United from Afar in Argentina
The marches in Washington DC brought a rush of feelings back to me. I did not mean to be away from home at such an important time. Last April, when my friend and I were planning our trip to Patagonia, there were not even formal nominees for the US election, let alone thoughts about marching in response to the outcome. We ended up being in Buenos Aires during the ceremony and El Calafate on the day of the marches.
El Calafate is where you go to see the Perito Moreno Glacier, one of the few glaciers that is growing as fast as it is calving, and is thus considered stable. Located in the middle of Argentina, it is a dramatic and stunning rendering of a moving river of ice.
I worried that there could be trouble at the marches. Although designed as a peaceful statement, crowds can be unpredictable, especially when emotions run high. Who knew what could happen? What could I do from thousands of miles away?
I thought about the tributaries of the glacier, and how even though they seem static, they are in fact dynamic, changing structures. It was a good reminder that the reality we are living today is not permanent.
There was Wifi in our hotel room and a friend from Scotland posted a photograph of throngs of people in Edinburgh. Tears sprang to my eyes at the thought of people from another country, where my daughter attends university, gathering in acknowledgment and support of the concerns on US soil. My daughter told me that planes were loaded with people from the UK, coming to Washington. The tears slipped down my cheeks as I considered the kind of commitment of time, resources and conviction that this requires, and wondered what I would do if I were home.
I believe in speaking up, being heard, and in people gathering to express concerns, but I am not thrilled about being in huge crowds. When I attended a Paul Simon-Sting concert at the Garden, I vowed it would be my last concert in this kind of venue.
I posted a request for people to be safe, and went to sleep hoping for the best. The next day my friend and I headed out to hike on the glacier. Later we walked around to view its otherworldly and strikingly beautiful face, jagged jutting pieces of pale and deeper blue overlapping and looking so permanent. As we gazed at it, we heard a crack like thunder and a chunk broke off, crashing into the turquoise water. Our guide informed us that the height of the glacier is equivalent to a 20 story building, and the little chunk that came off was the size of a Mini Cooper.
I was bowled over by how quickly so many people mobilized all over the world to make clear that threats to people’s freedoms and threats to our planet’s health are not going unanswered.
Upon return to the hotel, I read a message from one friend, who described her experience in Washington DC, walking as streams of people joined from different streets to converge in larger masses as they flowed together. I thought about the tributaries of the glacier, and how even though they seem static, they are in fact dynamic, changing structures. It was a good reminder that the reality we are living today is not permanent.
I was bowled over by how quickly so many people mobilized all over the world to make clear that threats to people’s freedoms and threats to our planet’s health are not going unanswered. Though I heard frustration about wishing there was more to do, it has become evident that leaders are emerging from this chaos. The vitality, creativity, and passion are real, and I could feel it all the way in Argentina. Knowing everyone was okay, and seeing pictures of my husband and older daughter’s thrilled faces, the tears let loose. These are my people. They are all my people. And they are everywhere, ready to mobilize, protect, and connect. The question of whether or not I might have marched fades away. We all play our parts, and they are all important, as long as we are all heading toward the same river.