Mother’s Day this year provided the perfect antidote to my growing despair over the state of the world. Mother’s Day weekend, I spoke to a Healthcare Symposium in the Napa Valley with its exquisite landscape — everywhere, the splendor and bounty of the Earth Mother’s blessings.
The landscape is dotted with more than 300 wineries that offer tastings and informative tours. Elaine and I toured the Mumm’s champagne winery and sipped champagne while strolling through the art gallery which featured original photographs of Ansel Adams and a new exhibition of photographs by Robert Fulton, whose photos of natural beauty took my breath away. A couple of glasses of champagne in the Napa Valley, looking at Creation’s magic and you don’t see the blemishes, only the awe of the Earth Mother.
On Sunday, we strolled the streets of San Francisco and went down to the Farmers Market at the Embarcadero. I ate a fresh, organic raspberry turnover so stuffed with berries, it dribbled down my cheeks and fingers, and I licked off every last remnant. As we walked amidst the stalls of artists, craftspeople, caricaturists and street performers, I found a necklace in a booth called “Good Ju-Ju Jewelry.” It was a small stone-carved turtle dangling from a black string. I spoke to the artist, John Ndoli, about my affinity for turtles and their symbolism. He then told me he is a Rwandan Tutsi who travels the craft market circuit selling his jewelry that is always accompanied by good blessings. He put his hand on my chest and gave me a tribal blessing that was summarized as “may you plant good seeds, and your bad omens eaten by crocodiles.”
As he blessed me, I saw this heavily-accented African survivor of genocide talking, but it was my Mother’s voice I was hearing. She had the same message, “plant good seeds, you are not here for yourself.” Afterwards, I told John about my mother being a survivor of genocide and that while he was talking I heard my Mother’s voice blessing me. He smiled and said, “I’m telling you, this is good ju-ju jewelry.”
After a couple of hours, we took a break on a bench overlooking the Bay, where I sat and read the Sunday New York Times (my hopeless addiction). Our daughter called to wish her mother a happy day and suggested we go down to the Mission District which was in the midst of gentrification with funky shops. We stumbled into a place called “The Marsh,” a nonprofit community organization that is a breeding ground for new performance artists (www.themarsh.org). We arrived a few minutes before a group of Bay Area playwrights and actors who performed their works. It was a wonderful presentation of talented performers telling stories that ranged from painful to poignant and hilarious.
We were told the best Indian restaurant in the neighborhood was a six block walk but well worth it. “Don’t get scared, it’s a little dingy,” they warned. The Pakwan turned out to be the perennial winner of San Francisco’s “best cheap eats” award, but dingy was an understatement. We found a table outside on 16th St. where we were treated to what can only be described as a Halloween parade on Mother’s Day with all the colors, clothing, tattoos, and body piercings. A group of street musicians even arrived on skateboards to play for us. The food was wonderful, but the best part of the meal happened before we dug into it when an old Pakistani man, inside the restaurant behind a plate glass window just in back of us, smiled and blessed us.
The world is filled with blessings, and it’s the real reason we are here. May the blessings of our mothers be upon us; let us not drown in the reminders of despair but spend more time loving each other, eating good food, and laughing.