About Me

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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.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Reverb10, Day 4: On nurturing a sense of wonder

The prompt for today is this: Wonder. How did you cultivate a sense of wonder in your life this year?

Prompt Author: Jeff Davis
The Journey from the Center to the Page

Let me be frank. I am not the most practical person in the world. I have never been terribly good with numbers; I have yet to figure out what it means to live in the same place for more than five years (and five years was a major accomplishment); I still do not entirely grasp the concept of living within my means, and the idea of planning a trip across the world makes no sense to me when I can just spontaneously decide to pack up and leave overnight. Practical, I am not. But if there is one thing I am an good at, it is cultivating a sense of wonder.

This year, for me, began with months of indecision. I used to be one of the most decisive people I knew. Over the last few years something has shifted, and I often find myself doubting why I made a certain choice and whether I am really in the right place or if it is time to pack up and move again. Last fall I was steeped in indecision. When i feel indecisive, it feels like the security that I usually feel from sensing the ground beneath my feet is suddenly gone, and I am left feeling wobbly and unhappy. Last fall I was working a job that I loved, but I was ready for more challenge. I wanted to be given more responsibility, and to explore new areas of the organic agriculture business. I felt like I was being constrained from growing in some way. I was also surrounded by a wonderful community of friends. For the first time in a long time, I had a place within a community that I valued deeply that felt like home. But my desire for more challenge in my work, and the dream that I have of having a family some day kept rising up inside of me, and making me question whether it was time for a change.

Before I go any further, let me just say that having a sense of wonder is vitally important to me. One of the reasons that I loved Prince Edward Island was that I felt a sense of wonder every day. There was not one day that went by that I did not stop and think to myself how blessed I was to be living in such a stunningly beautiful place. It was isolated. It was bloody cold in the winter. But I got to lie in fields on my back in the summer and fall watching shooting stars. I took long walks on the beach at night to enjoy the moon and stars. I got to go canoeing on rivers under a full moon and watch phosphorescence drip down the oars and ripple sparks out into the night. I got to plant hundreds of seeds and watch the miracle of them germinating and pressing up through the soil to turn into colourful vegetables and fruit. I got to help cut firewood and haul it out of the forest late at night under the stars. I got to harvest strawberries and eat them while they were still warm from the sun. I lay in tall grasses on my belly at the edge of a cliff and watched hundreds of cormorants taking off and returning to their nests. I watched Canada geese arrive in the spring and leave in the fall, their call high above preparing me to shift into warmth and bundle up for another long winter. I made snow angels. I ice skated on the blue-tinged tongue of frozen rivers. I got to sip hot tea and eat seafood chowder at kitchen tables with friends who shared their life stories and listened to mine. I had the privilege of deep friendship with people who inspire me, make me laugh out loud and encourage me to stop and listen to the world around me. Even my work involved the miracles of nature and relationships with farmers and business people who I have the deepest respect for, and who I consider friends as well as colleagues.

Being raised in a closely knit community on an island in the Mediterranean, I grew up with a deep love for my friends and larger community. Over the years, my travels have intensified the value I place on deep, intimate relationships with people from different cultures and backgrounds. I have friends scattered around the world who are all very close to my heart even though we may not speak or see each other for many years. With all of my moves, it has been challenging to maintain all of these relationships across great geographic distances. But my friends have always been a priority to me, and so these relationships have survived and flourished. I love my time alone, but experiencing life in the company of close friends is, to me, one of the greatest sources of wonder. Over the last year I have been amazed, again and again, at both the depth of my friendships, and the profound moments of wonder that I experience over and over with my friends. On my six week road trip across the continent this past February and March, I visited many friends who mean the world to me. Sitting and talking with them over meals or hot drinks; watching them thrive in their lives; meeting their spouses and children; sharing laughter and music and prayer and intimate moments in nature.....all of these connections moved me deeply. At the same time, I have met many new people here in California, and have begun to feel wonder at these budding friendships, and the experiences that I am sharing with these new friends. And I feel wonder at the fact that although I am thousands of miles away from Prince Edward Island, the friendships I made there continue to flourish. Through the internet I am able to not only hear their voices, but see their radiant faces. Making that extra effort to maintain and nurture my relationships with friends is an endless spring of wonder.

Another way that I have nurtured wonder is through prayer. Before I made the decision to leave Prince Edward Island and drive west, I sat and said a lot of prayers. On new years eve, I was sitting on the floor in front of the enormous windows in my living room that gave me a view of sunrises and sunsets and the moon in all of her phases. I said many prayers, but one of the most important ones was that God help me to find my path in life -- to find a home. And that if it was His will, that he allow my path cross with that of a man who I could share this journey with. It was very late at night, heading towards midnight. When I finished my prayers I looked up, and the light of a star burning itself out against the night melted across the blackness. I know it sounds cliched. But it happened, and it felt like my prayer had been heard. On my journey across the country I said a lot of prayers. I said prayers for safety when I got in my car to drive early in the morning. I said prayers together with friends while I was visiting them. I said prayers at the Baha'i shrine in Montreal, and the Baha'i House of Worship in Wilmette. I said prayers in the desert in southern Arizona. I said prayers with my parents when I got to California. I went to London and Cyprus and on pilgrimage to the Baha'i Holy Land in Israel shortly after arriving in California, and I said prayers in all of these places. Every Friday I take part in a devotional gathering with friends. We sit together and pray and read from the holy writings. Afterward we enjoy each others company. On Thursdays I study holy writings with other friends. And I pray by myself regularly. For me, this time of prayer is a reminder to myself that I am a spiritual being having a physical experience. It is a coming home of sorts. A regrouping. A time of reflection and connection and humility. By making sure that prayer is not only a part of my own life, but a part of my relationships, I feel more aware of the fact that everything I do and think has spiritual implications. Prayer definitely nourishes my sense of wonder. My wonder at my existence in the first place. Wonder at how insignificant I am in the grant scheme of the universe. Wonder at the connections between everything and everyone.

One final way that I have nourished my sense of wonder has been spending time in the natural world on a regular basis. The landscapes that I lived in constant relationship with back in Canada; the mountains that I drove through in the eastern United States; the vast open snow-covered prairies of the Midwest that I drove through for hours; the brushland and powerful snowy peaks of Colorado; the sharp blue skies and giant mountains of Utah; the endless immensity of the Arizona desert; and the lush green wide open agricultural fields of the northern California valley all nourished my sense of wonder. Since arriving here I find that the natural world in its wild form is harder to get to. I find myself looking up through the golden and red leaves of fall trees towards the blue sky. I find myself taking walks to a nearby park to listen to the resident geese that must be disoriented because they never leave. A few weeks ago, craving the wide open areas of the wild, I went on a day hike to the Sutter Buttes with a geologist. The Buttes are, from my understanding, the only volcanic area in northern California, and have a fascinating geological history. I left home in the dark and watched the sun rise over flooded rice fields spread out for miles and miles to my left and right, birds grazing the surface of the glassy reflection of sky in water as they swooped then rose. Swooped then rose. I hiked through volcanic landscape, through blue oak groves haloed in sunlight. I took in the vastness of the golden California hills. I felt the texture of a matrix of volcanic ash and different kinds of rock in the cliff sides. This day brought me so much joy and wonder that it reminded me how important an intimacy with the land is to me. I am not a city dweller at heart. Making the time to interact deeply with the natural world is vital for my sense of wonder.

There has been so much of wonder this past year. I continue to find sources of wonder every day. I wonder how those around me nurture a sense of wonder. Maybe I should ask them. It might be a nice change from the humdrum "how are you?" of so many daily conversations. The next time I cross paths with a friend, I will ask: "what did you do that nurtured your sense of wonder today?"

So, what DID you do that nurtured your sense of wonder today? 


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