It's the 9th of Elul on the Babylonian/Jewish calendar. On this day, nothing much is supposed to happen. All the bad things, all the evil is relegated to the 9th of Av, a full month earlier. Av is the truly bad news month in the Jewish calendar. By the time Elul rolls around, everyone's gearing up for a do-over. Taking stock. It's a month for introspection. The month of Divine mercy and forgiveness. And strangely enough, that's what I've been doing all Elul: the introspection part, not the forgiveness part. But, gee, I do that every month, so I'm not sure it even counts.
So, okay, today's not the worst day of the year. And this isn't the greatest tragedy on earth. But do you ever have one of those days where everything just goes wrong (in comparison to those days in which everything just goes right)? Well, today was just one of those wrong days, which followed one of those just wrong weeks.
After falling through my deck on Sunday, I had the Termite Man come out today, along with my contractor friend, Tony. Between the two of them, I was given more than abundant physical evidence that my exquisite redwood deck is infested with termites and beetles, and run through with dry rot and mold. And oh gee, the back stairs are fashtunk the same way as well. All these years of foggy days and nights (exactly like tonight, actually) in San Francisco will do that even to the best redwood around after a while.
They ripped out my deck today. The site of basking naked belly dancers waiting for their henna to dry each spring before Rakassah— the International Bellydancing Festival. The site of Passover under the tent in biblical drag. The site of years of meditation on the nature of nature. Now dead, decayed and gone.
And the price tag for resurrection is so far out of bounds that there's nothing else to do but, well, think outside the box. Laugh. Consider it an opportunity for a new art project. Just when I thought there was relative completion at Beit Malkhut, no! Call it a grand opportunity for change.
So today I alternated between despondency and self-pity on the one hand, and optimism and cheer on the other. Switching points of view every five minutes or so — until Roshi couldn't stand it any more and forced me out the door. We headed for Paradise. Where we go every day of the year, whether or not it's a day or month for introspection or Divine mercy.
And something was wrong.
It was as if everyone was walking in slow motion. There were three vehicles on the trail, belonging to the Feds. Fort Funston is, after all, a national park. Clumps of mourners with heads bowed in dismay. I could catch fragments of sentences riding on the wind, until the mourners were close enough to fill me in. Rosh and I are, after all, regulars. We are of the body. This is how it unfolded on the wind:
with a pitbull
and a knife.
That already sounded like bad news.
who's a regular.
That's all I heard for a while. And the Fed vehicles rolled slowly at what felt more and more to be a funereal pace. And the dogs at the Fort felt subdued. There was a calm — that wasn't calm.
The Ranger was taking statements.
The woman with the dogs was crying.
"... and I saw the knife was bloody, and I asked him ..." sobs.
"... did you stab the dog??"
"and he answered, 'sure did!'" ... sobs.
Two thought came to me.
First: My deck is of little to no consequence in the scheme of things.
Second: Stabbing is not the way conflict or aggression is handled in Paradise.
And it is this latter thought that puts things into perspective. What makes Funston paradise is that it is a moving meditation of dogs and horses and birds and fish and humans and hangliders and feds and fog. And depending on the season, fishermen and seals and dolphins and whales and crabs and jelly fish and seaweed. And periodic oil spilled out on the beach. And bits of trash and parts of ships, I must admit are part of the mix. Which means that there is inherent conflict and territorialities within the system. And it's handled like a choreography; a dance between elements in which no one wins and just maybe no one loses. And, for the most part, the rhythm of the dance (while not perfect) is in tune with the rhythm of the tides (or something like that). And life and death are indeed part of the cycle. But not like this.
Every once in a while that rhythm is interrupted by something appalling. Today was one of those.
Today, a man with a pitbull stabbed a dog.
It's not in the papers. Can't find it on Google. But it happened. The dog was rushed to the veterinary hospital. A stabbing in Paradise. And it's not the 9th of Av, but it feels like it. It's just the 9th of Elul. A day for taking stock. For introspection. For Divine Mercy. And forgiveness.
But as I've said before: I just don't believe in forgiveness.