Meaning- Part I

I chose to suffer.

for everything to be of cost.

for Meaning rather than Happiness

and Freedom rather than Now.

I went to the sky and back

for a dream that came from the ground

….and it’s all been worth it.

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El Año Nuevo

Las Cumbias de Oro bump out of the large speakers in my family’s living room as my friends and I dash between the dancing partners.  The bass drum kicks, ensuring the evening is in order.  Voices rise, dancing flirtatiously and then fall, erupting together in laughter.

It is my seventh New Year’s Eve and my cousins and friends and I run around together, stopping only for an occasional chip or two.  The scent of ladies’ perfume mixes with the smell of banana leaves that encase the traditional hallacas.  With only seconds to go, there is a nervous tension in the air, as the adults hurry to find their place next to their lover.  Grapes are passed around; twelve a piece and we all eat like mad, bringing good luck for every month of the year.

As midnight falls, yelps, claps, hugs and kisses abound, and now the party begins…the chin chin of the glasses of rum toasts the New Year and my mother and aunts pass around plates of hallacas and rice.  My brothers, cousins and friends and I eat quickly and run back to play.  We pull out our dark green sleeping bag which we call the caterpillar and pile in, taking turns tumbling down the slick hard wood stairs that lead to the front door.  Thunk, thump, tunk..We are having a gas until someone gets hurt so we return to the party.  In and out of the people we run, hang our heads upside down from the couches, and go back for second helpings of flan.  Already early morning, the music grows louder with the dancers and we kids fade in our good clothing, falling asleep wherever we can find a space.  Just as the jokes start and my father brings out the broom for a dance, we are shaken and brought upstairs five to a bed, and out of sight.

 

Not What, but WHO Do you Want to Be When you Grow Up?

What if we were asked WHO do you want to be when you grow up? instead of WHAT do you want to be when you grow up?  Would we have more Gandhi’s, Martin Luther King Jr’s and Maya Angelou’s (my shero) walking around?

The incredible theoretical physicist, philosopher and author, Albert Einstein once said “The example of great and pure personages is the only thing that can lead us to find ideas and noble deeds.”  In his biography he stated that he believed the most valuable part of a youth’s education to be studying the lives of honorable, successful and courageous beings.  Einstein broke far from the mold of mediocrity to achieve the impossible and continues to be an inspiration today.

Who inspires you?

Reading the autobiography of Maya Angelou several years ago, I remember feeling an immediate affinity for her and thinking, wow- I would like to have the courage, strength, and charmed life of that lady- and like her, to be able to manifest talents as a writer, singer, and dancer…at the time this seemed very vague and ambitious and her obstacles and feats almost outlandish.

In just as an outlandish way, I feel that suddenly that all doesn’t seem so far off.  As I continue on my path of creating more tangible beauty, I come across other amazing people, whose different attributes are equally inspiring.  For example- the humility and earthiness of pop star/singer-songwriter and poet India.Arie shows that it is possible to do your thing and stay grounded.  Rita Dove, first African American Poet Laureate, has won more awards than I can count, and is also a classical singer and avid ballroom dancer.

It’s never too late to explore and create more beauty in the Universe in whichever capacity you choose.

To those who came before us….

Mother

My mother’s earthy hues mix with the cool blue shades of summer’s twilight.  She is barefoot, and her large soles are blackened by the pavement.   She, my brother and I are alone this summer and she walks with ease, the warm air flattering her sides.  Looking down at the kitchen counter, my mother’s pressed lips forever turn up in a slight smile.   She hums to the music, always a bit flat, never quite on the beat, rocking back and forth from the counter to the cabinets her feet brushing against the floor.   As I approach her, she breaks the most magnificent smile and I continue to bumble around the kitchen, quoting her facts and random ideas.  My brother and I had been out playing in the neighborhood all day, and our fair skin is now crisp.  We wait for our cold pasta salad, and then pile onto the couch so we can watch our latest rental that we got from the corner store.  My mother has a knack for picking out the worst movies ever, and we have a good time making fun of them.  We stay up and laugh and the days melt into one.

5/2010

Conserve Yourself Beautiful

by Jessica Novillo

Hola…Estas bonitaHi…are you beautiful?   The first couple of times that I hear my Ecuadorian family ask that I respond a flattered, gracias, thank you, but then I realize they are not telling me that I look beautiful.   They are asking me if I am feeling beautiful.  Consérvate bonita, conserve yourself beautiful, Aunt Raquel, of the provincial town of Azogues says in the phone, standing with a dish rag in her other hand as she takes a moment from her housework.

I love their natural disregard for the conventions of the physical and mental self.  The separation is slight, perhaps a reflection of their ephemeral economy and one that permits me to say that you may be old or young and conventionally unattractive, but yes you are still beautiful. 

Yes, I am beautiful, Si estoy bonita,  I respond using estar- one of the two verbs for to be that signifies a temporary state of being rather than permanent.  Right again, I think to myself, everything IS always changing. 

In Ecuador, although it has its fair share of social injustices, life flows in a way foreign to the congested life of a more complicated society.  It is not my own, but there is much to be learned, and much to be revered.

It could be the undeniable influence of the Andes Mountains which hug the towns and cities they surround, as if Mother Earth’s solemn presence were enough to make sure they don’t get too out of line.  It may be the natural food, produced in their fertile lands and prepared with a sprinkle of warmth and handful of love.  Or it could be the slow financial system which leaves room for the delight of the senses.  But whatever it is, I like it, as the time swings with grace, and yes, I am feeling beautiful.

The picture above was taken in Chaullabamba, Ecuador 8/09