Into the heart of Fall

I’m driving under grey October skies in West Marin- looking across the vast expanse of grey sky, the grey-green rippling water of the Nicasio reservoir, the wind-shaped banks of cypress, the rocky outcroppings scattered in the grasses… It’s October and I’ve not spent more than a week in one place since May. Time feels nonsensical, as though in this expanse of comings and goings it is not actually passing at all.

I’m remembering all the places this year has taken me, the dozens of landscapes I’ve walked through and the trees I’ve slept under. I’m thinking of the people I’ve met and the lives I’ve lived. I’m thinking of cool water on my skin, bathing aching hips and shoulders in snowmelt. I’m remembering sharing tea, laughter and meals. I’m remembering evacuating a friend and the feeling of only being able to do what I could and praying that everything’d be fine. I remember dancing late into the night and I remember waking at 3am to head into the mountain sunrise. I remember the montage of faces, footsteps, quiet moments alone on the trail and I remember falling in love over and over, through successive awakenings, with this world; the challenges, graces, beauty, ugliness, the terror and the joy…

My work is so simple, and I feel so blessed to get to walk on the land, and simply share it. I feel so grateful. I feel so grateful that we each have this bright burning spark of connection in us. I’m so grateful to be blessed to witness people touching the earth, and remembering. I’m so grateful to witness what they feel, what they see, and how close to the surface that beautiful longing for reconnection is. It’s right there, waiting and longing to be touched and fed…

I’m thinking of Dustin’s song for Amy, his fiance and one of my best friends, who passed away 2 years ago now… I’m remembering how exciting and fun life felt with her at a time in my life when I didn’t know how to make it that way for myself- and I feel so grateful for the gift of knowing her. I think of Bob walking down at the pier where he and Julie used to walk together. I think of him talking to her there, the unimaginable pain of her sudden loss in the night. I remember talking with Cory over the fence about his garden, watching him playing with his son and 3 legged pitbull as joyful as anything I’ve ever seen before or since. I remember how fast his wife left the house to begin again somewhere that wouldn’t remind her of him. Death, accidental, purposeful, long-awaited… I remember every day, but right now too, that my time could come today. My mother of father’s time could be today, anyone’s time could be today, and some people’s time is today.

While I drive this 2 ton metal machine real fast on a road next to hundreds of other vehicles separated by imaginary lines I feel grateful for my life today. I feel so grateful for the lives of my loved ones today. I feel grateful to all those who I loved who’ve passed over to creator. I feel grateful for the love and I feel grateful for the loss.

Leaving the hills and oaks and entering the city I think about concrete, glass, metal. I think about systems that don’t work, I think about my bank account, I think about what I want to create, I think about this moment in history.

At a stoplight I see two veterans sitting on overturned crates with signs requesting support- it makes me so angry, and so…hurt. I don’t know them, or what their specific stories are. But I do know that we are one, and that I want them to be safe, fed, loved and cared for. I do know that my life is about changing the design that creates this. I know my life is about living the earth’s soul and heartbeat back into my body, remembering that my body and my heart is already of the earth’s heartbeat and soul.

I want to take everyone I know and love, and then through time everyone else, back out to the land- to remember, to grieve, and to make their bones part of the dust that will grow the next seven generations. I want for myself to stop traveling across the landscape and to sink into one landscape. My longing is for the slow unfolding of relationship through lifetimes, through dust bones and lineages, through knowing that cannot be broken- to find a home, to become a home.

These two men sitting near this freeway entrance, their faces long, skin thick, hands running through unwashed uncombed hair- I don’t know how they feel… discarded? Useless? Ashamed? Angry? Betrayed? Full of longing? Do they feel it’s their choice? Do they feel like victims? How much are any of us victims? How much are any of us authors of our own stories? I don’t know why in me they evoke both sadness and anger, and gratitude for humanity, awe at the mystery. My mind protests what it deems a waste of beautiful life, and yet in my depths I know that this story we’re all in is bigger than my mind’s protests and my heart’s aches, though it includes these soul urgings and longings. I feel grateful to life. I feel grateful to be humbled by not knowing where the path leads. I feel grateful that they are reminding me of our oneness. I feel grateful that they sit here- reminding me. I feel grateful for the sadness, the anger, and the love- that the beholding of any suffering inspires me to touch. I feel grateful to remember that I do not know.

As my body begins to itch and feel alive with reaction to the Guardian Oak I touched and remembered last week I feel grateful for cold water that rinses it away, for the warm water I’ll soon be able to enjoy again, and I feel grateful that my body feels pain and pleasure, irritation and ecstasy.

The fall is here in the air, in the trees, in the light and in the darkness. As I step out of my car back in Oakland the asphalt is covered with a fine yellow dust of crushed fallen leaves. Standing in the street for a moment of pause between the coming and the going, the trees are half naked and the sky is darkening. Looking again at the yellow leaf dust I flash memories of the adventurous bright summer out on the river and lakes, hiking in the quiet through different landscapes with friends, howling at the moon, early mornings watching the sunrise as we rose into the mountains; life opening me wide. What the beginning of the year held and where this path has taken me humbles and excites me. Looking at the meal of leaves, crushed beneath tires and shoes, blown by the wind, fall’s joy reaches me in a new way. In this moment of change between the seasons I feel so alive.

The last two days learning how to harvest, preserve and celebrate has made fall alive with its own beautiful promise… Harvest, celebration, preserving, togetherness and the creativity of cooking- this new way of being in fall is replacing the lament of summer’s loss with a bright excitement about a new season opening up with new possibility, new learning, new sharing, and the new life these things will live into me.

There is no end of gratitude these days. As the deaths of these last years have come on each other’s heels without time to recover from the shock or “finish” grieving before beginning to grieve again- I’ve realized that I am not making my way slowly back to some place I was before these losses, I am not going back to who I was before loss and tragedy left new places for wisdom and love in my heart and in my body. Maybe I’m slowly making my way somewhere deeper into the heart of life, my life and Life itself… The grief has become so much a part of life and reality as to never be far, but it is also not what it used to be. It’s not a betrayal anymore, not something wrong- it actually has its own beauty, its own colors, feelings, sensitivities, it’s own path of light. Sometimes the grief actually feels like some kind of elated joy, vivid aliveness… the joy and sadness are so close together they are indistinguishable and somehow both feel amazing. I remember my loved ones in the fall…

It is all cause for celebration, joy and love- not to paint sunny pictures, but sometimes it feels like all the pictures are both now. Nothing falls outside of what I expect or am willing to welcome. My mom once said to me “Life is both too short to be sad and too short to not be sad.” Thank you mom, for everything you have taught me about strength and vulnerability, love and its endurance.

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