First Reflections On Community
photo by Cheyenne Wills, October day on Lower Main St.
I can hardly put into words my experience of interconnection with diverse communities: members of David’s and my families; my Buddhist community (the Mangala Shri Bhuti sangha); colleagues from the University of Colorado Boulder, and the many friends and volunteers in Jamestown who are working to rebuild the town.
I mention my family of origin first, because this is the most fundamental connection. My three sisters, Ann, Marie, and Catherine (always we use “sister order”), their husbands Rob, JC, and Dave, and my nieces and nephews, Erin, Collin, Benjamin, Seth, and K. My son Mitchell, daughter-in-law Dawn, and grandchildren, Camron (now a college student!) and Rachel (already 13 years old and an accomplished pianist, among other things). David’s daughters’ families: Leslie, Jimmy, Madeline and Gigi; and Persis, Spencer, and 17-year old Talis. Talis and her friend Serena were with us for the evacuation because they were on the way driving from Oregon back to Massachusetts, and had stopped for the night on their way east. Cousin Jackie and his wife Francine. Cousin Phil of the Rocky Plains buffalo ranch and store.
In this first photograph (taken October 10th), Mitch, Dawn, and Rachel are shown with the Texas Baptists, whose volunteer teams are spending 45 days in town. They had just finished clearing yards of mud, piled chest high in places, from the studio/shop behind, and were presenting David and me with a signed Bible.
A week later, another family work weekend. As sister Catherine put it, it was an offering of “our love, our support and arms and backs….smoked chicken and ribs…..dishwashing, digging, driving, hauling….whatever was needed.” In this photo, from the left: Jackie, Ann, Rob, Marie, Catherine, me, Seth, Benjamin, and K. In the next, David and daughter Leslie. Francine and Gigi were elsewhere. We finished removing everything from the house for the winter, as well as working to remove sand, mud, and debris from close to the house, shown in the 3rd image. Catherine also put together a Facebook page called “Jamestown Then and Now” with many more images.
I feel the deepest gratitude for the generosity of the Sangha since the flood. Individuals offered clothing and household supplies, plus money that we used for necessities for the house that David and I are renting in Longmont from sangha members Mark and Kelly Smith. I am using some of the money they’ve sent to replace my shrine, which was in the small meditation cabin that disappeared downstream. This cabin contained five thangkas (Buddhist paintings), one of our teacher’s paintings, and my shrine. Andrew Shakespeare stepped in immediately to do the water mitigation, choosing a cautious approach that has proven to be perfect, given the conditions of our house.
This photo was taken September 26th, when Andrew S, Andy, Bill, and Laurie came as the first group to help us at the site (Andrew had the camera). To paraphrase my sister Catherine once again, I feel awed to be a part of this family too.
So many others are helping to make things happen for us and for our Jamestown community. My colleagues at UC-Boulder have given time and skilled energy, such as when Steve Martonis and Pedro Caceres came to help excavate one of my largest damaged stones, a Buddhist prayer by Shantideva. Pedro had build a sled on which to place the stone, and they were helped by Quinter Fike and his backhoe to actually lift the 1200-pound Carrara marble from where it had been buried. Drew Williams came to help with the hard labor another day. Many others gave food, clothing and shoes, household items, and furniture. I thank Melanie Yazzie in particular for fantastic shoes and art supplies; and I am enormously grateful to Dave Underwood, Kirk Ambrose, Kim Dickey, and Bill Rumley, who brought furniture and then returned to take some of it away when it proved to be too much for this house we leased for six months.
As I mentioned in an earlier blog entry, fundraising efforts are underway via Rebuild Jamestown (see RebuildJamestownCo.org). An impressive event was held by Cyclists4JT, which raised approximately $110,000 for the fund. Many individuals and teams of volunteers from local businesses have joined residents for weekend activity. Town residents help one another consistently. At our place just yesterday, Emma Hardy stopped by with her teenage sons Hayden and Henry at the end of a hard day’s work by Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art staff and board members. We were trying to complete the clearing of debris from the perimeter of the house, and the energy of those two young men from town helped us complete the job.
The warmth of the strong bonds among this community was expressed this past Saturday night when we helped set up for the reopening of the Jamestown Merc, our local café. Rainbow, the owner, cooked. We brought food to share, drank donated ales, ate the best-ever homemade French fries, cleared messy tables, washed dishes in the tiny kitchen, and danced to the songs of local musicians. It was a joyous evening, which included celebrating the birthday of our tireless local mayor, Tara Schoedinger, with Lulu’s delicious cakes.
My days are punctuated by gratitude to all of these groups and individuals, both named and unnamed. I know this is an awkward way to express the oscillation of personal feelings of grief and love amidst the omnipresent practicalities of daily life in the wake of a disaster. Lying awake in the middle of night, I experience deep knowing that everyone suffers. I feel, viscerally, the matrix of interdependence that holds and supports me, and us.