A poem for Wendy on her 57th Birthday.
Today, a detour from the road trip: neighborhood organizing meeting of the local chapter of the Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT).
What happens when the next disaster — wildfires, floods, earthquakes, or ??? — strikes our peaceful community here on the coast? And the services we depend on — phone, internet, power, government, police, fire, food stores, ambulances, etc. — are all down, roads are cut off, safety agencies are overwhelmed, the fires are coming, and all we have are each other?
So, following some established CERT procedures, a group of us came together for the first time, introduced ourselves, and started talking. It was a chaotic cacophony, with some people loudly insisting that we do things their way, others seeking to edify and entertain us with their long stories, and others seeking attention and reassurance with endless questions. Everybody talking at once; not much listening.
And there I was, the frustrated facilitator, trying to see that each person had a chance to speak and be heard — with limited success.
But somehow, amazingly, we actually started getting things organized, initiating a planning map for our neighborhood.
I’ve got lots to do now to follow up. But first, I’ve got three more days on this Road Trip of the Imagination — a little more time to wander and wonder and dream. There’ll be time later for everything else.
Because of our peculiar circumstances this year, it’s the first time that Wendy and I have been together for Summer Solstice in many years.
At first we wanted to go somewhere special on the coast to have a special meal and watch the sunset over the Pacific. But as we thought about it, we realized that there would be hundreds of people driving here from all over, lining up at the restaurants to do the same.
So we decided to do something really special: celebrate being together. We drank our ceremonial Kiddush wine out on the deck as we quietly witnessed the last rays of the sun on this longest of days.
Using outer light,
Return to the inner.
In this way you are safe.
Tao Te Ching: 52
Trees in the forest generally, and redwoods in particular, provide aid to each other when threats occur, such as storms, insects, fires, animals. They can provide nutrients and even water to each other. They communicate through underground neural networks, as well as through smells and even sounds. The health of each tree depends on the health of the forest, so taking care of each other is important for everyone’s long-term survival. For those of us working to cultivate connections among communities, they have a lot to teach us.
In the wild places,
revealing the truth we lost:
we need each other.
Father’s Day in the urban wilderness: Noe and Adam treating me to lunch and a movie in San Francisco. (Adam’s good humor about getting there on crutches made it a fun challenge.)
Favorite line from the movie — The Last Black Man in San Francisco: “You don’t get to hate San Francisco if you haven’t loved San Francisco.”
Undeterred as the
coast is eroding, today
the thistle blossoms.
paths that others cleared, I can
enter and return.
Returning with no
map, I can find a new path
for those who come next.
I rinsed the lunch dishes, put them in the dishwasher, made sure Wendy was okay, checked the time, jumped into the car, drove to a nearby wild area, Purisima Creek Redwoods Preserve, pulled into the last spot in the parking lot, checked the time to calculate how long I could stay, and got out of the car.
Not the same as living in a tent.
As I walked on the trail along the creek, I kept shooting pictures of redwoods, looking for that elusive, iconic image that would capture the essence of the day’s message. I couldn’t find it.
The forest was laughing at me. “You’re acting like a tourist!”
“So what am I supposed to do?” I said.
“How about just sitting?”
“Where you are!”
So I sat. And nothing happened. Until I started noticing things. Wind rustling the tips of branches, the bubbly sound of the stream, the conversations of birds. Carpets of clover, ferns, fallen branches spread out across the forest. And in the late afternoon sunbeams slanting through the tops of the redwoods, energetic circling swarms of tiny insects.
And before I knew what had happened, the whole forest was alive with magic. Wow! When did they sneak this one past me?
Essence of the day’s message: a physical road trip requires one set of practices. A road trip of the imagination requires quite another.
Okay, so now it’s a done deal for me: this year it’s a Road Trip of the Imagination. Home base each day: home. Why? Sometimes your family just needs you.
Daily agenda: Silence. Prayer and meditation. Tea. Writing. Wandering through wild places. A little inner travel; a little outer travel. Care giving as needed. Whatever else emerges. Time to laugh at it all. Gratitude.
I’m recalling a trail I walked last year, that guided me through the redwood forest. I’m still there, still here, still walking.
Your roots are deep and your trunk is strong.
But when the storms howled in,
the ones that blow fiercer each year,
to tear out your branches,
the ones you once spread to shelter your friends,
there was no one to shelter you.
I put my arms around what is left of your trunk,
and feel the life still pulsing in you,
in rhythm with the heartbeats pulsing in me, like prayers.
At the tips of your branches
little green shoots are reaching out toward the sun.
The trip was carefully planned.
Reservations, maps, supplies, appointments.
Then life intervened and shook it all up.
The thrill of not knowing.
The thrill of walking into the fog.