As I was sitting at my desk on Saturday morning I saw a beautiful, young woman run by on the sidewalk before me. Moving swiftly, her stride was easy and long– her hair streaming behind her like a banner. It was hard, in that moment, for a middle-aged man on oxygen support such as myself, not to think of her as invincible, a radiant vector speeding by into the future.
I continued to watch her, and just a little further up the street she joined a small group of 20-something women waiting for her on the sidewalk. They were beautiful and happy, these women. Smiles were their default setting, and as they stood there in a semi-circle chatting with one another and comparing the signs they’d made for the Women’s March, they seemed so full of light as to very nearly be glowing. They were going off to do something important, they were going to try to influence the world rather than merely survive in it, and knowing that made me hopeful and proud.
I didn’t actually attend the Women’s March. I was a little bit uncertain if it was my place to be there or not, and so I stayed home and watched from the sidelines. But I should have known just from looking at these women, from the way they genially accepted my clumsy thumbs up from the window, that I would have been entirely welcome.
Millions of people, it turned out, rose to this occasion, millions were welcome.
All through the day my social media streams were flooded with images from the marches. As I was following via Facebook and Twitter, I was seeing the feeds of people I knew and loved, so they were not strangers to me, but real people– warm, intelligent and kind people with complicated and sometimes difficult lives. It was their faces, and those of their daughters and sons and partners that were looking back at me from my computer monitor, and regardless of how heavy or congested their lives might have become, there they were, all so beautiful and strong and joyous.
And in spite of the sneering rhetoric that’s been the baseline of our daily lives for so long now, the marches had a celebratory, almost parade-like quality. They were happy places, and they opened up a new space, one that allowed us the opportunity to pause and breathe deeply for a moment.
It was incredibly moving to watch this, cathartic even, and I am not overstating things when I say that I felt like something essential had just changed in the world.
For one day our concerns and anxieties were blown away like bad weather and we felt safe and protected, encircled by a good that was spreading out in concentric circles. And everywhere you looked, you saw one of your better angels smiling back at you, there they were, thousands and thousands and thousands of them, building that shining city on the hill.