July 8, 2011
One of my oldest confidants in this country is a tree. She is gnarled, some of her boughs lie close to or on the ground. For a while this winter I fretted that she was dying, but as spring arrived, her grey white branches began to miraculously sprout brilliant tiny green shoots with which she proceeded to bedeck herself. And, when I came back after a week in Paris with some of my closest friends in the world this April, I was delighted to realize that I had met all her cousins in that city of light. She is a Chesnut and by May had the glorious white feathery blooms to prove her provenance.
Today, I sat in her arms and breathed in the sounds of the air and hill around and above me. I watched two hawks soar and dive above the sandy meadows and dark green oaks. I listened to the voices of the dish walkers fade and rise behind me. I held perfectly still as the tiniest of ground squirrels, a baby really, skittered close to me and delicately nibbled at a white flower on the stalk of a weed. I felt as though I caught his eye and that he noted my presence and appreciated my staying silent and quiet. I was reminded of what Larry, my yoga teacher, has been trying to share with us in class –that meditation is a state of acute consciousness – not lost in some other world of unknowing but all-knowing, all-sensing, all-being present and there in the moment. Noting your thoughts, how they come and go like the clouds moving across Mount Diablo that you can see from your perch on the tree. Being aware of the bark against your legs, the slight heat on your neck from the sun, still high in the sky, even at six thirty in the evening.
I thought of the last time I had come to the tree – just a few days ago. I had wanted to share her with my friend, the Reverend Frannie, someone who makes me understand the deepest sense of the word “faithful”. Full of faith. And, how just before that, another dear friend, Srinija, had risen sort of magically from the crest of the hill, just as I had begun to explain to Frannie how it was that I have been blessed with the gift of being recently invited to jointly develop a program at Stanford’s Center for Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law (CDDRL) on Social Entrepreneurship and Development. The blessing came in the form of yet another extraordinary woman – this time a close friend of Srinija, Roberta, who opened her heart to me and shared her wisdom and brilliance and innate entrepreneurial spirit as she encouraged and supported my exploration and helped it mature into a real proposal.
The program, called Ripples to Waves, seeks to bridge the worlds of activism and social change, academia, philanthropy and the private sector. It is in its early stages and is being led by two wonderful faculty PIs (primary investigators) Deborah Rhode, an extraordinary lawyer and feminist thinker, and Kathryn Stoner Weiss, a political scientist and development theorist. It has garnered support from diverse faculty members from the humanities, the medical school, business school, law school, and the school of education. Making it real is the challenge ahead this year – one that feels terrifying, thrilling, and tangible all at once.
What made it possible were relationships – people who believed in me; who invited me to meet their friends; who then offered their insights, suggestions, advice; who extended their trust like the open boughs of the Chesnut, letting me rest for a while on those sturdy support systems, allowing my mind to slow down enough to see what was possible and all around me and within me all the time.