Photo by Harvey Hacker

I arrived at the Sacramento Airport early, only to go round and round the rental car return in vain (and in the dark) looking for the entrance to the Budget/Avis Rental Car Return. I’m some 8 days before cataract surgery and the lights were few even in the airport. I think I went around at least three times till I found the way into the field and returned the car.

“Hi, Eve,” says a young woman with long dreadlocks, a couple of nose rings and lots of tiny dot earrings on both ear lobes, moving her wand around the sideview mirror.

I’ve stopped asking stupid questions like: “How do you know my name?” If anything, now when people wave wands around my car, I expect more questions, like: “Did you put on weight since you first checked in in Portland?” or “How was the shopping at the Japan Center in San Francisco?”

Bernie used to say that in this one life, there is no such thing as secrets—and that was well before this technical age. Nothing is withheld.

“I like your name,” she added. “My daughter’s name is Evangeline. Close.”

“What’s your name?” I asked her.

“Samantha. Sam,” she said. “It means God hears me.”

I think She heard me, too. Presence was everywhere in this trip, be it in Portland, walking in redwoods forests, looking way down and across the Pacific, watching the white curtain of fog part to reveal San Francisco and remind me how beautiful it is.

But mostly it was the people I talked to, who listened deeply and were ready to plunge right into the things that matter: not the weather, not the trials of Donald Trump, but rather: What are you doing now? What’s giving you energy and renewal? Who and what’s giving you love?

I told a few of them what I heard from Bernie years ago. I asked him about the face-to-face that Zen teachers do with students. He told me: “A lot of people come to see me. They want all kinds of things from me, but do you know what they really want, Eve?”

“What, Bernie?”

“They want me to listen to them.”

“What about a practice, guidance, koans, some way to train?”

“They say they want this or that, but do you know what they really want from you, Eve?”

“No, what, Bernie?”

“They want you to listen to them.”

It’s still taking time, and little by little I learn to do that. To listen to friends across two tall candles on a dining table while far outside cars light up the Bay Bridge at night and cruise ships blast a final farewell as they pull out onto the bay, to an old companion from street retreats sharing coffee with me outside Café Grecco, looking at large photos of a man who’d died a year ago and remembering him with so much love as his wife tells me about their last years together, speaking of how love and curiosity fuel each other as we get older while sitting on the deck of a houseboat and munching on lemon and almond croissants.

Listening to waves crashing against big black boulders, the silent song of ancient trees, the pelicans flying over Sausalito and Tiburon in formation like jet planes.

Soaking in love and friendship, cherishing and being cherished.

So much gratitude to Jane and Harvey, Chris Panos, Joan Hoeberichts, Frank Ostaseski, Bob and Jean.

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