Monday, January 28, 2008

status: email not working, heart working well

Saturday, I arrived in Durban 5 hours before expected, and thank heavens, because that meant I got to eat dinner with my host family and their company. Hillary, my host mom, made roast lamb, butternut squash with cous cous, a cheesy scalloped vegetable dish, and home fries. You know me...this was a perfect welcoming feast, and I drank lots of red wine, enough to help me fall alseep even though I went to bed around 3 pm east coast time. (the time difference is 7 hours).

Woke up a few hours later, bewildered. So I read. Instead of getting angry, I read. Did the same last night, but instead of falling back to sleep, I just read until the sun came up, and then I got up, too, and jumped in the pool. Today, all I've done is fail to set up a bank account. In my continuing bewilderment, and honestly, continuing anxiety, I just pray and read. You know me, same old, same old.

I wish I had pictures to share with you now, but technically, I'm moving pretty slowly. For some reason, my email will only let me read, not send, emails. So please, send them on. I promise I will figure out a way to write you back in the near future.

Hillary and Gussie are funny and warm, their daughter Tracy will be a good friend. Last night, I met a professor from the University and two students--former Rotary scholars who decided to extend their stay in Durban. This week, I'll open a bank account, get a driver's license and car, register for classes, look for an apartment, and go to my first yoga class in Durban with the former scholars. It's hot and very humid here, so I'll be all loosy goosy after just a few good yoga sessions.

I love you all.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Poems, Advice, Goodbye for now, and check out my new haircut!

pics: Becca Atwell and me, Keri Libby and me (haircut by Cregg at Grow Salon in Decatur--he's a friend, and an awesome stylist so go see him.  Prices are very reasonable)

"To do list: Everything! Do it. Do Everything."

As she was leaving my goodbye party last night, I asked Ms. Keri Libby, "What should I do?" She answered, "Everything!"  So, I made her write it down in my little red book.  

Natalie Williams quieted my wondering soul with some words like "eternal commitment is not necessarily the pinnacle of love." (we were talking about you, Don Quixote)  She also gave me a card, which she herself admitted was a sappy vehicle for this poem:

Thirst           by Mary Oliver

Another morning and I wake with thirst
for the goodness I do not have.  I walk 
out to the pond and all the way God has
given us such beautiful lessons.  Oh Lord, 
I was never a quick scholar but sulked
and hunched over my books past the
hour and the bell; grant me, in your
mercy, a little more time.  Love for the
earth and love for you are having such a 
long conversation in my heart.  Who 
knows what will finally happen or
where I will be sent, yet already I have
given a great many things away, expect-
ing to be told to pack nothing, except the
prayers which, with this thirst, I am
slowly learning. 


I love you all so much!  Thank you for being so you and for loving me so me.  Thanks for the sending off party, Becky and Sage.  Thanks for la cena on Tuesday, Justin. Thanks for the dansko's, Libby, I've been wearing them non-stop. Thanks for burning the creme de menthe brownies, Jean.  The temptation to emotionally eat vast amounts of chocolate is a bit high right now.  I drank too much wine, as it was, which thank God helped me sleep! 

I'm sooo excited, I'm literally vibrating.              

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Them good old Gilbert-Lawsons

I didn't ask Elisabeth Gilson-Lawbert and Mitch Gilawsonbert's permission to post this blog, but I will tomorrow night at my goodbye party.  The following is an email they sent out to their CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) members today.  I was a member a couple years back, and since we're pals, they still keep me updated. If you, like a growing number of people, wonder more and more about where your food comes from, read on.  I think it's plum beautiful!
A little context: Lizzy and Mitch are in the process of moving to new land outside of Rome, Georgia.  They have been married just over 2 years now, and are the proud parents of two bouncing baby puppies, Lou Lou and Smokey. 
January 22,2008
As the hard freezes are rolling over the Chickamauga farm, we are watching the last of the fall crop wilt away. The move has distracted our attention from the old veggie patch as we turn our attention to the new farm. We are sad to say goodbye to this beautiful place that has grown so many vegetables and friendships for us and so many other people in this area, but we welcome a place we can call our own.

Mitch purchased a new (new to us) manure spreader this winter to start piling up the compost on the new land. Watching this manure spreader in action is quite
amazing, and beautiful if you think seeing thick black old cow poop flung into the air is beautiful. Our goal has been to spread 30-50 tons per acre of compost onto our new land;
however, we have met some challenges along the way. Turns out it's not too hard to get the manure spreader stuck during this wet winter! But we've still got our goal in mind. 

We almost have the growing field cleared of the 10-year-old Sweet Gum trees. The field has opened up
a lot since we purchased the land and Mitch has had some great new experiences with a bulldozer. The
strawberries, garlic and spinach are in and making themselves cozy under a blanket of mulch. John's
Creek runs a long border along the field semi-circling the veggies. This new place is on its way to feeling like a working farm and our new home.

Thanks to the help of Billy and Sandra Morris, their kids and plenty of family help, we've almost completed our barn/shed/workshop. All that's left to do is hang the doors! 

As for Mitch and I, well, we're swinging back and forth between the old and new farms, packing up piles and piles of boxes, furniture and LOADS of farm stuff.
We have a little RV that we're staying in while in Rome (nice and cozy) until we can start working on our little house. We're expecting that the house could
take 8 months or more, so we're making ourselves at home in the camper for awhile. Thankfully, Mike Brown offered to give us his camper trailer that is quite
bigger than the one we're in now, so we'll have a bit more elbowroom and can maybe still be talking to each other when it's time to move out! 

We're so excited, though. The new farm is beginning to take shape and we are visualizing our dreams
constantly. We hope to get some berries and fruit trees planted this winter, but with everything else, it may be hard to get the land properly prepped. Next step is to build the chickens a house, the tractor and implements a barn and then start farming (and a house at some point)! 

We hope all of you are having a great winter and had a wonderful holiday season. Keep in touch and we hope to fill your homes and refrigerators full of wonderful
vegetables this year! 

Mitch and Elisabeth

Monday, January 21, 2008

Thoughts, 4 days before departure for Durban!!!!!!

Last night at Sunday dinner, I asked my family and friends to suggest a gift to take to my Rotary host family and club in Durban, South Africa.  I'd been thinking along the lines of Georgia pecans or peach preserves, but Granny had a better idea: "take something of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr's, " she said.  Everyone oohed and ahhed in agreement.  I'm not exaggerating--people made noises--that man's commitment to non-violent social change is heart-quickeningly spectacular.  The soul knows a friend like him immediately.  What better way to show gratitude for hospitality, what better way to begin a friendship, than to invoke the spirit of one so devoted to understanding?

Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. day.  This morning's Atlanta Journal Constitution remembered King with some quotes and a reminder that "as inspiring as his language could be, [MLK] is revered today because his was a life of deeds, not rhetoric."

"We have ancient habits to deal with, vast structures of power, indescribably complicated problems to solve.  But unless we abdicate our humanity altogether and succumb to fear and impotence in the presence of the weapons we ourselves have created, it is as possible and as urgent to put an end to war and to violence between nations as it is to put an end to poverty and racial injustice."  MLK, Jr. 

I can't imagine the disappointment and disillusionment in humanity that King must have suffered.  He lived in the thick of hate, in the midst of all our worst human habits born of fear and smallness.  But he never abdicated.  Even if he seriously doubted our ability to deal with those habits and structures of power--and who doesn't?--he never ever stopped working to liberate us from them.  His was a life of deeds.

I share King's dreams.  They are big dreams.  Yes, yes they sure as hell are.  I don't know what actions we shall take each day, each moment, to dismantle power structures and redirect our habit-energies of hate and greed toward compassion and generosity, but I do know that constant prayer guides us.  Prayer gets ya meditating on the things you yearn for in the quiet, humble space of your soul.  God finds and gives you strength there.  

You know what I want?  You know what I want most?  For all families, everywhere, to be able to sit down to the kind of meal we did last night.  It was good, really good.  My beloveds, vegetarian shepherd's pie, salad (with hearts of palm!!!), bread, wine, chocolate, cheese, fruit, my great-grandmother's ice-box cookies, and miracles of understanding at every turn in the conversation. I want everyone everywhere to be free, to have the resources, to know the love and understanding and support that allows such a holy/earthly human experience.  

The vision of an abundant table guides me.  I lose sight all the time.  I am disappointed and overwhelmed by the sad realities of poverty, oppression, and war that rob people of security and abundance which allow for nourishment and development.  But OH WELL-- disappointment is just a part of life.  We can't let ourselves be deterred. I'll tolerate most anything, but not abdication.  I won't tolerate it, but I'll do so non-violently.  

Tomorrow, after my pre-departure haircut, I'll head over to the King Center and buy some books and cd's to take to my host family.  As I move through all my pre-departure errands this week, I pray to keep sight of the big dreams.

Holy Creator and Sustainer, thank you for Martin Luther King, thank you for Thich Nhat Hanh (had to get him in there), Charlotte Walters Erickson, and all the millions of teachers--human, animal, spirit, plant, etc--who are constantly pointing to you.