A thing I’ve come to appreciate enormously about our culture here in Sonoma County is the tendency to gratitude for our blessings, gratitude for all those whose work helps us, gratitude as an approach to life that helps us all remain healthy and live together in greater harmony. It’s a thing amply demonstrated every time another blasted fire rampages through our hills and reaches our streets. It’s a thing people have also found time to demonstrate related to covid, as you’ll note if you read carefully the photo with multiple signs, below. Happy day on which we Americans are meant to appreciate our many blessings, which include, one must acknowledge, gaining control of a large and fruitful continent-sized territory to the great detriment of that territory’s prior human occupants, who descendants still live among and around us, often ignored by the general culture at large and certainly dismissed far too readily in the “histories” we tell ourselves. Peace, health, gratitude and opportunity.
And since I’m still working through a backlog of photos from recent months, while getting out for hikes and rides often enough that I’m amassing more photos of this beautiful world at a faster pace than my own posting speed…plus, since here in the US it’s the holiday we dedicate to eating LOTS and LOTS of food (tribute to that bountiful stolen continent I mentioned above?), I’m going ahead and posting some of my food photos to get your appetite juices flowing. Gratitude for the chance to break bread with friends, and a hope that more of our human family will experience the same opportunity in peace and good health: a fitting aspiration for today.
I’ve woken this morning, for the first time in my life, to a world in which I can’t visit, see or phone my uncle Bill. Having grown up without a father around & with both grandfathers passed before I was eleven, uncle Bill was the only adult male relative that I really felt close to, growing up. I always had the sense – once I grew up enough to take note – that he tried to step in and do what he could for me and my brothers whenever we were together: from miniature golf when I was a kid and we were all visiting our grandparents, to the summers that he and aunt Judy let me spend at their home when I was a teenager which were an opportunity to spend time with my cousins also, to more recent conversations about my humanitarian medical work, given his role as an eminent MD and medical researcher. I know that it’s one of those essential realities of being human, being organic life, that generations succeed each other and, yes, that generational succession means our elders will not always be with us. Since my work takes me so far away, so much of the time these days, this is one of my greatest fears: losing someone dear to me when I’m thousands of miles and many long flights away. I take slim consolation in my own loss this morning, from my very fond memories of the visits I was able to make to Bill and Judy at their lake house in Wisconsin just last summer, and the time spent at that wonderful family reunion (also known as my niece’s wedding) in New Mexico just weeks later. I haven’t seen Bill since, but with me on the continent we’ve talked by phone a few times. I know with time I’ll adapt to the idea that we won’t talk on the phone or see each other in person again, and that Bill will join my grandmother as one of the people with whom I wish I could share the moments when I’m living most richly — as I’ve done since that other sad family reunion nearly 30 years ago when she had left us all. I know that others feel this loss even more deeply than I, and I send my thoughts to all of my cherished extended family this morning, along with some photos I’ve scanned and pulled from my archives. Though I’ve rarely gotten so personal on this blog, uncle Bill absolutely merits special treatment and this review of my lifetime’s worth of memories of the closest uncle I’ll ever have is the best I can do right now. Good bye, uncle Bill…
Executive summary and updates: Remember that if you try to e-mail at the oberlin.edu address and it bounces back, you can try again later. Sorry that the forwarding service is having trouble again, or so I hear. Or you can post here, of course. Thanks to those who have. I’m posting two photos I just got today, but otherwise this note has no new updates…it’s all thanks yous. 🙂
One last pre-departure post. I’ve carried with me since that busy period from the holidays to the time I left LA a list of folks I want to thank for so many things, along with the note cards to do the writing and thanking, and so on. Reality has intruded on my best intentions and made me recognize I’m not going to do the individual thanks I’d hoped to, prior to getting swept up in travel, training, and then trying to act like I know what I’m doing in China. My critical self tells me an entire post of thank yous is far too Oscar-like to be worth doing, but I want to close the circle on this wave of support that’s carried me to the airplane door, so to speak…even if it does seem maudlin. So here, with regrets to anyone whose sweet tooth can’t handle it, and deeper apologies to the many I’m surely missing, are some notes of appreciation for people who’ve given me support and courage, in no particular order.
My colleagues at PPG made me feel so valued and appreciated that I truly left that job humbled. It is so much more than the individual or group physical presents you gave me, or that Pat and Ed treated us all at the lunch you guys organized — though all of that was greatly valued (and the B&N gift certificate is now travel and info books on China, and the REI certificate brought my bike to Oberlin with me). It’s the warmth and generosity of your spirit that’s really touched me. Thank you.
I don’t know where to begin with Gary, but I want to acknowledge that he may be doing more single-handedly to make my travel year(s) wonderful than anyone, including myself. When I mentioned an intention to get an MP3 player, he not only said he’d pick one up on his next Best Buy visit, but he then researched them and came up with a really great and unusual (non Apple) one, and far from stopping there, he’s been diligently converting my 300-some CD’s and, since I left before he was done converting, he’s set up a special FTP site and written all the scripts so I can condense my music library to a 1″ x 4″ x 6″ miracle for my travels. Thank you.
Two yoga teachers in particular made my last weeks in LA both healthy and spiritual, and have given me the base from which to maintain my own practice now. Thank you to Micheline Berry and Hala Khouri. One yoga teacher put me on the path to a deeper practice: thank you to Cindy Michel.
Oberlin Shansi has provided me a home this month and the support and encouragement to leave with the job unfinished, fully supporting me in this rather crazy undertaking, because they know it matters to me and think it may bring a little more generosity to the world. For that, and for giving me goals and tasks I could shine at this past year, I am very grateful.
The ways in which friends and family have supported me in this whole undertaking defy listing. My brothers (and Jill) have both offered to take my mail while I’m traveling; both they and my Mom have told me how much they respect what I’m doing, and even say they’re feeling empowered by it. This truly humbles me.
Steve and Sharon provided the vacation time and distance from my life to reach this decision; time on Kaj and Bob’s boat let the thoughts come clearer; Howard and Gene, Amy and Nancy and Kip, are all always pillars…plus Amy and Nancy have been there done that, so they can help me when I get down. Steve and Joezen let me bid adieu to LA tennis and an LA culinary landmark, plus my beloved doubles partner, for the time being. Mike and Sue helped clear out my apartment, and Susan has given Kona a home (Mike, Susan — feel free to post an update telling me how Kona’s doing…hint hint?)
Aunt Judy and Jen have been unstinting in their encouragement, and I’m letting this serve as a thank-you for the physical items of beauty Judy’s left me to travel with for the time being. (Yes, they’re going with, little tokens of family and home.)
I’m running out of steam but I just know I’m missing people. Please forgive me. Oh yes: thanks so much for posting comments! I love it — what a cool way to communicate! Now if I can just figure out which Kate and which Steve have said hi, I’ll be able to sleep soundly.
Be well and stay tuned. Peace.