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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.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Iron into steel

"...those who journey in the garden land of knowledge, because they see the end in the beginning see peace in war and friendliness in anger." -Baha'u'llah, Seven Valleys and the four Valleys

I am contemplating the Valley of Knowledge. The Valley of Knowledge is one of seven valleys in a book called 'The Seven Valleys and the Four Valleys,' written by Baha'u'llah. It is a mystical story about the stages the the soul passes through as it grows through life. I have been thinking about the Valley of Knowledge because I think I may be in it right now. In fact I am pretty sure I am in this valley. I know this because this valley is all about being able to see the end in the beginning. Being able to recognize that everything that happens in life is happening for a reason, and that instead of complaining and cursing tests, I should not only welcome them, I should actually be blessing their arrival at the time I am actually experience them.

I have come a long way over the last year. There have been many tests. Tiny tests in the grand scheme of things, really, but for me they were really, really huge. The first few I feel like I was being dragged through kicking and screaming. The next few I may have moved through on my own feet, but I am pretty sure I was stomping and cursing as I went. The last few tests have been about letting go of people and things that I love deeply, and these tests have been associated with a lot of sadness. It has been a bit of a roller-coaster ride, to be honest, and I have been through so many ups and downs that I KNOW there are more to come. But I am slowly....ever so slowly learning to find joy and beauty in the valleys, and to move forward with the knowledge that the tough times, just like the peaks and celebrations in life, are only temporary. To embrace change and growth gracefully.

It is really tough to stay cool in the valleys of life. Easier to look back down on them from the side of a hill or a mountain top and say: "now that was a just a temporary valley." But the true growth comes not from being able to look back and realize the purpose of tests, but to be grateful for them when they are actually happening.

I have a very good friend who I have written about so many times over the last year in this blog, for many reasons, none of which can be mentioned without mentioning all the others. Pascale moved back to her hometown of Christchurch, New Zealand this past Fall. She had been living in Japan for a number of years, and was ready to move home and establish her own personal training business. Pascale arrived in New Zealand, got her business website going, made up business cards, and started working just before a massive earthquake hit Christchurch. You may remember hearing about it, or seeing it in the news. Pascale was living with her parents at the time, and one wall of their house collapsed onto their next-door neighbour's car during the earthquake. The house was so badly damaged that the family was forced to abandon it, and move in with Pascale's brother, his wife, and their two children. I don't know if you have been keeping up with the news, but Christchurch has been experiencing aftershocks and tremors ever since February, pretty much non-stop. They have had thousands of smaller tremors since the major quake that destroyed so many peoples' homes. Then, this Monday, they had two more larger quakes. Since the last quake, Pascale and her parents had moved into a tiny apartment, leaving her brother and his family to enjoy their small home. But Monday's fire shook the microwave in her brother's apartment off of the wall and onto the stove, where it short-circuited, starting a fire that spread to other areas of the house, damaging it badly. As a result of the damage, Pascale's brother and his family ended up having to move out of their apartment, and move back in with Pascale and her parents in their new small two-room apartment.

If this sounds a bit tumultuous to you, then you would understand if the Battrick family were feeling a bit discouraged right about now. Maybe a little frustrated with all the moving and losing of belongings, and the upheaval, over and over, disruption of work and school, and the lack of privacy that living in such small quarters with seven people implies.

What you would probably not expect is what I have seen as I watch Pascale and her family confront the tests that these disasters have thrown at them, over and over in the last five months, which is courage, unity, compassion, kindness, generosity, an attitude of service, and a tremendous amount of laughter. Yes, laughter. The Battrick family has been laughing and making others laugh all the way through their tests and challenges. When they evacuated their home back in the winter, carrying only what they could fit in a wheelbarrow, they filmed the whole process, and the humour in having to carrying everything of value out of their home in a wheelbarrow. Pascale went back to the old house not to try to salvage belongings, but to feed the ducks in the creek next to their house. She went on to cook and bake for her neighbours, friends who were experiencing equally difficult times, and volunteers who were helping with the cleanup effort; to make tea to cheer people up, and to offer free personal training sessions to lift the spirits of her community.

I have thought that how they have handled, and continue to handle all of this, is incredible. To me it reflects a tremendous amount of faith in God, trust, patience, acceptance, and a deep recognition of the great bounty of tests to help us grow. Apparently, I am not the only one who has been impressed by the way that the Battricks have been handling their situation. This week a television crew turned up to interview the family. Impressed by how joyful they have remained throughout these many months of uncertainty, the anchorwoman was curious to know what was keeping Pascale's family from giving up, packing it in and moving elsewhere, or from becoming cynical about their situation.   

I could tell you what Pascale and her family had to say about how they have remained joyful and mutually supportive and hopeful no matter what transpires, but I would rather let you see for yourself, because I think their attitude toward tests has a lot to inspire and teach all of us. Here is my dear, radiant friend Pascal, and her unified and incredibly loving family, on Christchurch's daily news. I hope you are just as inspired as I am to keep working toward remaining focused on the larger picture. To learning to be grateful for tests, and continuing to focus outwards -- on serving others, and bringing joy into the lives of your family, friends and neighbours. Have a very joy-filled Thursday!


  1. i just love this post..resonates with me at the core. keep on writing, ariana!

  2. Your encouragement and support has just made my day all the more bright my dear friend! Thank you xxx