhaps this year in O. Henry's booth, before penning my letter to that "right jolly old elf." (Moore)
Now, where did that tradition get started? Sounds like a writer's idea to me.


Monday, November 21, 2011

New York Cares!

Volunteering has never been so easy!  If you move to New York City today, you can start volunteering before the week is out.  No hassles, no frustrations, no red tape.  While you're still trying to figure out how to get furniture delivered and internet service activated, you can glide through the process to become a New York Cares Volunteer.  Connect to your new (or hometown) community of 8 million, in ways you could never discover on your own.

Thanks to Shannon, a friend who lives in NYC, I learned about this amazing network of volunteer opportunities.  "You can pick from hundreds of choices, one-time jobs or longer-term, many lasting only an hour or two.  They make it really flexible for people," she explained.  That's what I needed, a system, a paved path to involvement.  I signed up and have already volunteered once.  Here's how. . . in 3 user-friendly steps:

1. Go to the New York Cares website. Click on "Become a Volunteer, Sign up for orientation today!" and follow the directions.

2. Attend a 45-minute orientation; various times and locations are available throughout the city.

3. Search Projects on the website, select one, and GO!

What to choose?

  • Help children with homework
  •  Plant trees
  • Assist adult immigrants preparing for the U.S. Citizenship exam
  • Dance with 1st and 2nd graders 
  • Distribute clothing to homeless individuals
  • Create pieces of jewelry with blind and low-vision adults

. . . or hundreds of other options every week

I couldn't resist the listing at the Yorkville Branch of the New York City Public Library as my first volunteer experience. 

Yorkville Branch
222 East 79th St.
  "Volunteers will sort and shelve books, prepare reserve items, weed out old circulations and other general library assistance."

From 1:00-5:00 on a Friday afternoon, I joined 4 other book-loving volunteers as we shelved cart after cart of returned books.  Sitting cross-legged on the floor, I enjoyed the company of some of my favorite picture books as I guided them back to their spots, alphabetically by author.  I couldn't resist leaning up against a bookcase and sneaking in a quick read of The Five Chinese Brothers, Mama Do You Love Me? and Oh, the Places You'll Go.  

The two librarians, who were swamped with helping a steady stream of adults downstairs and children upstairs, shook our hands repeatedly as we left, grateful for the extra help. "Will you be coming back next week?" one asked, more as a plea than a question.

As you read this posting from as close as Connecticut or far away as Russia, I'm sure you've already concluded that you don't have to live in New York City to volunteer in your own neighborhood.  Every community has its unique needs, its own system for lending a hand.

The New York Cares website highlights a quote by Margaret Mead which inspires me to continue this important work:

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." 

I hope you'll join me, especially during this holiday season when needs are multiplied. . . wherever your community may be. 


Monday, November 14, 2011


Sunday afternoon.  A cloudless, 60-degree day in New York City. I leave our apartment building, walking towards Wall Street, 10 minutes away.

The first two blocks are predictable, with a few less stores open and people along the sidewalks than on a weekday.  Approaching Wall, I notice the same police barriers in place, keeping tourists and Occupy Wall Streeters at bay.  A police car further secures an intersection.  I pass it, glance up Wall St., keep walking. Then, as if the scene were just catching up with my brain, I slow my pace, puzzled.  Something  is not right.

The color of the car -- blue, not white.  The letters on the side -- GPD, not NYPD.   

Shaking my head, I move closer to read the words on the car door.

Gotham City?  Where am I?

And what is that I see beyond the car, lining the curbs?  Snow?  

Trying to stay calm, and not succeeding, I begin running the couple of blocks until I can see Wall St. from another perspective, at the New York Stock Exchange. A recognizable landmark.  I am not prepared for the horror that awaits.

Holy red, white and blue shenanigans!
 Flags across the street from the Stock Exchange are shredded, in tatters, singed with black.

Gangs of men gather, some with guns.

What is happening?  Is there no "caped crusader" who can help me?

A leaflet ruffles my hair, flutters to my feet.  I bend to retrieve it, then look upward to its source.  Seeing nothing but endless towers, I read.  My answer. . .

                                                                            Photo - Warner Brothers Studios

Summer 2012, Tune in at your favorite theater, "Same Bat-Time, Same Bat-Channel"

(For more information about filming of the latest Batman movie, "The Dark Knight Rises," in New York City, check out this link:


Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Joy of Van Gogh

Van Gogh's Sunflowers was the first painting I ever paid attention to. My mother bought a copy when I was about 10 years old and hung it on the wall in our entry hall.  Following decorating whims and changing addresses, she placed it above the piano, a bed, buffet table, but never gave it away or tucked it in a closet.  When she downsized from her two-story home to a two-bedroom apartment last year, she parted with boxes of possessions, but Sunflowers was always in her "To Keep" pile.  Today it hangs in her bedroom at the retirement community, having been a joyful companion for 50 years.

The name "Vincent" written midway up the vase, intrigued me.  I remember looking in the "V" book, one of the skinniest volumes in my grandparents' World Book Encyclopedia collection, to learn more about him.  I'm sure the basic biography was there -- birth, brief 37 years of life, tragic death, ear-cutting-off incident, insanity, along with a description of his art and selected paintings.  That limited story was all I, and probably most people, knew of Vincent, although there has certainly been much research conducted and scholarly books written about him since.  But nothing to match what was published just two weeks ago.

For the past 10 years authors, Gregory White Smith and Steven Naifeh grew closer to Vincent Van Gogh than a nosey next-door neighbor.  The only thing they didn't have access to, besides the man himself, was the garbage he might have tossed out in the alley behind his rented rooms in Arles or trash can in the insane asylum at St. Remy Hospital.  The book is 1000 pages long with 6000 more pages of research notes online!  Van Gogh: The Life.

Gregory White Smith (left) and Steven Naifeh signing
books after their presentation
I sat enthralled like a school child hearing the next chapter of a suspenseful "Read-Aloud," as the authors told the audience what they had learned about Van Gogh. The auditorium of the Metropolitan Museum of Art was nearly filled with Van Gogh fans, many of us with notebooks and pens, trying to keep up with Naifeh and Smith.  New facts about his life added to the familiar story, while others were unexpected. For example, I never pictured Vincent as a reader, an intellectual, yet the authors said that he  read voraciously in a variety of genres.  He spoke four languages.

Yet, it was through their descriptions of his overwhelming sadness, isolation and pain that I began to understand why I have loved his paintings since childhood.  The authors described Vincent's art as "inner directed."  "His life and art are interwoven; his art expresses what it's like to be human," they said.
Beyond the vibrancy of the colors, the movement in sky and tree, I "feel" the person who
created. . .

                                                                Starry Night

                                                       Bedroom at Arles

Wheatfield with Crows

and so many more.      

As Mr. Smith simply said at the end of their discussion, "Vincent created jubilant art from a sad life."  Where he found the joy, how he touched it and gave it a face through his art, remains a mystery to me.  Perhaps I will learn as I read the book, or perhaps that mystery is better solved by standing in front of one of his paintings.

(Today I ordered two copies, one for myself and the other for. . . my mother.)

Monday, October 31, 2011

Another Writer Connects to New York City

 As a writer, what city could be more inspiring and intimidating to live in than New York?  Googling "famous New York City writers," my intimidation takes on a face, or many faces, as I read through even a partial list. . .

Noel Coward
Eugene O'Neill
Jack Kerouac
E. B. White
Willa Cather
E E Cummings
Allen Ginsburg
Arther Miller
Edna St. Vincent Millay
Edgar Allen Poe (who knew??)

Some of them came and went, some came and stayed, but each shared a unique connection to this city.

Barely surviving in cold water flats with square footage so minuscule it could scarcely be measured, hands freezing in threadbare gloves, shoulders hunched over a borrowed typewriter or pencil and legal pad, these writers sacrificed all for their craft.  Their lines of genius, just waiting to be discovered!

Highly romanticized, melodramatic and stereotypical, I grant you, but with enough grains of truth to inspire this writer, and thousands of others, to open their laptops or sharpen their pencils each day.

Yet, what is it about this city that fuels my own passion to write, encourages me to take risks, grow, learn, to become a better writer?  Having lived here only 2 months, I'm still early in the discovery process, but two critical areas have already surfaced.  

 Other writers. . .

     Stepping yards beyond my writing comfort zone, I began a 4-week Poetry Workshop last week through The Sackett Street Writers in Brooklyn.

Sackett Street where the writing group began in 2002

My first writing group!  Five writers gather around a table sharing our work. I hear comments from others which I've expressed many times myself, always in isolation.
"This is hard!"
"I've revised this so many times, I've lost the feeling I started out with."
"Yes! finally after 3 hours, I found the exact word that works in this line."  (Only other writers can get excited about such things.)

I feel a huge sense of relief to be among fellow writers, knowing that for two hours on Monday evenings, I can open the door of my solitary writing room and mingle with people who speak the same language.  It's like being invited to a party.

We read poetry by writers I've heard of, like Mary Oliver, and others I haven't like, William Heyen.
We're encouraged to write styles of poetry we've never tried.
We learn how to "read with a writer's perspective."
We grow.  

New sights. . .

Obvious, yes, but beyond the obvious.

A single tree on a gently sloping hill in Central Park caught my attention last week as I wandered, without direction or intention.  I sat under its yellowing leaves, ate my peanut butter and jelly sandwich and wrote a poem.

Opportunities for writing in New York City proclaim themselves as loudly as the Empire State Building and as shyly as the tree.  The exhilaration comes in never knowing what will speak to my soul, challenge me to put what I see and feel into words.  The next sight might be a homeless man asleep by the entrance to Dunkin' Doughnuts, Van Gogh's "Irises" on the wall of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, a freak October snowstorm, or. . . .

 The city will provide what I need.  My job is to make the connections, 
in the rich tradition of countless writers before me, 
and keep sharpening those pencils.      



Monday, October 24, 2011

A Day -- Out of the City

One of the great things about living in New York City is how quickly you can get out of it. (Perhaps I should qualify that with. . . on a Saturday at 6:30 a.m. on the subway/train.)  I timed our exit this weekend as we left for a day in Connecticut:

3   minutes - walk to subway
5   minutes - wait for #4 express
7   minutes - Brooklyn Bridge/City Hall station to Grand Central Terminal
5_ minutes - purchase tickets, walk to train platform
20  minutes TOTAL from apartment door to Metro-North train door!

As the sun was leisurely pulling itself out of bed on the first day of a weekend, our train cleared the terminal.  I opened a book; Drew leaned back for a snooze.  Two-and-half hours later we would be in Waterbury, where our friends, Marian and Jim, would pick us up.  With no responsibility but to ride, read and look out the window, I settled into my seat with a relaxing sigh.

About forty-five minutes outside Waterbury, the passing scenes began to change.  Reds, oranges, and yellows yelled for our attention as the sun spotlighted the brilliance of the season. With my camera pressed to the window, I snapped picture after picture.  The blending of colors, created by the  movement of the train, reminded me of a delicate impressionistic painting.

One group of particularly bold branches stretched their leafy limbs precariously close to the track so we could fully appreciate their beauty.

Nature surrounded us all day as we ate lunch in Marian and Jim's tree-lined backyard, hiked 3 miles in Flanders Nature Center, and reminisced over scrapbook pages at the kitchen table (while nosey shrubs peeked through windows.)  Jim's father, whose wife recently died, joined us in the sunshine.

Photos from our walk, combined with the simplicity of a poem*, speak to me of a day that was truly a gift.

 scent of pine

 trickle of water

warmth of sunshine

 on an upturned face  




We returned to the city as quickly as we left, but this time. . . I forgot to look at my watch.  

*©2011 Twylla Alexander

Monday, October 17, 2011

9/11 Memorial . . . and More

Ground Zero is a five-minute walk from our apartment building.  I pass the construction site or look up at Freedom Tower (One World Trade Center) every day.

Blue, heavy mesh plastic covers the chain-link fencing that surrounds the multi-block work zone, restricting the view of the 9/11 Memorial inside.  I have read descriptions and seen glimpses of it on t.v. during the 10th anniversary ceremonies, but still can't imagine the layout, the positioning of the pools, the trees, the grass-covered areas.

Thanks to a neighbor who told us about the availability of same-day tickets at the NYC Information Kiosk - City Hall, we pick up our passes for the 2:00 o'clock time slot on Saturday afternoon.  After a 15-minute wait in line and comprehensive security check reminiscent of an airport screening, we follow the wall of blue to the Memorial.  Openness greets us, as if the surrounding buildings have taken several steps backward.  Yet the enormity of the space tells a truer story of what happened, the terror that created the vacuum.

The air immediately feels different.  Cooler, wetter, like walking into woods after a rain.  I take a deep breath; my body relaxes.  Sounds of the street disappear.  Falling water absorbs the extraneous, the unnecessary, as if cleansing the space, leaving room only for the essential.

White oak trees, row after row, newly planted, offer shelter, comfort.   Stripes of manicured grass and evergreen ivy soften the well-worn soil, sooth anxieties. Birds explore a new neighborhood, singing of their excitement.

I'm unprepared for the enormity of the pools, marking the foundations of the original towers and the depth of loss.  The void creates unease, makes me want to move away; yet the soothing waterfalls encourage me to stay.

My fingertips move from letter to letter,  feeling the names carved through the thick bronze panels surrounding the pools.  Names of the victims demand that we stop, feel, remember.

A place of destruction has become "a place of refuge and safety," a sanctuary for all who visit.

Grateful to live in the neighborhood,  I will return often to receive its peacefulness.  Yet, I walk away knowing that the Memorial requires something of me, as well. . . to live her peace, to pass it on.      


Friday, October 7, 2011

Lives Touched by Apples

I had scheduled a One-to-One appointment to learn how to use my new MacBook Air at the Soho Apple store for Wednesday morning at 9:00.  About 12 hours earlier, the rest of the world, and I, learned that Steve Jobs had died.  We were just beginning to realize what we had lost.

A pot of bright yellow chrysanthemums, sitting on the sidewalk against a storefront, caught my eye as I turned off Broadway and walked towards the corner of Prince and Mercer.  Mourners and well-wishers had already begun their tributes beside the Apple store's tall glass doors.

Walking under the simple black logo,
I opened the door and went it.

It was quiet. Of course, it was still early morning; many shops in the area had not yet opened. Delivery trucks, pulled up to curbs, were off-loading bagels in boxes and clothes on racks, while street vendors spread today's specials across tables. About 20 customers were browsing at iPads, iPhones, iPods, iEverything downstairs, with close to an equal number at the Genius Bar and personal training tables upstairs.

Blue-shirted Apple specialists, who eagerly stepped forward to offer assistance in my previous visits, stood in pairs and trios - somber, subdued - talking softly among themselves, shock still fresh on their faces.


I met my personal trainer, and we sat down at the corner of a large blonde, wooden table, surrounded by other couples of teachers and learners.  As I turned on my computer and clicked on Safari, it automatically opened to Apple's website displaying the pensive picture of Steve Jobs (photo no longer shown; replaced by written tributes), accompanied solely by the dates, 1955-2011.  My companion said, "You know, he made computers fun.  Not just numbers and algorithms.  He made them fun for everyone - pictures, videos, phones -- fun!" I listened as he went on, "You think about the world and all its problems, the economic crisis, wars, but when you think of Apple, don't you think about peace?  It's a peaceful thing, all he created." Shaking his head to re-focus, he apologized for his philosophizing and started our lesson.

My mind was only half-way concentrating on the wonders of the MacBook Air, while the rest of it was pondering the influence one life can have on so many others.  This twenty-something young man, so intently helping me understand the beauty of my new computer, had profoundly been touched by Steve Jobs, a man whose life work has permeated the way all of us live our lives.

The flowers, candles, pictures and personal notes had grown during my hour in the store.  As I exited, I noticed one sign, in particular, which spoke to the legacy Steve Jobs leaves to countless generations, who will never know what the world was like before his genius.


Monday, October 3, 2011

Freedom to Speak

I was walking home along Church Street in Lower Manhattan, past Liberty Plaza Park (Zuccotti Park) where the Occupy Wall Street protesters were settling down to another night of encampment, past St. Paul's Chapel where George Washington prayed after delivering his first inaugural address, and past Ground Zero, where Freedom Tower (One World Trade Center) was standing watch over the city.

I stopped to gaze up at the tower, look behind me at St. Paul's historic facade, then mentally re-trace my steps a couple of blocks to the protesters. The symbolism surrounding me sank in, one puzzle piece at at time, as if the shapes were appearing from the drizzly mist . . . Liberty Park, Occupy Wall Street, George Washington, Freedom Tower.

Prior to that moment, I had given the protesters little thought.  News reports explaining their cause, along with vague images of cardboard placards, paraded past my attention with a slew of other headlines.  Perhaps this is because my understanding of economics and the debt crisis would fit comfortably on the surface of a penny.  Mention the Federal Reserve, and my eyes glaze over.  But it was their right to protest which I more fully began to appreciate that evening.

Never having been a protester myself and wanting to feel what it's like to be among a few hundred, I walked back to Liberty Park the next day.  Needless to say my grandmotherly white hair didn't fit in with the predominantly 20 and 30-year olds , but I was cordially invited to "come in, walk around, ask questions."  I was surprised to see organization --

sign-making station,


                                      food co-op                                                                                                                          

                                                                       technology area

-- calmly held conversations,
communities bordered by sleeping bags, backpacks, and belongings.

People free to assemble, peacefully,
to speak, openly,
in opposition to their government.

This freedom was not part of the U. S. Constitution when it was signed in 1787;  it was added as the first amendment in the Bill of Rights, ratified 4 years later.  Freedom of speech, press, religion and petition.  Amendments advocated by George Washington  in his first inaugural speech at Federal Hall - today's address, 26 Wall Street.

Washington on the steps of Federal Hall

Whether or not I agree with, or even understand, the issues that the Occupy Wall Streeters are challenging, I must recognize their right to do so. Michael Douglas, through the writing of Aaron Sorkin, passionately espouses this philosophy in one of my favorite films, The American President:

"America isn't easy.  America is advanced citizenship.  You've gotta want it bad, 'cause it's gonna put up a fight.  It's gonna say, "You want free speech?  Let's see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who's standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours."

A protester's sign says it even better. . .



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