There is always something unsettling about vacation. Don’t get me wrong, I love it, but it always takes me a couple of days to get in the zone. To feel calm, relaxed and at home in my new environment.
I remember when we once did a home exchange with a lovely Italian family and I spent the first two days (secretly!) scrubbing the kitchen from top to bottom. The first evening I noticed everything was sticky and although I am sure my own pots and pans have a sticky edge to them, it is my own stickiness. Which is of course an entirely different thing.
And yes it had to be done secretly, because, hey, I am not proud of spending the first two days of my holidays in an absolute picturesque Italian surrounding, cleaning!
I have noticed that however odd this may seem to others it somehow helps me ground. During my cleaning session I played the cd’s the owners had lying around and it gave me a taste of their vibe. They also had an impressive book collection which immediately made sense to me.
Of course! they spent their free time intellectually feeding themselves. No time for stickiness.
It made me instantly feel like a rather obsessive housewife. But I continued nevertheless. One has a mission you see.
There was something surprisingly intimate about opening another person’s spices drawer. Getting a feel for their tastes, whether is was purely national, focusing on oregano, basel and thyme or whether there was some interesting fusion going on with exotic Indian and Chinese fragrances.
On the second day I as I was dusting off the balsamic vinegar I had an insight. Stickiness is actually a great thing! It is proof of use.
I was imagining, based on the pictures on the wall, the family around the table.
I felt welcome.
It was time to start vacationing.
What is your ritual when you are on vacation? Would love to know!
If you ask my family and friends they will pretty much agree that I am a positive person. I prefer the sunny side of the street, focus on what I like about a person and preferably wear my pink shades. But there is another side to me that comes out now and then and can feel overwhelming.
You see, injustice in any shape or form has me fuming within minutes. Stupidity, thoughtless response, repeating other people’s opinions without giving them a second thought is on top of my frustrations list. Ignorance on social media, people joining in discussions that only contribute to division and hatred, drawing simplistic conclusions without wanting to know the story behind the news. At times I question superficiality and usually get as a response that they don’t care or have time to look beyond what they see. A black and white vision is apparently easier to uphold, to defend and to share.
The sad thing is that we live in a system of political world order which is fortified by simplistic thinking. Bij division. By just accepting things as they are. By not questioning the underlying flaws in our food system, in our sick care, our assumption that economic growth is the only way forward. By not addressing the need for preventing rather than curing economic, social and personal imbalance. By not contributing to solutions which are for the general good.
Why? Because the financial returns of the real structural solutions are, well, let's say they are not as lucrative. We live in an economy which thrives on oil leaks, war and on sickness. How is that for a wake up call? I know, I couldn’t get my head around this either and it almost breaks my heart.
Almost. Because I also know there is an increasing movement of people Changing the Conversation and making a difference. Thousands of small movements started by people with an idea, a vision of how we can live meaningful lives. Of spreading sparks of innovation, creative living and organic farming. They are not demotivated by cynics and system holders. They are committed to walking on the sunny side of the street and inviting others to cross over.
This insight usually sets in after a 20 minute walk. As I wonder at the beauty and the magic of the trees and the grass. The effortless flight of geese in perfect formation. The sun on my face peeking through the clouds. The river flowing, no matter what. It reminds me of Joanna Macy’s words in her interview with Joanna Tippett; "if your mother is dying of cancer next door, would you just let her die there on her own??"
In the same way we can't detach ourselves from the world or from life around us and move into another room. In fact, it is the love for all life that brings out the commitment and passion of joyful living. I would want to spend every precious moment with her and hold her hand, talk, listen to music, laugh, read poetry, eat good food and drink wine. Right until the end.
So that is what I will do.
In the words of the poet Jack Gilbert,"We must have the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless furnace of this world".
In previous posts I have mentioned my admiration for Krista Tippett and her radio programme/podcast On Being. I am reading her latest book "Becoming Wise" (non affiliate link) and savouring every word. It is beautiful, inspiring and deep nourishment on all levels.
The podcast is brilliant, you can download it on your phone and listen in the car/when you are cleaning/ironing or (please do!) lounging on a Sunday afternoon :)
Her interview with Joanna Macy "philosopher of ecology...translator of the poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke" particularly touched me and I listened to it a number of times yesterday in the car. In this interview she is in her eighties and sums up everything that I believe in a way that I hope I will be able to do when I am that age.
She talks about a "pivotal time in the landscape of her life" when she realised that "our difficulty in looking at what we're doing to our world stems not from callous indifference or ignorance so much as it stems from fear of pain", "that dance with despair, to see how we are called to not run from the discomfort and not run from the grief or the feelings of outrage or even fear and that, if we can be fearless, to be with our pain, it turns. It doesn't stay static. It only doesn't change if we refuse to look at it. But when we look at it, when we take it in our hands, when we can just be with it and keep breathing, then it turns. It turns to reveal its other face, and the other face of our pain for the world is our love for the world, our absolutely inseparable connectedness with all life."
"So that is what keeps me going, Krista. The Great Turning is a revolution that is underway, the transition to a life-sustaining society, that this is sprouting up in countless ways, new ways of holding the land, new ways of generating energy, new ways of producing food, some of them very old ways that we are going back to, wisdom of the ancestors and of the indigenous people, often, new ways of measuring prosperity and wealth, new ways of handling differences through nonviolent communication, through restorative circles instead of outside the dominant punitive penal system now. There’s a tremendous energy."
I leave you with this truly inspiring woman and her beautifully translated Rilke poetry.
Inspired by everything that matters and convinced that creative living is on top of the list.