This is a Naomi Shihab Nye poem about beginnings:
Tuesday, January 25, 2022
This week you wouldn't know that we just moved over 3000 miles. This week you wouldn't know that our lives have changed completely: new culture, new language, new jobs. This week life seems pretty familiar.
Because we're starting the new semester online.
Once again I'm sitting cross-legged on my bed, staring at a computer screen. Sure, it's a different bed; this one is in South America. And sure, those middle schoolers peering at me from the little squares on my screen are new to me; I'm still trying to match the faces with the names, as I explain to them when I request that they turn on their cameras.
The bird noises outside are different ones. This apartment in Asunción, Paraguay, is air-conditioned, unlike our house in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. (And we need it; it's supposed to be 108 some of the days this week.) The products in our fridge and our cupboard have Spanish writing on them. This really is a new place. But it feels all-too-familiar this week.
Friday, January 21, 2022
I've posted this poem twice before (here and here), but it feels appropriate today again as I adjust to a new "Here." I love how it describes a specificity of landscape: "No two branches are the same to Wren." There are two possible wrens on my Likely Birds list here in Paraguay: a House Wren and a Thrush-like Wren. So even "Wren" in the poem is too generic.
by David Wagoner
Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you.
If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.
At an event the other day, a lady I had just met asked how my adjustment was going. I told her it was up and down. She told me a story about some indigenous people here in Paraguay who had been given a lift in a large truck. Some of them had never ridden in a motorized vehicle before. When they reached their destination, the group sat quietly under a tree, and when someone asked why they were not going about their business, they replied that they were waiting for their souls to catch up with their bodies. That, she told me, was probably how I was feeling, and I should be patient with myself. The story was so perfect that I teared up.
I am thankful for trees and parks, even here in the city, places where I can stand still and learn the sights and sounds of my new home. Even during this heat wave in which we arrived (temperatures up around 108 degrees some days), we have been able to be outside. We even found a library in one park! I tried to talk with the librarian in Spanish and it was a bit of a debacle, but I have big plans to go back again and even check out a book.
Tuesday, January 18, 2022
This morning it was 82 degrees at sunrise here in Asunción, Paraguay. It's supposed to get up to 106 today. I was out trying to identify some birds in the yard of the place we're staying temporarily. The air conditioning drowns out the sounds, and there are so many birds I don't recognize yet. After moving from a place where I knew every visitor to my yard, I am starting again with all new ones. "Be patient," I remind myself, thinking back to my early days of birding in Haiti, when I was operating in this same haze of ignorance. The difference is that the list of likely sightings here is so very much longer.
This is my first Slice of Life posting of 2022, as I begin the year in a South American heatwave. Welcome to each new experience, each new bird.
Friday, January 14, 2022
I haven't written any poems in Paraguay yet. I haven't written much of anything, just some text messages and a couple of emails. That's not so surprising, since I haven't even been here a week, but Wednesday was the twelfth anniversary of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, and I wrote nothing about that except a Facebook post. And also, I haven't written anything yet in 2022. Or since I left Haiti in the middle of December.
My OLW for the year is BEGINNER. I'm starting over in many ways, and apparently writing is one of them. But I did bring some raw materials with me, some baggage (oh, WAY too much literal baggage), and a whole bunch of words I already know in English (even though I don't know nearly enough yet in Spanish). One of the things I unpacked this week was my word magnet set given to me by my friend C. when she left Haiti last April after 10 years, wrapping up her life there in 48 hours. (I at least had six weeks to wrap up 25 years.) I've been thinking of these words, magnetized to the fridge and the kitchen cabinets in our temporary apartment (along with a metal frog from Haiti), as a metaphor for the materials I have to work with.
My husband put some of them together to make a poem:
I'll write something again, sometime soon. I hope.
And in the meantime, here's today's roundup.
Friday, January 07, 2022
Jan Richardson shared this poem on Facebook yesterday in honor of Epiphany. (Her website is here.) It struck me especially because my OLW for 2022 is BEGINNER. What a great reminder that there is treasure here, at the beginning of the new year, and the beginning of so many new things in my life.
Thursday, January 06, 2022
My One Little Word for 2021 was FLOURISHING. One thing I've learned from watching birds is that sometimes in order to flourish, you need to migrate. And in 2021, for many reasons, my husband and I made the decision to migrate. In October, we went to South America for a job interview. In November, I joined Duolingo and started learning Spanish. In December, after about six weeks of intense packing and bringing an end to 25 years of living in Haiti, we left. And in January, in a few days, we are moving to Paraguay.
So for 2022, my OLW is BEGINNER. I'm going to be a beginner this year in so many ways. I'll be learning a new language, a new culture. I'll have a new job. I'll be making new friends and setting up a new home.
This new beginning is coming from a lot of endings, a lot of loss. I am grieving. But I don't want to get stuck in the ending. Instead, I want to look to the beginning and all the new possibilities that it brings.
Beginnings aren't easy. I'm going to need a lot of grace and a lot of time. I need to be patient with myself and allow myself to make mistakes without getting discouraged. I need to recognize that there will be many emotions along the way. I need to remind myself that I don't have to know much yet; I have to listen and learn.
Here are some wise words from Henri Nouwen on being a beginner:
I've been reading about the concept of the Beginner's Mind. Here's a helpful article I found about how to have a Beginner's Mind. It closes by pointing out:
"At the onset of a new experience, it’s impossible not to have the mindset of a beginner.
But as time moves along, these attitudes drift away. As knowledge and understanding root themselves in your mind, your aperture of consideration narrows.
Cultivating Beginner’s Mind is a way to reverse this limiting tendency.
Seeing things anew brings fresh perspective to old sights, and opens up a world of intrigue and possibility in every day.
The best part about beginner’s mind is that it’s always accessible. Every week, every day, and every moment is an opportunity to begin again."
In 2022, I'll be having many new experiences. I want to take this opportunity to be a BEGINNER, something not afforded to everyone, especially at my (not super young) age. In Paraguay back in October, I snapped this photo. There were renovations happening in the airport, and since I speak French, I was able to figure out the Spanish pretty easily. It means, "Very soon you will live a new experience." It seemed prophetic: I would be a BEGINNER. And I don't want to waste the chance.
Margaret is roundup up everyone's OLW here. What's yours?
Saturday, January 01, 2022
Last night I finished three more books:
Book #96 of the year was Praying God's Word Day by Day, by Beth Moore
Book #97 was Listening to Your Life, by Frederick Buechner
Book #98 was You Are the Beloved, by Henri Nouwen
Here's the rest of what I read this year:
I'm so thankful I can download books for free on my Kindle from the library. Reading was, as always, a huge part of my year. Here's to more great books in 2022!