I have borne witness to every sunrise since my arrival in Sadhana Forest Haiti. I have kept eye on the moon who welcomed our arrival with a rising crescent, Cheshire grin. She has continued to grow with me in her light, like a spotlight opening up her lens to the scene.
We are here: Haiti — feeling the history of the landscape and not wanting to believe it.
From the wounded landscape around me, barren and deprived, to the ever-present possibility that I too could become so changed by the influence of an exploitative economic system, so changed by the hands of greedy men. From my vulnerability, I am driven.
Here on the frontier of the bukara (wasteland) you feel how tender your skin is to the threat of cacti and hungry bugs.
Inside each of us is something… unseen, maybe neglected – something ripped of its origin. Humans, born animals, have been removed from the natural realms, taught to nest our minds between walls that travel with us, within us, for false security and protection. Even fully conscious of the internal oppression, there is much more to overcome. Within days of this new beginning, I have cried for the child I was, and in ways still am.
It is Wednesday January 16th and I walk to the beach to catch the dregs of sunset. I sit on the shore with Eddie, a Haitian man my age who just this hour revealed a profound sensitivity to me with trust and honesty. Synchronically, hours ago I was deep in an emotional breakdown that was much like crashing through brick wall after brick wall to reach the sunlight from a dark and haunted basement.
Are we so interconnected as this?
Then a sound--not unlike a motoconcho's wailing engine, not unlike an extended cry of a goat...I turned around searching for the source of distress.
A child runs half naked, crying loudly. His face held in Terror and he glances behind him with fear. As far as I can see, no threat is coming after him, and no person is coming to his aid either. I take my time observing before walking carefully and quickly to him just as his whole body sinks into emotional exhaustion on a rock by the orphanage gates.
We lock eyes – nothing more than immediacy between us. He lifts his arms to me; I lift him up without words.
His wailing quells the instant I feel his anguish pass through me. Eddie is there and the boy tells him in Creole that his mother is coming to beat him. He can’t go home. He wears a baggy shirt with no pants and no underwear. This is typical attire of young children here. I rock him and hum to him some impromptu tune, and put my cheek to his, collecting some of the tears.
A man from the orphanage taps my shoulder and takes the boy from my hands. I feel hollowed. A discussion breaks out between the man and Eddie. One that I understand but cannot comprehend, one in which I have no say. I want the boy to be safe. I do not know enough Creole to advocate for a young child.
The words move past me, over my head. I step away to the shore. Tears fall, many tears. My body shakes but I do not move more than that. I am consciously standing taller than I otherwise would, and I observe the picturesque scene of the sun descending into the ocean.
Taking in the paradoxes… the more I stare at the blue the more intense the colors transform.
I feel Eddy’s eyes before I feel him walk towards me. He stands off to the side, and together we are sensitive to the space and time of processing this sudden thrust of another’s crisis. I take few more deep breaths then wipe my face. We hug; I know no safer place than in the arms of a friend.
I didn't anticipate the mother would come looking for her child, that he would end up dragged by the arm through the dirt road roughly enough to suggest the snapping of bones. Or that personnel from the orphanage would surround him and his mother, that he would break free, that a woman I recognized from the day of face-painting would scoop up the child and stand by us, behind a motoconcho, holding him.
Eddy nudges me and we walk away, our roles are no longer needed here. Behind us, the woman screams and we here strange, funny noises. We look around (today it seems the whole world is changing behind our back) the mother is now thrashing horizontally in one man’s hands who carries her back the wey she came. In the fashion he gripped her arm and leg, it looked as though he just picked her up spontaneously, as she was mid-violence, and started walking. She was still so livid to get to the young boy and I don’t know why she wanted to hurt him so badly. Still I carry his pain with me, and in visceral ways, I know his fear as I cannot say: the firsthand knowledge of a cruel and unloving world.
For each of us this is certain to me: we are responsible for our future, as well as the lives and livelihoods of others. We are as much the environment as the scenery. With every tree we plant and care for, with every child we connect with through games and art we are participating in a community-driven movement to shape an alternative way of living that nourishes new and existing life. A single shared moment of compassion can alter the course of our shared histories.