Ital (eye'-tal): of or from the earth; vital; life giving; natural.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Angels Among Us

Our bedtime routine includes a moment when we reflect on what happened during the day and express our thankfulness for all the positive things we experienced. That moment is followed by singing a sometimes quiet, sometimes loud; sometimes serious, sometimes silly, song. The other night we were singing one of our favorite loud and silly songs that I used to sing around the campfire at girl scout camp. I know it as "The Old Austrian" or "The Avalanche Song". (If you are not familiar with this great piece of musical genius, click here.)

Shine likes to recommend things to interrupt the Austrain's yodel. These interruptions usually include, an avalanche, a grizzly bear, a billy goat, a teeny mouse, a cute kitty, a puppy dog, etc. On this particular night, he offered up a new interruption...a selatun (pronounced: sell'-a-toon). Here's how our conversation went:

Me: "An old Austrian went yodelling on a mountain top high. When along came a..."
Shine: "Selatun."
Me: "Selatun? What's a selatun?"
Shine: "They're angels that spread peace all over the place. They're in the Bible, you know."
Me: "Oh, they are? No, I didn't know."
Shine:" They can rescue you from hurricanes and earthquakes. They make the thunder stop too, but they let the rain stay. Rain is good. We need rain."
Me:"Really? Wow. How do you spell Selatun?"
Shine: "Ssss-S-eee-E-lllll-L-A-T-U-N." "They're invisible too, but only when they are fighting the Devil and other bad guys. They have little daggers to fight them with."
Me: "I see."
Shine: "No, you can't see them because they are invisible."
Me: "Oh."
Shine: "But when they are done fighting the bad guys, then you can see them."
Me: "Okay. Can you see them?"
Shine: (with very BIG eyes and getting very close to my face) "YES!" "They make a tinkle, tinkle sound when they appear."
Me: "Are they here now?"
Shine: "NO. They are in a battle brawl with the bad guys. But they'll be back."
Me: "Okay."
Shine: "So, can you finish the song now?"

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


A number of weeks ago, I participated in an I Ching workshop. It was an amazing and very revealing 3 hours! One of the questions our workshop teacher instructed us to ask the Universe was, "What is my  incarnation objective?" Or rather, "What did I come to Earth to accomplish this time around?"

So I asked the Honorable Ancestors to comment on my purpose for being here and was surprised and a little disappointed (at first) in the answer. You see, I was hoping to be told I was sent back to Earth to move mountains, make a BIG difference, leave a HUGE impression, get written about in history books and magazines. Instead, the Universe told me that I was sent back to Earth to focus on "Returning"...huh?? I was sent here in order to Return here again and again? I didn't understand.  But then I read the interpretation and started to really think about it...

‘Things cannot be altogether exhausted. 
On the outside, stripping away brings things to an end; 
On the inside comes turnaround, 
And so Return follows.’
Return, in the old Chinese character, shows a foot going out from a town, and a road to walk on. So the first movement of 'returning' seems to be to go away from the crowd, and getting 'back on track'. This is not so much about a return to any particular place, as a return to your own path. It means getting back to fundamentals, to what you know to be right.

I also consulted with our workshop instructor to get her input. She told me to look for the patterns...both good and bad that I create in my life. I am supposed to acknowledge these, learn the lesson and (in the case of a bad pattern) change them. My incarnation objective is not about changing the world in BIG ways or impacting a HUGE number of people...it is more personal, more intimate...I am to focus on me and becoming a better me. And to remember that Nature/Universe has its own timeline and I must follow the ebb and flow of natural cycles without trying to impose my own agenda.

This is a reminder that there is a natural cadence to events, a time for each stage, and the return is not to be hurried.
But it is still purposeful: allying that nascent spark of energy with a 'direction to go' brings harvest. This is the integration and involvement part of the cycle. First came relaxation and release from guilt or compulusion ('without haste... not a mistake'); then comes re-engagement with purpose. The moving lines seem to tell a similar story of 'going out and coming in'.

The Daxiang emphasises that all this happens in its own time:
‘Thunder dwelling in the centre of the earth. Returning. 
The ancient kings closed the borders at winter solstice. 
Itinerant merchants did not travel, 
The prince did not tour the regions.’

Of the twelve hexagrams that traditionally marked the months of the year, Hexagram 24 is the darkest. The moment of the year when light begins its Return is also the moment when the days are shortest and the light most remote. The trigrams represent this as thunder in the centre of the earth: in Spring, it will come roaring to the surface, awakening everything to vigorous growth. But for now, the fields and the borders are closed; it is time for introspection, not for business as usual. This hexagram doesn't herald a triumphal return, but a gradual recuperation and recharging. The spark of life needs nurturing in stillness.

In these small ways, I will be able to nurture love and kindness in my community. I will be planting the seeds that will then grow and flourish in the next cycle...

So I offer you some lessons that I have learned so far since moving to Jamaica in the hopes that one of them may spark something within you:

Go Without:
When we decided to move from Brooklyn to Kingston, we could not afford to ship the entire 8 years worth of stuff we accumulated in our apartment. We had to be discerning about what was most important/valuable to us. We were able to shed a lot of unnecessary weight. We got rid of clothes, toys, kitchen items, books (which was one of the hardest things for me to part with!), old art materials and other odds and ends that took up space and collected dust.

Some of what we got rid of in Brooklyn we thought we would replace once we settled into our Kingston home, however, we found that either a) we really didn't need (or want) it after all or b) it was much too expensive to try to replace here so we really didn't need (or want) it that much. We found that baby items in particular are very expensive here. We sold or gave away the little we had left from when Shine was a baby and we thought we would just get the "essential" items for Song once we were here. Aside from a small bathtub, car seat and high chair, we are going without all those "essential" baby items. And you know what?  It is not any harder or less convenient and Song has no clue that she doesn't have a big crib or bouncy seat or playmat or changing table or playtable or sippy cups or musical mobiles or Baby Einstein videos! She is an engaged, happy and very busy little girl and we have fewer things creating clutter and chaos in our space.

Celebrate Simplicity:
Because so many here are forced to "go without", there is more focus on enjoying the small things in life like a beautiful sunset, or roast breadfruit. In paring down our life to our most treasured possessions and making a conscious effort to live more lightly, we have more room for enjoying experiences like spending an afternoon at the beach or a homecooked meal with friends. Mo and I hope to impart on our children that life is found in the moments of experience...not in plastic packages.

Don't Wait:
If the fruit vendor is selling sweet sop today, buy it today because tomorrow she may only have oranges. Life is too short to wait for the ideal situation. Living doesn't happen in the future...it is happening NOW! 

Find the Rhythm:
Music is an important part of living in Jamaica. It is everywhere! At night Mo and I sit out on the balcony and listen to the sessions happening across the way. Many times selectors (dj's) will play a song over various rhythms. Each version has a different vibe even though the lyrics are the same. Maybe because music is such a deeply rooted part of the culture or maybe it is because you can never tell what tomorrow will bring (sweet sop or oranges) but I find that people tend to flow more with the rhythm of the Universe here than in Brooklyn. 

Jah will Provide:
Jah, God, the Ancestors, the Universe...however you choose to label that Divine Energy that pulses through all of us, they/it will provide us with all that we need. Ask and you really will receive. Be open and you will find your path. Be still and you will hear your prayers answered.

Peace and Wellness,

The above excerpt of the Returning Hexagram comes from this website which aligns itself with the same interpretation I divined in the workshop using "The I Ching Workbook".

Monday, September 19, 2011

Celebrating Simplicity

Yesterday was my birthday and to celebrate, we spent the day indulging in simplicity. My morning started with a beautiful hand picked bouquet gathered from our yard and a very yummy french toast breakfast served up with fresh fruit (also picked from the property) and the best coffee ever.

I was then treated to a phone call from my family. I was able to speak to all I hold so dear, my mama, poppo, sister and brother. It was wonderful to hear all of their voices and to have that moment of togetherness.

Later in the afternoon, we treated ourselves to some ice cream from our favorite ice cream shop and some fun and silliness in the park. The day finished with a wonderful homemade dinner and a gorgeous sunset from our balcony.

I have learned many lessons in my time here on the island and I think the most profound is how to delight in the simple things.

Peace and Wellness,



Sunday, September 18, 2011

Helping Hands

This weekend, we participated in the annual Beach Clean Up sponsored by the Jamaica Environmental Trust (JET). What began as a small group of volunteers picking up trash on a small area of beach just outside of Kingston, has twenty years later, turned into a HUGE national volunteer day with clean up sites all around the island.

We packed up the kids and our trusty car Friday and set out for Fort Rocky on the Palisdoes, a narrow strip of beach that juts out into the Kingston Harbor. We had gorgeous views of the mountains as well as some great glimpses of the skyline. Our site had the double bonus of the ruins of an old cargo ship run ashore...for this novice archeologist, quite exciting indeed!! In the short amount of time we helped (it was actually unbelievably hot and we didn't want to burn out or up the little ones), we collected over 7 pounds of trash!! We then grabbed some complimentary snacks and set out for Fort Rocky where JET had more snacks, resting tents and a dj! The fort, also in ruins, was pretty amazing to explore.

It felt great to be a part of the larger community and to do something so simple yet so very important. If you are interested in finding out more about environmental issues in Jamaica, please check out these links:

Jamaica Environmental Trust
National Environmental Protection Agency
ECCO Magazine
Treasure Beach

Sorry I have no pictures to post...our camera battery needed to be charged. There are some pictures coming in through JET and NEPA so visit their sites and you may catch a glimpse of us!!

**UPDATE** We've just received an email with some photos of us at the Beach Clean Up...Thank you to the kind lady at NEPA! Enjoy! 

Peace and Wellness,

Friday, September 9, 2011

Looking for the Rainbow

My mom used to sing this song to me when I was a little geeba*. It was my most favorite song and I used to spend many an afternoon under a tree or wrapped up in a cozy corner wistfully imagining being over that rainbow. It brings me comfort to hear it, especially this version.

When the upheaval in the world gets to be too much, I listen to it and think about the calm and beauty that comes after the storm.

May you find your rainbow.
Peace and wellness,

*Geeba is my mom's word for baby. My mom has her own language that she has made up and you have to know her to know how wonderfully silly and sweet it all is...

Thursday, September 8, 2011


Lately I've been feeling down and out. There have been a number of  setbacks that Mo and I have been facing. I'm beginning to feel like we will never get out from under this rock...the small gains we make, get swept away a moment later. As well, I've been watching what was my home in the Northeast corner of America become devastated by natural disasters. As I type, my hometown of Muncy, Pennsylvania, is under water. So many of my friends and family have suffered great loss.

But the thing that is weighing heaviest on me right now is that my dad has cancer. It has come as a shock to the family, as these things do. Especially given the nature of the cancer...In April, he was diagnosed with tongue cancer. He had surgery to remove part of his tongue and some of the lymph nodes on the right side of his neck. The pathology test on the lymph nodes showed that there was cancer there as well. He was warned that this is a very aggressive cancer...that it is likely to return and spread. And it has...to his neck, chest, lungs...all in the span of a few months...

It's not fair. He just retired and was looking forward to spending time working on the house, visiting his grandchildren and enjoying life...No one deserves cancer. It is a horrible, horrible disease. I worked for three years on an oncology unit in a hospital in Brooklyn providing art sessions to patients receiving chemotherapy and radiation as well as working bedside with patients admitted either for surgery or palliative care. I have seen the realities of what my dad is facing. It turns my stomach to think of him going through this...and for me to be so far away...

Despite these things, I wake up every morning with Hope. I think, "Today will be the day I get that job offer." "Today will be the day people will realize just how real climate change is and do something about it." "Today will be the day Dad's cancer disappears." "Today is another new beginning."

I think a lot about the "audacity of hope" (to borrow from the title of Barack Obama's memoir). It  is an apt description of the human spirit. In the face of so much adversity, much of it seemingly insurmountable, how dare we wake up feeling like positive changes, dare I say, good fortune, is right around the corner?

"We must accept finite disappointment, but we must never lose infinite hope."
--Martin Luther King, Jr.

I would like to request prayers for my dad as well as for my extended family who are recovering from the devastating flood. And if you feel so inclined, please donate to a cancer organization of your choice and help put an end to this awful disease...

The American Cancer Society
The Creative Center

With Hope,