Neighbors

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I recently watched the documentary “Won’t you be my neighbor?” about the life and work of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood’s Fred Rogers and, as the credits rolled, I sniffled quietly with much of the packed theater, as we collected ourselves before reemerging into the world.

“Love is at the root of everything, all learning, all relationships. Love or the lack of it.”

-Fred Rogers

I remember watching “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood” with my sister in the 1980’s, on the rare occasions we were allowed to watch television. We felt that his questions were directed through the screen to us personally. As he hung his coat, changed his shoes, and zipped up his cardigan, we, and thousands of kids just like us, settled in for a half hour of this kind man’s undivided attention.

That’s still all any of us want, I thought, watching the documentary; to feel heard, seen, loved and to be told that we are enough, just the way we are; scared, curious, unsure, confused, and still totally lovable. We are those same kids at heart.

Emerging from the theater, back into the heat of a late June afternoon and into the news of family separation at the border, I couldn’t help but wonder about a young Donald Trump and how different the world might be if he, and all children, could have grown up aware of their intrinsic worth and with the knowledge that there is nothing needed externally in order to prove that worth or to be loved.

The greatest thing we can do is to let someone know they are loved and are capable of loving.

-Fred Rogers

How different might the world be if we remembered that all we are here to do is to love and that we are given these wacky pods called families with whom to practice? With nothing to prove, no perceived internal lack to make up for, how might we act?

My mother would say to me, ‘look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers-so many caring people in this world.

-Fred Rogers

While thousands of people around the country march today, to protest our government’s current policy of family separation at the border, I am with much of my family, together in Colorado for my cousin’s wedding. I can feel the presence of my beloved grandmother who would have been so happy to be here today. I think about all that families go through together, from death to divorce, elections, and illness and am beyond grateful to have been given my pod with whom to practice this thing called love.

Watercolor painting of me as a two year old, painted by my grandmother, Maryann Clarke.

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India Permeates

Back from India for almost four months and I am surprised daily by the ways in which it sneaks up on me and permeates my life in Silver Lake, a million miles away. Before leaving for my trip, I ran into a friend who hugged me and said “this is the last time I’ll ever hug you. You’ll be a different person when you return. No one comes back from India the same.” I thought he was being dramatic.

Ganesha, god of auspicious beginnings, remover of obstacles, patron of the arts, sciences, and writing, watches as I open my notebook, sipping hipster matcha, and begin to write.

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While there I became addicted to their creamy, homemade yogurt and learned that it is one’s neighborly obligation to lend starter to anyone in need. I buy a yogurt maker upon ┬áreturn and begin experimenting with coconut milk recipes. Bring the milk of your choice to just under boiling, about 200 degrees. Cool until warm to the touch, about 115 degrees. Mix in starter ( being without a yogurt making neighbor, I buy starter at the health food store, though just adding already made, unsweetened yogurt will do the trick as well). Place in the yogurt maker, or slow cooker, or (if you live in a hot climate, like India, on your counter) and let sit undisturbed for anywhere between 4-12 hours. Cool and, voila, enjoy.

A man we met in Bundi, a healer in the guise of a skirt salesman, crosses my mind frequently. Karma, shakras, energy, numerology- he knew things about me I’d never told anyone.

Baby Krishna looks out over my books from his place on the shelf and reminds me to open my heart. Love. It’s the reason we are here, he whispers, the only reason. Love in all its forms.

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Family is the most important thing, says our driver, Lokesh. I agree and, now 800 miles away from mine, miss them terribly.

Feed the dogs on Saturday. It will bring you good karma.

After three weeks, I was ready to return to the familiarity of traffic lanes and avocado toast. But, little did I know that India had already burrowed into my soul and that within a few months I would feel the urge to return, to plan another trip, and that I had been changed forever. My friend was right.

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