If you’re as old as I am, you’re already singing the next line in this iconic Dylan song. You also know that the answer “blowing in the wind” is both blindingly obvious and as ephemeral as a breeze down Carpenter Creek Canyon.
I’d like to think that one answer to Dylan’s rhetorical ponderings is blowing in the wind— fluttering on the fence—that gusts through New Denver from the lake.
If you took a close look at the fence at 6th and Kildare, you’d see maybe two hundred strips of cloth, most with writing or illustrations. It’s a community art project, where any who wants to participate can reflect on the last eighteen months. Together, the flags provide a communal record of the griefs, gratitudes, and stories of this changing time. When the project is over, the strips will become a quilt.
Last week when I picked up my flag at the “Let It Flutter” booth, the first thing I wrote was “Agnes.” I simply don’t know how to think about the gap between my desire to attend an elderly friend through the end of her life, and what I was actually able to do. Nor do I know how to regain a sense of common ground and trust, to right the historical wrongs that perpetuate suffering now, to heal the planet.
I do know, however, that every bone in my body is grateful to live here, grateful for the trees and the lake and the wilderness and the crusty people and this fragile planet. Grateful even for the smoke and heat; grateful to be alive and capable of giving and receiving love.
I tried to say all that on my flag, but really it was just a list of names and a crude drawing of tears. That’s what’s blowing in the wind for me.
There’s depth and beauty in this small collection of fence flags. They illustrate, as Dylan implies, what is simultaneously crystal clear and impossible to grasp fully about these times: we’re stuck with each other. As torn cotton pieces—not cut—the flags are nonverbal reminders of how frayed our social fabric has become. Hanging side-by-side, blowing in the wind all summer, will tatter them more, echoing the ways we rub against each other with our different perspectives and opinions. But these streamers are held in place by the fence, as are we by our Kootenay home and by this fragile planet. There is room for everyone’s aches and joys, here on the fence. And when those banners flutter, the things we each drew and wrote and dreamed will become airborne. The prayer flags will sing our longings to the wind.
I believe that someday, when we have the perspective of distance—when all the flags are gathered into one great quilt—we’ll be able to see the terrible beauty of this time.