We’ve lived here on a non county maintained road for 45 years. When we moved in, many of our neighbors had built their homes here at the end of World War II, and were the age of our parents. The land was sacred; the Coast Miwok had lived and thrived here, and now people who knew war and left it behind, came here to raise their children in the serenity of nature, connection, and peace.
Now, those people have passed on but in some cases, their children, now my age, retain their childhood home. Last night the neighborhood block party was continued by a son and his wife, and yet the spirits of the parents were there in the generosity of hosting. The set-up was the same, the food, and many of the people, though now older. Where before there were children running around, including ours, now there were only two, though the neighborhood is changing and there are children around.
This seemed a gathering of the elderly though our spirits are young. Maturing gives wisdom and the focus of much of the conversation was on gratitude, gratitude for life and health, for what continues whether we are physically here or not.
One woman spoke of how she and her sister cared for their mother in her home until her death. She didn’t want Hospice so they administered morphine which was frightening because if they spilled it, their mother would be in pain. Her mother requested they wash and prepare her body. The woman said how hard it was and yet she was grateful too.
I haven’t had that experience, and wouldn’t choose to have my children wash my body but I respect the reverence in it, the way of saying goodbye to what the spirit no longer needs and leaves behind.
Several people talked about their chickens. I didn’t know that hens lay eggs in accordance with the light, and for only 18 months to two years. In the spring, more roosters hatch than hens, and that reverses in the fall. There must be a reason for that though I don’t know it. If you want eggs, you want more hens than roosters, though I learned roosters also fill the soup pot. The chicken we buy in the store is young, eight weeks or so, to keep it tender.
We spoke of how we love living here. For many their children live far away now and so the parents “think” they should move, but the land holds us here. Our roots twine with the hills and critters, and oak, redwood, and bay trees.
We walked home, each carrying a goodie bag, put together by the hosts. It was all so sweet, and I felt then and I feel now, I’ve been to, and still am, in the reverence of gathering we call church, temple, tepee, tent, flower, tree, mosque.
The fog is in, which may affect today’s flight of the Blue Angels. Tomorrow is Indigenous People’s Day. We honor the past with presence and awareness of integrating change.
Mingyur Rinpoche: Compassion is the spontaneous wisdom of the heart.