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Born in the US, raised on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, lived in Italy, the US, and Canada. Lover of language, travel, colour, and the natural world.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Forging a path

It has been a long time since I have written a blog entry. The leaves are still falling, but fall is finally giving way to winter, and the temperature has finally dropped low enough to actually justify wearing a light jacket when I go out.

A lot had happened over the past few weeks. One big thing was creating a Tischen site for myself. Tischen is a site that offers free web pages on which businesses or individuals can advertise their services or skills and be contacted by potential clients. Although I do not have my own domain name, I found the exercise of describing my skills and services clearly to be empowering and illuminating. Creating a Tischen page helped me to begin to clarify for myself what it is that I am doing with my writing and how I can bring together some of my own interests and passions with a practical service that could be of value to someone else. If you are interested in checking out what this looks like, visit my Tischen site at http://www.tischen.com/ArianaSalvo

Another exciting thing that I have been engaged in over the last few weeks is a process called Loving Inquiry. Loving Inquiry is a creative and contemplative practice that uses the creative arts as a means of developing gentler, more loving and compassionate relationships with other people and with the natural world. It was developed by Ahava Shira, an inspiring poet, performer and educator who recently finished her Doctoral degree at the University of British Columbia. I met Ahava at a conference on poetics in Charlottetown, back on Prince Edward Island last year. Although I met many inspiring people at the conference, she and I clicked immediately because I was working in the organic farming industry and love poetry, and she lives on a 23 acre organic farm nestled into the flanks of Mount Maxwell on Salt Spring Island in British Columbia. She also comes from a Jewish background (her name in Hebrew means “love poetry”), and I have been learning a lot about Judaism over the last couple of years and am always excited to learn more. We have managed to keep in touch since the conference, and when I heard that she was starting to work facilitating workshops (both on the farm and online) for women who are trying to find their calling in life, I immediately asked her to sign me up. Over the past few weeks, a group of ten women and myself have come together on a tranquil little island floating somewhere in the vast sea of the world wide web, and have been receiving inspiring quotes, questions that are intended (and do!) stimulate directed writing practices, and activities that we carry out in our own time and share with the rest of the group through poetry, narrative, photography, painting, drawing, and any other form of creative expression we choose to use.

I am on Facebook. I email. I chat. But Ahava created a web site that is so tranquil that when I sign in I can practically hear my entire body let out a sigh of relief to be stepping over the threshold between the constant motion of my life and the silent space for reflection, contemplation and sharing that I find inside the site. The colours are soft, poetry floats down the side of the page, and images shared by all of the women of our collective landscapes and community appear and fade in the middle of the page. It feels like home.

This past week Ahava asked if I would write an article about her work that she can use to reach out to a larger group of women. Although I have only been taking part in this workshop for three weeks I was very excited to be able to share with others what Ahava is doing and the very tangible benefits that come from participating in her workshops. I started the article yesterday. It is my first official article, which made me slightly nervous. I want to do a good job. But it also is sort of thrilling. I am doing what I love, and I am helping a friend to do what she loves. I imagine she feels the same way! If you are interested in hearing more about Ahava’s work with Loving Inquiry, check out her blog: http://www.ahavashira.com/

I began thinking about the theme that Ahava asked the group to reflect on this next week tonight: compassion. It is a virtue that I am nowhere near being a master of, and going on eleven months of not having a full time job, my compassion for myself is probably at it absolute lowest point right about now. But thinking about compassion made me reflect back over the last week, and what came to me is this:

Last week I was at a thanksgiving supper with nineteen other amazing folks, some of whom I had never met before. It was an amazing meal, the fire was crackling, and the conversation was stimulating. One conversation that especially struck me was one I had with a man from Haiti named Pierre. He and his wife and their three kids have been living in the US for a number of years now, but he recently resigned from his high paying job with the State to move back to Haiti and establish an NGO that focuses on establishing sustainable small-scale agriculture initiatives in rural communities. He asked me what I am doing right now, and I explained that I had done my Master’s degree in Island Studies, my love was organic agriculture and writing, and that I was trying to find what I should be doing with my life right now. The man leaned back in his chair and told me: “This is wonderful. We were meant to come to this supper and sit next to each other. Your skills are exactly what we need in our project in Haiti. You are perfect. Could you please send me your resume?”

After ten months of no fruitful connections, I have to say that shock is a mild description for how I felt being told by this man that I had skills that were extremely valuable to the people of Haiti. I also felt fear. Fear of even the possibility of moving to a country that graces the newspaper daily because of cholera epidemics and rampant violence, poverty and natural disasters. I told Pierre that the work sounded amazing, but shared my fears of going to such a place as a single white woman. He nodded. His wife had already told me how terrible the conditions in Haiti were. I expected him to drop the idea. Instead he said to me: “Yes. Haiti is in a terrible state. But we cannot pretend that we are insulated from the suffering of Haiti. We cannot live in such immense comfort and ignore such deep suffering just because we are afraid or separated by geography.” He went on to tell me that if everyone with skills that could benefit Haiti stays away out of fear, the country will never be able to dig itself out of its current misery. His words are still echoing through my mind and heart now, almost a week later. After some reflection, I realized he is right. I am afraid, but if I let my fear outweigh my compassion, what kind of world am I accepting to live in? What kind of future exists if I allow fear to prevent positive change? I sent him my resume yesterday morning. I am not sure where it will lead, but I keep praying that I will have the courage for whatever comes of this encounter, and that I will be able to use my skills to contribute to his effort.

I feel like I am coming down with something tonight, so in the spirit of compassion (and because I feel lousy), I made myself rosebud tea with honey, relaxed in a hot bath, and brought a hot water bottle to bed with me. All acts of compassion. There is a lot to learn about this virtue, but it seems the universe is bringing me plenty of opportunities to practice!

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