Tuesday, November 3, 2020

The Company You Keep

Today I spent the day with Douglas fir trees, manzanita bushes, laurel bay trees, ravens, hummingbirds, a few flies and a vista that is never less than breathtaking. None of the above seemed the least bit concerned or interested in the human drama playing out around the country and thus, gave me permission to enter their world, a world where no plant betrays another, no tree denies its responsibility, no fly has an ambition to soar above its station and lord over others. I walked up to the West Point Inn on Mt. Tam, sight of many a memorable end-of-year gathering with family and friends, three generations cooking and eating together, hiking around the mountain, sitting on the porch drink in hand taking in the view, playing cutthroat Hearts games or more friendly Charades. An oasis in the midst of the busyness of the world that we’ve kept to for some 35 years (the earlier years in the snow-bound Sierras). 


So on this day fraught with everything in the world I care about at stake, it was a good decision to do the 5-mile round-trip walk with my sister and chat about this, that and the other thing, which included several dips back into our seven-decades shared history. We discovered that we each had opposite teachers in elementary school, which was odd because she was only two years ahead of me and there were only two teachers per grade. There was something comforting and soothing about this little return to the ground of our being, the starting points of our adult lives that we continue to share together on many levels. 


Three hours later, she left but I didn’t feel finished with my mountain friends. So I took another short hike by myself, paused to hug a tree and hey, there’s a good solution in this time of pandemic. Another half hour walk on Bolinas Ridge Trail and then hitting a rhythmic stride walking back chanting the name of my two candidates to give them a little boost and not entirely ignore today’s drama. 


I drove back over the Golden Gate Bridge deeply immersed in Keith Jarrett’s newly-released (and sadly, last) solo concert that he gave in Budapest and returned home filled with the depth of the music, the warmth of the time with my sister, the kinesthetic memory of the tree hug and the day’s sun and fresh air stored in my very being. It was 6 o’clock when I walked into my house, steeling myself for watching election returns and then realizing—“Hey. I don’t have to. Why trade this equanimity and calm and soulful feeling for the horror of the talking heads and the numbers tipping this way and that? Why not have a quiet night at home away from the TV and see if I’m ready to face it tomorrow?”


And that’s exactly what I’ve chosen to do. This post, piano playing, maybe lie down on the floor with headphones and let Beethoven’s 9thpour through me, then read my book and have a restful sleep before I either leap in exultation or fall down to the floor trampled in despair. No one benefits from me going on the out-of-control merry-go-round of incoming numbers and constant commentary. What a radical idea. And why not?


My wife’s at the other end of the house and has strict instructions not to give anything away unless it’s the confirmed news we both want to hear. Maybe a bad idea, because if she doesn’t come in, it either means the worst, or more likely, to early to tell. We’ll see how it plays out. Meanwhile, on to the piano with the company I love to keep.





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