Posted by: MC | February 22, 2009

48 Hours

Thousand Oaks, CA


Wow, these hills. And then there’s the narrative running its marathon through my head. I’ve now pulled off the road because I can’t go another mile without some kind of brain dump – that crass-ish new-mil term that seems oddly consistent with the sound of the word blog. 

In the past 48 hours: 

I’ve spoken with a single mom – soon to be 23 – who chose to keep her pregnancy 5 years ago, was unable to stay on to finish highschool, and is raising her son in the Bay Area of San Francisco with a job as a receptionist for Mike’s Autobody — I must say, I’m lovin’ Mike’s Autobody! Tara is a simply vibrant young woman. She asked her 34-year-old friend Brett to join her in the interview.

Brett “barely finished high school” and has, in the meantime, pursued his own style of education by navigating many of America’s waterways by kayak, raft, etc. Brett makes his living fixing dimples in cars (the kind, for example, that hail can make). As Tara and Brett spoke about change, they articulated very different values. Still, they listened to and supported one another. In that, they not only revealed the strength of their friendship, they demonstrated the room strong friendship makes for openness to differences in ways of understanding and navigating the world. Quite naturally, Tara and Brett show what it looks like to be open to learning from one another. With that openness, free of the least touch of self consciousness, they give us all a model for respect, dignity and cooperation in real life – for citizenry of a very high order. 

Very early this a.m., I drove south to Santa Barbara to make the appointment for speaking with the Ackermans – an 84 year old WWII veteran and the brilliant woman he’s been married to for 60 years. We met in their home. They live high in the Santa Barbara hills, the ocean variously yawning, shimmering and churning half way up the sky beyond their windows. The Ackermans have a long and esteemed history in the publishing world. Marshall started the well known health magazine, Prevention. Carol is a retired mental health professional. They have seen a lot and, these days, are feeling both the comfort and the wear and tear of their history as successfully enterprising people and as Jews in America. 

Then there was Gary, the extraordinarily gifted commodities trader who gives and gives to public causes that tangibly support people who have not been as fortunate in their lives as Americans – as citizens of the globe. 

And this morning I listened as two psychologists spoke of change, personal and national. 

Finally, this afternoon I stopped on a whim to see what the veterans had to say as they sat next to the magnificence of the Pacific Ocean and in front of an overwhelming stretch of white crosses redefining the beach with their neat rows and columns – precision in grief – in protest. Every Sunday since November 2003, these veterans have tended this spot. The crosses specifically represent the deaths of American service people serving in Iraq. The men and women caring for “Arlington West” have profound words for the high cost in lives of American service people and of the extreme numbers of Iraqis, military and civilian. 

The voices of these Americans catch my attention. And, in between voices is the constancy of the land that holds all of them. In its variety and reliability, the land speaks, too. It is true that this part of the continent sits atop faults in tectonic plates that live and occasionally move below. But in the hours I traveled between Mike’s Autobody and this coffee shop in Thousand Oaks, as in most hours of most days, the length of earth we call California remained undisturbed by tectonic movement. Instead, this time on the land has been marked by the heartbeats and circumstances of the millions of Americans making their lives at the breathtaking edge of the Pacific Ocean. 

In the everyday routine of that movement, the insights of a few of these Americans have found their way to my recording equipment – and into my lucky awareness. 

We’ll see what the next days bring. On, now to LA and San Diego. Then I’ll take a left turn and head for Tucson. 

Btw…thanks to Brett and Tara, I now have a beautiful new windshield. It is good to have that clarity on things. I don’t want to miss one inch of this generous landscape we all call home.

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