I can hear the protests in front of Borough Hall. I want to be there with them.
This morning, when the streets were more quiet, I walked up to the Farmer’s Market at Borough Hall. It was such a hot day. I wanted to tear my mask off when I got home and in the elevator, but I didn’t. Thirty-two flights. The thought of staying in a New York apartment all summer seems unbearably difficult.
George Floyd. Pleading. Calling for his mother. I cannot look. I cannot listen.
The woman who owns the camp in Maine next to the one that used to be ours posted a picture of the lake on Facebook and tears came to my eyes. I imagined days kayaking, swimming, hiking. Then someone reminded me of ticks.
A police helicopter flies overhead, keeping an eye on the protesters. It comes so close; it shakes the walls of our apartment.
When we lived on Long Island Sound, at the mouth of the Connecticut River, near Old Lyme, we were afraid to walk in the grass or near the marshes, constantly inspecting ourselves and our clothes for ticks, worrying about Lyme Disease. A young friend came from Australia to Connecticut for a visit. She had lived in Connecticut twenty years ago. She moaned, incredulous, “You really can’t go outside safely anymore! I don’t dare go more than 20 feet from the house without worrying.” I had almost forgotten that this was not normal. Ticks have been here 60,000 years, they have exploded into our lives because of suburbanization, deforestation, and warmer winters which sped up its life cycle.[i]
Three helicopters now. The protesters are chanting, but I can’t make out their words. The helicopters are too noisy. Sirens on the street.
We had rented a place on Cape Cod and were going to spend a week with children and grandchildren this summer; we have had to cancel. We love the Cape, and spent many of our summer days there when we were first together. High dunes, ocean waves, wide beaches, eating oysters looking out over the Bay. The last time we were there, two years ago, Rosemary and I headed into the waves on Newcomb Hollow Beach. We forgot we weren’t young and lost our balance, dragged under by the wave. Shannon, standing near me, grabbed me, pulled me up. Rosemary was tossed up by the wave and fell, fracturing her knee. A few weeks later, a man is killed on this beach, attacked by a great white shark. The sharks come after the seals, who now live in the warmer waters there.
A dozen or more police vehicles lined up on the street near the front of our apartment, lights flashing. Firetrucks, ambulances came by. We fell asleep to the sound of helicopters.
Jeremy had sent a video showing animals walking into cities during lockdowns. Whose territory is this? We have taken over their homes, disrupted the ecological balance. Then we think they have invaded ours. It’s called Anthropocentrism.
Pictures on television of the rioters in Minnesota burning the police station.
The race riots in Hartford in the ‘60s. Buildings burning, looting. I moved to the North End of Hartford early in the 70s, to a neighborhood with policies designed to encourage mixed racial home ownership. The riots were still festering. Protest. Organize. Fifty years go by. The white police officer murders to protect what he thinks of as his world. It’s called Racism.
“No justice, no peace!” they chant. “No justice, no peace!”
George Floyd. Eric Garner. So many more. I can’t breathe.
We must look. We must listen. We must act.
[i] Caccone, A., Diuk-Wasswer, M. Ancient History of Lyme Disease in North America Revealed with Bacterial Genomes. https://medicine.yale.edu/news-article/15651/
Adalgisa Caccone, a lecturer at Yale in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and a senior research scientist at the School of Public Health, and Maria Diuk-Wasser, of the Department of Ecology, Evolutionary and Environmental Biology at Columbia University, are senior authors. Giovanna Carpi, of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, also contributed to the research.
Bryn, this is so powerful! I love the juxtaposition of the protests and your recollections. You bring me right there in both instances. Thank you.
Reading your piece elicited a visceral response. These last few months have brought out a range of emotions for me. Thanks for clarifying them!
I’m tempted to say, “You prove nothing changes” but I don’t want to believe that. Many times over the last month I’ve heard Martin Luther King Jr.’s words, “The arc of the moral universe is long but it tends towards justice.” Long may have new meaning, but it is all we have to hold onto.