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, January 16, 2012

Happy days

It has been ages since I last wrote. The main reason is that my computer got rather chilled in the transfer between houses that I have been staying at and appeared to have died a sudden and rather final death about two weeks ago. After two weeks of not starting despite daily efforts to bring it back to life last night it started up again as if it had never had a problem. I was so happy that I did a little dance around my room! :-)

I am not sure how long this second life will last, but for now I am back online and will be updating my blog regularly again unless it kicks the bucket again. Here's hoping for a prolonged second life!

The past few weeks have been insanely busy, but also amazingly joyful. I have been completely immersed in winter life on an island in the north Atlantic. This past Thursday I got a ride out to the farm I used to work on to visit with my boss's mother, Joyce. She and I had tea in the living room by the wood-burning stove. We got caught up about the last year of our lives, talked about the farm and changes on it, and discussed the year ahead and what our hopes and dreams for it are. Joyce is an incredible cook and baker, so we also enjoyed a lovely hot lunch made entirely from ingredients grown on the farm, and gluten-free pumpkin pie that was made using pumpkin grown just outside the farmhouse.

That evening my former boss's daughter Bridget had gotten tickets to go to a professional basketball game in another town, so the three of us drove there and entered the surreal world of professional basketball on Prince Edward Island, Canada. Let me be clear: Prince Edward Island is not known for its basketball team. In fact most people do not even know that there IS a professional basketball team located on the island. Hockey is the main sport here, and so it amused me to no end that the basketball court had been constructed in the middle of an ice-rink. What amused me even more was that the score boards, made for ice-hockey games, only allowed for scores of up to 99, so when the first team scored 100 the score displayed on the board was 00. I had to smile at the fact that in the two years in California I did not attend one basketball game, but that somehow in the two weeks on Prince Edward Island I found myself at a professional basketball game.

When we emerged from the flashing lights and cheering crowds of the arena we found the parking lot we had parked in only a couple of hours earlier completely transformed. Heavy snow was falling outside, turning the parking lot into a landscape of glistening white objects. We set out in search of the car, and Bridget and I sat in the car trying to warm up while Raymond cleaned swept the snow off of the windows and roof of the car.

The drive back to Raymond's house was slow. Snow blew directly at the windshield at top speed the entire way. When illuminated by headlights snow flying directly at a windshield creates a kind of optical illusion that makes you feel that you are stuck in place, not moving forward at all. It is very tiring on the eyes. Couple that with snow drifts that were building up on the road and the zero visibility on either side of the road and I found myself feeling incredibly grateful that Raymond was doing the driving and not me. Eventually Raymond's hawk vision got us back to his house, but he let me know that I was going to have to spend the night out there as the road conditions were just not good enough to drive all the way back into town. We bundled into his kitchen and he lit the wood stove and we enjoyed cups of hot tea around the fire before heading off to bed. My bed was in a tiny add-on that is used by volunteers during the summer months. The room has no heating, which is fine during the summer months, but translates to a room that closely resembles a refrigerator at this time of year. I put on all my clothes, including my wool hat and climbed into bed. Outside the wind howled and howled. The walls shook. Snow pelted the thin panes of glass in the frames above my head. I lay in bed listening to the storm outside, loving every minute of it.

In the morning Raymond equipped me with eggs from the farm and bacon from his pigs, and I fried us up a tasty meal accompanied by piping hot tea with milk and honey. Bellies full, we headed to the farm. Raymond headed out on the tractor to feed the cows and I headed out to the warehouse to help Raymond's son Blake bag potatoes for the Saturday farmer's market the next morning. The warehouse is a wooden structure with a clay floor. It is like a large refrigerator only it has no need for chilling given the freezing temperatures outside. I labeled 3, 5 and 10 pound bags with the various variety names --"russet," "satina," and then Blake and I filled them up and loaded them into trays that would be stacked up in the van later. While we worked we talked about our job search, what we enjoyed most about farming and how his house renovations were going. When we finished I headed inside to wait for Raymond.

On Friday evening, back in town, I headed over to my friend Alanna's house for her junior youth group. A great group of youth gather at her house every Friday for discussion on social justice, community service and the power of expression. Once all the youth had arrived we settled down around the table and shared stories while we ate. The group is very diverse, with participants from Yemen, PEI, Taiwan, mainland China, Kuwait and the US. Our meal was filled with lots of laughter. After supper we divided into two groups, the younger group heading into the living room for their session, and the older youth joining me in the den for Ruhi Book 1. Ruhi Book 1 is one in a series of books created for the purpose of training people to acquire the skills to be able to serve their communities in various capacities. The materials all have a spiritual foundation. This past Friday my group was discussing the ways in which the human soul is like a mirror, which if turned toward the sun and polished diligently will reflect the brilliance of the sun's light, but if allowed to collect dust and turned to face us, or to face a source of darkness, will be dull and uninteresting. My friend Alanna decided to light a fire in the wood stove while we shared, and got to work lighting the kindling and then adding bigger logs to the fire. Content that she had the fire going well enough, she left the room, only to return a little while later to find that the big logs had not caught properly, and the fire was dying. One of the women in my group, seeing this, shared with the group how important it is to make sure that we are constantly diligent about keeping the fire of our hearts burning brightly, and that this requires regular and consistent effort in our daily lives and how we choose to live through every day. It was a lovely evening, and when I got home that night I drifted into a deep and contented sleep.

On Saturday my friends and I headed over the bridge to New Brunswick to attend a meeting with the National Spiritual Assembly (NSA) of the Baha'is of Canada (the national administrative body of the Baha'i community of Canada). It is rare that the entire NSA will come meet with a community. Usually they send one or two representatives to a region at a time. So we were all excited to be able to see all nine of members of the NSA together in one place.

We headed out of town and took the rural highway that runs along the southern shore of PEI. Gently sloping agricultural fields dusted with snow stretched out to our right and the coastline got closer and closer on our left, the water a deep red colour from winter churning and the lack of ice--rare for this time of year. In the distance we caught sight of the Confederation Bridge--a graceful chain of consecutive arches that stretch 13km from the southern shore of PEI to the shore of New Brunswick to the west. As the car slid up over the water we all took a deep inhalation at the beauty of the bridge. I was driving over with two women who were born and raised on PEI, but they both commented on how despite seeing the bridge over and over, year after year, they are still always blown away by the sight of it against the sharp colour of the water and the clear blue sky.

Our meeting went well. It was attended by Baha'is from all over Atlantic Canada, and I got to see many dear friends who I had not seen in a couple of years. It was lovely to see them all and catch up. Seeing the entire NSA was deeply moving. There is something about having the entire group--all nine of them--lined up in front of us giving us their fullest attention and wanting to hear what we have been learning as we serve our communities...what the successes have been and what challenges we are facing as we try to improve life in our larger communities. I felt deeply touched, and left with an even greater degree of respect for the NSA than I had had before.

Yesterday a friend of mine came over for lunch and then we sat by the fire and had tea, said some prayers and chatted. It was a good visit, and the perfect way to spend my Sunday. In the afternoon we headed over to the university to attend the World Religion Day commemoration at the chaplaincy centre at UPEI. Our friend Sara was giving a talk about the Baha'i Faith, and we wanted to support her presentation. It was an afternoon of celebrating the unity of the world's religious traditions -- an afternoon characterized by joy, acceptance and encouragement.

Last night after catching up on work (after my computer came back to life!!) I nestled into my comfy bed and sunk into a deep and restful sleep. I woke this morning feeling well-rested and excited about the day ahead. Down in the kitchen sunlight shone brilliant in through the windows across the floor. A bowl of homemade granola sat out on the counter for me alongside a bowl of blueberries. I settled down in the winter sunlight to enjoy the delicious breakfast that my host, Stephen, had prepared for me, feeling immensely grateful. I love this little island, and the simple beauty of moving through my days here: the light, the hot cups of tea, the time by the fireplace, and even getting bundled up in my down coat, scarf, wool hat and mittens to head out into the sub-zero temperatures! Happy gratitude Monday, friends!

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