IN COMING – first stop, Maui!

Feel the warm sun on your face, a gentle, tropical breeze fanning your cheeks, playing with loose tendrils of your hair. Hear the ocean waves crashing against the shore, the tropical birds singing their exuberant songs. See the palm tree leaves slowly dancing in the breeze. Welcome to the Rainbow state. Life goes on in the natural world, unfazed. Take a big deep breath. Smell the salt air. Ahhh. AND – bonus -no jetlag! 

We find ourselves today at the Merwin Conservancy, a palm forest in Haiku, Maui. The forest is the embodiment of hope in the face if futility and death. In the late 1970’s, William S. Merwin, a Pulitzer Prize-winning U.S. Poet Laureate, came across a parcel of agricultural wasteland in the small valley of Pe‘ahi Stream. The soil here was decimated and eroded by a failed pineapple plantation. Merwin and his wife, Paula, set about a nearly 40-year journey to give back to the land, cultivating seedling-by-seedling and tree-by-tree a lush botanical garden, transforming a once-barren space into one of the largest and most extensive private collections of palm trees in the entire world (adapted from the Merwin Conservancy website).

The Conservancy’s Executive Director, Sonnet Coggins, wrote last week that “We are in the garden this morning, finding and keeping stillness as turmoil swirls around the globe. I am coming to understand our current moment of uncertainty and isolation as an invitation. We are lifted out of our daily routines, maybe our ruts, and invited into a place where imaginations awaken. It brings me to a deeper understanding of the way William lived his life—always fully awake to the world around him, honoring its possibilities through daily actions and practices.

Today we will read, walk, and remember William and Paula among the palms, and will imagine that many of you are doing the same, in places that are dear to you.”

In order to fully immerse yourself in this place, watch the one-minute video of Merwin reading his poem Rain Light in his Maui garden. “my mother said I am going now, when you are alone you will be alright…even though the whole world is burning” 

You will be alright.

Find your stillness. Dive into simplicity and quiet. Read and walk among the natural spaces in your area, and really notice what’s going on around you. Make space for yourself, for all of your feelings, and honor them. Turn this moment over, slowly, in your mind. Consider it fully from all sides, and see what it may have to teach. It is through silence, reflection, and adversity that we learn the greatest lessons. It is our time to rise up; it is our time to stay home. This is where we must be and what we must do for now.

Be strong, be resourceful, be wise, be resilient. You will be alright.

Time to Put On Our Rally Caps!

I am overwhelmed. I am going to put that straight out in front. This is one helluva time and I think I have experienced every emotion under the sun (or rain) in the past 9 days. Has it been 9 days? Who knows. What day is it? Does it really matter?

Let’s start where we should all be starting, especially these days: with a big deep breath.

BreatheAlways, always start here. Breathe.

Cherish every single deep, easy breath you have. I notice and value those long, slow exhales and rejuvenating inhales now more than ever. Breathing deep and clear is a gift. Enjoy every single one.

Another gift: how much the notion of putting your own oxygen mask on first resonates in this moment. I certainly pray that no one needs an actual oxygen mask anytime soon, but also hope that this metaphorical one will provide sustenance and inspiration during these uncertain times. OlafTune in when you need hope, solidarity, or just something to do! I am no FDR, but hopefully you’ll find reassurance in this modern day fireside chat and Olaf-like warm (virtual) hug.

As I was saying, this last week was something else. I found myself embracing the moment (or trying to) while grieving for the sudden rupture in our lives. One moment I was riding the tide of enthusiasm and I-can-do-this, the next I was crashing headlong into I-am-not-a-circus-performer and I need some serious me-time. I am despondent over the impact on the economy, small businesses and those who are financially insecure or otherwise vulnerable. I have dug myself emotionally into a hole and climbed back out again, struggling at times, on multiple occasions. I have reckoned with my mortality and what we need to do to get our affairs in order – just in case – while attempting to keep my kids content, reassured, and in some semblance of a routine. Did I mention me-time? I don’t understand quite how it happened, but while I go nowhere I simultaneously have less time and way more to do.

What I have learned, once again and in spades, is that I cannot be all things to all people all the time. First and foremost in this current iteration of life, I am not a teacher, and certainly not of math. All hail teachers! I’ve always wondered how they do it, and daily I accept more fully that it’s a calling and it’s not mine. But I totally get this equation, and this is what I really want to talk about:

Anxiety = Uncertainty * Powerlessness

My intrepid and wise friend, Nicole, of Sailor’s Sweet Life, shared that with me and encouraged me to find ways to empower myself to combat that sense of powerlessness.

As I go about my days here, cleaning and cooking and doing obscene amounts of laundry and dishes and teaching and loving and trying to work and wanting to write and also wanting to run away (flee instinct firmly intact), I have been reflecting on that notion of empowerment and what empowers me. And I realized that I feel most empowered when I am engaging with and learning about other people and how they see and experience life. If I have a calling, connecting with people from all over the world and then connecting them to each other is possibly it. I love to discover what makes us similar, how we are different, to hear their stories and learn more about their lives.

In this odd moment in history, we are all connected perhaps more than ever. And we are all existing and navigating this moment in our own ways, with our own perspectives. Never has the broader world been so inaccessible yet so connected. Instead of feeling grounded and trapped, I have decided to embark on an adventure of connection and imagination.

So, fasten your seat belts and put your tray table up because we are going to travel together, virtually, all around the globe. My upcoming blog posts will feature the brilliant, simple, proactive, compassionate, empowering acts of humanity, humility, kindness, beauty, and wonder that I have seen unfolding during this unusual and uncertain time. I’ll try to tie our travels to a good book recommendation related to that destination, as reading is one of life’s simplest and most wonderful of pleasures (IMO!). Please share with me stories from your corner of the world, too!

And, remember, in an emergency oxygen masks will automatically drop down from the overhead compartment. To start the flow of oxygen, take a deep breath and then continue to breathe normally. Although nothing really changes, oxygen is flowing and you will feel so much better. If you are travelling with a child or someone who requires assistance, secure your mask first, and then assist the other person.

And we are off! Next stop: MAUI and the Merwin Conservancy! Pack Moloka’i by Alan Brennert for this journey. Or The Folding Cliffs by The Merwin Conservancy’s W.S. Merwin himself!

Molokai Map

This is our hour to rise up. This is the time to love our neighbors as ourselves (from a safe distance). We need to act, as one – now – to save lives and to avoid totally preventable loss and suffering. Never before has it been possible to do so much for so many with the simple act of staying home. It’s simple, and it’s also so hard. I get that. But it’s completely necessary. Let’s do this. Rally! Rally! Rally #flattenthecurve #stayhome #cometravel(virtually)withme #putyourownoxygenmaskonfirst #whatsparksjoyismysanity #permissiontobehuman