This powerfully moving memoir explores the connections between local history, the environment, the body, and the spirit. Intertwining themes of love and family, home and homelessness, neighborhood and lost wilderness, Barbara Gates takes the reader on a journey of personal discovery that artfully bridges the inner and outer worlds of experience.
Prompted by a diagnosis of breast cancer and the accompanying recognition of mortality, Gates follows an intuition that her own life is simply an expression of the changing terrain. She researches far-ranging elements of her Berkeley, California, surroundings: the geological history of the Bay and hills, the history of her house and neighborhood, and the shellmound home of Native Americans who inhabited her area five thousand years ago. Encounters with a homeless woman who sleeps in her car, a rat in her refrigerator, and other adventures alternate with explorations of the area and its history. Gates seeks out original shorelines long since changed by landfill, original creeks that have been run into sewers, and diverse local wildlife now at risk from the pollution of industry and traffic.
Looking through the lens of Buddhist mindfulness practice, Gates inspires readers to take a big view of where we liveŻone that includes the past and future. She helps us to appreciate the heartache and grace of daily life and to find for ourselves that at any moment we might realize that we are already home.
Already Home: A topography of spirit and place, Barbara Gates, Shambhala Publications, paperback, 2003, 247 pages, $14.95.
Barbara Gates is a freelance writer and editor. She is cofounder and coeditor of the Buddhist journal Inquiring Mind, for which she writes a regular column. She lives in Berkeley, California.
Part One: Running
Escaping What's Here and Now
1 On the Run
2 Circlng the Yard
Part Two: Stopping
Here and How Is All We've Got
3 Take More Risks
4 Nocturnal Mind
5 Mama Raccoon
Part Three: Looking
Inhabiting the Uninhabitable
6 No Inner/No Outer
7 Skunk Practice
8 Homeless: Through the Fence
9 Skunk Practice: Through Deep Time
10 Homeless: In the Street
11 Skunk Practice: In the Industrial Zone
12 Homeless: In the Yard
13 On Inhabiting
Part Four: Seeing
Letting Go of Hope
14 Vital Statistics: Exhaustion
15 Homeless: An Interlude with Dogs
16 Vital Statistics: Safety
17 Homeless: A Second Interlude with Dogs
18 Vital Statistics: Turning to the Fathers
19 Homeless and Home: With the Grandmothers
Bay and Creeks
Part Five: Settling
Before and Beneath
20 Beneath the Pavement
21 Shellmound: Original Use: Home
22 Shellmound Mind: Dump and Cemetery
23 Owner? Guardian?