Last weekend, I participated in the first official meeting of Tribal Ground’s Full Circle project, which is a series of workshops relating to the process of death and dying. The weekend was called “No one is getting out of here alive: choices in living dying” and we spent it contemplating, as a community, who we want to be our health care proxies if we’re not conscious as well as several other issues to help us prepare for our own deaths. Thinking about these questions was challenging, to say the least, and it was helpful to do it in a group led by Chris Price, Steve Waldrip, and Gail Stewart who have tools for making hard choices, have extensive knowledge about what this process looks like and what I might expect, and deliver those with such compassion and care. And humor. That’s very important.
Sitting in that group reminded me of sitting with my friend, Natalie, as she faced her own dying process. Natalie (a.k.a. Natalia Rae, a.k.a. Nat) passed away at the age of 42 on July 21, 2008. She was a dear friend, a fellow Gazebo teacher, and a long time GAP student. When she died, she very generously gifted money to Chris Price, my friend and business partner at Tribal Ground Circle, in order to support the dream of having a place for Tribal Ground to land outside of Esalen. That money has helped us pay for some of the business expenses that allow us to function as we do and continue the legacy of gestalt education in the tradition of Dick Price.
For me, turning 60 last year has been a big milestone. I’ve made many changes and have had the chance to reflect on recent years and what I want for the future. How do I want to balance work and living in this next phase of my life? What trips do I want to take? What experiences, relationships and conversations do I want to have? In thinking about Natalie, and about my own mortality, I find myself over and over again coming back to feeling grateful for so many things — for being here at Tribal Ground Circle, for all that I have in my life, and for the ways that Natalie and so many others have helped us continue this legacy. I hope and like to think that she would be happy with the work we are doing here, and I wish she were able to be here to participate and contribute in the many ways she did while she was still with us.
One gratifying new development in my life has been helping to create a gestalt community in Portland where several long-time students have migrated over the past few years. Christopher and Mick put together a group of awesome people and we got to sit together by the fire in the living room of Jake and Jerilyn’s Portland home. The group was a mixture of some travelers from other areas, some newcomers (including the 9-week-old, Mr. Jack Walsh), and some native Portlanders.
I was really happy with the work we did together and that we were able to enjoy each other’s company in such a vibrant, artistic, community-minded city. If you happen to visit Portland, my recommendation – visit Forest Hill Park and Voodoo Doughnuts (their motto is “good things come in pink boxes” and beware you may want to partake in too much of that good thing). I’m looking forward to going back and have worked out three dates next year for weekend workshops in Portland. (Feb. 6-8, July 10-12, and Sept. 25-27). I’m excited to support my Portland-based students in continuing Relational Gestalt Practice, to stay connected with them, and to see Jack Walsh on a regular basis.
In spite of the challenges and uncertainty of life, I feel hopeful for what’s to come.