Winter Letter from Michael Lerner
December 11, 2021
Many of you will be receiving a letter in the mail soon from our president and co-founder, Michael Lerner. He writes these letters twice a year, in the summer and winter.
As always, he weaves poetry and insight into his report on some of the reach and work happening at Commonweal. You can read his full letter on his blog site. We hope that his words inspire you to offer your support so that we can continue doing this work in the coming year.
From the letter:
"Stones and souls survive, someone said.
For my 78th birthday in October, I placed a black granite stone on our gravesite in the Bolinas Cemetery.
I long sought this stone.
My stonemason friend George Gonzalez lives on Mesa Road—on the way to Commonweal. The field of stones in front of his house resembles a Neolithic ruin.
I’ve often stopped in George’s field seeking my stone. I found it in September. Black granite. Oval. Knee-high. Lying in the grass.
A bearded young man approached. I said I was an old friend of George, looking for a stone for our gravesite. I said I’d found the right one. Geo, George’s son, said I’d have to speak with George. “His stones are like children to him.”
On October 15, just before noon, Geo drove an old red pick-up with the stone in the back to the Bolinas Cemetery. The cemetery lies on a high slope next to Mary Magdalene Catholic Church at the entrance to Horseshoe Hill Road. Geo’s brother Zack followed driving an old yellow forklift.
Geo and Zack hoisted the stone off the pickup with the forklift. Zack maneuvered deftly to the gravesite. He set the stone down. Our gravesite is at the top of the cemetery. Under an old eucalyptus tree. Just below the gravesites of Lawrence Ferlinghetti, the poet, and his wife.
Our stone weighs 1800 pounds, Zack told me. Just under a ton.
My wife Sharyle and I hope we won’t rest beneath our stone for years to come. But I’ve walked with over two thousand souls in the valley of the shadow of death for many years. Facing my own death is a dharmic responsibility. I love life fiercely. I am utterly alive. I have no wish to go. But I am grateful I placed our stone.
Our cemetery is no distant place. It’s woven into the fabric of community life. Our friends lie here. We visit them. We visit old timers whose grave markers have eroded into silence. The cemetery is cool and quiet. The air is sweet and fresh.
As we finished placing the stone, George Gonzalez pulled up in a white car to take a look. We spoke of friends buried nearby under his stones. I said I would inscribe nothing on the stone. I said I have a 500-year perspective. “I guarantee my stones for 500 years,” George said."