Mills College English Department organized a meal delivery service, the folks at the Y collected "netflix" funds, friends covered my neck with charms, sister writers sent amulets and flowers, bouquets have arrived, dog friends swing by to collect Brewster and Tony is coming from SoCal to help out for a few days. And I am inert, sitting on a bed, head against three pillows. Anthony is in the other room, on duty, Brewster is at my feet. For one of the most significant times in my life I in a state of appreciation.
My family loves to have folks over to dinner, we conduct, lead and direct. We call our own social shots. Kind of social/anti-social in one breath. So when the activity around my preparing for surgery started, I was in new territory. Friends went to the beach and sung on the cliffs, Dana treated me to hair glamorizing, my sister and I dropped out for a day for a Matinee and useless shopping, Anthony and I hung out at the Marina as if we were waiting for something. And we were--a vast opening up of not only my neck, but my sense of position in the world.
Once at a funeral of someone who had lived in a community for a long time, I was impressed by the number of people-- the whole community turned out, each with a memory. They stood on the walk at the church discussing their neighbor-- reminiscing about any one of his 77 years. In my where to-- next place/job/country life, I couldn't imagine that kind of connection to a place or to that many people. As I move from one coast to the next, one house to another, the sense of accumulation is of things more than of people. But I have recognized that neighborhoods form constantly in a place, at a job, at the gym, on the trail, at workshops, in preoccupations and places of inspiration. Any kind of routine, comaraderie, sense of purpose or mission allows us to congeal. While we may be compartmentalized, somethings transcend the boundaries. Like now.
I grew up in a small town, so anything that imitates that fishbowl motif is a problem for me. But I do love the fact that Jenna at Piedmont Peets knows my coffee order, that the women at Love Nails knocks on the window as I go by, that the folks on the trail who walk the same shift as me know my name as well as my dog's and that I get a cheers style greeting when I enter the downtown Y. Oakland is just big enough and small enough. Jonah, the toddler across the street, brings his toys out to show Anthony. Ana at World Ground asks about my puppy while her baby rocks in a swing,and Luan at the bookstore hopes I'm okay.
That's the physical neighborhood. The others don't form on the physical plane. They live in my correspondences, my writing connections, my work life, my dog life, my workout routine. They show me that you don't have to be in a small town forever to have people from across the world send skype love notes and FB prayers.
I have had all kinds of blessings from all kinds of neighbors: Hiten at the p.o. box prayed at the temple for me, Dalia, sunk me into her silent retreat, del Mazo and Naz created a medicine pouch; Edith sent an inspirational song to my cell--people had different rituals and regards and each has brought me to this moment where I'm writing what I hope isn't inane because it's taking me a while to get down.
I'm going to be okay, really okay. Back to work next semester, some meds, some other therapies and the moment might be forgotten. It's an easy one, al humdiallah. Tonight I'll eat what Kirsten dropped off, Selma will come by as usual and scoot in beside me as we look at fashion mags Jane at the Y gave me, Tony will sing through the house. I'll get more messages. This time will pass and I will move onto the list that keeps me moving. In deep, I'll know I had a time when I felt in the middle of neighborhoods where folks came by with food and good wishes.
Causes Elmaz Abinader Supports