It’s Tuesday now as we pull into the Salem station. The pale yellow glow casting its way across the inlet lights up the buttress of stacked granite, square upon square, that keeps the water down and the land up. Dotting that water’s surface are gulls and other shorebirds, gliding past or poking around in the mud for breakfast. And here, in the train car, sleepy passengers poke into their bags, fire up their laptops, read their papers or listen to whatever is coming through their earbuds. We arrive at the newly poured and formed “high level platform,” as it was just announced, and everyone is easing into the day.
It’s peaceful to do this routine and it stands in sharp contrast to the stories that must be screaming from the pages of the newspaper which I, too, have tucked into my backpack. Half a world away and closer, we open and close our days parsing violence we can’t understand with peace we wish could infiltrate the places we can’t see as well as ones we can.
Last evening in the comfort of the town school’s cafeteria, just over 100 people gathered for a Special Town Meeting. Business had evolved since the Annual Town Meeting, usually held in May. These meetings are “democracy in action” said the Reverend as, after standing to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, we sat and he prayed in a public building before a public meeting. My mind wandered back to that May meeting because I am pretty sure a story about legislation on prayers before these gatherings made that day’s news. But in my town these prayers then and now go right on as it’s probably been done for 375 years. I noticed no one in the room seemed to mind; there were even a few amens.
So the meeting commenced. The people heard explanations of items and voted to spend amounts of less than two hundred dollars and sums of several thousands. Paving the parking lot at the new water plant was the only contentious issue: it required a hand count to ensure a two-thirds passage. As of this morning’s commute, our Selectmen will get their air conditioning fixed, someone will get their vacation pay, the sprinklers in the library will be tested, the town docks will be repaired, and veterans will receive some support. A hearty round of applause went to a town business that plans to donate and place some kind of hydraulic lift in Town Hall, taking that budget item off the agenda. After the final vote to receive back funds set aside to restore the historic mill, now to be funded privately, the people voted to adjourn, got up to fold those wicked stiff, maybe cast-iron chairs that would “knock you out if they knocked your noggin’,” and filed out in time to get home for the game.
It’s Tuesday and I am grateful for this steady routine, the pale yellow glow that is lighting our way into town, and for the simple freedoms so many people are fighting for us and others to know, some for the very first time. Perhaps some struggle for a freedom of the soul, as much needed there as between the largest of nations.