What is it about a place that makes it home? I would certainly say that it’s the people. As I prepare to leave San Francisco for the next adventure, I am fortunate to be able to look back on seven months (September through March) filled with people. So many people who have touched my life in various ways, large and small. Some I have written about and others not, but the impact of each one of them on my life has been profound over this time. I was blessed during my recent visit with my parents in Seattle, by a woman about ten or twelve years older than me and her gift of affirmation. I called her up one afternoon, and she took me out to coffee. As we walked, cups in hand, I asked her about herself and her passions. Music, she told me. And she turned the question to me. What am I passionate about? What is it in my life that keeps me motivated, strong, joyful? I was unsure what to tell her for a moment and then I realized, I am passionate about people.
The jasmine beside the gate of my home blooms pink and white, and its sweetness fills me with homefulness. I close the gate behind me and walk up the cracked steps to the door of the sunshine yellow house. My key turns with a bit of a wiggle and the door swings inward to a quiet house. Shutting the door, I make my way immediately upstairs. Only now as I write do I wonder whether the wooden stairs creak with my steps. The two boxes that have sat at the top of the staircase as they have for several months now welcome me with their familiarity. From above them a baby Grace smiles down at me, her face framed by a halo of white-gold curls. I walk around the banister to the door at the end of the hallway. “Peace Begins with a Smile” it says beside a laughing woman advertising some sort of clothing. Below her is a photo of four much younger college students in front of a dead car in Joshua Tree taped in front of a Kodak advertisement picturing a Joshua tree in black white. My room. I open the door and have to grin at the semi-mess I left two weeks ago.
I have been blessed these last months to live with Ellen – Grace’s mother and a woman filled with passion and compassion. She’s worked as a teacher and is currently in school and working part time for the teachers’ Union. She enables me to live in this house, and I am very grateful to her for this. She also took me to the Day of the Dead festival in the Mission and a Faithful Fools gathering a couple of days later and she has come to church with me. Rika is Ellen’s second daughter. She’s in cosmetology school, which she loves. It is an opportunity for her to combine her interest in art and fashion with her passion for people and her interest in learning (there’s a TON of theory to cosmetics and hair). I have appreciated Rika’s calm presence, her quiet diligence and her thoughtful company during my time here. A couple of particularly beautiful memories include bar hopping in the Castro and ending up at an all-night diner drinking coffee and then a drive to the ocean on a blustery night, watching the ships cruise by and talking. Rosa is one of Ellen’s two youngest daughters – she has a fiery passion and a fierce intelligence and I have yet to meet someone MORE passionate about learning, especially science. She is fascinated by how the world works and astounded again and again by people’s lack of care for one another. Rosa’s boyfriend Dominic also lives with us and I have come to look forward to his quiet hugs and his sense of the silly. Dominic feels somehow like a little brother despite the fact he is older than I am.
Then there’s Shawnrey, a dear friend from college. Sometimes I think Shawnrey was born dancing. Or at least it seems that ways sometimes. These last few weeks, since I have stopped working, Shawnrey has been a regular companion, sharing a meal in the garden she, Ellen and Rika have put so much time and energy into or walking to the YMCA with me or just sitting and talking. And in extension of my house, the person who really arranged the whole thing for me, Grace. Grace is one of my closest friends from college, and it has been amazing to see her world here – to see her in action with her class of kindergartners.
I leave San Francisco on Wednesday and then I will be in Los Angeles until March 30th when I fly to Nepal. My dad is also coming and the two of us plan to travel to Simi Gaau and then higher to Cho Rolpa, a glacial lake located at about 16,000 feet. I have never before been that high. I am sure that this time with my father will be filled with magic. Smile. After that I will be working with the dZi Foundation, again traveling to remote areas of Nepal and talking with people about work they have been doing to develop their communities. I am not sure how long I will be in Nepal; I would like to visit India also and see my host family there. I look to coming back to the United States in July or August (around the time when I returned eight months ago). I begin a Master of Divinity Program at the University of Chicago Divinity School in mid to late August of this year. I am so excited at this prospect and am curious how my life shall continue to unfold.
This has been much more news than usual, and I promise that the next email I send shall not be this way. It will probably be from Nepal, and I’ll have many stories…. Smile.
Much peace and love to each of you.