Window Writer

03 June 2011

Woody




Nature Walk

The powerful drumming stopped me in my tracks; I could hear a familiar and distinctive boring sound.  I was hoping that the unique bird-call – the loud kingfisher-like rattle - would guide me to where the Oregon’s Pileated, crested woodpecker was.  This woodpecker is commonly known as the model for the cartoon character “Woody Woodpecker” and is dressed with a large black-and-white feathered chest and a bold red-feathered crest.  These Woodys are highly anti-social.  Their long sticky tongues, which are coated with bristles, extract insects deep within their bored hole and as they vertically walk up the tree trunk with their strong claws and feet; their stiffened tail helps support their hold.


Our “Woody” had already finished boring a hundred plus holes in the tree along side the Labyrinth; and was now boring into a new tree on the east end of the property where he was aggressively feeding on a insect diet of beetles, ants, termites, spiders and caterpillars. 

There was no sign of Woody as we approached the 70 foot-tall lifeless fir tree but the newly bored holes were evident that there had just been a “big feed”.

The evening ended with three young bucks feeding 50 feet from the Book Nook. So Beautiful - a little bit of heaven on earth.



02 June 2011

Eden



Bleeding Hearts

Cedar chips carpeted the foot trails through the Alderwoods, the Cedars and the Firs.  With each step we hesitated, we found ourselves studying what lined the outside of the trail.  There were irregular shaped logs caped with deep green moss; ferns were reaching their arms towards heaven and clustering themselves into a community.  It was like a lush green carpet had been spread across the forest floors.
Her small fingers were warming themselves in my hand.
At an offset on the trail there sat a lone concrete pillar bench; seating space only for two. We sat. There was no need for words; silence filled our space.
When we returned to the trail, her little fingers found comfort back in my hand.  As we came upon the meadow, steam was rising up from inside of the earth where volcanic rock had settled in the late 1700s and the sun filtered through the naked spaces between the 100 foot timbers. 
We had finished our nature walk through the Timber Ridge trails.  Eden took her hand from mine. She tilted her head; her eyes were focused on the olive green blanket of moss on the full-size boulders and she whispered.  “Oma I love Bleeding Hearts.”
There was no more conversation.
Quietly I sat window-side after she had gone, my mind curious to what she loved about bleeding hearts.   Does she love them because they bear heart-shaped flowers from which a drop of blood dangles at the bottom? Or does she love to pick them and drape them over her ears as earrings.  Is it her fascination with the Bleeding Heart fairy tale story about the prince and princess - where the princess finally realizes, after it was too late, that she truly did love the prince, and cried and uttered repeatedly, “My heart shall bleed for my prince forever more!” and her heart bleeds to this day.   Or is it that she just loves how these miniature hearts grace the gardens full of elegance and beauty?  Or does she enjoy pressing them between the pages of a heavy book to have paper-thin little hearts.  Or holding the flower upside down and pulling the two halves apart and imagining that she sees a lady in a pink bathtub.
I wonder what pulls at her little heart-strings to love these valentine shaped flowers that are housed in a fernlike bluish-green foliage?
For me, Bleeding Hearts remind me of 'loss love' for those who have gone before me.

04 December 2010

Art of Mentoring





Celebrating the art of mentoring 


by sharing the gift of a story.




It is wonderful to once again be window-side and writing.  While I am experiencing the peacefulness of the image before me, I am energized and awe struck by the view of this ever-changing and profound beauty.  Today this deeply wooded forest is colorless and there is a glaring starkness reflecting the blanket of snow.  Stillness in an eerie sort of way.

In reflection of this past week I was deeply inspired by a mentoring experience. “Mentoring From the Heart Through Storytelling” is what makes my blood flow within the spirit of my womanhood ~

Not only do I embrace the art of listening in mentoring but I feel that another core element in being an inspirational mentor is how we deliver our message in a way that can be heard.

When mentored, I was seldom offered the answers to anything.   More importantly, my mentors provided me with their personal stories: it was from those heartfelt stories that I grew; I shaped their stories to fit my own life experiences, to fit my own style and fit to my own attitude.

For me, the imagery of mentoring is like a enormous circle of life where passing on our knowledge and experiences are endless. Mentoring and story telling is as old as humankind.

My most positive and powerful experiences come from mentoring young women. It has been so inspirational to witness the many women that have paid this experience forward.

I believe that in working with one woman, a mentor is potentially affecting the lives of so many others – where each generation passes on their life stories to the following generations.

There is just no greater gift than sharing one’s life experience and knowledge to lift up another and giving them a voice - a voice that is listened too and respected.

It is my pleasure to share the following mentoring story that my daughter wrote for her 12 sisters who live across the world in Rwanda. 

Change and Possibilities


Butterfly Power 


December 2010
My dear sweet Esther Home Sisters,
………There are many changes happening in your lives right now and the New Year will bring even more. This is the time to embrace the new journeys and to push forward with all your desire and efforts.  Mom talks about the butterfly and how it is a beautiful symbol of change, so I would like to share one of my favorite stories with you and how this symbol helped mold and change my life.

In my early twenties I left my family and moved to Montana to see what another part of this world was like and to experience something new.  I had so many dreams and ideas yet I did not know exactly what I was put on this earth to do or to accomplish.  I spent the summer trying new things and making new friendships.  A few months into my journey my brother and his wife, Eve, (then his girlfriend) came to visit me for a few days.  My relationship with my brother was always strong, but this was a new relationship for me with Eve and so I was looking forward to nourishing it and spending some quality time with her.  We spent a lot of time talking and sharing and one day decided to take a walk together.  I remember thinking this was when I was going to ask her about her relationship with my brother and to make sure she knew how much he meant to me and that it was her responsibility to make sure he stays happy.  (That is what a big sister does …smile)  On our walk I picked up a tiny stick that had been smoothed by the weather conditions.  I picked it up and twirled it in between my fingers throughout our beautiful walk.  As we continued to walk I noticed a large monarch butterfly following Eve and I as we walked down the path.  It just kept fluttering by and never once landed.  I looked at Eve and said wouldn’t it be amazing if I could get this butterfly to land on this stick?  I took my stick and held it high into the air, standing completely still.  I sang in a soft beautiful tone…land on my stick butterfly…land on my stick.  I must have said it five or six times when all of a sudden to our amazement the butterfly landed softly on the stick.  Eve and I watched with amazement as the butterflies wings slowly fluttered as it rested on the stick.  Eve and I looked at each other and when the butterfly flew away we did not say anything.  We merely continued on our walk silently and with giant smiles upon our faces.  At that moment Eve and I knew without any words spoken that we had experienced something no one will ever believe; something that may never happen again in our lifetimes.  Eve and I were bonded for life and will forever have that to fall back on.

That moment marked a change for me and my life.  I started to believe in the impossible and that there are things in life that although may be unexplainable they do make a difference in the paths we chose to take in life. There are still many times in each year that Eve and I talk about that day and what a miraculous event it was. Change was about to happen then and the possibility of everything being alright was a blessing to us.

…….  During these changes it is your family you need to lean on the most.  We are fortunate sisters to have such a great support system and know that we are all there for each other.  Again, your big sister loves you and sending you tons of wishes and good blessings. 

Spread those wings and fly my little butterflies!
Love, Sister Nicole

27 September 2010

Journaling




Inspired to Journal

The day brought heavy moisture from the constant rains; a good day to sit window side, reflect and write. 

I have never kept diaries or journals; I wish I had.  I see that there is such a value in a series of writings, where pages are filled with responses to life experiences and evolving phases of inner wisdom. It becomes a perfect partner to connecting more intimately with one’s true self.

I was never inspired to keep a diary; I believed that it was just a formal pattern of daily entries cataloging mundane observations and activities; fairly outward focused.  I didn’t feel it as a safe place to write.

I look at journaling a bit differently, as an inward focus.  For me, it provides more of a safe haven to explore new ideas, clarify my values and practice my integrity.  In my observation, journaling does not seem to be defined as a simple catalogue of day-to-day events but rather a dialogue carried over a period of time with a focused collection of musings and distinctive observations. 

For me, journal writing fosters courage. 

Today I found myself journal writing bringing a profound clarity and peacefulness to an emotional and deep experience of memorializing my dearest friend.  It cleansed my heart and brought me to explore another distinctive meaning of my experience.

Labyrinth Journey



I do not sleep.

I stood by the cluster of trees watching, as he, in his mud clad rubber boots, walked on the winding path to the flat basalt rock.  He edged the sod by hand and then knelt to peel it back preparing the ground for a small grave.  On this second day of fall, there was a brisk chillness to the morning; the sun was hidden behind the 100 foot Cedars, a slight wind was edging its way through the tall timbers and there was an uncanny silence that stirred awareness to the privacy of the moment.

His hands, soiled from the rich dirt that lay beneath the forest floor, lifted the basalt rock once again to cover the grave’s opening.. Before he left, he paused; his body was folded as if he was in prayer.

The morning merged into the afternoon and the sun warmed the skies and filtered through the Douglas firs that bordered the labyrinth.  Sitting on the rock’s edge was the Cellist, Violinist and the Vocalist; their music was rich in symphony - parallel to the beauty of the landscape.

We gathered at the Labyrinth’s altar where small votives candles and a cooper bucket with seasonal flowers adorned the natural rock structure.  Her children, one by one, provided a flame for each candle giving honor to their mother and manifesting their devotion to her - a custom that dates back to the eleventh century.  It was a fitting symbol of her spiritual relationship with God
With their hands folded around a lone flower they continued the journey into the center of the labyrinth – its sacred space.

The silence was heavy.

Standing on the west mound, I called upon my strength to give voice to the words that were to be spoken in celebration and honor of my dearest and most beloved friend.  …  speaking to the symbolic journey of love and respect that spanned over the many years of her Life…..

When my voice went silent the vocalist began her performance of "Ave Maria" and the rest of us pace fully walked to the labyrinth’s entrance.. With a chosen flower in hand we made our way on the spiral, meandering but purposeful single path, that lies in a space 30 feet in diameter.

The reddish-hued salt urn, housing the ashes, was placed in the small grave and the large basalt rock was angled to cover the opening. 

We paused and let the stillness of the moment enter our hearts and settle our minds.
 
A Native American Poem then lifted the silence:
Do not stand at my grave and weep.
I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am the thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glint in snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you wake in the morning hush,
I am the swift uplifting rush
of quiet birds in circling flight.
I am the soft starlight at night.
Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there. I do not sleep. 

As we placed our flower upon the memorial rock.. the Vocalist accompanied our travel out of the labyrinth with the lyrics “Wind beneath my wings”. Tears released from our hearts.


The wooden cross was sighted as we reached the exit .. it felt symbolic of the peacefulness and love that enveloped our hearts.  I stood motionless and turned to face the center taking a moment for reflection.

I notice my husband now standing alone on the east bank of the labyrinth.  Eyes brimming with tears, he was gazing into the sky…sharp beams of light was piercing through the age old timbers…  I recognized his emotions.  He looked like a man who had been privileged with a great honor.  He had fulfilled the promise to our beloved friend.

He gave her to the glacial mountains of Mt hood where she will be amongst the deep canyons of fresh water lakes, sheltered by beautifully aged cedars and in the sanctuary of Eden’s labyrinth garden where her spirit will forever be. 

23 August 2010

FRESCO


Fresco Painting

As I sit here window side evoking my memory to my recent visit to the beautiful city of Prague where churches and buildings are adorned with hundreds of statues and shrines, mostly religious in nature, I recall the narrative told to me by one of the Sisters of Charity.  In the early days of Christianity, when people couldn’t read or write, the stories about Jesus were told through pictures.  Artist would do scenes of fresco paintings on the walls and ceilings of churches so people could relate to the stories of the Scripture..  And still this 2,000-year-old tradition continues to beautify churches and the religious works of art are an integral part of worship services today.

As I write I try to explore many of my senses to provide a “fresco painting” to my stories.

In churches, where we can discover all of our senses – where many people take in the scripture words and sounds and smells as they gaze at the images stationed around the church.  It may be the statue of Mary, or a pieces of stain glass with the morning sun gleaming through or the small devotional candles that are grouped altar-side or the incense that is filtered into the air ….. these all involve all our senses in worship – it is not only touches the soul but also the body – there are things to hear, touch and see  - the whole person is involved. It helps us to experience inspiration, lifting us up and beyond the ordinary mundane matters of life.  It is not the statues or the artwork that we worship but it is the inspiration that we experience from them, leaving us closer to our spiritual being.


Mary

This statue of the Blessed Mary, that resides in the beautiful country of Croatia has inspired the following story…I dedicate this to my mother-in-law Mary Pepos and sister-in-law Mary Voeller whose virtues have been an inspiration to me and whose hearts have given me such unconditional love and support.
Mary
Mother and Queen


It was the first day of the fifth month of the year 1965.  I woke early to prepare myself.  My soft blue-colored dress lay across the rose patterned bed covering, the bodice was spread wide detailing the intricate flower embroidery.  I had chosen this particular dress color because of symbolism and tradition.  Blue was the Blessed Mary's color and a color worn by Roman Empire empresses; but many Germans painted her molded garments red.

Eight years earlier in the quaint St Thomas chapel, on Mary’s Coronation day, I carried the satin brocade cushion that held Mary’s crown. Traditionally, the crown was carried by the youngest girl in the school then placed on the head of the statue by the oldest student.  Today I was the oldest student that had been chosen to crown the Blessed Mother of Christ.

It was early April when Sister Ann summoned me.  With no explanation she requested my presence with her after school.  Sister Ann, an English speaking Canadian, extremely tall, stern looking and an openly intuitive woman – she had a voice of a accomplished opera singer.  She led us in song in Mass each morning – her voice was empowering. Sister Ann was the appointed caretaker for the girls at the orphanage as well as the eight-grade teacher. I was deeply inspired by her and cautious to any disrespect.   It was really never obvious to me that I had a special place with her but I soon learned that my perception of this was seemingly wrong. 

On this particular day the hands on the large black General Electric school clock moved ever so slowly.  Once the hands rested on the three and twelve – the bells began ringing and echoing loudly throughout the orphanage grounds. Sister Ann came to my desk and motioned for me to walk with her to the chapel.  Her long over flowing black gown swayed from side to side as we made our way through the massive corridors.

The sisters had just finished their mid day devotion in the chapel and left it empty.  We sat in the hand carved oak pew – my back was perched up against the Gold plated holy water fountain, a prized position from Germany– my hands were tightly joined in my lap.  I glance up at the ceiling to my favorite fresco painting of Christ surrounded by floating angels and I said a small prayer.  Sister Ann’s voice interrupted me – she spoke in a quiet unfamiliar way – in a manner that was so out of character for her.  Her voice was soft and eyes wide with enthusiasm as she began her storytelling about the Blessed Mary – she sat erect next to me in the pew – never deviating from the intention of the story.  I felt paralyzed – didn’t move for fear I would disturb the moment or interrupt her story telling. After some time she then turned and spoke directly to me – her eyes glossed over – her hands moving in a soft sweeping gesture – her voice soft – whisper like… she asked if I would accept the privilege of crowning the Blessed Mary on May Day.

My heart was exploding – I could feel each beat pounding so hard that I felt unstable – I felt light headed and couldn’t find my voice.  My eyes filled with tears as Sister Ann touched my folded hands for comfort.   I was wrapped up in the moment of excitement, and to her surprise and mine, I reached up and wrapped my arms around her neck – she then raised her strong lengthy arms wrapping them around me.  I laid my head against her chest and cried.  I was overwhelmingly moved.

I felt the chill of a Montana spring morning as I made my way out the door on May 1, 1965.  I had two May Baskets filled with cherry blossoms and lilacs.  I placed one basket on Mrs. Knutson’s porch, rang the doorbell and scurried away so not to be seen.  I was sentimentally fond of her - she had been widowed for many years living alone.   She always shared her baked goods, her smiles and her story telling with us neighborhood children.

For the Coronation everyone was to bring to the chapel whatever flowers could be found; typically lilacs filled the small baskets.  The whole school was in attendance – the chapel was decorated in full spring colors – tulips and other seasonal flowers adorned the altars, each pew was tied off – numerical tags indicating the class level was hung together with ribbons – the chapel was in full dress, unlike any other day of the year.

The "May Crowning" ceremony commenced after our daily Mass. A procession of children, girls wearing their best dresses and garlands of flowers round their heads, carrying baskets of flowers in which they laid around the shrine.  The youngest of the orphans carried fresh flowers that were placed at the foot of the statue.

Sister Ann, in choir with the students, started singing "Bring Flowers of the Fairest”

The music lead me down the middle aisle with a slow disciplined movement and my pearl rosary intertwined between my fingers..  I finally found my voice in the last refrain of the song:   “O Mary, we crown thee with blossoms today, Queen of Angels, Queen of May”.

I finally arrived at the altar where the Shrine of the Blessed Mary was positioned.  Tears streamed gently down my cheeks. I reached up and placed the wreath of flowers on her head in honor of her virtues.

And then in a soft voice, I spoke ….
“Mary, Mother and Queen, accept our crown!”  

10 May 2010

Golden Muse




Golden Muse Statue Prague  “Thalia”
“Inspiration does exist, but it must find you working”  Pablo Picasso










Waiting For My Muse

My journey as a writer I have often struggled in  “waiting for my muse” and looking at a blank page.  Once I started feeding my muse by activating my senses, awareness and surrounding my self with good books, my muse became my new honored friend and my most valuable writing tool.  I have realized that muses bestow their favors on those who make them welcome. 

Stacks of newspapers lined the shelves’ outside store fronts of this small tucked away Prague neighborhood set in a dozen-old square blocks of dusty  fin de si├Ęcle apartment buildings .  The letters in the headlines were all strung together making words that my mind could not find meaning for.  One newspaper stood out as it was a burnt golden rod in color, reminded me of when I was a child and the evening newspaper would come in a golden brownish-orange.

I made my way through the streets of Old Town Prague and my search for English words continued.  I purchased a guidebook with much anticipation to read more on the history of Prague.  After four hours of walking the intriguing maze of cobblestones lanes, we reached home.  I fell into an exhausted slumber position and pulled out my Petite Guide Of Prague, and to my disappointment, it was in French.  Needless to say, my search for English words today was unsuccessful.

To satisfy my craving for English commentary, I opened my writing file and there before me laid a few newspaper clippings that I had saved – some I am wondering why they even made it into this particular folder at all.  What laid on top of the clippings was an article about the nutritional benefits of bananas.  This slightly yellow newspaper print was dated seven years ago.  

I not only keep blank books but I accumulate masses of clipped paged articles - folders bulging with clippings in all sizes, shapes, colors, and  subjects – a spectrum of chaos one might surmise. 

The banana article surged my memory and I reflected back on my “muse” workshop a few years ago.  Our final project was to find an article that we had kept and write a fictional narrative letting the subject of the news article be our muse..  I was overwhelmed when I opened my folders but this particular article on bananas pulled at me and my muse began working zealously.

I created “Grace” a fictional character.  I blended some of my personal world into the story and found it extremely empowering and engaging to write from this perspective and initiated by this type of musing.

O Muses, O high genius, aid me now!
O memory that engraved the things I saw,
Here shall your worth be manifest to all!
(Anthony Esolen translation, 2002)

The Banana


Grace
 

I am considered a slight woman of middle age who is at the cross roads in my life.  I have made great strides to surrender and stretch myself to a deeper sense of consciousness.. I was soaking up every bit of awareness I could, like a flower in rain. 

I was departing from my home state of Maryland and traveling to a country that was slightly smaller in size but populated with 8.4 million people.  I was curiously fascinated about Rwanda’s population of 898 people per sq mile in comparison to the US’s density of 84 per sq mile.  Here I was, traveling to this breathtaking country. I could not image a more beautiful place than the rolling hills of Rwanda, where the red earth flows through Rwanda as a vein.  The narrow red dirt paths appear like hundreds of veins against the green vegetation. The soil reacts in great movement to the rains and at times causes great turbulence. 

I fully understood that to experience the beautiful colors of Rwanda – one had to identify with the spirit of the country and its people.  I came in preparation.

I rode silently in the passenger van; I was staring out the smudged window focusing on the Rwandans who were walking along side the road.  It turned out to be a perfect day – the sun was poetically charging the sky as the van navigated its way on the undeveloped dirt roads - the roads were deeply rutted from the seasonal rains.

The roadside has its own distinct way of life in Rwanda – the roadside travelers carry loads of fruit, jerry cans, wood and rice sacks on their heads; they remain forward focused – their steps are taken at a slow methodical pace.  Small children carry infants on their backs or tie them securely to their petite hips.  There is no evidence of haste, frustration, or unrest – there is just this silent mystic movement.

My concentration lost its sense of the present; I drifted back to the morning’s World Nutritional Conference – where the point of reference was the Number 4 ranked food crop of the world – The Banana.  The Banana is rated as the number one fruit in America where an average of 26 pounds of bananas are consumed per person per year – Rwanda consumes 550 pounds per person per year.   Clearly the statistics showed the banana being among the healthiest of fruits.  The studies were all conclusive – there were significant health benefits from bananas for anemia, blood pressure, brainpower, constipation, depression and PMS.  I was especially interested in the conversation I overheard from two medical doctors.  They were contemplating about a tribal healing practice where rubbing the inside of the banana skin on a mosquito bite reduces swelling and irritation. 

The van slowed and I quickly changed my focus.  We stopped in front of the guest house - the day was cloudless, a perfect afternoon.

The bougainvillea blooms were still dripping from the tropical downpour earlier in the day.  I made my way to the rocked terrace joining my host and my friend Gahiji (his Rwandan name meaning hunter and seeker).  The house girl offered me a glass of Cuvee Millee Collins wine – known as the best banana wine in the country.  I closed my eyes and lifted my chin and savored the taste – the wine was quite fine – a sherry-like flavor.  Gahiji, my Rwandan interpreter, was taking pleasure in his tall mug of Rwanda’s brewed banana beer called Urgwagwa.

I slumped my body comfortably in the faded wicker lounge chair.  I noticed the red clay colored hut across the road.  The walls were covered in bright shades of bougainvillea and there were rows of corn and the daisy-like pyrethrums hanging from the banana leaf roof.  The hut was marked with a sprig of flowers tied to a bamboo pole – a sign that a batch of banana beer was fermenting inside.  At this time of day, the family was probably cooking a single pot of banana and beans, in questionable water, on an open flame inside the house: only a minimal amount of smoke is vented through an inverted cone at the top of the hut.  The heat keeps the family warm but it has caused terrible respiratory problem for their elderly grandmother.

I looked over at Gahiji and he was quietly enjoying his brewed banana beer.  Earlier in the week, during my visit to the Kayonza village, a group of villagers, mostly women with babies tied to their backs, gathered and worked together peeling hundreds of bananas.  After peeling, they cover the bananas with grass and banana leaves.  Holding their colorful skirts knee high; three women set out to smash the life out of the bananas – they work feverishly for thirty minutes until it was liquefied – they added a little sorghum to help the fermenting process.  The villagers then gathered the banana peels (rich in potassium and calcium) and spread them over the fields as fertilizer. Gahiji boasted to the visiting on lookers about the process being a mere eight days from picking to drinking.

Before I made her way back to the guest house I stopped to visit with the young boys along the roadside.  They were selling Banana Juice, banana soda, banana jelly and loaves of banana bread.  Several banana leaf bundles that housed the fresh eggs were scattered on the ground.  After a challenging exchange of conversation, I proceeded to the guesthouse through a thick forest of banana trees; I came upon a group of women who were trying to escape the blistering sun and were sitting in the shade under the narrow overhang of their thatched roof.  I stood there for a few minutes observing them making baskets from natural banana leaves.  One by one, they stopped and extended their small weathered hands in greeting.  As I stepped away, I paused, and glanced skyward with a grateful smile.


Back at the guest house the host poured me another glass of Cuvee Millees Collins wine.  Dinner was served shortly thereafter with local dishes of lamb chops – fried bananas – central Africa lake fish cooked in butter and a side-dish of matoke, bland mashed plantains (plantains being a close relative of the banana).  A meal without matoke is considered not a meal at all.

The conversation at dinner became very engaged.  The core of the discussion was focused on agricultural farming of the banana. Rwanda is a land blessed with rich volcanic soil and bears two million tons of bananas a year. 

With my quiet, but powerful voice, I empowered to speak and expressed my concern for the future of this significant fruit.  The banana being seedless and a mature cousin of the wild herb – is genetically vulnerable.  My main concern was about the widespread banana disease of leaf fungus.  Everyone agreed that the bananas are an essential resource in Rwanda and a mainstay in the every day lives of its people. 

A knock at the back entryway interrupted the discussion – the young housemother announced that Isa Mugabe was calling.  There he stood with 60 pounds of bananas on his head – he spoke eagerly in Kinyarwanda - teasing me - telling me that his head was his third arm and is the best way to carry heavy loads.  I responded to his challenge and reached for the branch of bananas; with Isa’s help, I balanced them on my head.  Isa’s strong, deep, dark eyes and his signature smile acknowledged my playful efforts.

It was the last day in Rwanda and I tried consciously not to paint in any clouds of regret in this day.  Rather I concentrated and focused on the immediate chore of packing and than leaving.  I decided to immerse myself in each moment, to both stretch out the day and to see what final inner dialogue this place had to offer.  I packed my treasures of banana baskets, banana leaf cards, handcrafted banana figurines and the carefully wrapped two bottles of Cuvee Millee Collins wine.  The conference material was attentively tucked into my briefcase – I was anxious to share my new information.

Without incident I made it through the long security line.  Once seated on the plane I closed her eyes, my heart was full, memories were fresh in my mind as I drifted off to sleep. Sooner than expected I was awakened from a deeper sleep, a flight attendant gently tapped me on the shoulder to prepare me for landing.  I was finally home, back to my family, back to my country. 

I cleared customs in record time.  I walked down the l-shaped corridor, grouped with my new friends, colleagues and my enriched memories.  The storybook travel girl in me wondered if life could get any better – then it did – there in front of me was my husband and family. 

Weeks later the embers of my trip had not yet gone out.  The stories were still sharply etched in my mind – stories I would never forget.

Before my journey to Rwanda I was unripe and difficult to peel – a green banana.  Now, with new ripeness in my life, the flavors are sweet instead of tart; I feel softer and more supple.