Yesterday I walked alongside about a thousand other people in a local march to support women’s rights. It was a damp, chilly day, cloudy and gray, but relatively mild for January. I was still a bit sick with a cold or the flu, but I was determined to go. So I dressed up in layers, medicated myself well, and stuffed a ton of Kleenex into my bag.
I planned to meet my friends Maria and Jon outside the Planned Parenthood in Glens Falls. Maria had said she thought only about twenty people would show up, so it should be easy to find each other.
When I arrived, it was easy to see a much larger crowd had gathered. The march was set to start at noon, and I was about fifteen minutes early. Hundreds of people were already filling the parking lot and lining the sidewalks outside the building, pink pussy hats everywhere. Happily I saw friends and many familiar faces in the crowd, and managed to find Maria and Jon after wandering through the crowd for a while. They had another friend, Cathy, with them, who’d come all the way from New York City.
I hadn’t ever marched for anything before in my life. But like a lot of people around the country, including those who traveled to Washington D.C., I had felt compelled to go. It just seemed like it was time.
As we all stood around waiting for the march to begin, talking about our mutual amazement at the crowd, I said I felt like a hippie today. “You don’t look like a hippie,” Maria replied. We both laughed knowing it was true. In my water-repellent softshell jacket, jeans, sturdy hiking boots, and matching hat and crossbody bag, I looked much more like a walking advertisement for LL Bean.
“But I have a hippie heart,” I joked. And I knew right after I said it that it was true. I may be forty years too late and not look the part, but deep down all I truly want is to live in peace, and with love.
But I know now sometimes you have to fight to do that.
Which was the main reason why I was there at the march, standing together with my friends and fellow marchers on a chilly January day. There are many things I am still angry about since the election, things that worry and trouble me deeply. And I realized they are troubling because they represent to me the opposites of peace and love, of tolerance and respect, of compassion and reason, of valuing our planet and its fellow inhabitants, of thinking of others and not only yourself.
And if concern for those things makes me a hippie – or even just a little bit of one on the inside – I will wear the label proudly.
On the stroke of noon we began marching out of the Planned Parenthood parking lot toward downtown Glens Falls. As my friends and I turned the corner of the building, I could see a huge crowd had gathered out front, much bigger than when I’d arrived. An ocean of people had trickled in, men and women, young and old, parents with babies snuggled to their chests or small children in tow, girls and boys. I felt proud to be walking with them, proud of myself and of all of us, proud of the people I knew were marching in Washington and in other cities all over the country.
Each and everyone one of us has a hippie heart, I thought to myself, even if only for today. I could feel them everywhere I turned.
Whether we looked the part or not, the same values were uniting us all. Even for the people who couldn’t march or were marching only in spirit, in those moments we were all connected, all over the country, millions of individual butterflies flapping their wings, creating a current to hopefully grow and spread all over the world.
And if that feeling isn’t evocative of hippie ideas or proof of having a hippie heart, then I don’t know what is. But I do know that I’m glad I found mine.