Gurujodha and I have moved to Bakersfield, which is about 120 miles north of L.A. in California’s vast Central Valley. We’ve got a lovely condo in the southwest part of town and have been here now for exactly one month. I never in my life imagined or dreamed of living in Bakersfield. In fact, I remember first hearing about this city and wondering, why would anyone ever want to live there? It sounded terrible… oil wells, big agribusiness, a politically conservative majority, long very hot summers, far away from the ocean…
And look at me now, as happy as a clam and adjusting to my new life here. Who woulda thought….
We have been going to the Stine Gurdwara (Gurudwara Guru Angad Darbar) on Sunday mornings. I’ve enjoyed the kirtan (and tasty langar!) there, however there is always over an hour of katha right in the middle of the kirtan that is rather hard to sit through when I barely understand a word of it. So I’ve taken to doing pranayam during that time… inhale 16 strokes, hold 16 counts, exhale 16 strokes, hold 16 counts…. using Sa Ta Na Ma or Ek Ong Kar Sat Nam Siri Wahe Guru with the breath. That works for about 30 minutes. Today was the first day of Daylight Savings Time, so we timed our arrival to be 45 minutes before the katha started. Our plan was to meditate and enjoy the kirtan, and then once the katha started after a little while go out and have langar. However, I guess they decided not to switch to the new time until next week, because we got there and realized the katha had just started and we had missed the kirtan program entirely. Oh well, Wahe Guru.
Next week we will try another of the five gurdwaras here that are a result of the huge Punjabi population (no wonder, it is so much like the Punjab here… largely flat, farming-agribusiness, climate… we even have the dense tule fog in the winter months).
I was just noodling around on Facebook watching a couple of Ravi Kaur’s bhangra videos, for Dharma Kaur’s wedding shower and then her wedding to Meher Singh today in Espanola. Seeing everyone together, laughing, in cherdi kala, plus thinking of my friends and the wonderful GRDA sangat in L.A…. makes me really feel the longing for the upliftment that comes being with community…
That said though, I truly feel I belong where I am and have been brought here by Guru’s Grace alone. It’s so weird. I mean, it’s so weird to be in Bakersfield and to feel happy just seeing our home, or the big wide streets where the tallest building is rarely over 3-4 stories, the great little coffee shop by the office where I work… I don’t know, this is hard to describe, but I feel like my soul knows it’s supposed to be here and is totally stoked about that, and is happy just breathing the air, meeting new people, going to the grocery store, going to work…. It’s so dumb, I know, but it’s true.
I was in L.A. this past Friday for a few hours picking up Gurujodha from LAX, home from a short trip to India. But those few hours I had before I met him, I went to the 3rd Street Promenade to return some shoes and hooked up with my daughter Avtar at the new Whole Foods in Venice for dinner. I love L.A. and I figure as long as I can come to L.A. once or twice a month, go shopping and go out to eat (Bakersfield is great but is lacking some of my favorite stores and great little restaurants are not in abundance… although Whole Foods is not a great little restaurant, the new Venice store is humongous and has a gigantic array of salad and prepared food bars), and see friends and family (Avi) that is enough for me, for now. Anyway, so I was at the shoe store on the Promenade and when the sales clerk asked me about my address and I told him I had just moved to Bakersfield he said, "Why would you want to live there?! It’s so hot, and there’s nothing to do there!" I just smiled and said, "I love Bakersfield." And his last comment reminds me of very recent advice from my dear friend Satsimran who said to me, "Don’t limit yourself, but don’t just do, do, do….I say be, be, be and see what happens…" So yes, dear Clarks Shoe Store Salesclerk, there’s nothing to do in Bakersfield, but a lot to be.