Sarah and I spent two hours yesterday afternoon at the Fedasil Arrival Centre in Brussels, taping together page after page of poetry and songs into an enormous magic carpet of hope. Upon these pages were words from the hearts and minds of people from many places, all having traveled to Belgium with the hope of a better, safer life for themselves and their families.
We are waiting for a new life
We are looking for some hope
We are living beneath the same sky
With a different view
Where I can find you
The maker of smiles
To take me from the dark
To be with you
What do you love?
You love to do?
Who do you love
and who are you?
I love myself
J’aim mon Dieu
I love the breaking of the day
J’aime les oiseaux
meme les pigeons
She’s nine years old
She never lived to tell you this
Killed by the bombs in Saraqib
Zindgi sakhta zindgi sakhta
Nobody can take my destiny from me
Zindgo sakhta zindgi sakhta
Life is hard
This time will pass
Always we can love
Love if you can and pass it on
With each set of words I saw or heard Sarah speak out loud, I recalled snippits of melodies and saw faces of residents appear in my mind’s eye; so many people, so many words, so many hearts. Some stanzas had been shaped into finished songs while others existed as pieces of a human puzzle, the full image not yet transformed into a whole, clear picture.
We had with us a small but dedicated cadre of children, none of whom spoke English, French, or Dutch; all who were incredibly enthusiastic about the prospect of taking piece after piece of brown packaging tape and placing it, sometimes not too gently, onto paper.
No sooner had I cut a piece of tape with the small pair of scissors with red plastic, then a tiny hand had grasped it, crumpling the edges beyond repair in their zeal. The hand and tape gone and another hand instantly appeared, ready for their piece of tape.
So it went, for two hours while the wind picked up and tiny drops of rain began to fall. As we worked, we found forgotten words and breathed new life into them as the wind breathed the growing carpet into motion, a wave of words rippling over the cobblestone the children, Sarah, and I all screaming with delight and trepidation lest the wind take our carpet and send it into the air and beyond our reach.
So what if it did? Perhaps, we should have taken it to the roof and set it free to bring these words of hope, sadness, suffering, and love out into the world, which is in such desperate need of truth and heart in these dark times where fear of the other reigns supreme.
But we kept at it, placing our bags, my ukulele case, and an overturned chair onto the corners of the carpet to act as literal paperweights and drawing ever-longer pieces of tape between any edges that were left flapping in the increasing wind. I would place a piece of tape down and begin to draw the roll away, and little hands would come down to press the tape to paper, progressing along the seam of two pages in time with my linear mostly movement.
The entire act was a piece of performance art in and of itself, the finished carpet a testament to the human spirit and willingness to risk everything to live and love.
As we finished and the rain began to fall in earnest, we lay on the carpet, laughing, our faces turned up to the sky. Drops of rain fell on my cheeks, and gulls flew overhead.
Then, we drew one long edge of the carpet over to the other in an attempt to fold it in half. From there, we continued to fold the fastened pages into a bundle, which we carried, continuing to laugh, and set to dry by a radiator in an empty classroom. Perhaps, it would dry and we could open it again another day and take another ride on this magic carpet of creative spirit.