September 10, 2020
My 60th birthday trip to Greece was definitely not happening this summer. Thank goodness we hadn’t paid any money for it before the world shut down. Instead, we stayed home, safely enclosed by our fence, and had a lovely summer. Louie was the happiest dog in the world as he ran free in the back yard with his humans constantly home. The wildlife was plentiful as well, including turtles, a groundhog, and a hawk’s nest at the very top of one of the huge pine trees near the house. The three babies were awe inspiring to watch as they grew and explored our back yard all through June and July.
Emily did a two-week quarantine, got a negative COVID test, and came to stay with us for three weeks in June, and then again for seven weeks in August and September. She brought her two kitties, Buster and Moon, and we all laughed a lot watching Louie adjust to his new roommates. Emily and I did zoom yoga classes on the deck, went on long bike rides, and cooked amazing meals together.
When we finally ordered yeast online, we also made delicious bread. We signed up for a local CSA and joined an egg club, so we always had plenty of veggies for quiches, souflées and fritattas. We got meat at the Farmers’ Market on Saturdays and from other local farms. I managed to go to the supermarket only every two weeks, loading up on staples and dry goods. Thankfully, we had everything we needed including great things to eat.
The NATS Conference happened virtually online in July, as did everything else. Originally, I thought I wouldn’t be able to attend, but ended up enjoying a lot of it from the comfort of my deck. So did over 2000 people from around the world – many more than would have come if it had happened in person. As I said before, I was so impressed and grateful for all the support and helpful information they provided for teaching online. I learned some important tips about microphones, SoundTrap and Cleanfeed, that have made an incredible difference for my online teaching.
I was also meditating online with a number of groups. Everyone was setting up zoom sitting spaces, including our Princeton Insight group, and all the major and minor teachers were offering online teachings. It was amazing. I often sat with Mark Coleman and his West Coast sunrise sangha, including over 100 folks from around the world. Michael actually did a week-long program with me offered by Bill and Susan Morgan from BCBS that was sweet and lovely. I was also checking in with Steve Armstrong and Kamala Masters from Vipassana Metta on Maui. It was almost like doing a self-retreat at home, while in the midst of regular life. Well, the “new” regular life of “shelter in place” we were all getting used to. Even though we were isolated at home, I felt deeply connected to many people all over the world.
The racial upheaval and demonstrations in response to the death of George Floyd added to the emotional upheaval we were all feeling in response to the pandemic. I started reading books about racial inequity and joined an online community led by Rev. angel Kyodo williams, charismatic Zen teacher. Emily inspired me to do this work and learn more about white supremacy and privilege. It was not easy and at times painful, but I established a powerful connection with an online reading group, and we had honest and transformational conversations.
I also established a connection with some old, dear friends from the HS I had gone to in Marin County for one semester my junior year. I only knew these folks for a short time, but we had made a strong bond back then that was wonderful to rekindle now in the midst of this strange new time. And what a truly strange new time it is, filled with dramatic contrasts: terrible suffering from the pandemic, fear and anxiety about the future, anger and outrage at racial injustice, frustration and incredulity at our Government. Yet I have felt so calm and happy, and so grateful for the beauty of the world, and all the many blessings of my life.