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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 21, 2011

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.

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