And there are no shortage of willing participants. Day One brings plenty of confused stares and smirks toward Schapira, but it also brings more than a dozen visitors — or “customers,” you might call them. One woman tells Schapira how thinking of climate change gave her hives when she was a sophomore in college. A man wheeling a suitcase asked for directions to the train station, then sticks around to share worries about his recently-lost his passport, his family back in Saudi Arabi, and political corruption. One guy skids to a stop on his bike and wheels over to share a riff on wars around the world — in Afghanistan, in Russia — before moving on to the recently kidnapped school girls in Nigeria and the “scariest” thing of all: the missing Malaysian airplane. A few minutes later, a skinny guy with glasses stops, snaps a photo of the booth on his smartphone, and asks Schapira, “Are you with the Sierra Club?”
“I’m just a person,” she responds.
By 6 pm, Schapira’s donation jar is filled with bills and change, her stack of “RI IS MY HOME” cards is slightly shorter, and she has 12 pages of notes scrawled in her three-ring binder. The author of numerous published books of poetry, Schapira says she may turn the accumulated notes from her counseling stint into a writing project, but she’s not sure what or when that will be, exactly. (She asks permission to document each conversation she has.)
As concerned and consumed as she is with climate change, she still doesn’t have a grip on the proper language to approach and describe the problem, she says. That’s part of what this project is about.
“If people are like, ‘What are you upset about?’ and I’m like, ‘I’m upset about the loss of biodiversity,’ you see how that sounds?” she says. “But I don’t want that to sound stupid. I want it to sound regular. . . if people talked about it more, it would sound more regular.”
Schapira will be “on duty” Tuesday through Saturday from 3 to 6 pm (3 to 5 on Saturdays) at Burnside Park until June 7. For more info, go to climateanxietycounseling.wordpress.com.