The porch here at the mobile home has been a wonderful place to sit. Since it faces west, the heat of the morning comes up over the back of the home but the porch stays shaded from the blast until almost five, when the sun resigns itself to a height lower than the tin awning. My aunt Sandy has a humming bird feeder hanging from the ceiling and I've let it sit empty since I got here--which feels like a lazy, and unkind thing to do for the birds who've been coming here for years. I feel a dagger of guilt every time one of the delicate baby helicopters flies on in, hovering by the red trough only to find that there's not a sweet thing in there. When she flies off, I always think, "That's it, she'll never come back." Today, I'm going to put something in there. Because if I were her, I'd eventually stop coming by.
Yesterday my work hosted a potluck for 62+ year olds at the Loma Linda University Church. Women in church kitchens stress me out--all of them except Ana, who is my best friend at the office. She told me that when she first gets to a kitchen, she explores all the drawers and cupboards, so that later when the place is torn to pieces, she'll know how to put it back together.
Clean-up was the most stressful to be honest. One woman was intent on taking all of the leftovers home. She even came to the side counter and started pointing to what she wanted, "Gimme those," she demanded, pointing to some extra carrots, "I'm going to make pickle with them." We would have been ok with it, but she had insulted Ana by telling her that her food was "eh" and we were all holding little grudges. Ana whispered to me that we needed to still be kind, and then handed the woman a whole bowl of carrots and cabbage.
The mobile home community walks all the time, most of them members of the CHIP program and as skinny as palm trees. I was playing my new little back-packing harp on the porch the other night when one of the CHIP ladies, a very thin woman in a denim dress walked by and said she had heard the music. I like talking to ladies, and even though Robin was sixty and believes that all bad things happen for good reasons, I felt like our souls were already friends, if only because we've both never been married.
She'd lived in Mexico from '72-'90, across from the tip of the Baja Peninsula where she worked at a mission near Mazatlan in a village called Via. I couldn't bear to listen to her stories after a while--they all ended so badly, and yet I couldn't stop listening to her. She wasn't shy of all the sadness or loss in any way. She lost a fiancé in an awful accident, and then once she'd loved a second man, he took his own life. She lost her father just three years ago and though he was in his eighties and of all the losses that one seemed the most natural, it was the most fresh, and un-received.
I'm reading Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott and just finished her chapter on grief. She writes,
"All those years I fell for the great palace lie that grief should be gotten over as quickly as possible and as privately. But what I've discovered since is that the lifelong fear of grief keeps us in a barren, isolated place and that only grieving can heal grief; the passage of time will lessen the acuteness, but time alone, without the direct experience of grief, will not heal it."
Holy smokes, Anne. Good stuff.
What she says also reminds me of Daniel, who came to potluck yesterday, though he's not 62+. He's this hefty homeless man, out of work and recovering from losing his wife Flavia who he said was the best woman he's ever known. She used to send him to work with eight burritos and in the first six months of being together he'd gained forty pounds. He said the other men at work started paying him money to eat some of the burritos, and that Flavia soon was making lunches for many of them, too, though they wouldn't tell their own wives that.
Daniel washed dishes in the kitchen for over 90 minutes straight, telling us one hundred good things about Flavia. He said his world fell apart when she died, he said he was so depressed but now, was starting to feel better. It reminded me of what Anne wrote about losing her best friend,
"The more often I cried in my room in Ixtapa and felt just generally wretched, the more often I started to have occasional moments of utter joy, of feeling aware of each moment shining for its own momentous sake. I am no longer convinced that you're supposed to get over the death of certain people, but little by little, pale and swollen around the eyes, I began to feel a sense of reception, that I was beginning to receive the fact of Pammy's death, the finality. I let it enter me.....The depth of the feeling continued to surprise and threaten me, but each time it hit again and I bore it, like a nicotine craving, I would discover that it hadn't washed me away. After a while it was like an inside shower, washing off some of the rust and calcification in my pipes. It was like giving a dry garden a good watering. Don't get me wrong; grief sucks; it really does. Unfortunately, though, avoiding it robs us of life, of the now, of a sense of living spirit."