Saturday, August 25, 2012

Celebration for Ann Elliott, 18 August 2012: Invocation and Closing

It’s been a very busy several weeks, which is why I’m only now getting around to posting this, just as we’re about to leave California to fly back to Scotland. 

These are the two pieces that I composed and read at the Celebration event we had for our mother, last Saturday. It was a great day, with about 60 people, sunny and warm but with just enough cloud and breeze to make it bearable.  Many people shared their experiences of Ann, including quite a few of her grandchildren.  There was processing, labyrinth-walking, singing, reminiscing, crying, ash scattering, and nice food.  Mom/Ann would have approved!  I'd been feeling generally unhappy about her death, but somehow the process of the day helped me put that aside.  It was wonderful hearing the impact she had on people, and the siblings and grandkids really came together in a positive and hopeful way.  I guess that's why human being have these kinds of rituals...

1. Invocation

Oh spirits of the Murray Creek Valley,
I call on you to witness what we do here today!

Ghosts of the Miwok,
Who ground their acorns by the stream below!
Chinese gold miners,
Who built their dam just up the valley from here!

European settlers,
Who built houses, planted orchards,
Drove their stagecoaches on the road above!

Bob and Ann Elliott,
New Age Rural Professionals,
Who followed their vision of a great time of turning
To this place where we are gathered today.

I call on all the spirits of those
Who have gone before us here in this place
To join us this day in celebrating the life
Of Ann Helena Kearney Elliott.

During her last days, she asked us not
To mark her passing with sadness and gloom,
But instead to celebrate her life,
By gathering together to have a party.

But let's be clear:
All emotions are welcome at this party,
Especially contradictory ones:
Sadness and joy; anger and love;
Puzzlement and certainty; fear and safety;
Solemnity and mirth; guilt and forgiveness;
Brokenness and healing.

So we begin our celebration with a parade,
A procession, a ritual journey
To the sacred center of this place:
The Murray Creek Labyrinth.

Let us travel in whatever way we can:
Walking, riding, singing, dancing,
With our feet, in our imaginations,
Talking philosophy, having visions.

Let us travel a short distance down the road,
But travel in time as well,
remembering and rejoicing
In Ann, mother, grandmother, mentor, friend,
Fellow traveller through life.

2. Closing: Murray Creek, a Vision for the Next 100 Years

In her last years, Ann set up Murray Creek,
With its Creative Living Center, Quiet Garden, and Labyrinth,
As The Elliott Family Trust. 

Ann stated that the purpose of the Elliott Family Trust is:
"The preservation and care" of this place,
"As a place of beauty and quiet,
As a sanctuary for its wildlife,
And as a gift to be shared with others."

In accordance with the laws of the State of California,
The Elliott Family Trust is set up
To last for 100 years, like a fairy-tale castle,
In all likelihood, this is beyond the lifetimes
Of all of us here.

I think It's clear to all of us that these next 100 years
Are going to be crucial for human beings and the planet Earth. 
There are multiple crises converging on us right now:
Environmental, economic, and political;
Educational, health and health care, cultural, and spiritual.

We think that Murray Creek and the Elliott Family Foundation
Has a role to play in how humanity meets these crises. 
That role could simply be to provide a place
For Ann's children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren
For replenishment or refuge. 
Or Murray Creek could become
Part of the larger solution to our current crises,
Through promotion of innovative practices
Such as permaculture or nonviolent communication.

That's up to us now. 
I don't know what we'll do with it,
But I do know that we're a creative bunch,
So I'm hopeful that we'll come up with something. 
I also know that whatever it is we won't be alone in it,
Because we are being watched over
By those who came before us:
The native peoples who came here first
And whose troubled spirits Ann and Bob made peace with,
As well as the ghosts of those who came later;
I know also that Ann and Bob are watching over us
And in our hearts, inspiring us.

Moreover, we are surrounded by,
Embedded in, and held up within a network
Of caring friends and loved ones. 

Now, as Ann commanded us,
Let us start those 100 years
With another procession-parade and a party!

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Will the Last Person to Leave Jordanhill Please Turn Out the Lights?

Entry for 1 August:

Yesterday I rode my bicycle over to the Jordanhill campus of the University of Strathclyde on its last day before being locked down.  It was a lovely, sunny day, a break from the constant cloud and rain we’ve been having.  I couldn’t access the bike racks behind the Wood Building because the moving trucks were blocking the way, so I chained my bike to a lamppost in front of the Stow Building. 

Brian, Diane and I had spent the past week packing up my office and the Research Clinic, throwing out lots of stuff and organising for the move.  There was no sign of the movers in the Research Clinic so I went over to the third floor of the Wood Building, where they’d already cleared most of my colleagues’ offices. 

I went back to the Research Clinic, where I hung around for most of the day waiting for the movers to show up to move my stuff, having a meeting or two, doing email, and catching up on MSc course admissions.  When I helped a colleague carry stuff out to her car, I got locked out of the building and had to wander around for 15 minutes until I found an unlocked entrance.  Some estates management guys came by the Research Clinic checking the radiators to make sure they were in working order in preparation for the building being closed up.  “What a waste!”, they said, shaking their heads.  They said it had to be kept heated, because it was a listed building, but they had no idea what the University intended to do with it.

Finally, about 4pm the movers came upstairs to say that they could only take our computers today; they would have to come back in the morning to get our data, my books and files, and the Research Clinic furniture.  I had to give up my plan to see my things safely packed up and carted off.  When I headed out about 4:15 I seemed to be the last remaining academic staff member to leave Jordanhill; however, I suspect that a few others might have come back later to look around nostalgically. 

I was never as sentimental about Jordanhill as the folks who’d been there for 30 years, but for me it’s been a great six years: We’ve done some wonderful training here, collected a lot of important data, in our time fought our battles big and small, and shed more than a few tears along the way. 

As I cut through the Frances Tombs Hall one last time, the light over the stage was still on, as it had been for days.  I hope someone turned the lights off after I left!