Sunday, March 5, 2017

25 miles, 5 days X 2 and 4 Roadside Shrines

Each work day
I travel...
about 25 miles each way

Back and forth
              Back and forth  
Back and forth
         Back and forth 
                                        Back and forth   

Morning and night, I pass the shrines
All of them becoming during my years on this path

The oldest, tucked beneath the freeway overpass
has been there most of the 4.5 years I've been making the drive daily
4.5 years of fading flowers and a peeling painted cross
Taken care of, refreshed,  just once or twice
Seen only when the light, traffic and travel direction
sync to make my looking successful

The second one, just about one year old now
A bicycle, painted white and chained to a lamp-post
I remember the day this block of the road was closed on my way into work...
road closed, and I had to detour through unknown streets as the police did their work
Pop-up awning in the middle of the street
White sheet and yellow crime tape
Paint and flowers now faded and limp
Candles dark

Weeks ago, another road closed...going home
Another detour
Abundance of emergency personnel
Lights flashing, blinding
Hit and Run, I later learn
Next morning, Monday morning...
a shrine on the fence
Filled with color and words and remembrance
Slowly grows over the coming days

Mid-February, giant rainstorm
A young man of 15 walking home
Calls his mom to let her know, but she
m i s s e s the c a l l

Days and days and days go by
Then finally, two weeks later and 18 miles downstream.
he is found

His shrine goes from a few missing posters, signs and a few candles
it grows daily

larger and larger

After his young body is found,
his shrine explodes
It becomes as big as the pain of his people, his neighborhood
of humanity

Hundreds of candles flicker each night in the darkness
Notes, cards, and metallic balloons also flicker on the breeze

Crowds gather, standing, looking into the wash, which took him away
as if answers can be found there
as if time itself could be reversed

Last Friday, another road closure, another detour 
and many, many more candles
as maybe thousands gather in a silent vigil,
to walk his path
to honor this boy
...and to hold his family and friends in this collective hug

Last Friday, my brother-in-law would have been 65 years old
It is his first birthday we celebrate without him

Family talk by phone, post messages on FB 
or gather in person to honor him
to hold one another
to consider his life and death

As I work my way through this latest detour on Friday night
I think of the great loss being felt
I think of a parent, or two, I know that have lost their children...
as this is the hard time of year for them
And I think of my brother-in-law, Gary

A few large intersections later
more emergency personnel, flashing lights...
more yellow crime tape and masses of people on the street
As I creep though the intersection, around the taped of section,
careful of the other drivers and hundreds of people on the street...
I see a large SUV, flipped onto its side, in the middle of it all

I steady myself, realizing once again
life can change in a moment

And I breathe and am grateful
to be going home this night.

Take care of one another,

Photos by NAE @pomegranatetrail ©2017


Liz A said...

Thank you for this reverie ... honoring both the lost and those who bear witness to the losing of them.

We drove home from St Louis yesterday, passing 5, 6, 7 wrecks within a couple of miles on the interstate. Barely missing a rainstorm that must have reduced visibility, slicked roads ... it might have been us.

Take care ...

grace Forrest~Maestas said...

i woke last night understanding something more about
then wake to read this...
How it all belongs to All of Us

Hazel said...

Oh, Nancy, it's all so fragile & precious. Love to you & yours.

Nancy said...

Liz~ It is not easy to loose or bear witness, is it? I am grateful your journey was safe.

Grace~ Yes, to ALL of us. If only we all, each one of us could know and understand this. Would the world be safer? Kinder?

Hazel~ And to you and yours too. It really is such a delicate balance. A large bear has been added to the hit and run shrine. A child then? I won't know, but it makes it even sadder somehow.

Peggy said...

Nancy, thank you for this. I'm thinking that over 4.5 years you become part of it all, the landscape, the road, the sky -- and when it changes or causes change, you change too. My heart goes out to all who miss their beloveds, you, your sister, your/her family, the boy's mother who missed the call...we are all connected. I had been wondering how the weather is affecting your area. It seems like I see rain in the forecast for California every day. XO

Anonymous said...

another post confirming the poet that is you. how eloquent. and poignant. I'm sorry for your loss. First yr anniversaries are hard. When I read, "a few large intersections later", I thought: wow. yes. Thank you for taking us with you.

Nancy said...

Peggy~ Yes, we become woven into the environments we inhabit. There is so much more to this drive that has left its impact on me. Thank you for your caring thoughts. And we are back to '80's here! Love to you.

Dee~ Thank YOU for coming along. Your presence here means a lot to me.

handstories said...

I have thought about you & your commute this week, and wished you could ride along on mine- lakeside, tree lined, and on clear days, there is Mt. Rainier. It soothes the soul.

Nancy said...

Hazel~ Thank you so, so much for coming back...for thinking of me. It means a lot. Eli's shrine is hard to see and the added teddy bear at the hit and run shrine was gone two days later. Why? Would someone really steal from a roadside shrine? Mmmm..
If you are interested, can handle it (photos and all), here is more info:

Your commute sounds lovely and I'd love to ride along with you! My last commute was super long (90 miles each way)...but was through orange/olive groves and along the CA coast! That part was great :)

Deb G said...

Nancy your words make me pause and remember. One of my relatives had a tree fall on him. He was by himself but was found by a neighbor. He would have died if he hadn't been found, even then it wasn't a sure thing. You are right, we need to be grateful and take care of each other. We never know. Noticing,'s how we get through. Much love...

Nancy said...

Deb~ Oh, wow. Yes so grateful he was found! I was almost t-boned by a giant construction truck, which was running a red light last week. I slammed on my brakes, and I vibrated to a stop, just in time...all my commuting stuff (lunch, sewing, purse etc.) flew to the floorboard, but I was okay. Shaking, but OK. Had a gesture-filled, mouthed-words conversation with a kind UPS driver who had been one lane over and several car lengths back. There is a new shrine, which I am grateful is not mine, and the old ones have grown and shrunk in the past days. (((sigh)))