before and after

baylands2Before and After the Rains

Busy week, interrupted by life and death. Setting up my teaching day Wednesday morning I notice a text from my son marked 4:55 am East Coast time. His wife has gone into labor. Number 3 is coming today. Morning classes only and I am excited for the news as we stack stools just before noon. It finally comes in a text photo at 12:49pm. Finnegan James Barry splayed in natal pose, arms and legs bent at the joints, wrinkled feet bent backwards, fists tight, head turned, eyes closed, face at rest, a yellow stocking cap covering his tiny head. I text my love and congratulations and anxiously watch for more posts on Facebook. Later that night I get a call from my daughter, my stepdad died late Tuesday evening in his sleep at 88. He lived a happy life, laughter and mischief right up to his last year, running off from the nursing home for one last adventure. I’m filled with the oddest range of emotions. Thrilled at the news of a new baby. Saddened by Ted’s death. Terrified that I am now the elder generation. Angry and ashamed that my generation may be the first in quite a while that does not leave the world a better place for our children and grandchildren. On my drive home Thursday after work, along the Dumbarton Bridge ramp, I turn off onto the vista road. Rainclouds from the day are dispersing, winds break up cloud banks, pushing them into clumps of moody, lingering golems. How is it that Boomers enjoyed all the benefits of the hard work of unions and social programs (pension plans, stock options, Social Security) and now they retire to gated communities refusing to contribute to the same community taxes that forwarded them through education? “Citizen Who” suddenly passes off the burden of taxes from which they benefitted to the next generation. How do you enjoy that privilege, then look back at our working age children, all of their children who come behind and say, not my problem? I stand and weep at bayside in the dramatic light of walls and whiffs of clouds.

tidal flow

alagoon_ocean1 Abbotts Beach Tidal Flow

We make our way, splashing in rain boots along flooded trails, to the ocean. Fierce winds rapidly rearrange dramatic patterns in a palette of stratocumulus clouds painted across the sky. Nikki and I can barely hear each other as we shout into the wind traipsing across dunes that sandblast our skin. Often we turn and walk backwards into the wind for protection, angling toward the sea. Lagoon flow roils to the sea as waves crash just beyond the shore in rows of turmoil. The roar is spectacular, the churning serves up rows of seafoam that blows into bits scudding across the sand. The squalls are literally breathtaking. I scan from cliff to cliff framing open ocean to the north and south, reminded of the dichotomy of shores that have been traversed in our family this week. My stepfather, Theodore Wiegand Hummel, after 88 years died in his sleep this past Tuesday. Nearly 12 hours later, Finnegan James Barry, came into the world,… great grandfather and great grandson flowing upon the cosmic tides, traveling in opposite directions. I stand on this shore, arms wide to the energy of life flowing in both directions at once, awash in appreciation for the cycles of life and death, alive with emotions of grief and joy swirling on the tides of every life.

upside-down and backwards

spectacularsunset_1_31January Sky @ Alameda Harbor

I step off the boat at 5am onto concrete dock under a sequined set of stars strung together across the black abyss of sea and sky, draped like a necklace across a sliver moon setting. Buildings in reflection upon glassy surface, calm and quiet at high tide, are upside-down and backwards – a perfection of illusion. The lesson for our mind practice this morning is “above all else I want to see.” I look at the reflection and laugh. Is this the way I actually perceive the world? Upside-down and backwards? I laugh harder when my mind replies,…possibly, but such a lovely illusion. There is a part of me that does not want to give it up. Narcissus affected by the sight of beauty was lost to the world. I am transfixed, transformed by this beauty. Can we be forgiven if our affection is for the beauty of Nature? The sliver of moon setting into darkness before dawn. This view stays with me through my workday. When I get home I park my car in front of the Harbormaster and dash to  waterfront to catch the last blush of sunset. Clouds just pinking up for my perfect timing,…three pano-scans later and the clouds are fading to gray. That sliver of moon rising into evening as I stand at the stern, staring, once again transfixed by beauty. Dawn and dusk, reverse dances, reflections in rotation. We have these narrow windows of beauty every day, but in their abundance, they are wondrously accessible,… if we only notice. This opportunity to look at our reflection and see the beauty beyond the surface – upside-down and backwards. Is it possible that, in fact, the world above the shimmering water is the one that is upside-down and backwards?