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.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Sunday night ramblings

It has been a beautiful weekend. Clear blue skies despite weather forecasts calling for snow and freezing temperatures. Sunshine. More and more blossoming trees. It was also the beginning of Ayyam-i-Ha, a period of joyful celebration, community service and general cheer for the Baha'i community. The Baha'i calendar is composed of 19 months of 19 days each. That leaves four or five days over in the year, which we call Ayyam-i-Ha. Ayyam-i-Ha is a time of festivities and giving. Often gifts are given to family and friends. Dinner parties had. Live music and dancing. At the end of Ayyam-i-Ha, Baha'is begin 19 days of fasting from sunrise to sunset. We abstain from eating or drinking from sunrise til sunset, spending the time when we would otherwise be eating or drinking to pray, meditate and reflect. The fast, while physically challenging, is nevertheless a very special time. Not being a morning person, the only days when I am up before sunrise are days when I have been up all night or days when I am catching a flight. Like I said...not a morning person! But the fast gives me the opportunity to be up at that magical hour. To sit and pray and reflect and write before the sun rises; to watch it slowly pull itself up from the horizon into the hopeful sky; and to explore all those hours of the day when I would otherwise be wrapped in my warm dreamworld. It is also a time, for me, to experience what a large percentage of the world experiences every day: hunger and thirst. I have been fortunate in my life to always have food and drink. Living a life of plenty makes it hard to understand and feel true solidarity or compassion for those who do not have enough food or drink. The fast gives me the opportunity to experience, on a very limited scale, the feeling of not having my basic physical needs met. I feel it helps to keep me conscious of the world around me, and connected to people whose lives are vastly different from my own.

At the end of the fast Baha'is celebrate Naw Ruz, or New Year, on March 21st. It is a time of renewal and celebration of the beginning of a fresh spring.

I spent Friday night at a devotional gathering on the subject of generosity. The group that were gathered together for the devotional spoke at great length about what generosity means in their lives. They mainly spoke about financial generosity, predominantly in relationship to people who are homeless, which in northern California is a significant number of people.

When I think of generosity, I think of generosity with time more than money. Generosity of spirit. I think of the students back in Christchurch, New Zealand, who have been volunteering to shovel out people's driveways so that they can get in and out of their homes. Of my friend Pascale making full pots of hot water to prepare tea for her family and friends as a way of comforting people who have experienced a tremendous amount of trauma over the last week. I think of all the people who have given me rides, loaned me cars, taught me a new skill or invited me over to a meal when they knew I was low on funds as a student. I think of my mother who has been so supportive of me in every way this last year as I transition from one life into another.

After our devotional on Friday a large group of us went out for a delicious Persian meal to celebrate the beginning of Ayyam-i-Ha. On Saturday night many of us drove to a nearby town to join in an evening of lots of good food and live music and dancing. And this morning a different group headed over to the home of one of the families in our area to enjoy a beautiful brunch and commemoration of these important days together. I have been surrounded by great company and laughter all weekend long. This afternoon I managed to slip in a run in the golden sun before heading off this evening to enjoy the Oscars with a group of friends. We had a finger-food potluck, and lounged on comfy couches, enjoying the red carpet extravaganza and cheering for Colin Firth when he was awarded with a well-deserved Best Actor award, and for Natalie Portman when she received her Best Actress award. It was an evening full of laughter, excellent food, and joy.

I drove home reflecting on my present. On the community that has embraced me, and that I am finally starting to embrace. On my dreams. On my friends back on PEI. On the fact that my friend was offered her job in France, and is therefore now waiting to hear if I am actually going to come house sit for her and her husband back on PEI while they are away.

I have been learning the lesson of enjoying my current surroundings and relationships. I do not really like the city I am living in, and am quite certain that I do not want to settle here long-term. But I am also not entirely sure that going back to PEI right now is really the right thing for me. If a clear alternative were presented to me, it would make the decision easier. of course rarely are we given the next step while we still have one foot firmly rooted on the shore that we left long ago. I know that I must take a risk at this junction, and I am praying I make the right choice based on dreams and the future instead of fear of loss.

As I move towards another full week, I am trying to remain open-hearted and courageous. To make this next decision from a place of contentment and faith. Happy Monday! 

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Trinidad & Tobago

"The more difficulties one sees in the world the more perfect one becomes. The more you plough and dig the ground the more fertile it becomes. The more you cut the branches of a tree the higher and stronger it grows. The more you put the gold in the fire the purer it becomes. The more often the captain of a ship is in the tempest and difficult sailing the greater his knowledge becomes." - 'Abdu'l-Bahá
Last night my time, just was I was getting ready for bed, an earthquake of magnitude 6.3 shook Christchurch, New Zealand so violently that buildings collapsed in on themselves, roads buckled and ripped apart, cars were flattened beneath rubble falling from buildings, water pipes burst, and sinkholes opened up all over the city. I have a very close friend who lives in Christchurch whose family home was damaged so severely in the country's last major earthquake, in September 2010, that the building had already been identified as one that needs to be torn down and rebuilt in the near-future, so the news that another earthquake had struck, and only three miles beneath the city, had me worried sick for Pascale and her family. 
After watching video clips of the cathedral's steeple collapsing, the entire downtown area in rubble, and seeing images of people emerging from beneath buildings covered in blood, I got on Facebook to see if Pascale had posted any updates on how they were doing. 
Pascale is an amazing woman. She is a personal trainer who works with her clients not only on their physical fitness, but on their spiritual fitness as well. She is empowering and tremendously inspiring. But to be honest I did not expect to find three video clips of her experience of the earthquake online already. Clicking on the first, I watched as Pascale narrated a video of the flooded street outside her house, explaining that the street had literally gotten soft like a sponge as a result of liquefaction. Her second clip, which started with an image of one wall of her house which had completely collapsed on top of her neighbour's car, was titled: We told her not to park her car there. This clip then moved inside Pascale's home. The walls all have huge cracks climbing them like lightening rods. The ceilings are all cracked, the doorways and arches are cracked, and then there was that pesky entire wall that had completely dropped away and collapsed outwards. Pascale and her family had to move down the street to stay with extended family as their house, which had been badly damaged, is now unsafe to inhabit. Her third video clip takes a walk outside to have a look at the creek that is usually a small stream alongside her house. In the clip it had become a large pond that was the colour of gunpowder. Pascale commented on how much more water there was in it, but then she exclaimed, in a bright and cheerful voice: "But the ducks made it! Way to go Trinidad and Tobago!" 
Now I don't know about anyone else, but when your entire city is literally collapsing around you, you have no power or running water, your only car with a full tank of gas is stranded in a parking garage that may or may not still be standing, and all of your work for the week has been canceled, it seems to me like the lives of two ducks would be the last thing on your mind. But there are many reasons why I love this woman, and her endless optimism would definitely be one of them. Hearing her joy at the fact that Trinidad and Tobago made it through the quake made me laugh out loud. And the fact that she has two resident ducks on her property who she had the brilliant idea to name Trinidad and Tobago had me well-amused as well.
Since then, Pascale has gone on to find a well that she can get water from with a bucket, has nominated herself as resident tea-maker for anyone and everyone in the house, and even sat down to enjoy a hot bowl of meat stew with gratitude, despite being a vegetarian. Yes, I would say Pascale is definitely an example of seeing the glass as half full. 
As I moved through my own day, I found myself stopping often and thinking about Pascale and her ability to keep her cool, stay calm and positive and encouraging of others in the face of a tremendous amount of stress. She is someone I have a lot to learn from. As she presses forward into the difficult days and weeks ahead, and tries, along with her fellow community-members, to rebuild her life and her home, I will be praying for her and her fellow New Zealanders. I will also be taking time every day to find my own Trinidad and Tobago. We can't all have ducks, but finding and celebrating the joy, beauty and hope that exist even in the most dire circumstances is definitely within all of our grasp.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Envisioning unity

"...political life everywhere has continued to deteriorate at an alarming rate...the very conception of statesmanship has been drained of meaning, policies have come to serve the economic interests of the few in the name of progress...hypocrisy has been allowed to undermine the operation of social and economic structures...in a world that rewards dishonesty, that encourages corruption, and that treats truth as a negotiable commodity." -Universal House of Justice, Letter to the Conference of the Continental Boards of Counsellors dated 28th December, 2010. 

We should manifest "complete freedom from prejudice in [our] dealings with peoples of a different race, class, creed, or colour." -Shoghi Effendi, quoted by the Universal House of Justice in its Letter to the Conference of the Continental Boards of Counsellors dated 28th December, 2010.

"The corrosion of [racial prejudice] has bitten into the fibre, and attacked the whole social structure of...society...Racial prejudice should be regarded as constituting the most vital and challenging issue confronting the...community at the present state of its evolution." Shoghi Effendi, quoted by the Universal House of Justice in its Letter to the Conference of the Continental Boards of Counsellors dated 28th December, 2010. 

"While it is true that, at the level of public discourse, great strides have been taken in refuting the falsehoods that give rise prejudice in whatever form, it still permeates the structures of society and is systematically impressed on the individual consciousness."  -Universal House of Justice, Letter to the Conference of the Continental Boards of Counsellors dated 28th December, 2010.

I have been reading a book about Haiti and the Dominican Republic over the last week, trying to better educate myself about a country that I will be spending two weeks in this spring. As many of you already know, the history of both of these countries is characterized by violence, prejudice, corruption, hatred, greed, abuse, and fear. I had a general idea about the history of Hispaniola, but not the finer details of the island's history and peoples.

I still have a great deal I hope to learn about the island. While I am usually a very fast reader, I am only on page 150 of my book, and I still have 150 to go. I am finding that I have to put it down more regularly than I ordinarily would, because I am overwhelmed by the descriptions of the scale of human suffering that the people who inhabit this island have endured. Prejudice has been a constant part of my reality for most of my life, but I have never lived in a country where I was conscious of facial structures, hair colour and texture, and skin colour actually having been given names and corresponding social classes. According to Michele Wucker in Why the Cocks Fight: Dominicans, Haitians, and the Struggle for Hispaniola, the "sociologist Micheline Labelle has counted twenty-two main racial categories and ninety-eight subcategories used among Haiti's middle class in the 1970s." Some of the words used to describe these categories are "cafe au lait, bonbon siro (candy syrup), ti canel (little cinnamon), ravet blanch (white cockroach), soley levan (rising sun), banane mure (ripe-banana), brun pistache (peanut brown), and mulatre dix-huit carats (18 carat mulatto)" (p.34). That people can be divided up into separate groups based on such debasing names is truly disturbing to me. Hispaniola's history has been characterized by a steady effort to "whiten" the population by encouraging the immigration of light-skinned peoples, and abusing, degrading, and all-out massacre of those who happen to have been born with darker complexions. Ever since the arrival of the first colonizers from Spain and France, the island's Native peoples have been systematically and brutally all but eliminated, African slaves brought to the island to work in the island's plantations have been abused, tortured, and killed, and anyone attempting to improve conditions for ordinary citizens in either country has been overthrown, and expelled or killed.

The main crop grown on the island has traditionally been sugar cane, and generation after generation of Haitians and poor Dominicans sacrificed their lives and their freedom to line the pockets of exploitative plantation owners and government officials. Thousands of Haitians migrated across the border into the Dominican Republic to try to make a living in the sugar plantations only to find themselves working in extremely harsh conditions that often resulted in severe injuries, for extremely low pay. Since the United States has a quota for how much sugar it buys from the world market, and it consumes most of the island's sugar, it dictates the amount needed, and the price that will be paid for sugar from the Dominican Republic. This meant that sugar prices rose and fell according to local and international political upheaval, changes and shifts in national interests, and consumer demand. The result has been an economic activity that is extremely volatile. When demand is high, workers are brought or come by choice into the Dominican Republic to work on the plantations. When demand for sugar drops, excess immigrants are deported back to Haiti with little consideration for the impact on their family or community. In the past deportation was the most mild form of solving the "Haitian problem". Many plantation workers were simply killed. Those who remained on the plantations had no rights, and uprising and demonstrating on the plantations was repressed with the constant threat of violence and death. 

In addition to the instability in the sugar industry, the political climate in both Haiti and the Dominican Republic has been non-stop upheaval since the first settler set his foot on the island's shore. Many of the political leaders from both countries have led corrupt governments, draining the island's economic resources for personal benefit, and leaving the majority of the population to live in abject poverty.

Reading the story of the lower and working class Dominicans and Haitians -- of the experience of Haitians who had been living in the Dominican Republic for years and years without having any legal status; of their children who were born with no legal papers and therefore were considered people with no place; of Haitians being rounded up and killed when it was deemed that they were becoming a strain on the economic structure of the Dominican Republic; and on the other side, of the poverty and struggle to survive of so many Dominicans themselves; of the blame and the fear and the never-ending violence and desperation -- I find myself amazed that people have survived on the island at all. Is it possible to survive so much physical, verbal and emotional abuse, and still have the capacity to build a happy, successful country? I wonder. I also wonder how much of an impact the diversification of agricultural crops being grown today is having on the lives of islanders. How many lives are improved by the free-trade cocoa farming business, for example? Is this a model that is being replicated for coffee and other crops? Is there a movement to grow organic and free-trade sugar cane in a sustainable way on the island? Obviously, I have a lot more reading to do.

I also find myself reflecting on having been born white. My great-grandparents came to North America as poor immigrants also. Immigrants from Italy. But they did not remain poor. Would my ancestors have struggled more if they had been born with a different skin colour? 

I am finding that the process of learning about how much the people of Hispaniola have suffered is a hard one. The more I learn, the greater sense of responsibility I feel I have been given to stand up for justice. To work towards the elimination of all forms of prejudice. To root out my own prejudices, many of which I am not even conscious of, but which I am sure exist simply by virtue of having been raised surrounded by people who are very much like me. To educate myself and others.

The Universal House of Justice, the international administrative body of the global Baha'i community, sends letters out to the Baha'i community on a regular basis. These letters help to focus our service efforts in our respective communities so that they all work together to build a global community that is cohesive and characterized by unity of vision. The quotations at the beginning of this blog entry are from one such letter, which we received this past December. Reading about Haiti and the Dominican Republic, I find myself reflecting on the tumultuous history of this island within the context of the Baha'i vision for unity, justice and honesty. Much has changed over the past one hundred years on Hispaniola, but from what I read in the newspapers every day, a great deal of change still needs to occur if Hispaniola and her peoples are to manifest their true capacity in the world.

As I sit here thinking about everything I have read, and all the questions that I have yet to answer about the future for the people of Hispaniola, what comes to mind is a quote from Abdu'l-Baha, son of Baha'u'llah, the founder of the Baha'i faith. He said: "Just now the soil of the human heart seems like black earth, but in the innermost substance of this dark soil there are thousands of fragrant flowers latent. We must endeavour to cultivate and awaken these potentialities, discover the secret treasure in this very mine and depository of God, bring forth these resplendent powers long hidden in human hearts. Then will the glories of both worlds be blended and increased and the quintessence of human existence be made manifest." (from The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 294). 

A pattern of hope

"Never lose thy trust in God. Be thou ever hopeful, for the bounties of God never cease to fall upon man. If viewed from one perspective they seem to decrease, but from another they are full and complete. Man is under all conditions immersed in a sea of God's blessings. Therefore, be thou not hopeless under any circumstances, but rather be firm in thy hope." -Abdu'l-Baha 
It is a Sunday night. It has been a very full week, and is turning out to be an equally full weekend. We have been having lots of rain over the last week. Rain that falls like heavy lace over the city, and I find myself feeling like I am moving through a dreamworld, the sound of rain falling becoming as much a natural rhythm of my days and nights as the sound of my own heartbeat. Yesterday it stopped raining for a while, and I headed out for a long walk through the park near our home. Last week it was so warm that many of the fruit and nut trees in the area started blossoming. When I passed underneath one such tree on my walk during the break in the storm the ground was covered in a blanket of white blossom petals and the air was sweet. I looked up through the branches and saw a lattice of snow-white petals and the shock of blue sky shattered into hundreds of tiny pieces peeking through the spaces left between branches and flowers. 
I have been reflecting a lot on hope lately. Mainly because I have been really struggling with having been out of work for going on nine months now. It has been an amazing year, but I am ready to be working full time again. Thus far, however, my readiness for work has not been met with an enthusiastic show of hands clamoring to compete for my services. The quote at the beginning of this blog entry is one that I love from the Baha'i writings. It is relatively easy to be conscious about being immersed in a sea of God's blessings when I have full time work. It is far more challenging in my current situation. 
I have been challenging myself this week to work on consciously noticing things that I am grateful for throughout my day and night. Things that are full of beauty and hope. Today I was woken by a friend wanting to go out to breakfast. I joined her at the Tower Cafe, which is one of the coolest cafes in the city in my opinion -- not so much because of the food, although there are a number of dishes on the menu that I love, but more so because of the environment. The decorations in the Tower make me feel as though I have stepped into a Friday Kaklo painting. Masks, tapestries, vases filled with bright, fresh, colourful flowers; animal skulls and hats; Buddhist statues and gods; tropical-feeling plants; colourful paintings. The tower is bursting forth colour and texture, and feels like a convergence point for just about every wild, vibrant colour-loving painter you can imagine. The restaurant also has a lovely garden that feels like an oasis in the middle of the city. Sitting in the garden this morning with the sunlight filtering down through the trees across our table, Meredith and I enjoyed rich conversation and a delicious meal. She had just come from the farmer's market, and graced out table with a large bouquet of brightly coloured flowers. 
After breakfast I walked home along a beautiful boulevard lined with huge oaks. The sun was shining down through them, and the bare branches were a tangled mass slicing up the sky into thousands of pieces. 
This afternoon I headed to the other side of town to meet up with two other friends. I had to walk through a very luxurious neighbourhood in order to reach the Greek restaurant that they wanted to meet at. The homes in this neighbourhood are all older and are beautiful. Many of them are brick, and some have trees outside whose trunks are so large that it would take at least three people holding hands to span its total circumference with their arms. I passed homes with gardens that seemed to be embracing the homes, and gardens behind fences that were lush with citrus trees, blossoming vines and roses. I also passed trees that were blossoming all along the length of their graceful limbs. One tree, literally exploding with pink blossoms, was so sweet that I stopped beneath it, stood on my toes, pressed my face into a thick effusion of colour, and inhaled deeply. For a brief moment I wished I were a bee so that I could spend my entire spring fumbling among these blossoms, and immersing myself in their sweetness. 
The friends that I met up with have a sweet son named Teo, who just recently turned one. He is learning to walk, so after he patiently sat through our meal, we went out for a short walk in the sunshine so he could strut his strut and show us his stuff. There is something about watching a child take in the world for the first time. Examine a stick. Pick up an acorn. Focus on balancing his body perfectly so that he could propel himself forward. His eyes were wide and clear and focused. Despite tripping and having to sit down or fall backwards against his father's legs on a regular basis, his gaze was full of hope and enthusiasm for the experience he was having. He was completely present. Every nerve ending in tune with his environment. 
Later this afternoon I sat and read my book about the Dominican Republic at Temple, a local coffee shop that has delicious drinks, before walking home. My favourite drink, called "bliss," is peppermint tea steamed with creamy soy and coconut milks, and sweetened with honey. And it really does take me into a blissful state when I drink it! I walked all the way home from the coffee shop, passing through a piazza with a fountain whose water droplet "haze" seemed to hang around the flow of water like a halo, and was illuminated by the sunlight like dust particles; passing through a park lush and green, and filled with couples walking hand in hand; along street after street of trees whose branches were rooted in the blue sky, a mirror image of their roots rooted rooted in the valley soil.
This evening my parents and I were invited to the home of friends for supper. My dad was busy studying, so mom and I headed off across the city to spend the evening with a couple who are two of my closest friends. Azadeh, who is from Iran, usually does the cooking, however tonight her husband Nabil, who is Egyptian, cooked us a delicious meal of salad, soup, rice, salmon and wild shrimp. It was delicious. Our meal was followed by glasses of Persian tea and chocolate truffles. I have mentioned Nabil and Azadeh before. They make me laugh endlessly, and they tell the best stories about the ridiculous situations that first generation immigrants to the United States get themselves into. Our night tonight was filled and overflowing with laughter and deep discussion about faith, service, sacrifice and community. We drove home under a crisp sky flooded with light from a clear-faced pale yellow moon.
Noticing the small details or moments of beauty does not change the fact that I still do not have a full time job. But taking the time to notice these details does help me to become more conscious of the blessings that I am immersed in all the time. Every day has such moments of beauty and joy. Developing a pattern of stopping to notice these things and feel gratitude for them comes easily to some. But for others it requires practice. As the day comes to a close, I am pausing and taking notice of how many moments of joy and beauty my life is blessed with. A sea is made up of wave upon wave of movement towards and away from the shoreline. Sometimes the tide is headed in. Sometimes it is headed out. Either way it is still known by the same name of "sea". And the retreat of the sea -- the regathering of its energies-- is, seen from a different perspective, only a sign of another upcoming rush forward even further onto the shore.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Finite disappointments

"We must accept finite disappointment, but we must never lose infinite hope." -Martin Luther King, Jr.
Sometimes you don't get the job. Or the guy. Sometimes you can't afford a haircut. Or a meal out. Or gifts for friends. Sometimes you lose your an entire day's worth of work when your computer crashes. The one person you really want to talk to is not responding to any of your calls. You order hot chocolate, and get served bitter coffee instead. Sometimes someone close to you hurts your feelings one too many times. Sometimes you lie in bed at night wondering where you belong in the universe. When the pieces of your world will ever come together. When you will find work you love again. Get asked out on a date by someone you are actually excited to be with. Find a community that feels like home.

And sometimes you get to plant seeds in a greenhouse in the middle of a rainstorm, and listen to the downpour sliding over the plastic, the wind howling around you, loving the sound. Sometimes friends invite you over for dinner unexpectedly. Sometimes you get to garden with a group of youth that help you to get outside yourself a little, and focus on serving others for an hour, or an afternoon. Sometimes the rain falling rhythmically in sheets outside at night is luxurious and calming. A quiet walk at night on wet sidewalks helps you to re-group and find hope in the reflection of stars and branches beneath your feet. Sometimes a stranger catches your eye in a coffee shop and smiles. Sometimes you win trips to a Caribbean Island in the middle of winter. Sometimes you go into the childrens' section of a bookstore for the first time in years, on a rainy day, looking for a birthday present for a friend's daughter, who is turning two, and end up spending a couple of hours hunkered down on a miniature chair at a little table, fully engrossed in planting a garden that grows and grows, transforming an entire city; or searching for your own colour like Mr. Chameleon, who was tired of turning the colour of everything around him; or trying to figure out where you belong in the universe with a little boy who searches high and low, only to find that he belongs right where he is, in the present moment. Sometimes you spend a Friday evening surrounded by 19 new friends whose company you enjoy. Who make you laugh, and remind you to be silly. Sometimes it rains and rains for days and days, and, instead of wishing it were sunny, you spend time listening more, inhaling the aroma of earth, and feeling blessed.

Sometimes you feel more than a little shaky. But your friends make you laugh. They make you laugh and laugh. They put things back into perspective. Sometimes you drive home after a lovely, long, rich evening with friends, still tender on the inside, but knowing that this moment, too, will pass. That life is full of finite disappointments, but that you are also surrounded with infinite moments of hope, beauty and courage. Sometimes you whisper prayers of gratitude into the night before you fall asleep, listening to rain endlessly outside.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


Given that yesterday was love day, i wanted to share this poem, which I absolutely adore. It is by Lisel Mueller, and is about the relationship between Johannes Brahms and Clara Schumann. I love it because it speaks to the tendency that society has to hold every relationship up to the magnifying lens of spoken and unspoken attitudes about what love is, and what it should be; how it should be expressed, and between whom. I have found in my own life that love comes rarely, that it often rises out of the most unlikely places, and that no one, except possibly the two people experiencing it, can truly understand it completely.


 by Lisel Mueller

The modern biographers worry
"how far it went," their tender friendship.
They wonder just what it means
when he writes he thinks of her constantly,
his guardian angel, beloved friend.
The modern biographers ask
the rude, irrelevant question
of our age, as if the event
of two bodies meshing together
establishes the degree of love,
forgetting how softly Eros walked
in the nineteenth century, how a hand
held overlong or a gaze anchored
in someone's eyes could unseat a heart,
and nuances of address not known
in our egalitarian language
could make the redolent air
tremble and shimmer with the heat
of possibility. Each time I hear
the Intermezzi, sad
and lavish in their tenderness,
I imagine the two of them
sitting in a garden
among late-blooming roses
and dark cascades of leaves,
letting the landscape speak for them,
leaving us nothing to overhear.

Rain clouds and jabs on love day

I woke up this morning to rain clouds and wind. I had been hoping for actual rain. I was pleased when I opened the newspaper yesterday to the weather page and saw a whole line of little boxes with drawings of rain clouds releasing torrential rain earthwards. I could almost smell the fresh rich aroma of wet earth just looking at the forecast. But no rain today. Instead I watched dramatic gunpowder grey clouds move slowly across the sky all day, and listened to the sound of wind bending the trees this way and that outside.

Today was love day -- a day that I used to enjoy immensely all through my twenties when I had a second half to share it with in some way or another. Over the past few years though, I watch the approach of February 14th on the calendar with a certain degree of dread, wishing I could jump from the 13th to the 15th without having to wade through another love day as a single woman. It's not like I suddenly become single on valentines day, but on February 14th I am confronted by my romantic status head-on, and because I have no single friends that live anywhere close to me to call up and do something fun with, the day often leaves me feeling rather blue.

Today was also my day for getting the first four of the slew of vaccinations that I have to get for my upcoming trip to the Dominican Republic. Usually the thought of getting one vaccination would have been enough to cast a dark shadow over my day. I had many health problems in my youth that necessitated far more blood tests than the ordinary teenager has to put up with, and so my tolerance for needles is very, very low. But today I managed to get through my day feeling really upbeat about the whole process. It was no party, by any means, but I enjoyed my day both before and after the jabs, and I felt well enough to come home, prepare a valentines day meal for my parents, and then accept, and thoroughly enjoy, an invitation to have dinner out with four couples who have become good friends of mine over the last few months.

After a long evening of eating a delicious Persian meal, followed by excellent glasses of black tea sweetened with sugar crystals on a stick, and enjoying discussion with friends who have lived in Egypt, Latin America, India, China, and Israel, and whose conversations jump from stories of traveling through the Amazon by canoe to what the outcome of the current political changes in Egypt will be, to accounts of going into a pet store to purchase a rabbit to make stew with, and descriptions of life on sugar plantations in the Dominican Republic, I arrived home feeling truly happy and grateful. For the first time in years, I actually enjoyed love day and being single, at the same time. I enjoyed the wintry light filtering into the living room, and my good friend Ahava Shira's radio show 'Love in the Afternoon.' I made it through my vaccinations for the day with nothing but a rather sore arm. And I joined my friends in filling the dinner table with laughter and good times.

It is now a quiet February night, nearing 1am on the 15th. I love this time of night. I love the silence, and the uninterrupted focus that I seem to able to tap into while everyone else in the house is sleeping. It has been a great love day in my world. I hope your day was just as filled and overflowing with love. Happy valentines day! 

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Happy hands and rubber boots

Farming in the youth garden at Soil Born Farms
I started volunteering at Soil Born Farms on a bright, clear, sunny day this past week. I have been missing being out on farmland tremendously, and so when I heard that Soil Born was open to having volunteers, I got on the phone and asked if I could come over. Their response was enthusiastic, so I found myself in their youth garden in my rubber boots, clearing weeds from the paths between vegetable beds on a lovely February morning.

There is a lot to do to get the garden into great shape for another full summer. The fellow in charge of the education program explained that in addition to putting in vegetables and herbs, he wants to add a few raised beds so that youth who are in wheelchairs also get the opportunity to get their hands in the soil and experience the joy of farming. He is also thinking about adding a miniature aromatic raised bed so that blind youth can also come into the garden and experience the delicious smells of herbs and flowers. I am very excited about all of his ideas, and about the fact that this program is giving young people an opportunity to develop a relationship with the land and to learn more about where their food comes from. Farming is also such an empowering activity -- from the perspective of skills that it teaches, to the values it instills in those who engage in it, like confidence, courage, determination, consistency and patience.

After a morning of weeding, I joined the large group of friendly staff at Soil Born for a delicious lunch outside under a tree. We had red lentil soup with kale; red and green cabbage salad with cranberries and nuts; brown rice with currants; a potato, turnip and broccoli stir fry that way to die for, and fresh baked scones for dessert. Sitting outside at the picnic table in the sunshine with a group of great people enjoying food grown on the land all around us was terrific. And the fact that it was February was even more amazing to me.

After lunch I headed back to the garden with Guy to wait for the youth to turn up. Eight of them eventually wandered into the garden and settled themselves on tree log stumps that had been set up in a circle at one end of the garden. It was a very diverse group of African American, Asian, Latino and Caucasian youth. I was excited to see such a wealth of backgrounds and languages. I was introduced to the group, and we immediately got to work. The main task this day was learning to cook a healthy snack. We set up a burner outside in the garden and, after some instruction, the youth got to work preparing their snack using vegetables from the garden. A few mishaps later, we settled down in the sunshine to enjoy the fruit of their labour. Their verdict: fresh vegetables can taste good. Especially when cooked up with some spices and garlic, and accompanied by a bit of cheese!

The youth cooking healthy sandwiches using fresh vegetables from the youth garden
After our snack, the group started working on pulling some of the root vegetables from last season out of the earth and carrying them to the compost pile. After we had cleared these sections of the garden, we decided to go spend the time left by the American River, which runs right along the side of the farm, watching and learning about local birds, and learning to skip rocks! It was a mellow day. The youth were planning to go harvest fruit from trees in the yards of local residents over the weekend, so Guy was letting them have a bit of down time!

The main goal of this youth program is that the youth will be growing food that will go into a box program for low income residents in the area. The youth will learn to grow and harvest organic food. To cook healthy meals, and to give to their community by providing fresh produce to families that would otherwise not be able to afford it. Some of the youth in the group are new, while others have been participating or over a year now. 

The time rushed past, and before I knew it the day was over, and it was time to head back into the city. On my way back to my car I picked a fresh mandarin from a tree covered in bright orange fruit. It was sweet and juicy, and very refreshing after the full day outside. My conclusion: I am very, very excited to be working out on a farm again. I am so incredibly happy to have my hands back in the soil again, and just as excited to be working with youth. I feel as though this service is going to be a great learning opportunity, and I'm hoping that I contribute something to the lives of the youth in the group as I accompany them in their efforts to become agents of positive change in their community.

All for one. One for all.

I have been reading the news, and listening to the radio a lot the last week, following the events that led to the resignation of Egypt's president Mubarak very closely. It made me think a lot about how incredible it was that I was experiencing the events in Egypt as part of my every day life. In the past, I would have heard about these events weeks or months after they had happened. But with the internet being what it is, and with our world so interconnected now, it is impossible to not feel what is happening on the other side of the world as intimately as if it were happening right outside my own house.

This is what my conversation with my mom was like a couple of days ago:
Mom: "Hello...What did you get up to today?"
Me: "I worked on my writing. But have you heard the news? Mubarak resigned!"
Mom: "Yes....I heard this morning."
Me: "Change is coming to Egypt. I hope it will bring positive results. What do you want for dinner?"

My point here is just that the events happening on the other side of the world are such a real part of our lives nowadays that they have become fully integrated into the present moment that we are personally experiencing, and they are influencing our day to day emotions and thoughts in profound ways.

When Egyptians lost their access to internet, and the cell phone service was disconnected, I thought to myself -- how will we communicate with them? How will they let us know what is happening? People are so interconnected that many of us have personal friends scattered all over the world, so when something is happening, we do not think of going to the news -- we just call or email our friends to find out what is happening. Having grown up in Cyprus, I knew many Egyptians. I have been to Egypt twice, and have some close family friends from there. I also have many former students in Cairo. In 2008 I taught English to a group of PhD students from Cairo who came to Prince Edward Island for a three week intensive course. As far as I know, most of them are still in Egypt, so when the people of Egypt lost their internet connection, it was my students that I was thinking about. Since arriving in California, I have become very good friends with an Egyptian man and his Persian wife. He has family in Egypt who he had not been able to get through to since the beginning of all of the turmoil. I experienced what was happening was at a very personal level. And I know this is common today.

I was listening to a radio show the other day, and a fellow in Los Angeles came on to say that when the cell phone lines went down, he had a feeling that the internet would be next, so he contacted all of his friends in Egypt and asked them for their land line numbers, so that he could still reach them. When the internet did go, he started calling his friends, recording their account of what was happening on the ground, and posting the recordings to the internet so that people could hear real live first-person accounts of what ordinary citizens were experiencing in Egypt. That a single person in L.A. recognizing that when someone's basic freedoms are being denied, at some level everyone's personal freedom is being denied, stood up and took action to help give a few Egyptian citizens a way to voice their experiences impressed me. But it also highlighted the fact that we are part of a global community now. Not just because of the internet. We travel around the world. We have relationships that span great geographic and cultural distances. We marry people from the other side of the world and move to a third country. Our experience of global events has been completely transformed by changes in our perception of distance and the nature of our relationships.

Mubarak's resignation, and the 18 days that Egypt stood up to its president and demanded justice are an integral part of my life experiences, just as the moment when the first man walked on the moon was an historic moment for so many from my parent's and grandparent's generations.The video of the cheers that went up when the news was released that he had resigned sent chills through my body, because it was my friends, and friends of friends that just succeeded in demanding justice from those in power. That personal relationship changes our perspective of global events completely.

I find the many personal responses and connections to the events in Egypt to be an important reflection of how far we have come as a society. This wave of change is a global wave. The courage of the Egyptian people to stand up for what they believe, and the global response and indignation to the fact that the president would not step down were also, from my perspective, a reflection of humanity's unwillingness to put up with injustice any longer. Any injustice. Anywhere. Whether we are personally experiencing it or not.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Late riser

I woke up this morning earlier than usual. I had a phone appointment with the fellow who is coordinating my upcoming trip to the Dominican Republic, and since he is in London, that meant an early start for me. I am not a morning person. No matter how early I go to bed, I never naturally wake up with the sun. For someone who loves farming, and who actually managed to get herself to work almost every day for the six months that I worked full time on a farm, you would think I would have mastered the early rising by now. I like the *idea* of waking at dawn to do yoga and write in my journal, sipping tea as the sun rises. But the reality is that I work best and concentrate best late at night. So I have learned to love sunsets, the starry sky, and the moon in all its phases!

This morning however I was up -- o.k.-- not at sunrise, however I did get up at 6.30, which is still pretty early for me! After my chat with the fellow at Raleigh, I actually did yoga at a time of the day that was very definitely still morning! The house we live in has beautiful honey-hued wood floors, and huge French windows, and the morning sun was pouring through the windows in all its glory. I could actually see shafts of light, and I positioned my yoga mat right in them. There is something magical about doing yoga in the morning. I feel as though I am gently giving my body the chance to wake up slowly from the inside, successive layers of internal organs, muscles and ligaments coming to life, until I emerge at the end of the practice, alert and feeling energized for my day.

This morning I finished my practice and sat on my mat silently, listening to the sounds of the city all around me. The traffic rushing towards downtown, the birds in the trees, and the banging sound of the garbage truck collecting waste. I thought about all the things that are spinning around in my head at the moment. The community that I still call "my community," back on PEI. The choice that I made to pack up and leave the island. Thoughts about the idea of returning to the island -- even if I only were to remain for the year, house sitting while one of my best friends works in France. All the things that I have accomplished in the going on a year that I have been in northern California, even though it often feels like I have accomplished very little. The dreams I left PEI with. Wondering if going back to the island means I am giving up on those dreams -- if I am going backwards instead of forwards. I thought about the things I want to accomplish this year: Becoming self-sustaining as a freelance writer. Doing more farming, and the volunteer work on a local farm that I will be starting tomorrow, working with a group of local youth, helping them to plant and harvest food, distribute it to low income families in the area, and accompanying them as they learn how to prepare healthy meals. My hope that I will be able to travel to Portugal this summer to attend the Baha'i summer school there that I have been wanting to attend for three years now. A short visit at the beginning of March from a very close friend of mine from Salt Spring Island, British Columbia, that I am really looking forward to. And of course the trip to the Dominican Republic with Green & Black's chocolate company at the end of March. There is so much going on in my head and heart at the moment.

One of the big things in my life right now is all the preparation work for my trip at the end of March to the Dominican Republic. I am really excited about this trip, and the closer I get to the departure date, and the more details I learn about what I will be doing and who I will be working with while I am down there, the more excited I get. There will be five US Ambassadors on the trip, and five UK Ambassadors. There are four women and one man coming from the US. Myself, a fellow from Escondido, California, a woman from Washington, D.C., a woman from Manchester, New Hampshire, and a woman from Greenville, North Carolina. I am not sure where everyone in the UK group is coming from, but I know that the one woman coming from the UK, and one of the men, are coming from Leeds, one of the men will be joining us from Exeter, and one from Manchester. We will also have two Green & Black's employees labouring alongside us, two local islanders, and three Raleigh International employees, who are leading the expedition. All in all, it promises to be a very good time.

I spent yesterday studying the information about the trip. In the next few weeks, I will be receiving a box filled with things like a mosquito net, a flashlight, camping mat, mug, water bottles, etc, as well as a gift certificate to go get myself some other gear at a local outdoor recreation store. Lots to prepare. In addition to getting my gear ready, I have started taking steps to get my body ready for this trip. I have stepped up my yoga practice, started running a few times a week, and am hoping that volunteering on the farm will also help get me in the kind of shape I need to be for heavy manual labour every day for the two weeks I am in the Dominican Republic.

The team of Ambassadors will be spending most of our time building a gravity-fed drinking water system for the local organic cocoa farming community. This is something that the community itself has identified as an important need. Green & Black's gets all of its cocoa from the Dominican Republic and Belize. It was the first company to receive Free Trade certification for its chocolate in the UK, and it values building long-term relationships with the farming communities that it purchases its cocoa from. The farmers working with Green & Black's get a premium for the cocoa, and this premium is used to improve the social and economic conditions in their communities. The construction of this water system is just one example of a project that has been identified as a priority by the cocoa farmers themselves. Apparently access to clean, potable drinking water in the Dominican Republic is an ongoing problem, especially in poorer communities, and in rural areas.

As far as I understand, we will be living with farmers and their families while we are building the water system. We will be cooking our meals over a fire, bathing in rivers, and learning to make do without electricity. No mobile phones. No internet connection. It will be a digital sabbatical of sorts for me, but I will be writing a number of posts about our experiences as soon as I get back to California. While i know the reality will be more challenging than I can imagine, I am really looking forward to a simpler pace of life -- even if only for a couple of weeks.

I am also hoping, and there have been hints that I should continue hoping, that we get to enjoy some Green & Black's organic chocolate at the end of a long day of work!

It is getting late. The sunny, windy day turned into a clear, start speckled night, and I have been gathering my gear for the day on the farm tomorrow. Pulling my rubber farming boots out of the back of the closet; digging my wide-brimmed farming hat out from under piles of scarves and sweaters; filling out my volunteer waiver forms, and cleaning out my water bottles. I cannot wait for tomorrow morning!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Feeling good

So a friend of mine actually posted this recording of Nina Simone on her tumblr site, littlemissconceptions, yesterday, but I came across it, and it has been making me feel so playful all day that I just had to re-post it here. The video was posted to you tube by Tamara Connolly.

It is a clear sunny day here in northern California. Blossoms are starting press through the branches on trees, and I find myself standing and staring at them in disbelief. It is, after all, only February. I took a long walk both Saturday and Sunday, wearing a tank top, and felt overheated even so. It is definitely a far cry from PEI in February, that is for sure.

I am working away at a new little story about tea for a client on PEI, and revving up for a busy week. I will be spending an entire glorious day volunteering at Soil Born Farms on Thursday, helping with the gardening in the morning, and with a local youth group that comes out to farm in the afternoon. I cannot wait to get my hands back in the soil, and to be working with youth again. I will write a blog entry about my first day on the farm later this week.

I am also revving up for a slew of vaccinations for my upcoming trip to the Dominican Republic. I am not looking forward to dreading this. I have a great aversion to needles of any kind, and the idea of being jabbed over and over with large sharp-tipped objects is making me cringe. I can tell how excited I am about this trip though, because I was nowhere near this willing to get jabbed when I went to Costa Rica in 2000, and I really looked forward to that trip.

I have been talking to a lot of friends back in Canada lately via skype, and trying to figure out what I will be doing this spring and summer. A close friend of mine may be heading off to work in France for a year, and she has asked if I would like to come house sit. I have been missing PEI a lot this year, and part of me thinks that I would like it to be a permanent part of my life, even if I only spend part of my year there, so I am seriously considering her offer. I have realized that I seem to only be able to last a maximum of six months without seeing my friends back on PEI, so it would make sense to establish the island as a permanent part of my life. My friends and parents here in California on the other hand look at me with a *look* of sheer dismay when I talk about moving back to PEI...even when I introduce the idea by saying that I would "move back for a while," since the journey I took last winter and spring led me away from the island, and many of the reasons that I left are still very present in my mind and heart. Yes. I have a lot I am deliberating on at the moment.

Another thing I am thinking a lot about this week is my writing, and how to best continue developing it. I have not been doing much creative writing lately, and I am missing it. Missing how it infuses my life with excitement and enthusiasm in the same way that farming does. There are all these little balancing acts that need to be explored and mastered in life, and I feel as though having decided to dedicate my life to the two things that I am most passionate about -- farming and writing -- means that I am having to re-negotiate all the little pieces of my life so that they balance each other out, and fit together coherently. I am making progress, but I am also learning that building my own career is not an overnight affair. Every day I take small steps towards my goal, but I do sometimes get frustrated and contemplate giving up and finding a 9-5 job that would have immediate results (a.k.a. a sustainable salary). The reason I do not do it is because I know I would not last more than a month in such a job. I do not do well at things that my heart is not in 100 percent. I know I have a lot to contribute to the world as a writer, but I have to be courageous (and, it would seem, rather poor, at least to begin with) if I really want to pursue my dreams.

This has been a year of tests and questions, and detachment, and every day I learn new things and meet new people who teach me a new way of seeing the world that I would never have imagined had I not taken the wild journey I have over the last year. I do not feel settled, but I have noticed over the last week that I have started feeling content and happy with where I am at in my heart. I am working on loving the questions themselves. And taking frequent barefoot dancing breaks to tunes like the one at the beginning of this post, which makes me grin from ear to ear.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Disappearing act

You might have been wondering where I have been for the last week. I realize it has been a while. Truth be told, I have been living more intimately. I have been getting out of bed earlier. Enjoying the early morning light from the kitchen table instead of dreaming about it from within my warm nest of blankets and pillows. I have been immersed in books about the Dominican Republic, and the two novels that I read in the last week (Russian Winter and One Day) generally while sipping cups of exceptionally good tea. I started running again one golden evening early in the week, and have been loving the happy soreness of muscles that had been feeling unchallenged lately. I also started back to my yoga again, which was pure heaven (how I ever forget the bliss I feel when I do yoga, I do not know) and started taking more walks, enjoying the warm winter, the clear blue sky behind the tangled network of bare tree limbs.

A few weeks ago I mentioned that myself and four others from the US have won a trip to the Dominican Republic with Green & Black's organic chocolate company, to spend two weeks helping an organic cocoa-farming community build a gravity-fed water system for drinking water, and learning about organic cocoa growing (you can read our weekly updates on preparations for the trip here). I am very excited about the trip, but it also means that I have a lot to get done in the next few weeks before I leave. I had to have a medical checkup, I need to get a slew of vaccinations that I am trying to figure out how to pay for (who knew that a series of 3 Rabies vaccinations costs over 800 dollars?) and I had to go to San Francisco this week to have extra pages added to my passport because I was running out of blank pages.

Getting ready for a trip to a rural area of the Dominican Republic is a lot of work. On Wednesday I took the train down to San Francisco, watching the river and agricultural landscape slide past the window, reminding me in ways of many train trips across the Italian landscape that I took in my late teens and early twenties. I stayed with a new friend in the city -- a woman who inspires me with her courage and willingness to take risks in life....a woman who follows her gut instincts even if everyone else around her is wondering what she is thinking. Rana did three years of medical school before realizing it really was not for her. She followed that with a law degree, which, she realizes in retrospect, was probably not really for her either. These days she is making kombucha. She owns her own business, and recently opened her own kombucha factory. I'm telling you, the woman is courage central. Her company, House Kombucha, is growing steadily, and her tea can be found all over the Bay area. I ended my day by having dinner at Tin, a Vietnamese restaurant, with Rana and a friend of hers, David, an elementary school English teacher who also happens to own 28 acres of land about an hour from Sacramento. We enjoyed one of those meals where you know you are sipping tasty broth, but the conversation is so intense and stimulating that you finish your meal wondering what you just ate. Rana and I meandered back to her apartment and stayed up late munching on toasted seaweed collected on the Atlantic coast and sharp cheddar, and discussing the importance of distinguishing between the large scale organic farming that is being pursued by corporate entities to increase their profit margin and small-scale organic growers who are growing a diversity of crops on their land, when it comes to forming an opinion of the organic food movement. Her furry cat "America" kept us company.

I woke up and showered at 5.45am on Thursday, and was out on the streets of San Francisco at 7am, walking to the passport agency two hours before it officially opened to be sure I was at the front of the line. There is something refreshing and exciting about exploring the city streets that early in the morning. Light is only just starting to lean down the maze of streets at an angle. Everything is still new, possibilities limitless. I met a number of fellow travelers as they joined me in the line. A fellow in his sixties who has sailed around most of the world, with amazing stories of Central and South America, the Azores, northern Africa and New Zealand. A young guy in his twenties who came from a wine-growing family in Napa, and was headed to New Zealand where he had been hired by a small scale winery for a year. A woman in her seventies who told me that she had waited her whole life to travel, insisting on making sure that all three of her children got through their education debt-free first (they did), but who has now been to fifty countries (she spent a month in India, and is headed to Africa next). I discovered that the passport line is one of the most interesting lines I have ever stood in. An endless source of amazing stories and life-experiences.

After submitting my paperwork, I had five hours to kill before I had to come back and line up again to collect my passport. I headed back to Yerba Buena park where I found a group of elderly Asian women doing synchronized fan dancing, and another group doing Tai Chi. Others were stretching and walking around the park. It was a group that vanished as the sun rose higher, and I felt like I was catching a tiny glimpse of life in another part of the world transplanted into the middle of San Francisco.

Yerba Buena Park is all long stretched out tables of water that is overflowing, sliding over stone, falling down steps of stone, following gravity, gurgling, gushing, sparkling under the rising sun. I climbed stairs to the top of the park and settled on a bench, looking out over the grass and trees, some of which had already started blossoming pink suggestions of springtime. Across the street an old church opened its doors, its bells clanging. Birds of all kinds floated contentedly, some dove under the surface of the pool of water in front of me, washing themselves, letting water roll back over their feathers. Splashing and playing in the sunshine. Preparing for the day. I sat, enjoying details of morning, and wrote in my journal. Eventually I meandered into Samovar, my favourite tea lounge, located at the top of the park, settled into some cushions, and ordered myself a freshly brewed masala chai with the strong flavour of ginger that almost tasted like gingerbread in it. It is served in a curved stoneware cup that fits perfectly between cupped palms. I curled up in my little corner, sipped my tea, and wrote and wrote. Samovar has glass walls, so as I wrote I watched the activities of the morning progressing outside, the birds, done with their water games, flying back and forth, going about their business.

At noon I wandered back out into the day, down to the lower level of the park, and settled on the grass along with at least one hundred other people who had drifted in as the sun got warmer. Birds hopped around us gathering food. I started reading one of my books about Haiti and the Dominican Republic: Why the Cocks Fight: Dominicans, Haitians, and the Struggle for Hispaniola, by Michele Wucker. At lunch time, Rana, done with her deliveries for the day, turned up, and we walked to the pier to get lunch at the farmer's market. We sat on a bench by the water and ate, the smell of the ocean raw and pungent, the sounds of thousands of people enjoying their break from work all around us.

After collecting my passport, I caught BART back to Berkeley. There is something awesome about public transportation. The mix of all sorts of people. The fact that everyone there at some level recognizes that the purpose of transportation is to get us where we need to go. There is none of the pretentiousness or separateness that comes from driving cars that are more status symbols than functional means of getting around. I emerged back into the sunlight in Berkeley, met my mother, and we wandered off to a coffee house for some hot cocoa and a chat before our drive back up to Sacramento.

Yesterday I was back to sending faxes off to Raleigh, the company that is leading our exhibition to the Dominican Republic, and attempting to figure out how to get the seven vaccinations that I am required to have for this trip. Not a fan of needles, the last one I had was in 2000, when I took a class that went to Costa Rica. And since the budget cuts in California, the state service of doing them for the public at an affordable price has been eliminated. I also returned calls, and half-heartedly attempted to start wading through the sea of emails that had been piling up in my in box over the two days that I had been away.

Another thing I have been working on is trying to find opportunities to volunteer. I walked over to the Middle School around the corner from my house, and spoke to the Vice-Principal about working with some of the kids on a project about organic chocolate. I am waiting to hear back from him. I also contacted a local farm that takes children and youth out on the farmland to give them the opportunity to learn where their food comes from, and how to grow it. Hopefully in the next week I will start getting more involved with them as well.

Last night a friend and I attended a devotional gathering with nine others in the home of another friend. We read quotes and shared readings that were uplifting, and discussed ideas and thoughts about balance in our lives, and how reciting uplifting quotes or prayers to ourselves gives us the courage and strength that we sometimes lack in moments of shakiness or uncertainty. After devotions a friend and I headed out for Thai food, and a long chat filled with lots of laughter. My friend introduced me to the world of second-hand records. My parents owned a record player when I was a child, but although we still own the records, we have had nothing to play them on in years. We wandered up and down the rows pulling out records and telling stories, followed by the resident feline, an intensely green-eyed, white and grey furred creature that drooled, and reminded me of Frankie, a very old and sweet Siamese cat that some dear friends of mine back on PEI used to have who would drool when he got too happy (ie. when you stroked him).

I am finishing writing this Saturday morning. I can see blue skies through the blinds, and more sunshine. I am thinking about the day ahead. The run/walk I am going to take. The phone calls I intend to make. The dinner I have been invited to at the home of yet another new friend. It is going to be a great weekend. I can feel it already.