I was thinking about how when we went to Montana in February it snowed and snowed and snowed. Every day, all day. There was so much snow everywhere. It seemed like the Bozeman road crew just kind of gave up — there was really nowhere for the snow to go after a while.
It was so pretty outside, all that white. Except that Nate’s magnificent girlfriend, Gretta, was in the hospital and we had to drive through all that snow each day to get there. Also, I had to drive Nate’s trusty Subaru Outback through a bunch of that snow to get us the the emergency room the night she had a seizure and it scared the heck out of all of us, but we got there and Gretta got better and eventually winter turned to spring and Nate and Gretta (whose names we almost always mash up into one: Netta or Grate) came to Vermont and we all played outside in the warmer, longer days and the whole family fell in love with Gretta and with Nate being in love with Gretta.
We got this new car recently, also a Subaru Outback, and Coco and I were thinking about what to name it because we always name our cars. We settled on Gretta because the car is trustworthy and reliable and sporty and strong, like our human Gretta. Then we learned that Gretta is kind of a derivation of Margretta, which means the pearl and because the car is pearlescent white the name took on another layer of significance.
It was kind of funny, thinking back to all that snow and driving the Suby in Montana and our Gretta, how white everything was. Now we have this pearly white Suby of our own, The Gretta, here in Vermont.
Life is funny, right?
A couple of days ago I walked into the room of one of the people I serve in my role as a chaplain in an elder and long-term care place in Saratoga Springs. A bunch of the person’s family members were there, visiting and being together. It turned out that one of them had been Coco’s teacher back in Charlotte, Vermont, a whole bunch of years ago. We were amazed and awed and delighted to have returned to one another, all these years later, in a totally unexpected place.
A few weeks ago I walked in to the office of the organization I work for in Bennington and was wandering around meeting the staff, turned a corner and saw the familiar face of someone I had worked with about twenty years ago when I was a teacher in Manchester. Here we are, all these years later, both of us having raised and launched our boys, gotten divorced, gone back to school to learn how to do something different, working together again.
I mean. Life. Wow.
I have found myself many, many times this summer, marveling at all of it. The bees that showed up in the Saratoga backyard, the incredible green of Vermont, the chilly perfection of Lake George, the quiet of the dirt road in the morning, the birds singing so sweetly, the babies! There are babies again … Frida and Brooklyn and Keene. Thank god for those babies. Fireflies, fireworks, evening fires … woodsmoke and honey and summer sun, brown skin and baby drool, music and art … I mean … come on!
I gave a talk to a group of new hospice volunteers the other day, about my work as a chaplain. I told them stories of all the amazing things I’ve experienced over the years, in the company of the dying. I talked about the sacred nature of the work, the holy endeavor they were choosing to pursue. There were a couple of college students in the group: a Sam and a Beanie. It made me think of my Sam, somewhere in Croatia at the moment, and my Beanie (Nate), hunkered down in Montana and headed out on the road soon (with the human Gretta), touring the Pacific Northwest in search of a potential post-graduate home.
I told those hospice volunteers a bunch of things, I probably talked too much. Most importantly, what I told them was to stay curious. To keep all of their senses awake and to stay curious about all of it, all of life. And about all of death. “Because we are all deeply interconnected … us, the natural world, the animal world and the spirit world.”
Magical things will happen, I told them. Be grateful and curious and good and magical things will happen.
For certain, I promise.