It was such a simple question.
She was talented, with a designer's eye,
and had some ideas about how to make
our storefront more attractive,
and so I listened.
"Why do you keep those angels
in your windows?"
her tone suggesting they were not right,
a bit outdated,
perhaps even too "religious".
She continued, "I would move them."
I was grateful for this question,
for it led me to a deep pondering,
a re-membering of what has happened
in the Sagrada storefront
over the last 20 years.
Here is the backstory:
In 1998, Sagrada took the leap
and moved to Telegraph Avenue
from our original location on 49th Street.
There were many vacant storefronts
in those days,
and we hoped to sprinkle
a bit of beauty and life
to a formerly vibrant neighborhood
that had become somewhat dreary.
We both needed work, we lived here,
and wanted to give it our best.
With angels and illuminated stars,
the shop windows became eye-catching,
even a conversation starter.
Some neighbors questioned seriously
why we had chosen this neighborhood
(forlorn in their eyes), rather than
the trendy Fourth Street in Berkeley.
One day early on,
while arranging the windows
yet out of sight of passersby,
I heard a sweet little voice in wonderment
call out, "Mama, look! Its an angel!"
I peeked out from behind the curtain
to spy a most beautiful little girl.
And I felt in my heart, "YES" -
this is why we are here, in this place,
beauty and love right now,
for this little girl, and for everyone
who would pass by these windows.
Over these many years, the angels
have been a portal for numerous
People have been embraced
there in the midst of them,
friends have been held,
have been sung to.
Someone stood in that very spot
and collapsed in grief
over the death of a mother,
another, the murder of a granddaughter.
Miguel came on the bus every day
to walk to the nearby dialysis clinic;
he would pray for healing
beneath the wings
of his "Archangel Rafael".
The angels have born witness
to the announcement of new babies,
newly found work, found love.
And through their portal,
now stride young people
who were first carried into
Sagrada in their parent's arms.
For those with the eyes to see,
they know that the angels,
and this portal we call "Sagrada"
invites us to another world,
a sacred dimension.
They tell us that we cannot live
on bread alone.
We must somehow feed the soul,
water the seeds of compassion,
keep the ceremonies,
and nurture the spiritual practices,
whatever our awareness of that might be.
The angels have carried rainbow flagsfor Pride Day, peace flags through several wars,papel picado for Los Muertos,
and red, white & blue bunting
at the election, and re-election
of our nation's first Black president.
Typically adorned to mark the seasons
with color, art, new books and offerings,
these angels have often been
the placeholders of photos
and the focus of our prayers:
the sorrows of natural disasters,
victims of unjust killings,
the relentless suffering of refugees
and those fleeing the turmoil of war,
and people on the streets;
inspiring leaders who have died,
and images representing causes
which advance human dignity.
The angels reach out in mercy
to each one of us
with a silent beckoning.
Even today, the angels hold the names
of thirty-six young artists, musicians
& teachers who perished tragically
in the Ghost Ship fire
last week in our city.
These angels have been our witnesses.
they are here to stay.
Mary & Carlo Busby
December 12, 2016