In an uncanny twist of fate I find myself in transition, packing up house and home of fifty years to move onto a farm community, just when the rest of the world is also in transition, this virus having put all of us in Stop mode for the time being. We do not know what comes next, but we do know that there is no going back to what was.
Like it or not, this time is about Change.
Locked in place, we are on the move – every single one of us, from the icefields of Siberia to the barrios of Brazil – whether we belong to the 1% or the 99%, whether our skin is dark or light, whether we are young or old.
There is no going back to ‘normal.’
I feel I am living this reality in real time every day, dismantling our longtime home before moving on to a new life in a new place on the farm. Every saltshaker, every book I remove from a bookshelf, every picture on the walls contains memories of our family’s years together here, and I find myself awash in nostalgia for what was, for how we grew one another up, and for the grown-ups we all have become – the parents as well as the kids!
The floors are littered with piles of the ‘keepers,’ and the rest is offered to friends and neighbors, or tossed into the trash with little more than a goodbye kiss. The pandemic is forcing me to be decisive, as the thrift stores are in shutdown too. I’ve always hoped the inevitable ‘shift’ of consciousness would happen in my lifetime, and here it is – not at the most convenient moment, perhaps, but just in time!
And how relatively gentle this wake-up call is, compared to the cataclysms I had been imagining! Yes, many of us will inevitably die, myself included, but most of us will make it through willy-nilly, wiser than we were before and ready to do the work of active change.
May it be so.
So, soon I will be all packed up and ready to move, bringing with me only a small fraction of what is in this house – just what will fit into a one-room studio. Our house itself will be going to an organization committed to affordable housing, mostly for local artists, and when I leave in a few weeks my life will change radically from homeowner alone in a big house to elder in a diverse community of young movers and shakers. Sheep and goats will go baa-aa outside my window and fruits and vegetables will flourish right outside my door. Amazing young people will be my close neighbors and together we will try to demonstrate another way of living, aging and dying in our culture.
Every move I make feels like I’m doing it for all of us, like a metaphor in action. With each box of ‘stuff’ I let go, I make space for whatever comes next. Moving into community I am no longer the Mom of my own little family but an elder member of a new neighborhood of folks committed to sharing what we know, being there through the thick and thin of daily life with one another, and learning how to be a many-variegated tribe of equals.
Nobody ever said it would be easy, but I suspect it is necessary: either we figure out how to make this work, or it’s curtains for most of us. It is a brave experiment these young people are taking on and I feel honored to be amongst them.
People ask me if I will have enough privacy; do I have the energy to participate in a community; will I feel out of place? And then, wistfully, “I wish I could do that too..,”
In fact, as an elder with years of life experience, I am by definition useful to the group in the ways of the Grandmothers. Having been there and done that, I know a thing or two that can be helpful. I give to the community what I can give, which includes elder perspective, funds and furniture and they help me in all the ways, from listening to what I know, to teaching me how to use the new technology – or do it for me, chicken that I am. As I age and die, they will care for me and hopefully honor me, and I will teach them by demonstration that there is nothing to fear in this process of aging and dying. They know their turn is next.
I love them, and I think they love me. They even listen to what I have to say! These young folks are my new in-house family and are the people I plan with and laugh with, argue and discuss and laugh and cook and cry with.
I remember, so many years ago, when I went into labor with my first child, it suddenly occurred to me that starting the next day, my life would never be the same! This wasn’t just a one-night high adventure, it was for keeps as I was bringing a new person into the world and I would be committed forever!
And it was! Same thing is happening now because once this move is made, everything will be different in my life. And once this pandemic has run its course, everything will be changed for all of us and, hopefully, for the planet itself.
I believe that is where we are right now, and the contractions have been coming for a long, long time and it is time for us all to push together and give birth to this new reality that has been gestating in our bellies for awhile – longer even than our own lives.
We are on the cusp and it is time.
What will this new world look like – boy or girl or a more complex story than that? How shall we then live and how help one another live? Will we look different than we do now, how will we mix our cultures? How will we reconfigure our economies, and will oil no longer be the way we procure energy?
Who will our children be, and how expansive will their minds be, and how will we produce our food, heal our sick, partner with one another and our environment, enjoy our bodies, honor the sacred, understand the meaning of justice?
One thing I do know is that the future of our planet and our species is going to be a lot more enjoyable than it is now, because we humans will like ourselves and one another better than we do now, and fear will no longer be the common denominator.
Look how quickly and easily we took over when the authorities couldn’t manage to supply masks for us! We were all scared, but fabrics got passed around, sewing machines opened, Zoom circles formed and masks became the new artform! Now we all walk around sporting colorful tulip shapes and fancy dangles in wild prints every shade of the rainbow!
We can do this, folks, and have fun doing it and see how good we feel about ourselves and one another as we discover how capable we are! It is love at work, I believe, the engine that drives our best selves and makes each day an adventure of living. Whyever would we choose any other way to be?
There’s no time like the present and we are the ones who are here, the ones who will dance at the Revolution. (And don’t forget to do the laundry!)
The Mayans say this:
“May we have long life, honey in the heart and thirteen thank yous.”
Yes. Thank you.