Airports and bear cubs
My heart feels heavy with gratitude as I stare out of the thick double pained airplane window. I see many human beings below me, conducting work which is rendered nearly invisible these days. A man a couple hundred feet sits leaning against a cinder block wall adorned with the bright logo his employer. He’s on a break I assume, head down, staring at his device while the many other breathing, beating, pulsing, bodies direct and inject, fuel and inspect these massive machines which will carry myself and my family across this troubled and incredible continent.
The air inside the cabin is thick with the smell of of jet fuel and exhaust. I contemplate the hazards that these airline workers face, noise canceling headphones pressed tightly against their ears to numb the hollow and deafening roar of the engines spewing untold amounts of emissions and combustion by-products into the cold December air.
It is not my job to contemplate the “saving” of these workers. I am done taking peoples power away in such insidious ways. I can be grateful for them, can hold them in power and respect, can honor their human labor, pray for their brilliant and resilient bodies to heal if injured in acute or chronic ways.
I can see them as me.
I can battle the blinding pull of the screen in front of me and witness the near invisible and work of these wondrous creatures, their orange reflective vests outlining and accentuating their unique body types.
I am grateful for airport workers.
I am humbled by their strengths, and delighted by the banter I get to hear amongst them as I wait impatiently in the cold tunnel plastered with advertisements before entering the warm and artificial cocoon of the aircraft.
Our technological ascension, still forged and tethered in blood and carbon, offers me a false utopia of perfect efficiency, miraculous cleanliness, robotic precision and an aesthetic wrought from a plastic and cement laboratory of hyper linear shapes and unearthly rigid and clean futuristic fantasias.
This aesthetic pervades most of the new construction I witness, especially in the technology hubs such as Seattle and it’s enclaves.
It makes my body cry out and my animal nature feel threatened, outdated.
Airports have become cathedrals to the technological culture of endless growth, divorced from the messy, bloody, and beautiful reality of lichen and bear cub, moss and toad, tear and tentacle.
I sit with my 11 month old son, who only wants to crawl over to evert stranger, pull their mask down and put his sticky little fingers into their noses and mouths and explore the full breath of infinite and intimate information exchange between human beings.
This is how we learn who we are.
A machine humming begins behind us and we turn to see a woman, tall and thin, appearing of Northwestern African descent, vacuuming up the crumbs and wrappers, loose change and other effluvia that we hurried and distracted travelers have left behind. I watch as she gently and calmly maneuvers through the rows of chairs, bending at the knee ever so slightly to achieve the desired angle of the vacuum nozzle to vanish a paper wrapper used to house a plastic straw, a smattering of fallen and forgotten popcorn.
She is fluid and graceful, paying attention to to the long and weathered yellow extension chord trailing behind her operation, eyes scanning, body responding with steps and the extending and retracting of arms, muscle and bone.
My baby boy darts towards her, hands slapping the short and rough, blue airport gate carpet as he crawls full speed for her, transfixed with the woman and the wheeled, humming machine following her. I scoop him up before he gets too close, not wishing to interrupt her work flow. Leo waves his arms up and down frantically, his new way of saying hello and goodbye at this precious age. The woman’s face alights in a smile, mask barely able to hide the raw human emotion of joy visible in the now pronounced wrinkles around her eyes. I smile as well, grateful to share a brief moment of connection and grace between three members of the human family at gate number A24.
An elder man, working at another airport concourse, empties the trash cans into a large, black mobile dumpster. He is speaking softly either to himself or into an invisible bluetooth device. He moves slowly, his aged body requiring patience and presence in his tasks and actions.
I feel a cacophony of emotion.
Rage at the ruthless economic system and morally bankrupt society which creates conditions where elders need to toil in sterile airports for minimum wage while they are practically trampled by near zombified hoards of upper-class, phone staring, mask wearing, coffee gulping…human beings. Sacred humans.
I feel waves of sickly guilt for my own participation and investment. I feel a detached fascination. A type fo observing which alerts me that my mind is judging, my being requiring embodiment, homecoming.
I feel great love for this man, wishing it acceptable to grab his hands, look him in the eyes and say “I see you. Thank you for your hard work”.
I take a breath.
He could fucking well love his job.
It could pay well and have great benefits. Its relatively straightforward, potentially satisfying. I can calm revolutionary wrongness lens, humble my project stories. Both sides are capable of holding the messy truth.
I hold this man in love, sending prayers of thanks and support to him and his family, his ancestors both past and future.
May I continue to stay curious and clear.
May I hold us all in power and grace.
May I walk the prayers of liberation and ecstatic, authentic expression.
May we humanize and harmonize together as one family.
May we dance wildly and lead embodied and beautiful lives.
May we stay rooted in the messy webs of interdependence and reciprocity.
May we be humbled and held by this existence.