Walls, Walls, Walls
I normally frame a scene by what I’m eating and what music I’m listening to. But this time it didn’t fit. My sandwich wasn’t good, the music was normal for me; the two criterium separate, and not enhancing. I was on the train to Derry for Halloween. The sign that lists the stops calls it London Derry/Derry, the British name slash the Irish name, the Protestant name slash the Catholic name. The only walled city in Ireland. Out of the left side of the window are farm fields, on the right steel cold coastline. And while the structure of my words matches, it’s an anti-symmetry.
While much of Europe is unimpressed with Halloween, Ireland celebrates Halloween. A Celtic pagan holiday where the boundaries between the living and the dead fall for a night in autumn. The lighter half of the year transitions to the darker half of the year. People dress up all week. I think about masks and the strangers sitting next to me.
We are led on a tour by a Buddhist. From the walls I see that a cannon is pointing at a butterfly intended to symbolize peace. Underneath us is the Bogside, a site of the Easter Uprising with a 1972 massacre bearing its name. The murals embalm their past in black and white, glimpses of what has happened. The present slash future is in color; rainbows, doves, Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King.
This past week I traveled from Prague to Berlin to Amsterdam by train. I got to Berlin on November 9th the 20th anniversary of the wall being torn down. I step out of the metro down the street from Brandenburg Gate and hear Hillary Clinton’s voice. There was a huge crowd standing in the steel cold rain watching the ceremony. Giant dominoes that have been painted by people in places torn by walls line the street. Mexican artists. Palestinian artists. The Berliners knocked them down. I will come back to Belfast when the Peace Line topples.