And this probably has nothing to do with it at all, that mood of melancholy, but Stephen Gaskin did indeed die yesterday morning up in Summertown, Tennessee, on the land where he has lived for forty-three years.
I feel sad. I just do. He was a unique and amazing individual, curious and free-thinking, not only a believer in idealism and spirituality, of honesty and a life of responsibility towards others and the planet, he practiced those things. And of course he was the husband of Ina May Gaskin, whom many call the Mother of Authentic Midwifery.
It's odd. When I was in Publix yesterday I ran into a woman who was with me during my long, long labor with Hank, my not-quite-as-long labor and the birth of May. I was there when one of her sons was born, a breech baby and her husband delivered in the loft of their hippie home in the woods and their other children were all around and it was the middle of the night and sometimes, that's how it was in those days.
This woman was a huge influence on me and how I had my children. And she had been influenced by the women of the Yucatan and how they had their babies, which I find to be a beautiful circle of circumstance. And of course, there was Ina May and Spiritual Midwifery, guiding us along. Would Ina May have been able to do the work she has done with such authority and grace without Stephen? I don't know. Somehow I think they were an example of energies coming together to create more than the separate parts combined.
But we stood in Publix, the two of us, and talked and caught up a little bit on kids and grandkids. We both got a bit shiny-eyed, our hearts open as only hearts who have been through the big things together can be, neither of us knowing that Stephen had died but still, our little hippie reunion right there in front of the dairy case.
And as usual, I have meandered away from my original intent, which was to speak of Stephen Gaskin, but not really. Stephen was one of our teachers. He really was. And he used the word "teacher" and not "leader" because, as he said, "I'm a teacher, not a leader. If you lose your leader, you're leaderless and lost, but if you lose your teacher there's a chance that he taught you something and you can navigate on your own."
I love that.
Here's another thing he said which was, in light of the recent Supreme Court rulings, incredibly prescient:
"I consider any attempt to take this country over in the name of any religion to be as repugnant and unconstitutional as a takeover by international communism or fascism."
Anyway, I feel sad, as I said, a bit bereft. The world seems a little less sure to me today, a little less colorful, a little less playful. Those sparkling blue eyes of his looked at the world with wonder and with humor and he saw things as they were and better yet, how things could be better. And he wasn't afraid to try to help that process along.
Rest in peace, Stephen Gaskin.
You will be missed. You made a difference.
Thanks for everything.