We are living in a time of ghosts. Echoes of past lives.
In this season as we encounter shorter days and longer shadows, as the sun dips lower on the horizon, as we celebrate Halloween, Dia de los Muertos, All Saints Day and All Souls Day, in this season of remembrance, we may find ourselves surrounded by ghosts. Not just the ghosts of our ancestors, but the ghosts of ourselves, our lived experiences, our communities, our country.
We are living in a time of ghosts. Echoes of OUR past lives.
I remember life before the pandemic, those earlier freedoms we enjoyed: gathering with friends over a shared meal in our homes, enjoying live concerts with the crowds at SFJazz and Stern Grove, meeting a friend at the Starline Social Club in Oakland and musing about life and art over cocktails. I remember the ease with which we could catch the latest movie flick at the Grand Lake Theatre or enjoy the simple pleasures of lingering in a bookstore on Fourth Street in Berkeley or sharing a delicious bite inside the Ferry Building. I remember when I could flash a smile at a familiar face at the local farmers market, bike past Crystal Springs on the peninsula, and run along the water’s edge at Lake Merritt, while breathing in the fresh air without the hindrance of a face mask.
I remember when we could hop on an airplane and visit our families on other coasts, or save up money for a trip to Mexico or Vietnam and immerse ourselves in the wonders of other cities, other cultures, other histories, other lives.
I remember when the so-called “gigafire” had not yet burned a million acres of California lands, when homes still stood untarnished and majestic redwoods were not yet tested in the blaze, when firefighters had time to rest and skies were not so orange and thick with smoke. I remember it raining during the appointed season here in California. I remember fewer heat waves in October.
I remember, too, those days before George Floyd was killed right in front of our eyes, before Ahmaud Arbery was gunned down while running through lush green suburbs, before Breonna Taylor was shot by law enforcement intruders while sleeping. I remember being told by our black brothers and sisters that these things were happening to them all the time. I remember having the opportunity to act THEN, when black lives STILL mattered, when equity and racial justice were just as important then as they are now.
I remember having good leaders in government, getting into good trouble, trusting in the security of our postal service, and not fearing that our presidential election could go sideways.
I remember the elementary school around the corner from my home, ringing out with the happy screams of children during recess. I remember the crossing guard who always said good morning to me as she helped me cross the street safely.
I remember a kiss, a warm burly hug, a high five, a fist bump, all given freely without fear of getting sick.
We are living in a time of ghosts. So. many. ghosts.
In this season of remembrance, let us remember all that has passed on from our world. Let us mourn all that we have lost — our freedoms, our loved ones who died from COVID, our peace of mind, our joy, our sense of connection, the surety of our democracy, and what little civility we had left in our discourse.
This year especially, let us remember the dead and honor the lives we lost — theirs, ours — and let us give thanks for those still living, for what remains, for what is left to hold onto, to build toward. For in nearly every religion, in every wisdom tradition, we are taught that there is life after death, renewal, rebirth.
Our spirits, our ghosts, have so much to teach us.