Today I woke up in my beloved city, Oakland. For the past six years, I’ve been commuting out, two, sometimes three times a week. I would leave early in the morning, before my daughter woke up, drive two and a half hours (one way!!) to Monterey, and sometimes get back after she had gone to bed.

I can’t tell you how happy I am to be able to just be in this incredible city. I want to try to explain to you why it’s such a special place, why, after living all over the world, it’s the only place I’ve ever really felt at home. Why its people, its culture, its politics, and its setting are so special. But  more on that later.

In the next months (years) of my liberation, or homecoming, if you will, I’m going to walk, bicycle, and bus around the city, basking in sunny sidewalks, working in its cafes, poking into its nooks and crannies, exploring its many different lives, and researching its ghosts.

Which brings me to something strange that happened today. Strangely, or maybe not so strangely, given my current conversation with the universe, I woke up today, my first day of being back in Oakland full-time, to find a letter. I don’t really get many letters, so getting a letter is a surprise already, but this was not just any letter. It was a letter from Oakland. Yes, I mean from Oakland. Let me explain.

The letter was from Maria Teodora Peralta, and was dated ???. Who is Maria Teodora Peralta? I had to look this up. She was the first child of Luis Maria Peralta (1758-1851). Born in 1786, when her mother was just 15 years old, Maria was baptized at Mission Dolores in San Francisco, which, to give you some perspective, was founded in 1776, the same year the United States declared its independence.

Maria’s father, Luis, was a Mexican soldier stationed first at the Monterey Presidio, and then the San Francisco Presidio. Upon the end of his illustrious career, in recognition for his services to the Crown of Spain, Luis was granted Rancho San Antonio, 44,800 acres that encompasses the entire county of Alameda, in which Oakland is located.

Now, if you asked me if I believe in ghosts, I would say I’ve never much thought about it.’ Extraterrestrial life? Yes. The Loch Ness monster? No. Psychics? No. Emotional empaths? Yes. But now that I give it some consideration, and in light of this letter from a dead woman, I think I do believe in ghosts. And I very much want to hear what they have to say.

I’ll have to get to what she said in the letter next time. I’m off now to a concert in San Francisco by the Musea vocal ensemble, in which my friend Kirsten will sing music for and from the lives of children. I’m taking my daughter who is currently obsessed with our Music Together CD. This evening, we will go to Mariposa Grove, a co-housing community of artists, musicians, grad students, writers, and activists in my neighborhood (Santa Fe), for a dance party.


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