Magazine cover for "Common Ground," November 2017 issue, features a fiery explosion background with text detailing the featured topics including post-apocalyptic Puerto Rico and a gospel review.

November 2017

The 43rd Anniversary Gratitude Issue

October 9 will be a day to remember for our NorCal tribe. After repeated volleys of hurricane devastation in Houston, Florida, and Puerto Rico, followed by an inexplicable shooting rampage in Las Vegas, we may have become a bit complacent around here. This crap happens elsewhere, right? Well, that quickly shifted on October 9 and with it, the focus of this issue. On that day, while watching the blazes on TV, there was a report of a 4.6 earthquake in San Jose. It was later downgraded to 4.1, but it still felt like the world had gone mad.

I hope you enjoy the four People in the Neighborhood profiles I did. One is with Katrina Frey, whose family vineyard suffered in the Redwood Valley fire. She and her brother started this country’s first organic and biodynamic wineries. I spoke with Chris Coursey, Santa Rosa’s mayor, to get his account. Judah Jones is someone I know from the Glen Ellen neighborhood near where I used to live. Perhaps foolhardy, perhaps brave, he stayed on his street, protecting his home with a garden hose and subsequently confronted a looter with a pretend gun. Tim Dale is an old friend. He cofounded Yoga Tree Studios and had a retreat center and home in Sonoma. Ten days after the fire, when I found out about the tragic fate of his Sonoma home, I called to express my sympathies. He said he had not yet seen the house, and we agreed to visit the next day. What ensued is his firsthand account of seeing the loss of his beloved retreat center, Tara Bella, a former yoga retreat hub.

There’s so much devastation it’s difficult to imagine. Nearly 200,000 acres burned, destroying 9,000 buildings and killing 43 people, the youngest, 14, and the oldest, 100. How to tackle the subject of gratitude in this light?

For starters, Brother David Steindl-Rast is our interviewee. He’s a 91-year-old Benedictine monk who was drafted into Hitler’s army in Austria. During the war he experienced profound joy focused on the present moment, not knowing if a bomb would kill him at any moment. He became a monastic in an effort to recapture this depth and is most famous for his theories on grateful living. A blessed man, he has long been on my radar and this timing was perfect. Although a Church insider, he is deeply versed in interreligious dialog. His free-thinking views are both startling and reassuring.

Melissa Kushi is another dear friend. I happened to mention to her that I spent a few years growing up in Puerto Rico. She said her 25-yearold had moved there last year. Read the harrowing account of this mama hacking her way through the obliterated island after Hurricane Maria to look for her son—and the gut-wrenching personal transformation that brought.

We also have a pictorial called “Rising from the Ashes” and so much more.

As ever, please show your appreciation of Common Ground by patronizing our advertisers, and please consider becoming an advertiser yourself.

Celebrate Thanksgiving with gusto—the best holiday, in my opinion. There’s gratitude to experience in every waking moment.

Trust in life,


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