we make the road by dancing
se hace el camino al bailar
Which is a good poster to start the day with, on a pole at Valencia and Market.
I remember a friend telling me about a dream she had where she was looking at a picture of an eroded hillside in a textbook on soil science.
Then she was sitting at the bottom of that same eroded hillside with a group of women. They were looking at the hillside and doing what needed to be done, while sitting still together, to heal it.
And it got better in a few minutes, green and flourishing, not eroded at all, lots of soil filled with many plants.
Because they knew how to do something we could do if we knew how.
I reminded my friend of this dream to tell her how much it meant to me. She didn't remember having it or telling me about it. She was all for it. It was just like how she thinks and what she believes but she didn't remember it.
I used to open the mail, the editorial mail, at an alternative magazine, The CoEvolution Quarterly. Mail filled with the effects of hope--good ideas, great idea, and some ugly lunacy, now and then, because hope is a dangerous place to hang out. But this instance I'm remembering wasn't about lunacy, but about cluelessness, mine, in not being about to see hope when it was right before my eyes,
I slit open an envelope and a snapshot fell out, of nothing. I said to myself, "Why did someone send in a snapshot of nothing?"
It was a picture taken of rock, flat rock, just a rock surface, nothing else. So?
The letter explained that this was a truly eroded hillside. The topsoil had been washed away, and the sub soil, and all that was left was rock.
Except for one thing, which I didn't see. It was right there on this small picture and I didn't notice.
The guy who took the picture had found a crack in the rock in the hillside. He had jammed a little stone into it in a way that it would slow down a little water running down the hillside.
The slowed down water had dropped a little soil. Over more rainstorms the water dropped more soil, and seeds. Enough soil and seeds accumulated that some grass was growing, a few blades of grass, behind the stone on the eroded hillside.
Which is why this guy had planted the stone, to have that effect in a year or tow or three.
He danced around eroded hillside in his area playing what he called "sliprock chess." Placing the stones so they would slow the water and catch the soil and seeds.
He wrote that down at the bottom of a neighborhoods of eroded hillsides would be a big gully that was a raging rapids during the rain, and he couldn't do anything about it.
But way upstream before there was a stream he could do a lot, he could do the same wise thing again and again in different places.
All he had to be was smart to think of it, and patient and persistence and hardworking to do it. It's utterly doable.
His idea that most problems have a solution like that, where you can go way upstream, before the stream is a stream and you can help heal the problem without resistance and without glory just by working, by playing whatever sliprock chess is for that problem. The Earth and the inhabitants of the Earth accept and respond to many ways of saying, "I love you."
Which reminds me of course of what Shirley Chisolm said--"I don't care about what people say." And the way she said said, with the immensely authoritative language of the islands, implied a very demanding, "What are you doing?"
Once you get your own form of sliprock chess, you need only get up in the morning and do it, and then do it again the next day. Get tired, accept the blessing, and, now and then, feel the love bouncing back as you watch the grass grow where there was rock or see the road emerging beneath the dancing feet of you and friends.
(It is strikingly uncool that I don't remember the name of the sliprock chess guy.)
The poster that says "we make the road by dancing/se hace el camino al bailar is for a live salsa blow-out with Anthony Blea y su Charanga at SOMARTS 934 Brannan SF, Saturday December 2005, 6 p. m.-2 a. m., $25 to benefit the Coaliton on Homelessness' work to unite immigrant and non-immigrant families.