Wednesday, November 27, 2013


Another Thanksgiving - how comforting to make another cycle around another year and we are still here, still thankful.  I hope this is how you are feeling too.  It is the simple daily blessings that nurture us and keep our hearts topped off with gratitude.  God's ways are so perfect:  with the overflow of thanks we become givers ourselves and grace overflows onto others making more thanksgiving.  I imagine that this is what is meant by Glory, that God's goodness is perpetual.

This has been a good year with the farm growing in ways that we can see and enjoy.  The trees are maturing and making flowers and fruit.  Wally made an addition to our guest house and made it so much nicer.  We made changes to our house too, making our living room into an art studio for me and a bedroom for our god daughter, Chayo - yes, our family has grown too.  A new source of water coming from the mountains and crossing our land has been another great blessing.  In fact, this has been a year of expansion.  We are feeling a kind of happy anticipation but we don't know what could be ahead, only that now is full and we are thankful.

New art studio
Studio and Chayo's room - a shared space

Wally has become the go-to-guy for everything that doesn't work in the gringo community.  That keeps him on a learning curve with man's high- tech toys.  If he isn't familiar with it he figures it out by studying it on the internet and now he often knows more than the experts because his experience is much broader and hands-on.  I am exceedingly proud of him because I see him behind the scenes teaching himself how to repair and rebuild things better.  From computers and satellite antennas to converting his fuel-injected Porsche to a basic carburetor - he always sees how things could be better.  But then he is a special genius.

My week has a more predictable routine.  I pick up Chayo for the weekend on Friday.  Saturday we prepare for selling at the farmer's market which is every Sunday morning and attend church.  I am teaching Chayo about finances through a hair bow business.  She works long hours making beautiful bows while I bake and she sells them along side my cakes at the farmer's market.   On Monday I take her to the school bus and then later in the afternoon I teach catechism to 10 lively kids between the ages of 12 and 14. 

December will be a busy month.  Christmas is celebrated in a big way throughout Advent and also Chayo and her brother,Robert will be baptized on the 19th.  There are extra church and school activities too and our tradition of gifts for the children on our road. 

Today we had a new young veterinarian come from San Blas to treat all 10 dogs and surgically care for a large hematoma on the ear of Sparky.  It is not the first time or the last that my dining table has doubled for surgery.  Dr. Marcos volunteered as a surgeon for a couple of our monthly clinics so I had assisted him before.  It would be maddening to take 10 dogs for a visit to a vet.  This is a great new development and I feel the prospects of a lasting friendship growing.

And so we are looking to a new year with hope and expectation.  Which is what we wish for you.  Savor this season.   I end with a poem:

I have been trying to read
the script cut in these hills—
a language carved in the shimmer of stubble
and the solid lines of soil, spoken
in the thud of apples falling
and the rasp of corn stalks finally bare.

The pheasants shout it with a rusty creak
as they gather in the fallen grain,
the blackbirds sing it over their shoulders in parting,
and gold leaf illuminates the manuscript
where it is written in the trees.

Transcribed onto my human tongue
I believe it might sound like a lullaby,
or the simplest grace at table.
across the gathering stillness
simply this: “For all that we have received,
dear God, make us truly grateful.”. 

---Lynn Ungar,  Bread and Other Miracles

Monday, November 4, 2013

Joining the saints...

I have been experiencing life very intensely lately.  It is a combination of the loss of close companions and relatives in juxtaposition with the lively, lovable, presence of Chayo, our 13 year old goddaughter and Leah, her 2 year old sister.  I am simultaneously letting go and embracing something new.  The letting go is not the easy part.  I don't want to rush forward.  I want to take time, contemplate and sit and savor what these precious ones gave to me and I want to find new ways to live with them so that they live on in my life, inspiring me to live beauti-fully and in that way be a living memorial.  Henri J. M. Nouwen wrote in Bread for the Journey:

"As we grow older we have more and more people to remember, people who have died before us. It is very important to remember those who have loved us and those we have loved. Remembering them means letting their spirits inspire us in our daily lives. They can become part of our spiritual communities and gently help us as we make decisions on our journeys. Parents, spouses, children, and friends can become true spiritual companions after they have died. Sometimes they can become even more intimate to us after death than when they were with us in life. Remembering the dead is choosing their ongoing companionship."
This week we celebrated the Day of the Dead, or All Saints Day, an important solemnity in the Catholic church and in the culture of Mexico.  It was a good opportunity to reach out to Chayo in regard to the death of her mother.  A couple weeks earlier I had made a memorial in our home to honor my uncle Toshi who passed on October 20th. So the week before November 2, I added photos of Chayo's mother's along with photos of my father, my beloved old dogs, and my friend Jeanne.  I had gathered a few other meaningful things to add to the altar.  I wanted to show Chayo how we can use symbols for what is intangible as ways of honoring and staying present to the real.  It is also satisfying and comforting to express ourselves with these meaningful tablescapes.  In my house, they change and move like seasons, they speak life and lessons to me.

My family in Japan is closing the residence of my grandmother and this is another "letting go".  It is an exercise similar to painting from memory.  I train my eyes to take in as much information as I can hold and then commit it to a multi sensational impression in my cells - light, color, shape, composition, mood, feeling, taste, sound.  This is something that moth and mold cannot destroy and can always be revisited to savor over and over again...much better than a photo. 

This is what I hope to pass on to Chayo:  the awareness that we are shaped by others -  good and bad.  We know the bad is there, but we can be deliberate in concentrating the good and develop, celebrate and honor that.  

We are a complex brew of tea.  We are deepened and enriched as we steep in the qualities and characteristics of the ones who loved us.  We are tea to be savored, giving back in our way what others have added to our lives.  When we do we become fully ourselves.  We move into our own sainthood.

I like how Christine Valters Paintner expresses it:   "To become a Saint doesn't mean to be some contrived image of holiness, practicing your faith in ways that imitate others, but to find your own unique expression in the world. You are a revelation of the sacred, and there is only one revelation just like you."