August 11 was a Sunday this year. I began bowing at my usual spot across the street from Bread Alone bakery. But minutes after unrollingmy banner I felt I was hiding, being too safe standing there in the shade, apart from the Sunday morning breakfast traffic. So I picked up the easel with the sign and took a post at the edge of the parking lot, in the sun, smack in the middle of the milling crowd.
It made for a more vulnerable and more eventful bowing session.
The first person that stopped by was a man close to my age, sporting a white cotton baseball cap. He read my sign carefully then said, “Did you write this? It’s beautiful.” There was kindness and goodwill in the sound of his voice. I’ve seen him around town. Now I know his name. Peter.
The man who parked his car along the curb across from me and then headed purposefully toward the banner while his wife entered the bakery, stood silently for what felt like a long time reading the banner text, keeping me company. Since he was silent, and I was bowing, all I saw were his beautifully polished, elegant brown leather shoes and yet his respect and attention were palpable. In those few minutes of this stranger’s witnessing, I felt connected to what this peace project means to me in a way I hadn’t felt connected to it in quite a while.
In those few minutes of silent contact, my need to mourn, my desire for a particular kind of dialogue and the sense of urgency I often feel about taking some sort of action, was acutely real.
My last witness was a woman wearing what looked like an elaborate, carefully assembled costume. A multicolored peasant skirt, a lace trimmed blouse, broad rimmed straw hat, beads. She later told me she was an astrologer and healer. “I don’t bow. I stand straight,” she said. “Bowing is submission. It’s being one of the sheep.” There was aggression in her voice and I felt my puny self-righteous you-don’t-get-it-sister self stirring from slumber. Stop, breathe, I said to myself, then paused and after a few seconds tried to explain to her what it was I was bowing to and that I was definitely not promoting submission or sheep-hood.
“You have to believe in yourself,” she said before walking away. Which self? I asked.
She then invited me to visit her studio and watch her soul-guidance videos on youtube.