Walking the Sea

Walking the Sea: June 2010

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Alicia in Africa, Journey to the Motherland

Sitting on the floor of my apartment with a girlfriend of mine, we talked about how our lives are percieved by the money and material goods we have. As it turns out, neither of us felt comfortable with the labels most people in Western culture would place upon us after judging by these standards. For myself, I feel extraordinarily wealthy. I have a nice, clean, one bedroom apartment all to myself. Do you know how amazing that is? There is a comfortable bed in my bedroom, a computer to type on, sanitary plumbing, and food in the kitchen. Clean water comes out of the faucet whenever I want. I own a working car and I have some money stashed away in savings. WOW...

This friend is heading to Africa next year. While talking about the sporadic rains and the drought, she wondered why the people didn't just store the excess food during the good years if they knew the drought was coming? How do you explain there is no excess food much less a secure place to store it if there was any or even the knowledge of what the weather would be like? How do you explain to someone who is also well-off that starving is a way of life for many even in the good times. How do you explain droughts in Kenya to someone who has never know lack of water?

Africa won't let me go. Seeing people struggling under that much weight, seeing what life is like there profoundly changed me. Meeting my brothers and my sisters, hearing, seeing their spirits, it really moved me and made me realize a very different view of myself and the world.

I came across this documentary on hulu which I watched tonight. It holds so many of the things I wish I could show you all for yourselves, touches on so many of the issues my heart is crying out for. Alicia speaks so much truth I too, have taken to the core of my being. It's around 44 minutes, I hope you'll watch it.

Alicia in Africa, Journey to the Motherland


Saturday, June 19, 2010

Conference Update

Since Wednesday, I haven't checked for any messages on my phone or went onto Facebook. Do you know how good that feels? It's been nice to disconnect in those ways and to release myself from them for a while. It is one of the things I learned in Kenya, how nice it can be to disconnect from technology. (And here I am writing on my blog.)

I admit to you, I am writing this during the business meeting. Come to think of it, I did this in Kenya too. Yesterday was my full day. I spoke in the afternoon plenary on the young adult panel, then led a workshop on "Spirit Rising: Young Quaker Voices", followed by the author's night after dinner where five of us read from recently published books. It's nice to have a more relaxed day today before heading out tomorrow.


Friday, June 18, 2010

Honoring Our Elders

I walked through the brush, trying to spot a gravestone. I wanted to see them still covered up. I knew they were there, somewhere, but couldn't see any but the ones that were already cleared. Deb was nearby on the other side of trees. She had walked there before but I had asked to go there with her before I had to be back for an afternoon meeting. It was beautiful out there and stories just begged to be told. There were three little markers for a still-born baby and two other other young ones next to it. Nearby, was the grave of the mother who died at the young age of 27 just years before 1900. Another gravestone marked the site of the body for a four year old boy. They had died at all ages but there were some, I'm sure, heartbreaking stories among them. As if death is anything but.

We then came across Fred and Eloise Just, the couple who are restoring this old cemetery, bush by bush, marker by marker. Fred's family is buried here as are many he knew having grown up in the area. It is his way of honoring of those who have walked this way before us clearing the way for him. Now he is clearing the way in turn so people can remember them. For being at a conference on mentoring and eldering, it was a poetic reminder to honor those who have had a hand in shaping us into the people we are and honoring their memory. I'm looking forward to coming back one day and seeing such memory in full bloom. What a beautiful thing.


Thursday, June 17, 2010

Letting Go

We arrived to the Pacific Northwest Quaker Women's Theology Conference yesterday in the late afternoon. The grounds are beautiful. To get here, you have to cross a wooden bridge over a lagoon where at the end, you can turn around and gaze at the beautiful bay of water before you surrounded by trees and a range of mountains shaded in blue on the other side. All the houses and building on the grounds are on a green gently sloping hill that comes to rest at the lagoon with trees lining the backside.

It feels good to finally get to relax, let go. Yesterday I found the basketball court and a bin full of various balls nearby. Throwing baskets, oddly enough, helps me find that flowing peace, or at least encourages me along the trail! It helps unwind me, find the rhythm, a joyful movement. Seeing as how I am with nearly sixty Quaker women, you can imagine I don't have much competition for the basketball hoop.

As I've walked the grounds over the last day, I keep walking past the dock with boats tied up just asking to be taken out. Each time I go by, I think to myself, "How much trouble would I get in if I took one out for a spin?" Then at lunch, Ashley assured me we had full privledges to use the boats! Wahoo! So while scoping out the territory, I met a woman from Seattle who likes to go swimming and after checking out the swimming area which is very green if you know what I mean, I persuaded her to take out a paddle boat with me for a while. It was a great time but lets just say after five years of tap dancing, my legs are nowhere near the condition I thought they were in. I think there is some bicycling in my future.

I like how Sarah P. and Ashley planned the schedule. There is nothing we have to attend, it is all optional. I'm going to the plenaries and the home groups but the silent worship is out along with some of the singing. It feels really good to say no, to claim free time instead where I can do whatever I want without having to be anywhere in particular at all. This is actually a great growth point for me. Years ago, I would have tried to atend everything, no matter whether I liked it or not, and would have very succesfully burned myself out. Now, knowing I was already coming into this quite burnt out, I am giving myself the gift of space, of time, of a good book and hot tea. If I need a holy excuse, not that I do, I could claim I need the space for all the things I will be doing tomorrow: speaking at the plenary session, giving a workshop, and reading from "Spirit Rising" at an author's party in the evening. Some conferences have talent nights, women's theology conferences have author parties. hahaha!

I've already broken the no food in your room rule (so I hope no one at the conference is reading this) and I don't care. This is to be a restful time for me as well as for many others I hear. While doing the volunteer cordinating for this, I talked over the phone with another young woman named Erin who had heard about me through a mutual friend. Waiting for lunch, we got to actually meet and talk face-to-face a little bit and in the course of the discussion, found out we were both extroverted, had our noses pierced, she is a makeup artist and there is purple in my hair. After those revelations, we figured we will get along just fine. It felt good to meet another young woman who also feels the frustration of being in a group surrounded by introverts when we are verbal processors. Even in the Quakers, even in a group that are mostly unprogrammed Quakers, we can still find each other. It's nice to know.

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An Exchange of Colors

This is the paper I wrote for the Pacific Northwest Quaker Women's Theology Conference in Seabeck, Washington. (Now in progress.) The theme is mentoring and eldering and we had to reflect on that topic for 1-2 pages.

"This girl needs her nose pierced!" That critique is the only shortfall my friend, Leonora, could come up with on an internship evaluation form after I finished helping her with her youth group at St. Mary’s Catholic Church. At the time, I laughed at the words. Years later, I remedied the fault and blamed it on her. I can’t blame her for the purple hair but between the two, they are a lived out reminder and lesson of what she taught me: don’t take yourself too seriously and laugh at yourself often. Though definitely in a class by herself with the wash away sin soap and Jesus bobble heads on her desk, she is one of the many women I’ve known who have left a deep mark in my life as an adult, one of the beautiful women I have learned from and who have taught me how beautiful such relationships can be.

I have this idea about such relationships, that we each enter the world as a box of crayons of all one color. As we live our lives, we come into contact with other people and exchange our colors, red for blue, purple for yellow. We meet and come to know those people whose colors we most need, the ones we are missing from our huge life-size Crayola boxes. With each person, our lives can be colored with a wider variety of colors. We grow, we learn, and our artistic renditions are brighter and fuller of the spectrum of the Divine light God casts through our souls. Lee is a yellow crayon. I know of another who is purple and another who is green. My life is richer for having their colors streaked across my life, painted onto my soul’s canvas. I am grateful for them.

I would most assuredly call these women my mentors, even my guides. However, I know these relationships are never one sided as the word “mentor” seems to imply. They are definitely an exchange of colors, an exchange of Divine gifts, showing his face in a new way through each other. One cannot be in a mentoring relationship without mutuality, a common respect. The purple needs the yellow, the red needs the blue. Lee enjoyed having me there as much as I enjoyed assisting her. It can sometimes seem like taking on yet another responsibility when deciding to mentor another person, but the rewards can be far greater than the effort we put into the relationship. Just as God delights in his relationships with us, so we can delight in the relationships with those we teach and “help” for we will always be taught and helped as the Divine spark flows from one to another in this, an exchange of colors.

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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Walk With Me

It is one of those beautiful nights after a thunderous storm has rolled through and the air is now fresh and clean. Everything is moved, substituting for the school year is over, all the volunteer positions have been assigned and I am sitting by a fireplace in Vancouver in the still calm with a friend nearby. Deep breath.

In the morning I will leave for the Pacific Northwest Quaker Women's Theology Conference. Despite the fact I'm speaking a few different times (which I am looking forward to), I am viewing the coming days as a vacation, a time to rest, take walks, read, write, and spend time getting to know an intriguing bunch of women. The topic for this conference is mentoring. I wrote a paper for it, which I will post on here, but there are more things I would like to share with you all.

Over the last several days, I have spent time with some of the women who have mentored me over the last few years, women who have taught me a great deal, vocally and by example. They have shared of themselves, their talents, and encouraged talents of my own. As I've talked with them, I have repeatedly felt grateful to God for giving me time with these women, grateful I've had the blessing of sharing the road with them for this period of our lives. I respect their work and delight in hearing about what they are thinking, sharing their fascination with areas of interest, new projects. I have a deep respect for women (and men) such as these who study, who explore the world around us, who think about the wider world. My life is so much richer because of them, the colors are far more vivid because of their presence, the aura they leave behind. How many times can you say "I am grateful?" How many ways can you say "Thank you"? I feel like what these women have taught me, though I am certainly still growing and learning, is now coming from the inside and no longer only the voices I externally hear. It's not just what they have taught me that has added so greatly to my life, it's that they helped me live out of my truer self, they walk(ed) with me on the journey to my own soul and talked with me there. I am so glad, in different ways, we still walk together.

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Sunday, June 13, 2010

Tightly Wound

Life, of late, has been on the crazy side. I've kept telling myself to pull through to June 20th and then I can see where the dust settles and take things from there. In actuality, I am looking forward to Tuesday night, June 15th, when I officially leave town for the Pacific Northwest Quaker Women's Theology Conference. True, I am giving a workshop, speaking on a young adult plenary panel, and am reading my piece from "Spirit Rising" during a book party, oh, and I am one of two vollunteer coordinators, but with the way things are right now, I still consider this a break. Scary huh?

For the last several weeks, I have been working on packing up my old apartment, moving to a new one in another part of town, cleaning the old one, and then unpacking and SERIOUSLY lightening my load in the new one. That's been a great process to go through and one I am sure I will be writing about. I have also been working every day for the schools which is fantastic of course, it has just meant work by day, moving by night and a lot of things that have needed to be done, got pushed away for a couple of weeks. It has been my lesson in learning sometimes we dissapoint people and that is okay, sometimes balls do get dropped which leads to lesson number 2: I have been juggling way too many balls.

With "Spirit Rising" now out and selling, I sold 12 this morning at West Hills Friends Church, and the new apartment in some level of order, the school year is ending, and the conference approaching, I feel the pressure just beginning to ebb. I have been a tight metal spring, wound way too tight. I met with my editors yesterday and am looking forward to writing my poetry again, to releasing all that pressure and starting anew. I am hoping at the conference I'll have time for hiking, writing, talking with friends, speaking, and just getting to do what I do best. A deep and slow breath. I have to admit, I'm bringing my computer too as I'm hoping to get some things on here taken care of as well which will definately help the stress levels. But relaxation will come first. I'm hoping to blog too as I understand there is internet I can connect to.

Friday, June 4, 2010

His Strength is Perfect

Earlier this week, I was substituting in my friend, Carol's classroom at a local high school. It was the end of the day and we were talking when a girl came in looking for a friend who was supposed to work with her on a speech she had to give. The more she told us about the project, the more upset she became to the point it felt absolutely overwhelming to her and she was ready to cry. I knew exactly how she felt.

For several weeks now, I have been working on moving: packing, cleaning, giving away, unpacking, recycling, garbage, and some more cleaning. It has been an overwhelming task at times and I am well past the burn out point. I work all day at my job then go to one of the two apartments to work on things there. After a whole week of moving things over to my new apartment across town, I almost have everything out of the old one and am working on an extensive cleaning. When I get tired of that, I go to my new apartment and unpack which also involves a lot of cleaning as the last tenants decided against taking on that task. Quite frankly, I'm tired. It feels like a triathlon and I am on the last leg without much strength in my feet. The people who came to help surprised me. A friend from the theatre, a friend from church, two women I've known for years, and a guy I've met only once all came. A very new friend came to help us unload one afternoon and cousins of a neighbor helped me carry things upstairs. I am immensely grateful to these kind folk.

By Monday, my roommate and I have to have the old place all cleaned. We've been working on it when we can. The task seems so huge. I've already done so much moving, I am right where that girl was, overwhelmed and upset. Facing the rest of the task feels so huge. So, I've started singing this song to myself that you've probably heard:

"His strength is perfect when our strength is gone. He'll carry us when we can't carry on! Raised in his power, the weak become strong. His strength is perfect, his strength is perfect."

Carole and I, seeing how upset she was, helped her by talking out the project with her and breaking it up piece by piece and telling her that she already knew a lot about the topic, which she did. By the time she headed out the door, she was feeling so much better and by helping someone else, so did I.