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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, October 24, 2011

Joyful weekend madness

This past weekend made me very conscious of how much beauty I am surrounded by. On Friday I volunteered at Soil Born Farms. It was a gorgeous Fall day. The sky was (as usual!) clear blue; the air was crisp; the sky was filled with birds feasting on the remains of the harvest, and we had just over thirty fifth-graders on the farm. We started off our tour by learning about winter squash, which had just been harvested.

This photograph is the property of Ariana Salvo. May not be reproduced without permission.
The kids were excited to learn about the many varieties that are grown on the farm, and were especially enthusiastic about the pumpkins, and the idea of pumpkin pie!

After a tour of the farm, on which the kids got to pet the cows and the American Guinea Hogs, we divided the group into three groups. My group weeded the broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and lettuce that we have planted with other groups over the last few weeks. While we harvested, I got to talk to the kids. The conversation went something like this:

Boy in my group: "Miss Ariana, wouldn't it be cool if there were a vacuum cleaner machine that you could put over the top of the bed and suck up all the weeds without pulling out the crop?"

Me: "Yes. But isn't it neat how when you take the time to hand weed, you get to notice little details about the vegetable plants that you wouldn't notice otherwise like how fast they are growing; whether they have insects on them, and which ones; whether they are getting enough water or too much; whether they look healthy or not?"

Boy: "No. I like the vacuum cleaner idea better."

Nevertheless, we did weed the entire bed of crops, and the kids did learn why this is important, and at the end of the day they gave a very well-articulated presentation to the other kids about the process. And despite the seeming lack of interest on the part of a number of the kids while we were working, at the end of the day I learned that for many of them, weeding was their favourite activity of the day.

Lesson of the day: Just because I think the kids' focus is wandering does not mean that they are not enjoying themselves and learning from the experience.

This photograph is the property of Ariana Salvo. May not be reproduced without permission.
Friday evening I joined friends for a devotional gathering. A devotional can be many things. Our devotional is a group of friends from a variety of backgrounds. We come together every Friday night to read prayers, poems, stories, passages and tablets. Anything that inspires. It is a re-filling of the soul time. A time for regathering of spiritual energies at the end of a long week, and preparation for a great weekend ahead. Often there is a theme. This past Friday the theme was purity. After devotions we usually head out for dinner together to enjoy good company and great food. This Friday the group voted for Indian. We had a long dinner that went on and on. So long in fact that the restaurant started locking up as we left. It was an evening of warmth and stories and lots of laughter.

On Saturday morning I volunteered at a children's education day and craft fair at Soil Born Farms. A friend of mine joined me, so the two of us pulled up on the farm at 8.30am, just as the warm sun was illuminating the dew tipped remains of the recently harvested crops. We spent the day making art with children. Cady made picture frames that the kids decorated with rice and beans. I painted prayer flags with the kids and hung them up to dry on a clothes line. There are few things as beautiful as all those brightly painted squares of fabric blowing on the line in the sunshine. At noon we packed everything up and were invited to join the farm staff for meal prepared using ingredients from the farm. We filled our plates with roasted vegetables, stewed vegetables, and butternut apple soup, and headed outside to  a long table set up beneath the wide green canopy of an enormous oak tree. Sitting at that table surrounded by old friends and new, with the blue sky above, and the golden light all around us I felt such an incredible sense of gratitude for the community that I have built around me, and that has welcomed me in this past year.

When I left the farm I headed further out of town to spend some time with one of my best friends, Deepali, who I have not been able to see in a number of months because she started a new job at a local hospital as a lab tech, and has such a crazy schedule of night shifts and day shifts that she is pretty much always too tired to get together. Her husband was out of town for a few days, so she called and asked if I would come out for a visit. Her home is beautiful -- it is a geodesic dome, which means it is round, and has light coming in from all angles, including the roof. The house is surrounded by old oak trees, and bordered by a pond on one side and a swimming pool on the other. Deepali and her husband Chad have planted fruit trees all around their property, Deepali planted a vegetable garden, and a group of us helped to renovate a barn on the property that is now being used by an artist friend of theirs to create works of great beauty.

Deepali and I spent our early evening at a local Vietnamese restaurant nursing bowls of rice noodles and vegetables in broth, and catching up on each other's news. Once we were all caught up we headed back to her place for her weekly fireside. A fireside is a gathering of people interested in learning more about the Baha'i faith. Deepali's fireside this week focused on what the Baha'i writings have to say about the nature of the soul. Often the group that turns up is large. This past Saturday however it was a small group of us. Myself and Deepali, Mr. and Mrs. Dunbar, a couple who recently moved back from fifty years of serving the Baha'i community abroad in Israel and Latin America; Sholeh -- a lovely Persian woman who also served abroad in Israel; David -- a half Indian, half Mexican fellow who is investigating the Baha'i faith; and Dale -- a Mormon man who is exploring a variety of faiths. The seven of us spent most of the night reading quotes about the nature of the soul, and having an animated and deeply engaging discussion. At a little after ten it was discovered that Mr. Dunbar was the artist responsible for the gorgeous artwork covering all the walls, and that he had more artwork out in the barn, so the entire group migrated out to the barn to see more of his paintings. It was a night of many, many stories, connections, hot tea, cheesecake, and lots of laughter. By the end of it I was so tired that I ended up deciding to stay the night at Deepali's home and drive back to the city in the morning.

Sunday morning I flew back into Sacramento on the six lane highway that always makes me feel as if I am in a movie (I never thought I would live somewhere where I regularly drive on roads so large to get around) in time to get picked up by my dear friend Dionne for our morning tea date. She and her son Lucas and I headed off to a local coffee shop where we ordered soy chai lattes sprinkled with cinnamon, and headed outside to sip them in the morning sunlight. It was the perfect second start to the day.

At 2pm yesterday Dionne, her husband Todd, son Lucas and I migrated over to the park where a bunch of my friends were meeting up to play bocce ball and frisbee and horse shoe ringing. It was a great day to be outside, and we spent the next three hours alternately lying on a blanket and chatting, and running around on the grass. As the sun started sinking in the horizon we decided to go fill our bellies with Mexican food and then head back to Dionne's house for board games.

Last night, lying in bed, I was replaying the weekend, and realizing what an incredible life I have, and what a fun-loving group of friends I am surrounded by. It is often hard for me to believe that I have been here in Sacramento for over a year and a half now, but when I look around me at the community I have become a part of it is incredible that I have ONLY been here for a year and a half. I often take stock of my life by what I have accomplished with my work, discounting the human relationships. But I think the biggest accomplishments in my life over the past 18 months have been in the human relationship department. I have met SO many new people, and been welcomed into the lives of so many new friends. I have learned a great deal from all the children and youth that come to learn on the farm I volunteer on. I have learned a lot about farming in a more arid environment. I have learned loads about what it takes to give birth to and raise a happy, healthy child. I have become an active member of the Sacramento Baha'i community. I have struggled with, and am constantly re-negotiating and reinventing my relationship with my parents. And I have even learned how to maintain healthy friendships with folks back in Canada over a vast physical distance. It has been an amazing 18 months. I am looking forward to the start of the cooler weather, and to the winter ahead.

How about you, friends? When you look back over the last year, and take stock of what you have accomplished, are you amazed at how much you have accomplished? At how much love you have given and received? At the incredible community that embraces you, and that you can call home? 

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