LA metro, I was returning home. While fumbling with my iPod I glanced out the window of the train and noticed the paraphernalia of the homeless lined against the wall of a building, shopping cart after shopping cart filled with the odd assortments of things that contribute to the homeless’ survival: the odd pieces of clothing, collections of scuffed shoes, and endless trash bags filled with plastic bottles for reclaiming for their CRV value. I just happened to notice in one cart the most beautiful musical instrument, a sort of dulcimer-like piece with beautiful wood handiwork. The rich tones of the wood glistened in the late afternoon sunlight. It was peeking through the opening of a bag at the top of one of these heaped shopping carts. The sight of it touched me deeply.
Was it the last precious object someone was clinging to, a remnant from more settled times?
What had rendered its owner homeless? Some trenchant personal tragedy? An addiction? An unforeseen change in employment prospects? Was the owner talented? What were his musical tastes? Or, on another note, perhaps it was just a lucky find in a homeless person’s rummaging.
The closest I have come to a feeling of “homelessness,” is homesickness.
I was at a Y Camp on the island of Catalina the summer after fifth grade. I was there for two weeks. My family pulled up in our sailboat, a twenty-five-foot tangerine colored sloop, and anchored in the cove off the camp. I was allowed to visit with them for a few hours every afternoon. After a pleasant visit, I was rowed back to shore and my family pulled up anchor and sailed off. As the boat grew smaller and smaller, eventually disappearing over the horizon, I was overcome by the most heavy feelings. There was a sinking of the chest, a weight in the stomach and a few sobs. I experienced a deep emptiness, almost an ache. It lasted a long while. Not only must the homeless endure physical challenges, there must be emotional challenges similar to that which I experienced that summer on Catalina.
Needing a sort of sonic escape, I fiddled with my iPod earphones, placed them in my ears and got lost in music watching the urban landscape, now draped in late afternoon shadows, passing by from the train’s window.
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Photo credit: Getty Images