Saturday, August 8, 2009

River of hope~

There was a woman taking a nap on the granite bench that curves along the river walk running through downtown Providence. She had on several layers of clothing despite the warm August sun, and used her backpack as a pillow. I stood photographing city architecture from my place nearby. She must have heard the click of the camera's shutter .

"No pictures of me," she said sitting up to swing her legs up on the bench in the opposite direction.

"No, I wouldn't. I won't," I assured her. Then I asked, "Do people take your picture?"

Truly, I'd thought briefly of doing so--a photo journalistic impulse, a poignant documentation of the sadder, sorrier side of life. In honesty, I might have taken a picture had I been using my zoom lens from farther away where she might not have noticed me. I've been tempted at other times, with other homeless folk, although something always holds me back from what feels like a blatant invasion of privacy.

"Lot's of people do," she said, and then angry words delivered in a measured tone, "I tell them they better stop, or I'll grab their God damned camera, and I'll . . .

She was already lying down again with her back to the river and me. Her words became indecipherable

"Oh, well, they deserve that," I said lamely as I walked away. I'd deserve that, I suppose, had I given in to impulse.

And I left her lying there beside a bridge with Rhode Island's symbolic brass anchor--HOPE--shining in the summer sun for all who walk beside the river to see.

But not for all to feel. Some people see the flip side of hope.

Hope is the thing with feathers, that perches in the soul, and sings the tune without words, and never stops at all. ~Emily Dickinson


Ross Eldridge said...

Hi there, Ruth,

I always get excited when I see that you have a new posting on Upstream and Down. Brilliant photographs, nearly always of things that I probably wouldn't have noticed, but I'm glad to see and discover through your eyes. The reverse side of hope ...

And your words to describe your observations!

Was it Jesus who said something like "The poor are always with us ..."?

The homeless need not be poor, from my experience. In fact, they need not be homeless. Or hungry or unclothed or unhappy or hopeless. It may be the viewer who feels all of this, draws conclusions.

Yes, one might live rough ... but that is only compared to the most of us who might live too well.

Joni Mitchell: "Jesus was a beggar, though he was rich in grace. And Solomon kept his head in all his glory. It's just that some steps outside the Boho Dance have a certain fascination for me ..."

However ... Comes the winter. The reverse side of summer, if you will. It is in the winter that we should, perhaps, give all that we have to the poor and follow that rich and graceful beggar.


Anonymous said...

What a coincidence. Just before I saw you had a new post, I read this:

What we do to the least of us...


Pam said...

Excellent post Ruth. So honest and observant. I really enjoy visiting here.

Pauline said...

I just read the NYT piece Barry mentioned - what is it that we hope for? And is it the same things the poor hope for? Thought provoking piece, as always.

Wanda said...

You may not post daily...but when you post you really have something to say.

You have the gift of giving us a slice of life in a way that reaches into the depths of our being and makes us ponder.

Ruth, you are a treasure, and I'm so glad I found you so many months ago.

Love and Hugs

Wendy said...

This is a vivid picture in words, Ruth. You certainly have a double gift.

Linda said...

Such a poignant post. Would you have seen it the same way had you not spoken to the homeless woman? Sometimes it's just too easy to take things for granted.

Rozel (a.k.a. Michelle) said...

I am such a chicken if someone said that to me I would have ran rather than ask the question "Do people take your picture". I wish I was more brave when it comes to talking to people I don't know (in person - online I type whatever my hearts desire)

Leslie: said...

We never used to see homeless people in my little village until lately. Now there is a handful of men and women who walk around pushing shopping carts or sit on their belongings at the back of the local grocery store. There is one woman who I just want to bring home and give her a bath! But my daughter (who sometimes is wiser than myself) told me not to do that. They're drug users and taking advantage of the welfare system. I guess maybe some of them do do that. But it IS so sad!