Getting Settled in Cuenca

I cleaned my new apartment this afternoon and it feels great! I gave a thorough dusting and sweeping to just about every surface and then took the mop through every inch of the place. It is feeling especially fresh. I had a shower afterwards to top it all off. Now I think I will have a spinach and avocado salad (with some peppers and olive oil) and settle in for a relaxing evening.

But first I wanted to send a quick hello to anyone who might come upon this. :) Hi! Life in Ecuador is unfolding fairly smoothly so far. Aside from a serious sunburn up at Cotopaxi (reminding me of the necessary respect for the sun at altitude) and a wee bout of Montezuma’s revenge, I have had rather good fortune.

Sunrise at Cotopaxi

On my first day here in Cuenca I not only found a great Spanish school but also the flat that I moved into. It was an unplanned day that opened up effortlessly. I walked from my hostel and dropped almost all of my laundry off to be cleaned (for $2.60!), wandered on and then bumped into The Spanish Institute of Cuenca where I was given an hour-and-a-half free lesson and put in touch with a woman who had a vacant flat. I met with her about an hour later and rode the city bus (for 25 cents!) up to her place to have a look. We are on the northeastern edge of Cuenca and it is rather quiet up here compared to downtown. There is a eucalyptus forest just behind my house and I tend to go out and sit there after my morning writing to enjoy a banana for breakfast. (Is a three-day sampling pool enough to indicate tendency?  Why not?) I saw some cattle grazing there this morning. It is a peaceful spot overlooking the city.

Eucalyptus

Cuenca is a gorgeous city. It is very safe and quite friendly. I can see why there are so many ex-pats down here. The climate is ideal. It is usually about 22 degrees Celsius in the afternoon (occasionally a bit warmer, but not much) and things cool off at night. I can comfortably wear a sweater once the sun goes down, though I have survived without. The cost of life here is obviously a lot less than in North America, though I hear from some of the older ‘gringos’ that the prices have been climbing a lot in the last years as more retirees (both young and old) catch on to the place. The downtown is a UNESCO World Heritage site, the colonial architecture being a big draw for tourists. There are several incredible cathedrals and a handful of other impressive government buildings standing out from the already charming standard structures throughout the city. It certainly has character.

View from Spanish School

I have met a handful of folks already and joined many for meals here or there, whether connecting through hostels (before moving into my flat), buses, or Spanish school. It seems like a very social city. The other day I bumped into an American guy I had met at a country hostel near Cotopaxi Volcano a week before and we sat in the town square playing guitar and harmonica for a couple of hours, being joined by a few locals and passing the guitar around to share songs. It was a lot of fun and we moved through a lot of different styles. Pedro, one of the locals, had a hankering for Cat Stevens and John Denver. We obliged him.

I have arranged to get my teeth cleaned next week and I am actually rather keen. It has probably been nearly ten years since my last proper cleaning, ever since my insurance knocked off after graduating. I heard from a friend that they speak terrific English there (although my Spanish is progressing) and that it only costs $15 US. And it isn’t the hygienist who administers the cleaning but the actual dentist! Imagine that.

So, I am only just getting settled into a routine but things are moving along nicely and I imagine I will be down here until sometime in mid-summer. I hope to have mostly productive mornings and then enjoy the culture and life of the city and surroundings in my afternoons. I have already found a great vegetarian restaurant (Govinda’s) where I get a hearty and healthy lunch for $3 flat – soup, salad, rice, veggies, beans and juice!

There is a lot of interesting music and street art to be found here as well. Though I  have yet to check it out, I hear there are a number of nice hikes in nearby Las Cajas National Park. I am told there are thermal baths not far away…and some Incan ruins to look through too. So I am sure I will have lots of exploring to do…

Curious Street Art

I guess that will do for now…enjoy life everyone! It’s free.

:)

The Journey Continues…

Three weeks ago today I flew home from Rome. Now I am in Ecuador, having spent a wonderful Christmas holiday with my family and the past week in New Orleans with good friends. I arrived to Quito a bit wired, not having slept much during my ten-hour layover at the Fort Lauderdale airport. I stirred from wakeful rest on a bench by the luggage belt at about 5:30 AM to learn that David Bowie had died. I am just now listening to his last album, released only four days ago on his 69th birthday. He was a true artist. His video for the song Lazarus is hauntingly beautiful. It seems even his death was a conscious (and brilliant) work of art. Starting my blurry travel day to the news of his death was quite a shock. I listened to his 1971 album, Hunky Dory, on the flight here to Quito. It spoke to me in ways it never had before, as great art will.

I received a very warm welcome to the city of Quito. I promptly pulled my sweater off as I walked out of the airport and hopped on a local bus headed for the heart of the city. I dropped my bags in my cheap (but clean) hostal and set out for a stroll. After observing some of the old city I bumped into three interesting and friendly people crossing a street – one bald guy carrying a guitar; one girl with glasses and a small percussion instrument; and another girl with a Ukelele on her back and the Ziggy Stardust lightning bolt painted on her face.

I instinctively said, “Sad news today,” to the girl sporting the bright red Ziggy bolt. I mimed a tear falling down my cheek and turned to be on my way. But the bald guy carried on the conversation and in no time at all we were on our way together to a nearby friend’s house to play some music. We ended up hanging out for more than five hours, including an interlude where Zuro and Sol had to slip away for a radio interview and performance. They are currently on tour with AhoFest. This is somehow connected with GuruDeva and some Hare Krishna folks. (The evening proceeded mostly in Spanish and various details were lost on me…though I held up pretty well for my first day back into it…) These artists were very free and loving souls. We shared food and song, laughter and dance, and many stories. At one point one of us realized that we were a completely mixed bag of nations gathered: a Canadian, Mexican, Venezuelan, Argentinian, Colombian, Ecuadorian and one other girl that popped in briefly…but I cannot recall where she was from. I thought that was pretty cool. Meanwhile, I was totally sapped. My body was done in from a full day of traveling and very little sleep.

I tried to get up to leave a time or two but it never really took. As we got into singing some songs and dancing I found myself lifted up. Energy emerged from the mysterious depths. It reminded me of the amazing week of music I had been wading through in New Orleans. Occasionally my feet were tired from good days of walking around the Big Easy, but the music always lifted me. It literally blew my mind how much talent was simmering there, mixing and mashing up together. Aside from the ridiculous Las Vegas-y side of life, the vibrant heart of New Orleans came blistering to the surface. It was almost immediately palpable to me and steeping in it for a week with good friends only accentuated it.

But all songs come to an end at some point, if only for a moment of rest. And our New Orleans adventure did so along with David Bowie and eventually the great evening with new friends in Quito. As my new musical friends headed off to set up shop for the night in a dental office (arranged by the girlfriend of our host, Luis, who works there) I hopped a bus (for 25 cents!) back to my hostal. I showered up and crashed, sleeping nearly ten hours.

Today has been a day of orienting. I have been to a few different parts of town and have begun to acquaint myself a bit. I even found myself in a few familiar areas, having passed through here briefly about two years ago. I will begin looking more earnestly for long-term lodging in the next days and perhaps soon head south to Cuenca. One lodging prospect has already fallen through (due to a high ‘lowest possible price’), which simplifies the selection process. I trust it will all unfold as it needs to. I will keep following my heart as best I am able moment to moment.

I guess I will wrap it there for now. I just felt that it was a good moment to post a quick word to anyone curious to know how things are rolling down here.

And I will also share the last photo (of very few) I took in New Orleans. It ties in to Ecuador nicely as well, as the rainbow flag is also found in areas with Andean culture. Some simple advice: Be Yourself. I imagine Mr. Bowie would approve.

Taken near Frenchmen Street, New Orleans

Near Frenchmen Street, New Orleans

:)

Last Word from the Road (for now…)

It has been a great last week (and change) here in Europe. I have been blessed to reconnect with a number of good friends up in Munich and Salzburg, then rolling back to my European home base in Tuscany for a few days. Now I am down in Napoli, one of my favourite cities, and I just felt like one final post here before my wee European jaunt draws to a close. I will be home for Christmas in two days now! I doubt I will have any better chance to put up a quick blog post.

I connected with eight different friends up in the very Christmas-y land of Munich and Salzburg. ‘One’ of those friends was a family of five…so it was actually twelve old friends that I got to spend time with. I was very happy to enjoy their company and catch up. I even had the chance to ride my old bike (the one that carried me nearly 7500 km around Europe a few years ago). My friend, Johanna, who now owns Yoshimi (the bike), loaned her to me for a day and I loved zipping around Munich on this familiar old friend. It felt so natural. She has hardly changed. Many warm memories flooded back.

I also got to spend time with Tiago, who I first bumped into in Madrid, at the beginning of my first European adventure. He then lived with me at Ebbio for almost two months as I rested and healed in the Tuscan hills. We grew close there. Though we only hung out for a day we had a great catch-up. Within moments of reconnecting, we were juggling and playing a harmonica (he juggling, I on the mouth harp) in the crowded Munich Central Station. We earned a few coins before heading off to a nice little Indian restaurant. He stayed with me at my good friend Robert’s place. He and I always get on well. He hosted me for three nights in all. It was fun to introduce him to Tiago. I like seeing friends from different parts of my journey connect.

I also got to introduce Bart and Felix, two friends that I met at very different points in my journey. After staying three days with Bart in a beautiful village outside of Munich, Felix picked me up and we spent two days together. He is always very interesting company.

I was also very happy to catch up with dear friends in Salzburg. Our time was brief but meaningful. I even met Krampus, Santa’s Austrian side-kick, who frightens (and maybe even beats?) the kids who have been naughty. It is a lot worse than just a lump of coal. I will include a picture below.

Salzburg seems such a natural setting for Christmas. I spent a Christmas there while I was traveling a few years ago and just wandering through the Christmas markets last week with the backdrop of mountains felt about right for the season (even though no snow had yet fallen).

After my ten days or so up north, I dipped back to the farm in Tuscany for a few days to gather my gear and get ready to head home. But I couldn’t rightly leave Italy without a little visit to Napoli. Naples is such an incredible city. There is an authenticity here which seems to attract me. The city isn’t trying to impress anyone. It is raw, dirty and very gritty. But there is such beauty. You have to watch your ass (or wherever you keep your wallet) but somehow this alertness can open you to appreciate other surprises.

This morning I noticed a lot of love in the air; couples kissing at cafes; families holding hands and window-shopping; street musicians sharing their gifts. I even bumped into a spontaneous choir singing ‘So This is Christmas’ in a large Plaza. There were a lot of cameras (pretty decent ones, from what I could tell) and I wonder if it will soon be posted somewhere online.

After perhaps the finest pizza of my life, I strolled one of my old favourite paths through the bustling city, down via Toledo toward the sea. I sat in the surprisingly warm sun on the seaside and enjoyed the scenery floating by. It has been a delightful day.

Now I am catching up on ‘housecleaning’, doing various things online that needed attention, and preparing to head home. I am off to Rome tomorrow morning and will spend a day roaming about before flying Tuesday morning.

It has been a great adventure here in Italy (with a brief jaunt north) and I feel so blessed to be alive. What a gift life is. So simple. I have surely experienced what it can be like when we complicate it…but even in the midst of our dreams and drama, life remains what it is…a beautiful invitation into our hearts.

This has felt like a very quick, tumbling, rather journaly blog post, but I hope it can bring a smile. Wherever you are and whatever you are doing, I wish you all a wonderful Christmas season and I hope you can find a pause once in a while to breathe in deeply and appreciate the simple gift of existence.

Here is a scattered array of photos from the past week or so:

:)

Christmas (markets) in the Air

As daylight fades behind the crisp outline of visibly distant snowy peaks, the twinkling lights of Munich’s Christmas markets draw us in. People gather together in circles, smiling and laughing, sharing good cheer. What better time for some hot wine and sausage…maybe some french fries and chocolate to follow? Big pretzels and beer always seem to be in season here. Sounds like a bit much, doesn’t it? Hot wine? Really? But everyone here seems to be eating it up. Drinking it in, too. :)

I have shared in it as well, of course, minus the beer and sausage. And I have to say that it is all rather charming, especially through tourist’s eyes. Almost everyone’s eyes are lit up, whether from the booze or the beauty. Hand-crafted Christmas trinkets seem to be available from every wooden hut that isn’t selling food or drink. Roasted nuts fill the air with a special scent. Folks are out shopping in droves. They seem to come from everywhere.

Munich has been hosting Christmas markets since 1310. That’s more than seven hundred years! The locals call it a Christkindlmarkt – Christ child market. And not all of them are crazy about it. My friend Robert was happy to break free of the crowds and head home after visiting two different markets with some of his friends. But even he would have to admit that we enjoyed ourselves. As we left the last market I was taken over by all the simple joy of communion, wonder and anticipation. I felt so much love as I looked around, being washed by this beautiful and fundamental feeling as we made our way out.

But there is a flipside, too. I woke up feeling pretty flat the next morning. I had eaten a lot of bready and cheesy foods and felt sluggish and heavy as I arose. I hadn’t even been able to finish my little mug of glühwein (hot spiced red wine) but I felt the glow…and its after-effects. An early taste of the Christmas hangover. It just feels like balance doing its job.

So maybe I won’t get too caught up in the Christmas chaos. I can enjoy the twinkling lights and excitement as it passes without investing in it all, hoping it will bring me something more than the joy that is already here. There is already a fullness here – this love feels maximal. Why hope for more? What if doing so plants a seed of lack in our minds?

Of course it is beautiful to share our gifts with one another and to enjoy the presence of our loved ones – and anticipation can surely be a part of that – but there is a risk of getting caught up in ‘want’ this season. I won’t point a finger specifically at the capitalist/consumerist model of Christmas, but it seems well wrapped up in it all. So perhaps just being aware of this element of the season is enough to not let it take us over. We don’t need to go over the top. We can just enjoy watching it all unfold.

And this ‘watching’ can include pain and struggle. We don’t need to look away from it. There is no shortage of pain to see in our world. Walking the streets of Munich I notice a lot more beggars than a few years ago. They seem mostly like recent immigrants or refugees. Their pain is our pain, too. And we need not avoid it, nor judge it. But we can grow simply by observing it. We need not despair. We can feel the feelings and let them pass. This can be a bigger hep than we will ever know.

The ‘good’ and the ‘bad’, the pleasurable and the painful, alternate in equal measure in this life. But this need not discourage us. It can inspire us to be more honest with ourselves and to share our hearts with those now in need. We can realign our lives with the natural lightness of being, even during what seem to be dark hours.

We can come to recognize that there is a bliss beyond all that changes. It is our very being. All true celebrations of spirit – of any path, any person, or any religion aimed at righteousness – are pointing us to this very being. This purity. It’s right here – even closer than in our hearts. Everything else is temporary.

Let the light of Christmas guide you back to yourself. Don’t get so caught up in what the light seems to shine on. See from where it shines.

***

I will be home in less than two weeks now, and happy to be with my family and friends there. I am off to Salzburg in a couple of days and then back to Italy, perhaps as far south as Naples. We shall see. I have been visiting several friends from the road here in (and around) Munich, including two cyclist buddies I first ran into in Spain…and here are a few more photos from the past days.

:)

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On the Move to Munich

After a quick week whipped by hosting a beautiful yoga group at Ebbio, I am back at Pignano, spending a few relaxing days with my friends here. In a couple of days I will head north to Munich. For a while there I didn’t figure I would head up into the wintery north but now I am glad to be making a move. I am keen to see a few friends in and around the city. I will wander over to Salzburg also. I even found a super colourful ski jacket from the 80s to keep me warm – and very stylish. Lots of zippers. And it’s reversible! I will have to get a picture of that up at some point.

The yoga group was small – just eight women – but their energy was very focused. It felt great to support them as they dug in and did their deep inner work. I could feel it. I kept several fires alive, as the house had been quite cool, and I played a good amount of guitar. I even wrote a couple of new songs, which I hadn’t done in quite a while. One came out pretty well finished and the other is still gestating a wee bit.

After a few weeks of routine on the farm, life shifted with the arrival of the group. We hosted a band (folks associated with Osho) just a couple of days before the group arrived and it was fun to dance and sing and meditate with them. Good energy. Then the preparations began for the last yoga group of the year. It is rare to host folks so late in the season. We had to keep a lot of fires burning to keep the old stone house somewhat warm. But we all managed to make it through the week in one piece and almost always in good spirits. I was smiling steadily.

I was rising at about 6:30 most mornings and stirring the previous evening’s embers into a fire, feeding some scraps of cardboard and bits of kindling to encourage it to life. I had fairly full days, with reasonable windows of rest, and usually got to bed around 10:30.

It was great to have Luca the chef back in the kitchen cooking at full gear. He works such wonders in there. His onion soup one night nearly knocked me off of my seat. Incredible. Cooking with love really does something to the food…I am amazed anew with each meal he serves.

I also fasted a couple of days in the past little while – both of the last Sundays, I suppose. Nothing extreme like past fasts – just a day here or there. I enjoy the chance to clear out and process anything that may be lingering within. It makes me think of self-cleaning ovens – we often have plenty of things ‘stuck to the walls’ that we don’t burn off because we are constantly filling ourselves. But that’s neither here nor there.

I spent a lot of time just appreciating the animals and the land as I roamed about Ebbio. It really is a little slice of heaven. I have been blessed with some very powerful moments of incredibly pure presence (totally spontaneous ‘meditation’), some sitting still with eyes closed and others while strolling about the grounds. Stunning silence and spaciousness. Lots of spontaneous laughter recently. Life is such a gift. And it guides itself. I love seeing so clearly that we need not wrestle with anything. Everything is tended.

Here are a few shots from the last couple of weeks:

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You get the picture.

Well – I think I will keep it brief today. I just wanted to put a quick word up here while I had better internet. Hope all is well wherever you are.

Also, I am sending love and healing vibes to my cousin Gordie who is in hospital in Pennsylvania with infection after brain surgery. Send him some love if you can spare. It will come back to you when you need it… :)

Ciao. Next update likely from Munich (or Salzburg).

This Week in Farm Life

View from the window.

View from the window.

The time continues to fly by as I sit tucked into a fold of the rolling hills here. I have been in Italy six weeks already, all but one spent here at Ebbio, my little Tuscan retreat. This used to be a volcano. I feel a powerful energy here and wonder whether it is the volcanic past. Or perhaps it is a personal connection. I have grown so much here. But I am quite happy not knowing. This place feels somehow like a cocoon to me – a womb. I curl up whenever I return, grateful for its nurturing.

We have had some beautiful days this week, though the weather is now becoming cooler. I am still wearing my shorts out most mornings but I am also taking my sweater with me and often a little neck-warmer. Nonetheless I had a few afternoons of work where I had to take my sweater off due to the warmth.

I have been in quite a little groove of late. A rhythm. The last couple of weeks especially. It has been nice. I thought I would have left the farm by now but I am no longer concerned about running around, quite happy right here. Perhaps my wanderlust is changing shape a bit?

Mind you, I did buy a few more flights this week. I went into town for an hour of better internet and bought a flight to New Orleans a few days into the New Year. I will head down to celebrate the 30th birthday of a dear friend with several other friends. I will fly on to Ecuador from there, intending to set up shop for a stretch and see what I might be able to do with the story I have been living and writing over the past few years.

I have been back into editing the story recently – much of it originally born here – as a part of my daily routine. I usually rise a bit before seven and head outside to pluck a lemon from the branches of one of our lemon trees. I bring it back to combine with a bit of ginger and honey (which a local friend collects and shares generously). This honey-lemon-ginger tea is a nice start to the day. I often check my email and look out over the hilly horizon as I slowly sip my way through it.

At about eight o’clock I join Nirdosh, the matriarch of the farm, up in her home for half an hour of meditation, sometimes followed by more tea and visiting, or just restocking her woodpile for the day and carrying on. I follow that with a bit of muesli and banana, occasionally turning on the TV to ‘practice my Italian’ watching Walker, Texas Ranger (or whatever else may catch my eye).

Then I write for three hours. There are little diversions here or there – picking up my guitar for a few minutes – but I have been generally quite disciplined the last couple of weeks. Mostly I have been getting reacquainted with the massive ocean of words that spilled forth well over a year ago, with the intention to rein it all in a bit (or a lot). I want to focus on the core of the story.

After my writing I join the boys for lunch. Luca, who is our chef when yoga groups are here, comes in from helping Costel with olive picking to prepare lunch for us. His lunches are always incredible – almost always pasta and salad. He is a true Italian. His variety of sauces always impress. You can feel that he cooks with his heart, which makes a bigger difference than could ever be quantified. After a little post-lunch rest we resume picking olives for another couple of hours. Occasionally there is other work to do, like today, raking and burning leaves, trimming vines and collecting more walnuts. We will be done with the olives by Saturday.

As the sun begins nearing the treetops on its descent, Costel usually calls it for the day, packing up the olive nets and heading off to feed the animals. I tend to play music for about an hour at this point. Last week I set up the drum kit and have been enjoying having it in the rotation. We also have a grand piano in the big yoga studio and a classical acoustic guitar on hand here. I brought my own steel-string acoustic from home. Overall, I play the piano the least and my guitar the most but I feel quite blessed to have so many options. Yesterday Luca ‘jammed’ with me on the drums for a bit, he tapping away on a large pot with a wooden stick. That was fun.

Then it is off to the showers. The water can get really hot and I love this part of the day. Once I am freshened up I tend to prepare a little salad for dinner, with mixed lettuce and shredded carrot, adding some sliced mushrooms and diced peppers. I sprinkle a bit of salt and pour some fresh green olive oil overtop and wander down to my friend Franz’s vacant apartment to set up for my evening entertainment. He has a wide (and rather scattered) selection of DVDs. Among others, I recently watched Shine; I Love You, Man; Surfer Dude; Fantastic Mr. Fox; Captain America; Focus; Away From Her; Tintin; The Tourist; The Kids Are Alright; and Up In The Air.

Before starting a movie, I usually crack a few walnuts (I have been up in the trees the last couple of days to knock the remaining walnuts down…as I am noticing the crates thinning a bit…) and mix them with some raisins, liking my dessert ready to go. Once my station is all set up I press play and enjoy my salad and dessert. I often supplement the walnuts and raisins with a few rice cakes and honey, and usually an apple to cap it all off. :) I just may be a three-dessert kind of guy.

After movie time I may glance at my emails again and play a bit of guitar as they load (the internet is really slow here), then I head down into the meditation hall for at least half an hour of nighttime meditation. Often more. One night this week I sat for almost two hours, diving very deep, one might say. It has been a very energetic part of my day.

I often stop and stare up into space on my walk up to my house at this point, gazing at the stars (as long as they are not obscured by cloud), bowled over by wonder. Rico, the friendliest dog on earth, usually sits beside me as I do this.

Then it is into my room where I write a quick journal entry and do a bit of yoga before sliding into bed, usually smiling. I tend to read a bit before falling asleep and sometimes listen to a bit of music on my iPod – little bedtime playlists. I love to scan my body as I lay in bed and feel the buzz of life coursing through every cell as I drift off to sleep.

Then I rise and do it all again, amazed at how different it is every day. There is such a freshness to every moment. I feel like quite a lucky lad to be living here.

However, I do wish I could scoot home (if only for a moment) to give my Mom a hug on her birthday – today is the day – but a virtual hug will have to do for now. I love you Mom! We just had a nice visit on the phone. It was great to connect that way.

As for looking forward, we have a one-day group coming for a celebration on Saturday – playing music, dancing, dining and whatnot – which we are welcome to join. That should be fun. Apparently they like drum circles. Then we have a small group coming for the week, starting Monday or Tuesday, I think. Maybe I will wander on after that…though I have invited some friends to come down from Munich and Salzburg for a visit here, so we will see what comes of that…

I hope you all have a lovely week and feel free to be the light you want to see shared in the world. Don’t let the darkness fool you, it’s all light in the end.

Ciao for now!

:)

Life in Transition (Up in the Trees)

It has been another beautiful week here on the farm. The weather has returned to ideal conditions, favourable for olive picking. It has been a pleasure to be back up in the trees. We were loaned two machines to help us pick, along with some better nets. The machines are like long, gyrating forks that jostle the branches and knock the olives to the nets below. A friendly farmer, Michele, offered us his tools while he caught up on a variety of other chores on the nearby land he tends. He even loaned us a worker, Federico, a young shepherd. I had never met a shepherd before – not knowingly at least. He was a nice young guy. Fresh-faced and wide-eyed. He stayed a few nights here in the ‘worker house’, joining us for meals as well as a few days of olive picking.

We were very productive this week. We have already been enjoying the spoils of our labour. The freshly pressed olive oil is so delicious, with such a crisp and clear flavour, and a deep green colour. Apparently the leaves that mix in with the pressing process add to the green. The chlorophyll is still so fresh that it will take a few months before the green fades into the yellowish colour we tend to expect of olive oil. Whatever the colour, it is perfect for dipping fresh bread into at the moment.

I have found myself smiling and laughing quite a bit this week. Sometimes quietly to myself and at other times howling with my friends here. As I work in the trees the peace of the countryside mingles with the peace within (ultimately blurring any distinction) and I find it so easy to breathe. I can feel peace and express it so effortlessly. It just comes bubbling up to the surface. Joy seems so natural. It is strange to me that so many of us let joy become so obscured in our lives, and so rare. So caught up in our ‘serious’ stories. We seem to have forgotten that we can be earnest without being serious. It feels to me like joy is the ground floor. It’s right here. I wonder what we are chasing up in the penthouse that is any better than this?

I admit a view from up top is nice. I’ve been enjoying climbing the trees and looking around for a few moments at the rolling hills and golden light, the Cyprus trees and linear vineyards standing out in sharp relief. The trees are often fullest at the top, olives bunched together in great masses, and the picking is highly satisfying. The machines make quick work of it but I prefer to pick by hand up in the higher reaches of the trees, the branches supporting me with surprising strength.

Sun setting on another day of olive picking.

Sun setting on another day of olive picking.

But things are shifting again on the farm. My friend, Franz, who has been running the farm for the past fifteen years, has gone off to Cuba with his wife, Molly, to organize a few yoga retreats there. They will be gone for about a month. Franz’s mother, Nirdosh, who owns the farm, is slowly taking the reigns back. She has a very different vision for this space than her son has implemented over the past decade and a half. It is a tender energy at times, here, as life moves through the friction of transition. Some of the other workers (one live-in and a few who come and go) are wondering what their place will be here moving forward. All parties are wondering about where loyalties lie, and where they should. I feel like a free agent here, my only loyalty to love (which is also truth, or presence), and I sense I am serving as something of a bridge between others here, supporting open communication and any necessary airing of concerns. Perhaps I am here to be a witness. I don’t need to know, though.

Transition can be tough. That seems to be why so many of us hold on so tightly to our various life rafts. I see it at work in myself, every day. But I also have developed such a strong commitment to truth, through presence, that I am constantly leaping from my own ‘safety’ (or insulation) into the mysterious heart of life’s uncertainty. It is very raw and vulnerable out here. But unmistakably real. That is the attraction. No more hiding. Yet quick forgiveness when old patterns pop up. Breathe in and recommit. Release.

Life, when allowed, is a natural disentangler. But it first forces us to face our entanglements, not an altogether enjoyable ride. But it is ever-so worthwhile. And ultimately unavoidable. This is the process of liberation. This is how we become free of our limitations, by recognizing them for what they are. Perspective comes through the clear sight of all we are afraid of, all we are avoiding. We are nudged (or jolted) back to our true ground, seeing the impermanence of all we had attached ourselves to. The very ‘act’ (or ‘experience’) of truly clear sight implies that everything seen cannot be who we are. Consider this. There is a gap here – perception itself. It feels paradoxical. Can a tongue taste itself?

No need to figure any of it out. It is not to be ‘understood’, not in the way we often try to ‘understand’ things, anyhow. But it can knock the cloud from under us and see us fall back to the ground of reality. This ground cannot be conceptualized. It seems to be ever-unfolding. It allows no pause, and yet invites full rest. So come back to yourself and rest a moment. Take a breath. See where it may take you.

I guess I’ll come back to myself now and wrap it up for this week. ;) I plan to check in again in about another week. I will likely still be here on the farm. But who knows?

Lots of love to all…keep it flowing. :)