I am writing to you this morning to tell you that the world is full of truly lovely people. I have a LOT of evidence to back this claim up, but mostly I am compelled to write to you from my perch in the middle of San Francisco because I am missing my church this morning.
Isn't it funny how we want to have a break from something, we want to get away from something for a while or maybe forever, and then when we do we miss it? Some Sunday mornings I wake up and think ... ugh, I just want to get the paper and lay around in bed and read all morning. Which is actually kind of ridiculous and not at all an accurate depiction of my life because I'm pretty sure I've never laid around in bed all morning reading the newspaper. I'm not really a lay around in bed all morning person, in general; I have no idea what compels me to harbor that desire. Maybe some Sundays I just don't want to have to go ... to work.
Except that the thing about church is that it's not really work. I mean, sure, it takes planning, thought; there is xeroxing involved and some flower and coffee prep. I have to wear clean clothes and look alive, but, still, it's not work in that I'm done at 4 and then I’m outta here! sense. The church people are family; we hug a lot. Sometimes, well, actually, lots of times, I cry when I'm standing up there speaking in front of everyone. Like the time all those people were shot in the church in Charleston. I couldn't talk about it without crying because, you know, a church. I have no idea why I thought a church is any different than a school or a movie theater or a mall, or a backyard, and I get the folly in that, but I did.
I cry at the pulpit when I talk about my kids growing up and leaving; I cry when I tell them about the dark days I have endured; I cry up there when I express my gratitude that they chose a crying fool to be their pastor.
So anyway I'm here in San Francisco taking a class at the Zen Hospice Project, where they're creating end of life experiences that everyone deserves. I read about it three years ago and I had to come and see it, touch it, smell it, ask lots of questions, that's how I learn.
The class is an interesting mix, all of us drawn here in one way or another by its title: Mindful Caregiving. We've come from all over the country for two days of Zen Hospice wisdom, and yes, there is one person in the group with whom I have about seven overlappings: we know some of the same people, have lived in some of the same places and have been drawn to many of the same things in our lives. I pegged her right from the start because we are about the same age and she looks like and reminds of me of someone I love back home; she lives in a place I have visited several times and loved: Bainbridge Island. We huddled at the end of the day to compare notes and agreed that we could probably be teaching the class, given our life experiences, but that it doesn't matter; the people are interesting, the young ones have something to teach us and the class gives us an opportunity to reflect and to know when not to speak, when to let others work through things, how to witness and not impart. We were giddy to be meeting here in a city we are both visiting and to learn that, at several points in time in our lives, we were about one decision away from becoming neighbors.
And, oh wait. Later in the evening when I opened Instagram, the first thing I saw was that my Alaskan nephew was traveling ... to Bainbridge Island.
This life is a funny thing, right?
It's 9:16 back home. Platt is already at church, putting out the flag, tending to the bulletins, checking the windows. Hopefully someone remembered to make the coffee and bring the snack.
On Friday I spent the day wandering all over this city. I went to the Legion of Honor museum to meet up with my beloved friend Simone and her class, her kids, her flock. We walked among the Rodins and Schnabels and hugged and cried. We went to the beach and ate lunch and hugged and cried. I told her son, Owen, who was back from college and working with his mom for the summer, how much we miss her back in Vermont. "She's a pretty spectacular woman," he said and I agreed, from our perch on a piece of driftwood, watching her run around with her group of humans that the rest of the world doesn't know what to do with but Simone loves the heck out of and takes everywhere to do all kinds of fun things.
She is a pretty spectacular woman, that Simone.
I don't know, I could go on and on. There appears to be an actual sunrise here in this city this morning. Back home they are settling into their pews and looking over the bulletin to see the morning's prayers and songs. They are greeting each other and catching up. The city pigeons are cooing here; back home I bet the Station Restaurant is filling up with breakfast eaters, I bet Flower Brook is getting a little low. I bet Margaret is stepping up to the pulpit now to greet everyone: Good morning and welcome to the Pawlet Community Church!
We're always missing something, aren't we? From the moment we are ejected from our mother's cozy belly we are missing something we once knew, seeking it, probably, everywhere we go ... home, some sense of ... home. Sometimes we find it in a person we never knew before and it's surprising, it's delightful: Hey! You know some of the same things I know about this life! The people we love, our kids, our friends, our partners, our siblings, our parents, they carry bits of home with them, away from and back to us, that swaying dance we do throughout our lives, like the waves of the ocean, toward and away, toward and away. Mostly I think we find home in places we didn't expect. By forces that seem accidental but probably really aren't, we end up somewhere we didn't plan to be and there we find a sense of belonging.
It's 9:39 in Vermont; they are singing the morning's first hymn ... back home. Amen.