Title

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

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Transition

I have been reflecting on the idea of Place and Home as I prepare to make a trip back to the United States to visit my family for two months. This post is part of a series on what it means to be part of a family, a community, a home...
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In Katsena, in a red land
the houses grow like ant hills 
among the ant hills and the termite mounds.
I am looking for cattle and hoping for rain.

I am in Geneva, New York. My kitchen
is red, and the table has
one short leg. Outside
it is raining away the February snow.

Here, in Katsena and Geneva
my cooking pot just cracked.
Tomorrow my son will marry.
All this morning stretches for me
as I stretched last night in bed.
Silence in the house.
I am wandering here 
in Geneva and Katsena.

~~Taken from the poem, In Place by Toni Flores 

Muncy (Photo courtesy of the Internet)


My hometown of Muncy, Pennsylvania sits on the same longitudinal line as Kingston, Jamaica. Mo made this discovery one night while doing research using Google Earth. For him it confirmed that there was always this thread connecting us...that we were destined to find each other...that we are where we are supposed to be...

This week is a week of preparation...a week of reflection...a week of transition. I will begin packing and unearthing our winter coats, mittens and socks. I will call the friends and family that I have here to say good bye and happy holidays. I will call my family there to confirm everything is in place for our arrival. I will count down with Song and Shine the number of "sleeps" until we board the plane. I will look North, past the hills of St. Andrew and imagine the goings on in a sleepy little Pennsylvania town. I will sit in the hammock with Mo and talk about how far we've come.

I will be wandering here in Muncy and Kingston.


Kingston (Photo courtesy of the Internet)

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Overwhelmed by the Kindness of Community

I have been reflecting on the idea of Place and Home as I prepare to make a trip back to the United States to visit my family for two months. This post is part of a series of my thoughts on what it means to be part of a family, a community, a home...
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A week before my birthday, my sister called to inform me that she and my brother had been accepting donations to help Mo and I make a trip back to the States. Dad's health was rapidly deteriorating and I wanted more than anything to spend time with him...to have him spend time with his grandchildren...But financially it was not something Mo and I could do on our own. Not only did we have the plane tickets to purchase, but also Song's documents (U.S. and JA) to procure. We hoped we could save enough to come for a week or two over Christmas but maybe that would be too late...

I began sobbing over the phone when my sister told me how many people donated and how much they had collected. Many of the people I met only once or never met at all. I was (and still am) moved that so many would feel compelled to help me and my family. On my birthday, my sister and brother told my parents about what they had been planning and presented them with all of the cards and letters they had received. My parents were overwhelmed by the generosity. They could not believe the outpouring of love and support. My mom cried into the phone as she read me some of the beautiful words written in the cards. When my dad got on the phone, his voice cracked with emotion. Later that week, he began an intensive chemotherapy treatment as part of his palliative care. The thought of being able to see us soon kept him going through the difficult weeks of treatment.

In a recent phone call with Poppo, he talked excitedly about our upcoming visit. It brought me so much joy to hear him so uplifted. It was the best I had heard him sound in months. I realized that this will be one of the most important trips I ever make...

To be an active participant in community is very important to me...to make connections, support those who are around me, pull together and uplift...I have always done my best to do these things. Over the past few years, as Mo and I have struggled with unemployment and other setbacks, we have received so much from our families and communities. I have been humbled time and again by the love and support that surrounds us. I look forward to the time when Mo and I can return the many favors and pay it forward.


As the global economic crises continues and people rally for change in all parts of society, I see a paradigm shift happening. People are returning to real values in real ways...not just bantering political jargon...but actually doing things that align with the rhetoric. People are coming out of their homes and reaching out towards each other. I believe there is a new world order emerging with Community at its heart...and this couldn't excite me more...

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If any of you who donated are reading this now, please know that my heart is full of thanks. When I reach the States, I will be contacting each of you personally. What you have done for my family is the most wonderful blessing! I cannot even begin to express my deep, deep gratitude for your generosity. The money that was left over after purchasing our travel documents has been put towards my father's medical expenses.
 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

In Place

I have been reflecting on the idea of Place and Home as I prepare to make a trip back to the United States to visit my family for two months. This post is part of a series of my thoughts on what it means to be part of a family, a community, a home...
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Where we are, here, 
there is no other here.
There will be no going.
Never was. When we went
to Spain, to the south of France,
to the snowing Quebec streets,
to the plate of Iowa, to the Yucatan, 
to Slate Rock to camp, the wheat field
with its hay stack...
the Sainte Chapelle,
glowing, to the small town upstate,
somewhere between Syracuse and Rochester
(unlovely names, unrhythmic),
when we go next year to China,
sometime to New Zealand to see the sheep
and the sea, we were
will be, where we are,
here.

~ Taken from the poem, In Place, by Toni Flores

Mom-in-law keeps assuring me that everything is in place. That things, both tangible and spiritual, are as they should be. I am supposed to be here (here being unfixed...where ever I am in any moment). If I continue to follow the Universe's map, I will not get lost. I am where I am supposed to be.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Returning


I have been reflecting on the idea of Place and Home as I prepare to make a trip back to the United States to visit my family for two months. This post is part of a series of my thoughts on what it means to be part of a family, a community, a home...
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After many years of traveling and searching for a place to settle down, I have come to understand the statement, "You can never go home again." Of course you can go back to the geographical place that shaped your childhood. And if you are lucky, you may even be able to go back to the physical structure your family lived in. But once you leave, you return with new eyes, new experiences, new ideas. "Home" is different. You are different.

When you live in a place for a period of time, you succumb to its rhythms. You are influenced by its landscape. You build community with its people. When you leave and then return, you have a new rhythm. You have been influenced by a new place. You have a new community. Sometimes these new things clash with the old ones...

At the end of this month, I will be returning to my hometown to visit with my family. I am excited, overjoyed, anxious and nervous all at the same time. When I left in June of 2010, Shine had just turned four, I was pregnant with Song, the natural gas companies were still just thinking about drilling in that area of Pennsylvania and my family was not dealing with cancer.

Now I will be returning with an articulate and kooky five year old and a very independent one year old! The gorgeous landscape that I loved exploring is now littered with heavy gas drilling equipment and the waterways I enjoyed canoeing and swimming in are polluted from hydrofracking. My father has terminal cancer. It is not the same home of my childhood...nor the one I left just 16 months ago. The landscape is changed. My family is changed. I am changed.


I wonder how I will respond to all the changes. I wonder how Shine will fit in with his new Jamaican accent. I wonder what Song will think of all the new people. I wonder if my family will notice changes in me. I wonder what it will be like to watch my dad struggle with his illness. I wonder what Shine will say when he sees the physical changes that the disease have made in his Poppo. I wonder if I will break down and cry when I see him. I wonder how Song will do on the flight. I wonder what it will be like to see my brother and brother-in-law waiting for us at the terminal gate. I wonder what it will be like to hug my nephews and hear them talk and giggle. I wonder what Poppo's expression will be while he watches all of his grandchildren playing together. I wonder if my mom will cry when we walk through the door. I wonder how tired we will all look. I wonder if I will be able to tell my dad all the things I long to share with him. I wonder if Grandma will make apple pie for Thanksgiving. I wonder how many important family conversations we will have. I wonder how much we will talk about death. I wonder how much we will talk about life. I wonder how we will adjust to the Fall and Winter weather...putting on boots and bundling in coats and mittens. I wonder if it will snow. I wonder if Song will like the snow. I wonder if I will get to see all of my family and friends that I long to catch up with. I wonder if I will miss my new home in Jamaica. I wonder what will happen when I return again to Kingston in January...will I fit in, will the kids fit in, will we just pick up where we left off...



On my cousin's farm.

Poppo and Shine riding through the fields.

On the river








Peace



Hiking the gorgeous mountains.


Nature reminds us how small we really are.
The home I grew up in.



Poppo

Three generations



This was taken right before we left for Jamaica. Song was with us!
 

Monday, October 17, 2011

Home is Where You Hang Your Hammock


I have been reflecting on the idea of Place and Home as I prepare to make a trip back to the United States to visit my family for two months. This post is part of a series of my thoughts on what it means to be part of a family, a community, a home...
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Way back in 1998, I went on a study abroad trip to San Cristobal de las Casas in Chiapas, Mexico. The trip was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. It changed me in so many wonderful ways. I returned to my home (which was upstate New York at the time) with rich memories, wonderful insights and a plethora of handmade gifts to share. One of the things I brought back for myself was a handwoven hammock I bought in the coastal town of Merida in the Yucatan. It is one of my three most cherished possessions.

Since my return from Mexico, I have been searching for a place to hang my beloved hammock. I have had many homes in the last 13 years but all of them have seemed temporary and none of them had a suitable place for my hammock. At some point, I just gave up finding a home and shoved the hammock deep into a box of other memorabilia. I felt destined to be a nomad.

When we first moved to Kingston, we rented a furnished apartment that was much too small for us. It also had  furniture that did not reflect our taste or our meet our needs. It was not our space and we all felt transient. Our new apartment however, was made for us. From the first moment I walked into the space, I knew we would be moving into it. Even the landlady commented, "The space was just waiting for you." Then in the frantic days leading up to our move, Mo came home from hauling boxes to the new space and collapsed into the bed mumbling something to the effect of, "Good news!" and "Beams" and other architectural stuff. Then, "You can hang up your hammock." Even in my semi comatose dream state, it resonated...I would finally, after 13 years of searching, be going home...





Wednesday, October 12, 2011

What Brand is This?

The first time I made homemade granola bars, Shine looked at them and said, "What brand is this?" I replied with, "The Mommy Brand." "Oh, well, I don't think I like these. I prefer (yes, he really said prefer...it's one of his favorite words!) the ones in the green box."

Many of my homemade versions of his favorite commercial foods were met with the same comments. Although we always ate nutritious whole foods, I relied heavily on the abundance of pre-made "natural" foods available in Brooklyn. Many of the brands we grew to depend on are simply not here in Jamaica. Those that are found here are very expensive. So, I have been forced (in a good way) to make my own.

I regularly make granola bars, vegan nut yogurt, chocolate syrup, butter, bread, biscuits, quick breads, peanut butter, nut milk, salsa, ketchup, jam, vegan mayo, pasta, cakes, cookies, muffins...you name it and I pretty much make it! It helps a great deal that we have access to fresh foods year round and that between our CSA, Mom-in-law's farm and the farm market down the street, our fridge is overflowing!

After months of refusing to eat any of my homemade food, Shine is finally coming around requesting that I make him certain things. I was really surprised at how long this transition took. Mo and I have always been avid cooks and we have always eaten healthy foods so I wasn't expecting this outright refusal of all things homemade.

I was overjoyed this past weekend when Warrior and Earth Mother came to visit and joyfully ate all of the homemade food! It had been something that I was anxious about for a very long time. Until this weekend, we had always spent time with them at their grandparents' house. There had always been this buffer of sorts (which is another post entirely) so I was nervous that when they actually came to our house, they wouldn't eat any of our food. I think they were surprised at how few boxes, cans and packages are in our cupboards. Warrior would say, "This is homemade too?!" before tasting anything and then, "Wow, it tastes good!" Mo even gave them a label reading lesson in the kitchen. "Read this and tell me if there is anything you can't pronounce in the ingredients," he said, handing them a bottle of locally made BBQ sauce. "If you can't pronounce it, you can't digest it. Don't eat it."

I am happy that my children are learning what real food tastes like. I hope that I can inspire them to continue making healthy food choices long into the future. How about you? Has your family been resistant to your homemade efforts?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Birthdays

 

The Sisters celebrated their birthdays this weekend. One entering the "toddler years" and the other the "teen years". My how time flies!!