Wednesday, December 19, 2012
A postcard from Deming.
The sun shone from behind a plate of grey steel in the sky, an overcast morning of the sort I've been told since childhood to consider dreary and sad. Instead, I was eager to put my coat on and take a walk. These overcast days bring out qualities in the colors that are for so much of the year burnt out in the glaring sun, these days where even Deming seems full of colors.
Off of Buckeye and near the methodist church, there is a complex of retirement apartments called Kingdom of the Sun. This morning I came here to visit Geraldine, one of the few religious Buddhists living in Deming, who only discovered the presence of Deming Zen Center this fall. We are new, but Geraldine has lived here since 1985, feeling lonely and without sangha for most of these years. Recently she has suffered a stroke, sees very little, and is always on oxygen, so coming to the zen center is a tremendous effort for her. Her eyes filled with happiness when I told her I'd be happy to make a "house call."
"I'm going to ask your name a thousand times," she says, "Because I have no memory. It's so annoying."
"Thanks for understanding. Um. What's your name?"
Sitting at a small kitchen table in her one-bedroom apartment, she pointed to boxes and bags of things she was removing from her bookshelves and her walls. "I'm suffocating," she says, but it's not just housecleaning: she is getting her affairs in order, as the saying goes. She will, as energy allows, call on me to visit, as she still has plenty of questions about the dharma and finds comfort in hearing about it and sitting.
Her male friend, Bruce, is 81 years old and has health problems of his own. Neither of them have family. He helps her. He saw me to my car when Geraldine needed to rest. Standing on the sidewalk while the wind blew dried leaves in a swirl around his hiking boots, he told me that Geraldine is getting ready and will not have a ceremony of any kind, since he'd be the only guest. Soon it will be his time, too, and he spoke about it as a simple matter of fact, the way a gardener speaks of the changing of seasons. How they came to be here in the desert with no family and friends is not a story he is interested to tell.
An hour later, I was on the interstate, driving east toward Las Cruces. The wind had picked up even more and was blowing enough dirt to cover the landscape and most of the distance in front of the car. Traffic slowed for safety and we rolled through a dust storm that emphasized the complete indifference of the desert to its human settlers and their projects. Yesterday's footprints are gone.