Waves

In need of an adventure, we went to find the pianos that had been left on the beaches of Hwy 1. The pianos were left as an act of peaceful artistic rebellion, connected to Oakland by the pianos, but disconnected from the violence of recent days. You can listen to the story here: http://blogs.kqed.org/newsfix/2013/07/19/104136/-pianos-beach

Hwy 1 is  close to where we live, but we never go. It’s been so long since I was there that I forgot how it’s always winter. San Francisco fog is a toothless sissy relative to the Hwy 1 & Pacifica fog, laughable in comparison.

We left our sunny, warm little island home, descended into fog to find carload after carload of families shopping in the little towns, eating the local, organically-grown salad greens and artichokes, admiring Californians’ knack for arranging terrariums with air plants sticking out of them and our creative use of succulents .

2013-07-20 16.20.54

Although the radio story made it sound like people were driving along the coast and were like, “hey! Was that a piano on the beach? We better go back and check that out,” we didn’t see any pianos. Heck, one of the beaches mentioned in the story didn’t even have an obvious road near it. Maybe the GPS and the damn Apple maps were to blame. Nonetheless despite the damp cold and gray, the parking lots were full of cars, so we figured we’d just follow a line of traffic. What would sane people be doing on the beach in this weather if not gathering around a piano?

We pulled into a parking lot and found ourselves in the middle of caravan of Indian families. The children were running between the women, who had returned to the cars and were trying to get the sand off themselves and the children, and the men. The men were in a group by the bathrooms, their large bellies pushing open the unbuttoned shirts, their laughter echoing off the concrete building.

We walked to a path in the plant-covered dunes, waiting for an elderly woman with sore feet to be assisted, almost pulled from the path back toward the cars. We walked to the edge of the cliff to look out over the beach, unmarred by pianos. There were several groups of people lining the edge of the water staring out at the ocean.

There was a dead sea lion at the edge of the water, being pushed onto the beach by the tide. A group stood, their backs to us, directly in front of the mass, watching the waves push it to shore and pull it back to the ocean.

 “You know one of my skulls at home is a sea lion skull that came from this shore.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, back when Scott and I were first friends, we were walking on this beach and found the body way up past the water line. About 50 feet later we found the head all picked clean.”

Coincidentally we had mentioned Scott on our drive up to the beach, with Michael wondering if I ever heard from him. A sudden marriage, followed by a house purchase and a baby, and Scott’s life has been transformed. I presume Scott is either immersed in or subsumed by family life; so goes the march of time. I trust all is well, the old ways replaced by the richness of new life. Like a sea lion without its head: there are larger concerns at some point.

From the edge of the cliff, we backtracked to the parking lot and went down the stairs to the beach. At the base of the cliff there were several tents full of families. A tent full of young people swayed and bucked in the intense wind. They huddled inside wrapped in blankets, shrieking with laughter. A couple of little kids scampered around the outside, running back toward the tent’s opening at the sound of merriment.

The group of sea lion watchers had moved down the beach and we took their place, watching the massive tube-shaped creature roll in and roll out. Its skin was blotchy, perhaps covered in barnacles, naturally mottled, or discolored by death.

Slightly south of the rolling body, a bunch of kids ran shrieking into the waves after a soccer ball one of the fathers threw in. It disappeared under the breaking waves, springing to the surface as the wave withdrew, with screaming children in splashing pursuit. In and out the waves crashed, pushing the sea lion ever closer to the children who maintained their position in front of their family, oblivious to the sea lion’s approach.

We were hypnotized for a while by the ocean. What an amazing ecosystem. It is full of sea lion blood and skin and bones and the place where we dive face first into the waves looking for shells and chasing soccer balls. We swim amid the remnants of lives that used to be, in the medium of lives becoming, all co-mingling with every wave.

A Moment at the Beach

Location, Location, Location

I love it when I have an evening out with my favorite date and I wake up the next day still loving the night before. Last night we had an Alameda evening par excellence. Although we have been island dwellers for three years now and we lovelovelove living here, I don’t feel very well-connected to the community. For starters, I may be the only 40-something year old married woman living on the island who doesn’t have children. Maybe there are one or two others, but we haven’t met.

When I started this blog thing, one of my goals was to connect with other writers. As it is oft said, writing is a solo endeavor and yet I like interacting with people, leaving the house and bumping into familiar faces at the produce stand, being challenged by new ideas while conversing over a watermelon/feta/mint salad. In that sense of writerly friend-seeking I got a little brave; I told one of my favorite bloggers I liked her writing. Gasp! Last night I got to meet her in person. Delightful!

Alice Lewis writes a weekly blog for Alameda Patch. Google her; she comes right up. She’s a lovely story-teller and she’s not afraid to tell the story where she is the comedic main character, to charming effect. She’s a longterm local and connected to local talent by marriage and blood. As a result of one of her recent blogs, we caught a show at the High Street Station last night. Her future son-in-law opened and her nephew-in-law (is that even a thing?), Mike Gibbons played a three-hour set. He should get an artistic endurance award at the very least! The music was so great that three hours passed too quickly and I spent all my money on three CDs and a tee-shirt. Actually I spent some of my date’s money, too. Thanks, babe.

Check this singer out: http://mikegibbons.net/

 

 

Listening to Mike’s songs last night, several of them could only have been written by a Californian. They beat with the pulse of this place in an authentic, intrinsic way.  I felt a pang of homesickness for the very place where I was sitting. Beautiful.

I have a deep and abiding love of the west coast, my chosen home. Better yet, I’m not alone here. My brother Chris moved here six months after I did, fresh out of college. He met and married Cedony, a California desert girl who turns out to be one of my favorite people in the world. And then they got busy having sons who are two of the smartest, cutest, most charming and delightful boys on the planet. I say this as a completely neutral, unbiased observer, of course. I met Michael, my favorite husband, in San Francisco, despite his roots in the Chicago-area. Our little two-family cluster in the west pulls together a wide swath of this big country.

But here’s the thing, when you are born in Maine, to parents whose families have lived in Maine for generations, perhaps even preceding the state’s statehood, that is some serious pull.

When I return to Maine, I am home. I can’t and wouldn’t deny that I have lived much of my life elsewhere, but my roots are as deeply wound around the graves of my ancestors buried in Dover-Foxcroft, Guilford and Sangerville as any Maine-born person’s roots could be. But, I am also “from away.” There is palpable tension in being an outsider in this environment, a place where most of my people don’t aspire to leave.

Last summer I visited Maine. I found some long-lost cousins on my Dad’s side of the family, who I am enjoying getting to know. I re-visited the cemetery where Dad is buried for the first time since he died in 1993. I knew that there was a family plot, that he was buried near his parents and at least one of his brothers. What I didn’t know was that his parents’ extended families were also buried there. It was an old country cemetery full of names that I carry in my heart.

Here’s where this post all comes together: one of Mike’s songs nailed an ongoing conundrum of mine. Where will I have these old bones put when my spirit moves on without them? In his song Kilamanjaro, a father’s last request was that his son scatter his ashes from the top of the mountain, insuring that the boy would make the climb.

Two locations and two sets of nephew/nieces….Hmmm. Is it a law that ones ashes have to be deposited in one spot? I think not. Perhaps I could leverage my influence over my youngest nephews and get them to take my ashes to the family cemetery so beautifully located in the woods of Maine. It is possible that I could convince our Illinois nephews and niece to come sprinkle some ashes in a beloved west coast location. In this way, my remains could be where my heart longs to be and maybe the next generation will come to love these places in a special way, too.

I’m not certain how I got here from having had a delightful Alameda evening. Maybe it’s because we’ll have a blue moon in August and it’s causing a special sort of lunacy related to blogging. Let’s go with that.

Cosmic Curveball

I had the occasion to travel to Los Angeles for work twice in the month of June. It isn’t generally a difficult journey: a ten minute drive to the airport, a one-hour flight, twenty minute cab ride & Voila! Destination reached. Of course, that’s if there are no problems along the way.

The trip early in June had me toying with the idea of adding a Rant category to the blog.

Somewhat sheepishly I confess that I have been complimented on my ability to rant on the page. I am sheepish, because I wonder: is this really an accomplishment? Perhaps it is simply my birthright.

My father was known for his ability to Rant AND Rave. I think the combination of these two distinct art forms takes the genre over the top. Rant, ok. Rave if you must. But rant AND rave? Whoa there, big fella.

It was my early June taxi experience that made the rant seem like a viable and appropriate addition to the blog. I did write a mini rant, which you can find in my review of the Burbank Bob Hope Airport. The experience described in that review was really only the beginning, because after the heinous taxicab assignment, the man driving our cab was lost, so very lost. He made navigational decisions that added almost $10 to our tab, all the while an iPhone was charging on the dashboard. (They have GPS, ya know.) My patient suggestions were ignored. Very lucky that my Jedi training in self-control was effective on this day, he was.

I felt certain that wielding my bloggity pen as a proverbial sword was appropriate and the rant was in! Finally, a blog category! How I lack them and how I long for a category. It was then that, of course, the cosmic pitcher threw me a curveball.

I got a ride from the most excellent cab driver of all time.

Not only did he know how to get from point A to B without excessive prompting (a quality that I’ll not soon take for granted), but amazingly, he seemed to actually enjoy what he was doing for employment! Do bear in mind that we were in Los Angeles (home of the freeway parking lot) and on “The 5” (mother of all freeway parking lots).

I could feel the joy radiating off this man. At first, I thought maybe I was a little, I don’t know, crazy for thinking he was so darn happy. But then he came right out & said (unprompted) something to the effect of, “You know the most important thing to me right now? Getting you where you need to be. I love doing this. Getting you there safe, so you can do what you need to do is all I need in this moment. I love this.”

How about that? Think about the power of doing that which you do, however great or humble, with that philosophical wind in your sails. What could not be accomplished?

He changed my day and he changed my blog: the rant can wait.

Have you been thrown a cosmic curveball lately? What did it look like? Did it change your direction, if only for a moment?

Commencement

Commencement really is a transitional moment, isn’t it? The old ceremony is designed to recognize educational and personal accomplishments, to give a hearty nod to the village that made it possible through various forms of support. I can be relied upon to shed a few tears–I blame my contact lenses–before the tedium takes over. Like many in the audience and sitting in the graduate chairs, I find Commencement to be a moving ceremony.

Holy Names University was fortunate to have Gwen Ifill as a Commencement speaker this year. I have long admired her skill, poise, and intelligence as a journalist and news anchor. Having such a recognized and respected person as a speaker was a coup for the little, often-overlooked university in the hills. The surprise, for me, was what a wonderful match she was for the university and its graduates. In retrospect, of course she was.

HNU is a pretty diverse place. (Actually, it’s the most diverse university of its size on the west coast.)  The students are frequently the first of their families to graduate from college. Although the values and faith of the church are the bedrock of this institution, it’s not a preachy place. There’s room under the university’s umbrella for a lot of us, wherever we may be on the faith continuum.

This year was interesting. Perhaps because the university’s new-ish President Hynes has found his legs and was able to really shape and participate in the ceremony, and, indeed, he is responsible for convincing Ms. Ifill she could fit HNU into her busy schedule. (Honestly, I think he wore her down, but she was a good sport about it!)

Ms. Ifill reached her audience. The child of a minister, her values rest on bedrock similar to the university’s values. Many of the graduating students also grew up in a church community. Although her talk did not focus on scripture, she acknowledged the values that send HNU students into the world in service to their community (building houses in Mississippi and protesting at the School of the Americas, for example).

Commencement became a little like church, with an occasional “Amen”, or a respectful shout out; the participation was organic and supportive and celebratory. It felt good! Even more gratifying, Gwen Ifill looked like she enjoyed being there. (And considering the parade of shoes those gals were wearing to march down a hundred stairs and teeter across the dais in, what woman wouldn’t enjoy the show?)

Isn’t that what makes some of life’s best moments–when you are able to do just the right thing for the right person or group of people. In that moment, the relationship can be transformed, as I think it was that day. Ms. Ifill received something I don’t think she expected–she clicked into this place with these people. The recipients, the graduates, may have given more than they knew.

Before Commencement day, it looked possible that Michael & I would drive Gwenn Ifill to the airport after she spoke. I shrieked, “We can’t do it! We have karma!” I was remembering the 2003 Commencement at Rockford College, which was a real riot. And by “riot,” I don’t mean a rollicking good time.

I could say a lot about that year’s speaker Chris Hedges, also a minister’s son. (Michael and I picked him up at the airport the night before & I drove the getaway car to get him away from the college after the …er…I mean, after the audience reacted negatively to his thought-provoking speech.) I could I say a lot about that commencement, but most importantly, I felt like this year’s ceremony represented the pendulum’s swing back to karmic rectitude in some odd way.

For the purpose of this post, I will say what a gift it was to listen to a speaker who comes from a solid place, whose intention is to challenge, but also to engage and recognize the achievements of others. It’s a life lesson and a nice gift to send with graduates, as they go to find their next opportunity.

Have you been to a particularly memorable Commencement? Tell me about it!

If you are interested in the Rockford College Commencement, google “rockford college chris hedges” for a video of the attempted speech. The most thoughtful account of the incident was written up in the Chicago Reader: http://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/war-comes-to-rockfordcartoonist-kerfufflecartoon-recount/Content?oid=912271)

Clichés come in all shapes and sizes!

After a year and a half of relative diligence, I have submitted my final project for review. If it is approved, I will soon have earned a Master’s degree in Holy Names University’s writing program. Hot diggity!

I can’t get over the relief!

Nonetheless, I plan to continue developing this writing to see if I can get some or all of it published. Because the last thing I want to do is send my fledgling literary endeavor into the world before it’s ready for objective review, I have solicited critical feedback. I value both positive and negative feedback and have been fortunate to find readers willing to give both!

It must be said, despite one’s best intentions, negative reaction can sting. One of the most difficult criticisms I received was that my treatment of a character was condescending and the dialog involving her was clichéd. My heart! My pain at the criticism was made more acute by my fondness for this character.

Flummoxed, I couldn’t process the feedback. I finally asked another reader, who has been unfailingly thoughtful in her feedback, to help me understand the criticism. (Or the shocking accusation, if one were feeling sensitive…) In the end, I hope my edits addressed the criticisms while staying true to the heart of the story. I think they did.

Clichéd phrases were red inked on more than one occasion in this collection of stories. There were also times when language or phrasing was correct in the geographical context of the stories, but was too far outside the readers’ frames of reference. It was too authentic to be acceptable; it was disruptive to the story. In the end, everything must serve the story.

There is something about the juxtaposition between that which is too familiar and that which is too foreign that has come to intrigue me.

I wonder if you find yourself unintentionally using clichés in your writing or speech?

Conversely, have you had the experience of referring to something “universal,” only to find the audience doesn’t share your familiarity with the image, phrase or event?

Oh the Humanity!

Every now and then I feel amazed that I live in a place as populous as the Bay Area. Since moving here from Maine in my twenties, I have often needed to manage feelings of being overwhelmed by the abundance of humanity. Whether hiking deep in the woods, on the beach at a sleepless 5:00 AM, driving a midnight freeway–I don’t think I have ever been alone in my chosen home of California. Sometimes I long for a bit of spatial, psychological, auditory aloneness.

And then there are days like Wednesday.

On Wednesday, I left work and jumped on a BART train that zipped me under the bay and into San Francisco to see my favorite witch doctor. She calls herself a chiropractor, but trust me; she is a healer and a witch doctor of the highest order. But I digress.

Taking BART can be the best of times and the worst of times. Sometimes it just makes you feel like this:

As I stood waiting in line for the train, I heard echoes bouncing off the bare cement walls of someone ranting. Although it seemed like the ranter was speaking English, it was completely indecipherable and, of course, heading in my direction. For once, the train pulled in at exactly the right moment: the ranter, a husky-voiced stout little woman, draped in an Indian sari came into view. She got on the train and sat down next to a young, bright-eyed Millennial. As the train pulled out, the ranter’s eyes bulged and her head craned 90 degrees to look at her seatmate and I heard spooky organ music in minor chords. Bon voyage, happy travelers!

Chuckling to myself, I wandered up 16th Street, destination Castro. I love 16th Street. There are still a few commerce holders-on that have been here since the days of my youth when this was “my” neighborhood, like the Roxy Theater, Pancho Villa Taqueria (burritos bigger than a baby’s head…), and Kilowatt dive bar extraordinaire, but there are always new and interesting places popping up. Eye Candy for the Curious! Or the Candy Store Collective, if you prefer (how the heck do they do that thing with the succulents?):

Anyway, as I was walking to my appointment, soaking up all the Mission I could stand, this wild cacophony came from above and was everywhere at once. In those seconds the brain takes to process stimuli, I was confused and disoriented, but then I remembered: Parrots! I looked up in time to see a small flock fly overhead, squawking for all they were worth. San Francisco is home to several flocks of wild parrots. As crazy as that is, it’s also perfectly San Francisco, unless of course they live in your neighborhood. Those parrots have got to be the noisiest neighbors in The City!

After my visit with Dr. Ferraro, I was famished. I made my way back toward the BART station & stopped for a sausage and beer at Gestalt Haus. As luck would have it, the table beside me was full of 20-somethings having a meeting. My ears perked like antennae while I maintained my disinterested demeanor–it was the Occupy movement of San Francisco plotting their next action.

The location (Barnes & Noble) and the issue (399 remaining tigers–where, what type, I don’t know) had been established. The challenge, as I understood it, was to link these two things and develop catchy phrases and a chant. After a process that was a combination of support and challenge, they seemed to have a loose link between the bookstore and de-forestation (I think) and a phrase, “Barnes and Noble, Be Noble.”

And with that, I pushed my stool away from the bar and headed home sated, satisfied, and content to swim in the human soup.

Mardi Gras

It feels like every day is Fat-One-Day-Or-Another around the office lately. First the holidays and then the Valentine’s Day dessert party, and today there are cookies. It’s like we can’t stop ourselves any more.

When the clock strikes 6, it’s time to transition to the evening vices. It’s beer o’clock! It’s the working person’s reward for cubicle cramp, mental malaise, the paltry palate of the live long work day. Beer, it’s not just for breakfast anymore, as the cute little refrigerator magnets say.

So here we are, Mardi Gras. Not being Catholic, not being from nor ever having been to New Orleans, I’ve never wholeheartedly celebrated either Mardi Gras or Lent. But this year, it feels like someone has to put her food down. Foot, I mean put her foot down. On something. Just one thing.

Either the sugar or the beer would hurt at one time of day or the other. Probably beer would hurt more, because it’s also a social activity, a reason to go out, an aid to conversation (up until a certain point, when it isn’t, of course). It provides an excuse to venture off to some new venue or neighborhood–an adventure!

Should “the giving up” be less painful, and therefore more likely to succeed? Or should the deprivation be more painful, making it more significant, and  perhaps more thought-provoking?

If you were me, what would you give up?

Connections

A week ago today, I started my day by getting dressed for an afternoon memorial service. The service was for the husband of an acquaintance and, although I have talked with her many times, I had never met her husband. As I  walked to the bus stop, I heard a familiar echo in my head:  “…walk through the valley of the shadow of death…”

It did, indeed, feel like I was walking in that valley. It’s not that I was  emotionally connected to the deceased, but it felt like a solemn, sacred walk. The journey was calm and thoughtful, not driven by lament. And death’s shadow did not cast a pall on the day’s beauty, the way it can.

It was like standing in the shadow of an mighty mountain, awed with respect and reverence, but chilled to the bone by the damp air–not a place where one lingers. I felt a visceral understanding of death and the power of an ancient phrase offering comfort to those experiencing it. It was an oddly, unexpectedly holy moment.

Moments of Wonder

One of the best things about working in Downtown Oakland, in my humble opinion, is being close to Lake Merritt. I was surprised to learn the lake was North America’s first Wildlife Refuge (in 1870). Prior to that, it had been used as a large natural sewer. The horror! Then-mayor, Dr. Samuel Merritt, who happened to own land on the lake’s shore, took a special interest in the lake. Regardless of self-interest, his action has served all of Oakland in the intervening years.

Walking around the lake at noon, one sees an amazing cross section of the Oakland citizenry. These are just a few of the characters I’ve seen: Mayor Quan having her portrait taken; Sr. Rosemary Delaney, Sister of the Holy Names, who is in her 70s and runs around the lake three times for her daily work out; David, a lawyer I recently met at a Marin Crab Boil (!) who works in my building and who circles the lake in suit and athletic shoes. At least once a month I see a movie or a music video being filmed—look for me in the background! It’s also a great way to find out who the lunch partners of your colleagues are. There is no shortage of interesting human behavior to witness.

The Lake is also home or resting place to an amazing variety of wild birds. The picture above features a couple snowy egrets who stole my heart. I love birds. I find them endlessly interesting and entertaining. For example, when ducks dive under the water for lunch & their butts are in the air—they crack me up. Who knows why?

For the longest time, I kept seeing these grayish birds, about 12 to 18” high when perching. Having no idea what kind of bird they were, I called them my “No Neck Friends.” Thanks to fellow bird lover Sue Stephens, I came to understand that the rest of the world knows them as “midnight herons.”

The bird world inspires a sense of wonder in me. They are so different one species from the next and yet live in relative harmony here in the middle of Oakland. Despite my fondness for birds generally, sea gulls have never seemed very interesting. There has never been much mystery with that squawky, bossy, hungry bunch. But just when you think you know a bird…

I recently saw a sea gull dancing a jig. You know those Irish cloggers? The kick-up-your-heels-and-dance people? I saw a seagull who thought he was trying out for River Dance.

The dancing sea gull stopped me in my tracks. Fortunately I had my iPhone with me at the time. If you want to see this dancing marvel, please visit my Facebook page. I can’t add the actual video here. And if you are interested, I’ll even tell you how the jig ends. 😉

Do you know the trees in your neighborhood?

I woke up this morning to the sound of chainsaws and my first thought was, “Oh dear. I hope there’s not going to be an incident.”

I’ve given a lot of thought to Trees. I have a list of Writing Ideas and one topic is “The Trees in my Life.” Apparently, I have had some pretty strong ties to trees through the years.

There was a specific cluster of pine trees where I’d go & hide when I was little. They were so close together that in the center, the ground was bare, save a carpet of pine needles. It was the coziest imaginary home! There was a maple that I loved to climb, and I spent hours pretending that it was my sky rise apartment in some big city where my life was very cool, never mind I’d never been to a city nor in a really tall building!

When, at last, I did live in a real city studio apartment (just one floor up, though), there was a huge redwood tree growing in the tiny backyard. It felt like the solid long-term resident who kept everything cool in the ‘hood. Its hugeness turned down the volume of the honking soundtrack speeding by around us and was a thriving ecosystem to hummingbirds, sparrows, bees and the like. I don’t think I could have lived there, save for that calming presence.

Trees, specifically and generally, are important to me. Their souls speak to my soul, if you will. And while, for example, I presume my tree hugging friend John Dennis might feel the presence of these gentle giants in a personal way, I hadn’t extended that thinking out to the general public. I didn’t really consider that this type of love for trees might be present in the hearts of my neighbors.

Until the chainsaw incident last spring.

I was walking down the driveway, coming home from work, and could hear the busy work of a chainsaw in one of the several backyards adjoining ours. When I stood on our steps to go into the kitchen, I could see across the way a big bare area in the three-story high pine tree. I hadn’t known what the houses over there looked like until this moment. Now that they had a straight view to my kitchen, I presumed they’d be getting to know us pretty well, at least the versions of us in our pajamas with crazy bed head making coffee like zombies. Hope they wouldn’t mind if I didn’t wave to them or anything, I thought with a mental smirk & a sigh. Urban living; we’re all in this together, like it or not.

And then one of my other neighbors got home and began screaming at whoever was holding the chainsaw. Police were called. City government was called. Threats were made. Real tears were shed. I heard all of this from my backyard and I shared the sentiment, not knowing the people or who was lawfully on the right side of the situation.

Then there was the Halloween massacre.

Alameda is an island. It most closely resembles Mayberry RFD. I love this about it, not that it can’t be a little oppressive. It’s quaint. It’s a small community. We have tree-lined streets and small shops & restaurants. You can walk places.

Park Street, business and tree-lined, is where most commerce occurs. In places, the trees were very large and the sidewalks rather small for such a bustling area. The city government had public planning meetings a few years ago (before I lived there) and it was agreed that they would widen the sidewalks and re-plant urban-appropriate trees.

One day in October, without prior communication to the island-dwellers, they cut down every tree in the primary 3-block section of Park.  The island-dwellers cried out in horror. Police were called. City Hall was called. We spoke harshly and with disgust. Memorial candles and handwritten notes were placed on stumps, lamenting the lives that had been lost. On Halloween, ghosts of the trees of Alameda floated up and down the block, rattling their lifeless dried leaves.

I woke up this morning to the sound of chainsaws. It reminded me of how much we share, whether it be environment, quietude, landscape, or cherished friendships in unexpected places. Despite our separate little plots and acres, we really are in this together. And “we” is a lot more inclusive than you might think.