Between the toxic effluent from the Camp Fire and the toxic effluent from the Dumpster Fire I have been battling a difficult level of depression. The Sunday trip to the ocean helped, and coming home to an afternoon nap with purring cats aboard helped too. When our then-kittens arrived at our house in June of 2017, they were scared and disoriented. We’d made a box-nest for them in the kitchen, but they cried into the night. I put on my robe, came downstairs, and sat in the corner by their nest all night. My presence calmed them, and it seemed a small price to pay. Now they reward me by the healing that happens when two purring cats park themselves on my belly.
I’m trying to help myself too. Trite as it may be, running the clear water of gratitude through my being washes away a lot of shit. Thanksgiving’s coming, so I’ll share.
We just celebrated our 58th anniversary, and that’s at the top of my list. I’m aware of the extraordinary grace of not only having a long-run marriage, but also one that still throws off amazing sparks. And that union assisted the coming into being of Eli and Johanna, whose lives have endured the inevitable slings and arrows with valor. Our ancestors have all gone beyond, so the four of us are the last branches on our family tree, but counting their two admirable mates, in reality we are six. That’s way more than good.
I rejoice in the work we have created. Thinking back over our many decades of collaboration is exhausting as well as exhilarating, but I can still feel the shimmer of all the lives we’ve touched, all over this country. I can still feel the echo of the terror I felt on tour in 1978 before starting a performance for young teens in Americus, Georgia, where I was sure that skin color and rural roots and profound differences in accents would leave us hung out to dry. Instead, they felt the jazz roots of our dialogue and we all had a wonderful time.
There are artists with whom we have worked whose work takes my breath away, artists who are our friends. They are our tribe, our fellow outsiders, and when they ring their bells, my heart says, Yes.
I’m blessed that we both have our health. Medicare made navigation through Conrad’s open heart surgery and my two hip replacements possible without reducing us to homelessness. And speaking of home, being here in Sebastopol since the summer of ’99 has been our rock, our anchor, our paradise. I wept bitterly when we left Stanford for South Carolina in 1966, and it took 33 years to come back home. That’s fine; 33 is a good number.
Navigating the aftermath of a tumultuous childhood has been a wild ride, and I’m hyperaware of that now as I’m working on my own memoir. I have a new appreciation of myself in having come through all that and not regretting any of it.
And every day I give thanks that I have clean water, enough food, shelter, and warmth. In the words of the poet Jane Kenyon, “It might have been otherwise.”
And this year’s greatest gift, courtesy of Ancestry DNA and the skilled work of a search angel named Kif Augustine, I now know who begot and bore me. I have images of their faces, I am learning more all the time about their life-stories, and I have found three brothers and a sister. In this case, half is more than whole.
In the midst of tragedy and chaos, an attitude of gratitude is a life-preserver.