Monday, October 3, 2011

Notes to a Distant Son

Ezra, just a brief note to say that you are deep in our thoughts, hearts and stomachs as you journey further into your second (and last…) year at Deep Springs College.  It was a gift to have you with us and the family whole again for those two months in Kathmandu after so much time apart these past three years.  

Your gentle, guiding spirit lingers and resides here with us still.

This summer Mom, Leah and I were so fortunate to join you at Deep Springs on your birthday in late June.  We know so much better your reality after seeing you at your self-chosen college, as well as meeting some of your friends on that unique ranch campus, as well as the family who help manage the ranch and the impressive professors who expressed much respect for your moral universe and intellectual curiosity. 

We definitely gained a better insight into the isolated, purposeful world that you will call home for two years.  There’s no doubt that DSC is a unique collegiate experience, exhausting the students physically while challenging them academically.  Maybe it was your high-minded naiveté that carried you there a year ago.  Your Henry David Thoreau alone in the desert dreams.  

Now, with full knowledge of the time-consuming demands required by a self-managed, self-governed isolated college cum ranch and farm, you have returned this autumn to the that western desert with your eyes wide open as to the fortitude and discipline of this rigorous almost 19th C. physical and academic life. 

For us, however temporarily, meandering those wild, raw, limitless California-Nevada borderlands, our visit was a spacious frontier beginning for our month together with you in the US. 

Now, we will always know where you spent those two years when we speak in the future about Deep Springs.  We have all also gained some perspective, and no doubt affection, for that rough, beautiful western American desert landscape, where the hoary, twisted Bristlecone Pines grow for thousands of years at 10,000’ and the herds of cattle gaze in the patches of alfalfa your school has educed from that rough, hardened, desolate soil. 

Yet when we walked amid that landscape and looked close, strolling on the perimeter of the college’s farm land, we could see the life that lives below the fragrant lavender and thistle plants, the petite thrushes darting in the shrubs and wily snakes flitting across the dirt trails.  In the distance beckoned the white patina of salt flats, where the mountain run-off gathers on those dark, rainy winter days in this forbidding mountainous terrain.

The name of the school, too, has a remote resonance… Deep Springs.  

Here, the founder, LL Nunn, knew he was pealing away the layers of earthly comfort when he first envisioned the school in the early 20th C.  He knew then, as we may have forgotten now, the difference between the urban luxuries of his East Coast life and the harsher demands of America’s formidable West.  There amid the great swath of barren landscape between the snowcapped Sierra and Rockies, more akin to the Pueblo Southwest than the gentle central valleys of California or Colorado, he founded DSC to teach the rigors of the land to young men with ambition and a calling.

Out there, past the primordial salt stalagmites of Mono Lake, past the large irrigated farms below the eastern Sierra, past the highway towns of Bishop and Big Pines, just north of Death Valley, past any cell service or internet connection, turning east over a rough, single lane 8,000’ pass toward Nevada, then down into your east of Eden valley, you and your 25 college friends dig deep within yourselves, as well, to sustain the ranch and farm life others before you established over the past 94 years.  

Deep Springs appears on the horizon, a splash of verdant cultivation amid the desolation, an oasis of human settlement and energy amid nature’s private realm. 

Although we were there for only a couple of days, 72 hours, they will remain a vital visual source of memories for us for years to come.  

The ego mind is well-organized that way...  our personal mind stores, then collates images for recollection, refreshment and understanding in future times.  

In modern-speak, we each have individualized hard drives initiated and registered at birth, like arriving new at an Apple store, or going to the Embassy to register a birth abroad.  We are each provided a freshly cleansed 'iMind', personalized with our new names, birth date and family connections, written into the 'Book of Life' (as the rebbes reverently pronounce at this sacred time of the year...) accessible for decades as a source of joy, observation, reflection and moral tidings.

Thus, in our mind’s eye, Ezi-bezi, even as you have been hurtled, once again, by those amazing gravity defying jet planes so far away from us, from our dank, lush, ever more polluted Kathmandu Valley to your remote, high altitude, burnished Deep Springs Valley, from the Asian Himalaya to the American Sierra, from Nepal to California, you are no longer so far away, no longer somewhere distant and unknown, no longer on a exiled journey where we cannot follow you. 

For now, albeit briefly, we have crossed those geographic barriers with you and shared, momentarily, the beauty and isolation of your temporary abode.

For us, for parents, for those who love, that is almost, nearly, enough… 

The ache remains, the sense of loss, the diminishment of our own fragile and isolated lives, the peculiar parental knowledge that a part of us has escaped, swept away into a new creation, a new creature, of us and yet no longer part of us.   

This is definitely one of life’s great mysteries.  As incomprehensible and yet as wrenchingly true as our sense of the sacred immanence of life, along with the uncertain moral universe that has us gasping for breath in an effort to protect and guide our vulnerable children.

These are the truths that no one, not even the sacred itself, can protect us from in this sublime and yet fragile material world.

So, as you have been whooshed away in the empyrean, up in the clouds, floating on the air pockets that keep us emotionally aloft here on earth, as well, our hearts have gone with you, seek to protect you and, if possible, guide you… even far away from us.

For us, we must remind ourselves that it's a gift when we are together at all.  

We share our family, odd, stiff-necked as we may be, yet one we share with so many friends around the world.  We can't imagine our world w/o you, which is why it means so much to all of us to have you among us, whenever it's possible.  

We do know and appreciate that you and Josh must make your own ways in this world, find your own path, your own friends, loves and relationships while creating a career and profession by which you can contribute to this crazy, fleeting world.  We know that, of course, as you do.  But it still ain't any easier to watch you go through those airport doors and cascade ten thousand miles away.

Appreciate the magnificence of the larger world that we inhabit and are so fortunate to share, East and West, American and Nepali, Buddhist and Jewish, Licchavi Grove and Thamel, Deep Springs and Manhattan, East Coast and West Coast, friends and family, Josh and Leah, brother and sister, mother and father, Grammy and Afu Mua, Man U and Liverpool, Caroline, Karma and Pia, Luke and Sam, Lincoln and NMH, Yosemite and Thak Khola, 'Creation' and 'Ice Age 3', Adele and Dylan...  

The antipodes and neighborhoods that unite us...

Endless... and endlessly absorbing, challenging and gifted...

We are very fortunate, my beloved son to have each other. 

Fortunate that you are in our lives and fortunate to have had this time together this summer past. 

Travel peacefully, safely and carefully.  You are in our thoughts every hour at Deep Springs, protected, we chose to believe, by the g-ds of nature and nuture.

with much love and affection, dear one...

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