Every spring at Meher Mount, amid the stirring of new life – nesting birds, blooming wildflowers, tender new leaves on the ubiquitous Coast Live Oak trees swollen from recent rains – volunteers from far and wide gather to perform the rituals of weed abatement.
It is mandatory in Ventura County, CA, that by June 1st a strict protocol of reducing hazardous vegetation and creating defensible spaces around buildings and roads must be completed by all property owners in anticipation of the upcoming fire season.
This year, 21 volunteers arrived in shifts from May 11 through May 24, 2019, to help. Some were young, some not so young. Some new to Meher Mount, others who mark their calendars for this time of year. Some who were a few hours’ drive away, others who came from across the country. It is the joy of working with such enthusiastic and friendly folks that makes volunteering such a memorable event.
The forecast was for rain. Still, the volunteers came. It was the day of The Great Dhuni Stick Harvest. Saturday, January 12, 2019, turned out to be a glorious day with a very special dhuni at Meher Mount.
The rain stopped, and the sun came out around 10:30 a.m. The cloud-filled skies were deep blue, and the views were picture-perfect. It was time to harvest dhuni-sized sticks from the fallen branches of Baba’s Tree.
It was only fitting that after the dhuni sticks were harvested, there should be a dhuni at Meher Mount.
If the Thomas Fire has taught me anything, it has taught me that one just never knows when something will “catch fire” at Meher Mount. Priorities are constantly shifting and even as the list of projects to be done continues to spark more lists of projects to be done, it is always Meher Baba who finds a way to ignite one’s passion at just the right moment.
What seems to be catching fire for visitors, volunteers, and caretakers alike these days is the remnant of a sandstone walkway that begins at the northeast edge of the circular driveway and extends for about 10 feet or so toward the side of the Visitor Center/Caretaker Quarters. Avatar Meher Baba walked on these exact same flagstones.
It took a concentrated team effort to accomplish the mission: get ready for the June 1, 2018, fire abatement inspection by the Ventura County Fire Department.
Behind the ostensible fire clearance goal is giving Meher Mount tender loving care and a welcoming appearance. It is honoring Avatar Meher Baba's presence at Meher Mount.
"The work to clean, maintain and 'beautify' Meher Mount is like dressing Meher Baba's Samadhi [tomb shrine] for the day," said Board President Sam Ervin. "It's preparation for inviting souls into His Presence."
The forecast was for rain. But with some luck and planning, it was hoped the group could work around the rain. Despite the weather forecast, Meher Mount went ahead with Restoration Weekend – March 10 & 11, 2018.
It was a good decision. A number of tasks were completed as part of the ongoing recovery from the December 4, 2018 Thomas Fire. And as usual, a few more tasks were added to the "to do" list as a result.
Recovery from the December 2017 Thomas Fire is a step-by-step process. Each completed task seems to generate several new task offspring. The restoration continues.
On February 15, 2018, just as Buzz and Ginger Glasky finished their four-and-a-half years as Manager/Caretakers, former Caretaker Ray Johnston (2002-2005, 2006-2010) arrived for a week to help with the recovery.
That Meher Baba fellow sure knows how to throw a work party!
As I drove up to the entry gate around 9:30 a.m., I found half a dozen people vigorously cultivating the ash-hardened ground under the Coast Live Oak tree there. All were new faces to me, but I was greeted with cheerful waves and a hearty chorus of “Jai Baba.”
So, began the first workday of 2018 in response to the devastating Thomas Fire that so heartrendingly damaged Baba’s Tree, crippled the fragile water system, and sent Manager/Caretakers Buzz and Ginger Glasky racing for their lives down a flaming Sulphur Mountain Road on December 4, 2017.
Being a volunteer provides psychic rewards to you, concrete benefits to Meher Mount, and can help you expand and deepen your skills and knowledge to benefit you in your career and personal life. Here are a few tips on helping to make it a rewarding experience.
Those who volunteer are healthier, according to the Corporation for National and Community Service. They “…have lower mortality rates, greater functional ability, and lower rates of depression later in life than those who do not volunteer.”
Scientific studies have shown that individuals who volunteer enjoy psychological and physical benefits, including increased satisfaction, an improved sense of belonging, lower blood pressure, increased protection from Alzheimer's, and decreased mortality.