Tuesday, November 08, 2005


I came home yesterday. I won’t bore you with the three hour wait on the tarmac that resulted in missed connections, hotel in Phoenix, etc. Suffice it to say that I got home with about eight hours of sleep in forty-eight. I was exhausted, but not heart weary. Lisa picked me up at the bus stop in Grass Valley in her biodiesel burning Mercedez, took me by my cabin to drop my stuff, and down to the Ranch House for dinner.

We were a little late, and the community was assembled. There were exclamations and hugs and handshakes when I came in. The consensus was that I hadn’t gained weight, but I had more grey hairs than I did a month ago. I’m sure that it is just my Louisiana haircut that makes me look greyer.

We have a moment of silence, all standing around the big table in Doug and Dorothy’s house holding hands. There are sixteen of us or so. After a moment of worship, Mary, who is increasingly discombobulated by Alzhiemer’s disease, says, "I think that’s just the right amount of that." We giggle and agree. Dinner is introduced by the cooks, much of it harvested that day from our garden. Squash, carrots, garlic, onions, have come together. I am so grateful for this real food—I’ve eaten processed, commercial ly grown food for most meals over the last four weeks.

Naomi is concerned that Nora will be getting braces on her teeth. "They are just trying to make you perfect, instead of yourself!" she declares. She will be nine years old this Sunday. "I will still be myself, " Nora assures her. Nora just turned thirteen, and knows everything. "I’m going to try to keep my gap." She pushes her tongue against the back of her two front teeth, and a little bit of the tip sticks out between the gap between them.

Doug and Clayton are huddled with Eric at the card table that any other group of people would be where the kids were exiled to. They are discussing the installation of the new wood stove in the office. Doug and Clayton are tall men, both well over six feet with dark hair and square shoulders. In contrast, the students insist that Eric reminds them of a leprochaun-small, with bright red hair and an infectious grin. All three men are lean, with skin that has been burned by sun and wind, hands that know the feel of wood and steel and tools. The sense of regard and affection between the them is noticeable in the way they incline their heads towards whichever one is talking, nod seriously when discussing the importance of checking the floor joists below the stove before they install it.

Dorothy manages to be the hostess even though we have all been in this house eating dinner so many times that we know where the dishes go, where the balsamic vinegar is, where the Trader Joe’s chocolate treats are stashed in the top of the antique enamel stove that dominates the kitchen but isn’t used. Amy is at ease, more relaxed than I have seen her in a long time. While I was away she stepped out of the Executive Director job, and became our cook. Bob, whose wife Kathy is our admissions director, is taking over. Amy actually looks physically younger. When she says, "Why Mr. Magruder, we will have to figure out how to fit you back in around here," her husband Chamba corrects her, "Carl and Bob will have to figure that out, you mean." They laugh.

Having eaten, I am really feeling the lack of sleep and the long travel. I make my farewells and take up the manzanita stick that I carved when I first got here two and a half years ago. The night is warm, and I carry my heavy wool coat under one arm. My old stained fedora is on my head. The moon is hidden behind rain clouds, but the light gravel of the road picks up what light it throws. I know this road in the dark anyway. Rail fence on my right, the silhouette of old apple trees on my left as I walk past the orchard. "Good night, bees," I say softly to my bees in their boxes. "Good night, llamas," I call to the pasture on my right. Up past the barn I go, the walking stick springy in my hand as it taps the road. My muscles delight in the effort of climbing the steep hill, my breath comes easily. The air is mild, the night silent except the sound of running water in the ditch beside the road.

For two years my dream has been to create an intentional spiritual community here. The values of the sectarian world are so far from the values of the spirit, that it seemed to me we might go further in our efforts to live in Truth if we were a little bit separate from it. Quakers say, "Be in the world, but not of the world." Then we could go out into the world to work, and come back to the covenant community for spiritual sustenance. The housing group is meeting on Sunday. Will we make an intentional community here one day? The serendipity community we have has every aspect of an intentional community that I could want, except permanence. Might I live with a partner here, raise a family of some sort, study, learn, work, grow?

Instead, it seems that soon I will go forth from here. When I spoke to Jessica of Christian Peacemaker Teams in the sunny back yard of the CPT house in Douglas, AZ, she asked me if I had a home. "It is very difficult to do this work if you don’t have a home place to come back to," she told me. I have a home. I have more home than lots of folks will ever have in this crazy world. I just don’t know if it will always be there when I’m ready to return.

The air in my cabin is a little stale as I come in. I kindle the fire, and take off my hat, hang it on its peg. I tune my old violin with the tuning fork. It is very out of tune. I put a Richard Shindell CD on and play a couple of tunes with him. Put the fiddle up. Brush and floss. Bank the fire. Crawl under my sleepie bag. Turn out the night. Blow a good night kiss across the cosmos. It’s good to be home.


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