Posted by: MC | February 11, 2009

Fresh Picked Oranges

Tucson, AZ


“The rise over there to the left – hazy in the distance,” Rudy Suwara pointed out the window. “Yes, I think I see them,” I said. “That’s Tijuana. That’s Mexico. And over there about midway up the horizon on the right; that’s where the original mission was. Oh, and right there behind the parking structure – see it over on the university campus? That’s where the plane went down last year.” 

Rudy and I stood in the living room of the house he and his wife have lived in for 30 years. The house sits high on a hill in the eastern part of San Diego, CA. A few hours earlier I had rolled over in bed in to glance out the expanse of glass across the western wall of the Suwara’s guest room. My still sleepy eyes opened to the tentative pink of early dawn giving backdrop to the city still sparkling from night. Quiet and profound in the center of the sky was February’s full moon. 

After our visual tour of the San Diego valley Rudy, Colleen and I sat with freshly picked oranges and coffee to talk of change. Later, Rudy would harvest avocados, also from among the trees he’s planted and tended on the steep hill beneath their home. He put them in a bag and tucked them in the foot well of my back seat to ripen between San Diego and Albuquerque. 

The Suwaras have lived lives as exceptional volleyball athletes and coaches. He an Olympian in 1968 and 1972 – a coach for the Olympic Volleyball team in 1996. She a nationally recognized coach at the community college level. They are teachers, they are parents and grandparents, they are children. Rudy was raised by first-generation immigrants in Spanish Harlem. Colleen is an accomplished guitarist. She also has a greeting card line from which all profits go to “animals in need.” 

As I was leaving the Suwara’s home, two women were arriving. They have a contract with the Suwaras. Every two weeks they come to the house to clean. 

Rudy and Colleen were excited to introduce me to Maria and Marta and to tell them about the EX:CHANGE project. In new English, Maria said, “This is good. Working people have a lot to say. We are not stupid and I think it is sad to miss our ideas because we have less money or less English language.” 

Her words echoed in my awareness as I made my way to the SDSU campus. There I ran into a 25 year old coast guard reservist and finance major. Todd’s quick and welcoming smile punctuated his willingness to speak with a stranger about the change he’s known. As a child removed from his biological parents at birth – as a foster child and later as an adoptee – as a boy the schools could only see as a problem – as a man who is determined not to succumb to the stereotypes and low expectations thrown his direction – and as a man devoted to his family and community in spite of, and even because of the soup of negative circumstances in which he was raised. 

“We are not stupid. It is a waste to miss our ideas.” 

Later in the afternoon, Khris met me on the sand of Ocean Beach – the community at the far western selvage of San Diego. Khris is an architect. He is a skilled musician and mountaineer. He is a dear friend of my dearest friend. Khris and I didn’t have time for a full interview. We did have time to get it that both of us had in the other the giant gift of a brand new friend. As I got in the car to head east, Khris said, “I’ll see you soon.” He will. Then he gave me a quote: “There is no progress without change.” 

From San Diego’s rush hour to midnight in Tucson, there was pretty much nothing but change. The stars insistent in the twilight sky, the giant orange moon lifting out of the earth over central California. The miles and miles on either side of the line we accept as the separation of land called California from land called Arizona. 

Within and around the change I also felt constancy – in silent exchange of day and night, in connection to the people I met today, in the endurance of love and the way it stretches beneath circumstance and distance to hold me together with my family (nuclear and solar). In constancy, nothing is happening. Under the moon and its stars silence and love simply and reliably are. 

And across this stage, just as reliably, we appear to change and change.

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