Going Home # 6
At the end of the day a vivid procession is seen, as the homeless move across the meadow toward the woods where they make their camps at night. They have all their belongings with them, tents and bedding and clothes, arranged in strollers and carts or piled high in backpacks. They know exactly what they’re doing in a matter-of-fact routine that may have gone on for them for years. I like to watch them cross the meadow like a parade.
They take long strides and carry or pull their baggage easily. Strollers are really the best for this environment, as they are light and easy to manage on the bumpy or soft forest paths and hills. The sturdy construction of the kind they use is as hardy as a dirt bike. It has many compartments that can be packed with precision, unlike a cart or most backpacks. People throw these strollers away after some part of them breaks. They are highly valued by the homeless at the park, who pick them up off the adjoining streets and repair them with crude tools. If they don’t need a stroller for themselves, they can trade it for some other item they need.
The strollers and carts proceed across Sharon Meadow by the sun’s fading light. A pack of dogs trots after them happily in a raucous group, stopping occasionally to wrestle and play. The drums are still going strong. Some people who walk through the middle of the circle on their way actually cut a few dance steps as they pass. They continue down the walkway moving to the rhythm of the drums, carrying their burdens.
My favorite thing to see is this one smiling girl who always wears brightly-colored tights and other regalia, and moves through the meadow with the others in the evening, with her little black and white cat riding on top of her backpack. The backpack is loaded high over the girl’s head and sways back and forth as she briskly walks. The cat is perched at the very top and sways back and forth as if riding a camel, and never falls off.
Couples walk in lockstep, girls wearing long skirts and guys with feathers on their hats. They look cool marching along, their backpacks moving in unison. There’s such a confidence in the way they move as they enter the woods. There they will sleep on the soft grassy earth, wake with the birds and other creatures. Not to mention all the dogs.
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