Earth Etude for Elul 19 – The Nature of Quiet
by Joel Wool
The blood is thrumming through my veins as, once again, Saturday, I wake up with the buzz of the week still driving my heart and mind, a sense of rush and to-do crowding out any notion of rest. A glass of water on the windowsill, dappled with light, catches the shifting beams of sunrise as I reach out to recharge my body, lukewarm moisture rolling on the tongue, and peer out the window, searching out the first signs of daybreak.
It’s quiet on the street, inner city, one or two neighbors of mine (Latino, Cape Verdean) walking to the subway to begin what’s likely their seventh consecutive day of work. The carefully manicured front yards they’ll pass by, beautiful gardens every four or five houses down the street, mark the homes of middle-aged Vietnamese residents, who hours later will be braving the heat to tend to their flowers.
If I want to pray in the language of my people, I’ll need to start walking in the early morning—not quite this early, but not so far ahead, up the hill and through Franklin Park, past the living zoo and the old, abandoned cages beyond that, past the Stadium to the bright oranges and blues of Jamaica Plain. The path is calm and welcoming enough, but often it isn't mine, I don’t make it out there.
More often, I’ll linger until, unable to comply with the urge to sleep, my body rustles out the front door, overfull key ring jangling in my pockets. At the top of the hill—another hill—the field overlooks the harbor, a rainbow painting by Coretta Scot King beautifully mars a utility building on the waterfront, a wind turbine sticks up from the electrical workers’ union hall and the air yields, swish by swish, to the rotation of the turbine blades.
Higher still, past the charter school, the old Church in Codman Square, my friend Paul—a faith leader in his neighborhood—is already outdoors, clearing garbage from the children’s playground he helped construct, moving furniture from house to house in the neighborhood, planning for the day’s activities with youth. Every few weeks, on my survey of green, vibrant spaces in the community I’ll catch him beaming like the sun itself, years of kind labor growing from the grounds which his hands have touched.
It is difficult to rest. The wind is whistling—I think about the dirty air drifting away from trucks on I-93, the toxins spewing out of smokestacks miles away where people no better-off than my neighbors burn up their lungs as they continue to burn coal for power. There will be a reckoning. But my body aches, and if anything can restore my being, it’s the sight of flowers spinning up from earth, the stretch of greenspace twisting between packed roadways and harried lives.
I can breathe deeply. There is such beauty, here.
Joel Wool is an environmental advocate from Dorchester and a native of the Bay State. By day, he works for the Boston office of a national nonprofit, Clean Water Action, addressing issues of energy and pollution. He spends his private living advancing efforts to bring healthy food to his neighborhood and working on community development projects. Joel is an alumnus of AmeriCorps and a graduate of the JOIN for Justice Fellowship.