One year ago today, our good friend Jerry left this world. Jerry was a mathematical prodigy who invented a whole new form of three dimensional earthquake mapping, an activist who was instrumental in getting a nuclear test ban treaty at the height of the cold war, and a lead scientist on the Yucca Mountain Nuclear waste disposal site project, which he refused to endorse after learning that the site was unsuitable. (This wasn't what the bureaucracy wanted to hear, however, and when he was in the process of working to expose the corruption, his house just happened to burn down.)
Jerry was also a father and grandfather, and father figure to many more. He had great compassion for people, even (perhaps especially) those who were otherwise rejected by the world. His house was always full of people, often folks down on their luck, needing a place to get back on their feet, not to mention a whole cadre of permaculture and community localization people in Southern Oregon who knew that whenever they were passing through, Jerry's doors were open.
He was highly adept at analytical thinking and he loved to debate. Pretty much any topic was fair game, except perhaps for aliens...
He was a philosopher, a community builder, a wise counselor. I will always cherish the years I spent in his company, appreciative of the many things I learned from him. You are missed by many, old friend.
Exactly one week after Jerry’s death, I had the following dream:
I was in his house, in the living room, talking with Elliott and Sean. Suddenly, Jerry came staggering into the room, naked, walking as if he was barely able to stand. He went right past us and into the bathroom. Astonished, we followed him. He had just died a few days before. What on earth was happening? In the bathroom he collapsed in a tub full of water, submerging his face and looking up at us from underwater. When he came up, he looked much better, almost younger.
“Jerry, you died,” I told him. “You were dead for three days. How are you here?”
He didn’t answer, giving only a shrug and a slight roll of his eyes, as if to say who knows?
Others came over, sharing in our shock that suddenly Jerry was back. He told us he was hungry, so we all went out to eat, in Grants Pass, I suppose it was. Jerry walked without trouble, and he soaked in his surroundings as we walked down the street, as if he was seeing it all for the first time. His smile was subtle but never left his face.
When we sat down to eat, I noticed his beard was trimmed much closer, even styled a bit, and his hair was much darker, almost black.
“So I was dead for a while, right?” he asked.
“Yeah! You were.”
“You know how everyone wants to know what heaven is like?” he asked.
“Well this is it.”
Later on in the dream, I was on the back porch at Jerry’s house, about to go inside when a large, fluffy cat walked out onto the deck. At first I wasn’t sure, but he looked so familiar. Could it be Mr. Meow, who had lived at Gateway with us for the first few years, before disappearing? I hadn’t seen him in many years, but I automatically called out to him in his distinct style of meowing that earned him his name.
He spoke back to me, and I was delighted. Mr. Meow had come back! We had long thought him dead. He came over and I rubbed his head and neck, noticing the extra toe on his already wide paws. He purred and stretched, and did his signature one forepaw reaching for the sky, claws flexed. It was him all right! Shortly after this, I woke.
Jerry's legacy lives on, as his grandson Mahatma is still living out at Gateway Gardens, carrying on the work of improving the land, creating gardens and cottage industry. None of us who ever worked with or knew Jerry well will ever forget him.