Carol and I met Roger Jones, the Unitarian Universalist (UU) minister in Sunnyvale, California, when we lived out in Bay area. He used to come to the Sunday evening potlucks at the “Villa on Manila,” which was our group house on Manila Avenue in Oakland. “Villa” residents included Michelle, UU minister who wears purple and roots for the Red Sox; Michael, grad student at the California Institute for Integral Studies who was doing work in queer theology; Carol, freelance writer specializing in ecological wastewater issues; and me. We had great potlucks in that house:– we’d invite people from our various circles of friends, and you never knew what you would wind up talking about:– Matthew Fox, Irish music, architecture, the state of liberal religion, the Red Sox, ideas for alternative worship, where to get really good Chinese dumplings in Oakland. So that’s how we met Roger:– at one of those potlucks.
Roger has a meeting in Boston this week, and it occurred to him to call us to let us know he’d be in the area. Of course we invited him to come down and stay with us, and he said he would. I picked him up on Saturday, and he just left this morning. It was like having one of those Sunday evening potlucks (except that it was just the three of us, and except that it lasted for a couple of days): long conversations into the evening, much gossip exchanged (good gossip, catching up on news of mutual friends), plenty of food eaten. With all the talking we did, no wonder I got very little writing done.
The “Villa” only lasted for a year, and then Carol and I had to move to Illinois; a year later, both Michael and Michelle had moved in with new life partners. When you live in a place like the “Villa on Manila,” you hope it will last for a long time, but it rarely does. The next best thing is to have really good house guests like Roger visit for a weekend. But soon they, too, have to leave. The Chinese poet Tu Fu wrote:
Here we part.
You go off in the distance,
And once more the forested mountains
Are empty, unfriendly….
Last night we walked
Arm in arm in the moonlight,
Singing sentimental ballads
Along the banks of the river….
(trans. Kenneth Rexroth)
The only solution to that feeling of melancholy is to convince more house guests to come and stay in our guest room. Do you hear that, Michelle? –you’re next in line to come visit.