Wednesday, September 30, 2020

The Fires, The Virus & The Day of At-One-Ment



        Sunday night. The eve of the Day of At-One-ment. For our online evening services Bill & I are asked to light the candles. “Shekinah, divine feminine, bless our children and the children of our children that they may be sustained and that they sustain the earth and each other”.              

     After services we receive news of new fires in Napa and Sonoma and evacuations. Plague upon plague! We are supposed to shelter in place if possible, but people are being driven from their homes. Dazed, they arrive in parking lots, unsure of where to go, what to do. I feel such of empathy for them.  

    It’s grape harvest time. A vintner described “Beautiful bunches…the best ever” - but there has been concern for the workers - how to keep them safe from the virus? Now the vineyards are ablaze. Beautiful old wineries have been destroyed.


     We have a Red Flag Fire warning for the  Berkeley Hills, and we are prepared to evacuate: the Go Bag with survival items and all our important documents and the cat’s supply bag are next to the door. Bill's art is too large to take with us, but how can we leave it? What irreplaceable books should I pack? The warning will end at 8AM in the morning. But when I  wake at 8 there is a message extending the warning till evening. The air is smoky, but a fire in the Oakland Hills has been put out. We are safe - for now.

    It's Yom Kippur. The Day of At-One-ment. The doors and windows of our house are closed against the smoke. I am in the living room facing the sky, the redwoods, the smoky clouds hiding Mt. Tamalpais. As I click on Zoom for the morning service, squirrels are cavorting on the deck. The singing begins. “My home is a home of prayer for all people and all nations” and I silently welcome all to my living room, making certain that I include those who we call our adversaries - those on the other side. 

       Naomi Newman, singer, actress, director, playwright, reads prayers for those who died from Covid, died from Neglect, and prayers for those who survived, because life is a wilderness. Laura Goldman, therapist & spiritual teacher, reminds us that endangered places, high wire spaces, the unknown, are places of transformation. What trapeze of possibility is swinging toward you? Is there any safety net? Must we let go of all that has brought us to this place? Will voters choose the ones who can bring us to the other side?

    Yom Kippur and the state of California and our state of being is on fire. Why can’t we summon this fervor, this grief, this fear and deep love on all other days?  I look at myself in the small square on the screen and acknowledge my vanity and my self-consciousness, such old patterns, and I laugh, forgive myself, let it go, and scroll to the faces of strangers and silently give my heart to them. 


      And then Joanna Macy, Root teacher, Buddhist scholar, environmental activist, has us look at our hands. Our hands that were once fins and flippers and all they have accomplished over millions of years. “Fear and courage are at each other’s throats” she says, summarizing our national divide, but with these hands, what we can still accomplish to save this world! Even if we fail, even if we can’t sustain - let us make the attempt in joy and with wonder”- this fearless holy activist!

     And then she reads us these lines from a poem of Rilke’s, from the Book of Hours, which she and Anita Barrows translated, and it is exactly what we needed to hear:

Dear darkening ground,                                                         You've endured so patiently the walls we've built                    Perhaps you'll give the cities one more hour                                 

and  grant the churches and cloisters two.                                and those that labor - let their work                                        grip them another five hours, or seven, 

before you become forest again, and water, and widening wilderness                                                                                   in that hour of inconceivable terror                                         when you take back your name                                                     from all things.      

Just give me a little more time!    

I want to love the things                                                             as no one has thought to love them,                                         until they're worthy of you and real.