Warm, holiday greetings to everyone from the southern Italian province of Puglia! I have been hopping between Otranto, Lecce, Altamura, and Matera, visiting friends and percussion teachers.
Today, I have many reasons to be thankful. My family, my body, and this journey on which I find myself, just to name a few. Appropriately, the sun is shining!
This is good news!
Good news is also appropriate today, as it is Christmas 2015. In the Christian tradition, today marks the birth of Jesus, often called “the Son of God” and “the Light of the World.”
For those not steeped in Christianity or English, let me briefly explain some of the fun I am having with words right now. The Bible is separated into two parts, the Old and the New Testaments. The New Testament is the portion of the Bible that talks about the life of Jesus. It is divided into four chapters, called books, written by some of Jesus’s earliest followers. It is also referred to as “the Gospel.” The word “Gospel” has been handed down from Greek, to Latin, to Old English, and finally to its current form. It’s original translation is “good news.”
I can’t speak for “the Son” of God’s return, but I can speak for “the Sun’s” return. It has begun, and for the next six months, the days will get longer. No doubt. If there is doubt, something is seriously off with the rhythm of the solar system and we should all…well…pray. — But, the anticipated return of the Sun is worthy of the euphemism “Gospel Truth,” in my opinion. For today, I am putting down my biblical fact checking lens, and am content to bask in the reality of the warmth and hope of the returning light.
This holiday season has been unlike any other for me. Since September 30th, I have been traveling. My travels have been deep and wide and will take me some time to integrate. Rest assured they will do so, and I’ll share them in turn. I have loads of random maps, notes, and a trail of digital bread crumbs (aka photos) to remind me of the path thus far.
In the meantime, here is a quick overview in the form of one massive, free flow, run-on sentence (take that!!! grammar teachers!):
…Landed in Barcelona for the Deep Democracy Institute’s Annual Intensive, big focus on power (personal and systemic) and abuse (individual and collective/cultural) and the dynamic relationship between abuser and victim, Karpman Triangle, what’s the point at which a victim becomes an abuser? I’ve been seeing this dynamic play out throughout my trip and throughout European history (and certainly into the US), immigrants, Franco, independence and sovereignty, Catalonia, La Sagrada Familia!!! Gaudi!!! churches everywhere; traveled to Bilbao with my friend Inigo, learned about the Basque culture and folk traditions, ate pinchos, played the Txalaparta, and explored caves where the Basque Goddess Mari was said to live; flew to Limerick where my cousin Madeline is studying ethnomusicology!!!, heard laments and lullabies and traditional pub sessions, played the Bodhran, drove on the “wrong” side of the road in the “wrong” side of the car, explored ancient kerns and megalithic rock art (older than the Great Pyramid), who are these Gaelic people???, “Guinness is good for you” so they say, rainbows in droves, went to Dublin, hung with my friend Michelle, the Easter Rising of 1916, amazing leadership of Daniel O’Connell and Jim Larkin, churches everywhere, no U2 😦 ; flew to Inverness, visited the Findhorn Foundation, stayed in an Eco-village and spiritual community founded by three remarkable humans (guided by voices…literally), got kidnapped by my friend, Ilana, for a surprise journey to Orkney Island, saw the most incredible stone circles, massive ocean swells, almost puked on the boat ride home, down through the highlands to Edinburgh, churches everywhere, ancestry work at the Stewart Society (yep, it exists), thought a lot about karma and ancestry, gifted Man’s Search for Meaning; flew to Warsaw via Paris on day of attacks:( to journey with my friend Leila, saw Irish comedian Dylan Moran talk about life inside the “family” of the European Union…necessary laughter for what was to come, start to get clear how young US culture really is, learned that an “international driver’s license” exists, first time in a former communist space, history of constant occupation and oppression, Jewish experience, “the H-word,” Auschwitz, Kraków, into Berlin saw great English band, Alt-J, and incredible underground tour of city featuring street art and subcultures, THE WALL, Poznan, Gdansk, Torun, the Teutonic Order and Middle Ages, watch out when religion and miliatries mix!!! Chopin and Copernicus, courage abounds often underground, more uprisings than I can fathom, stone circles, where is the music? where are the drums? churches everywhere; fly to Venice, thickest fog I’ve ever seen while landing, the original “Gheto,” burial site of Mark (author of a portion of the Gospel) picked up by friends, Giovanni and Mariateresa, Padua, scientific method, anatomy and astronomy, Verona, the balcony at the Capulet house, didn’t go to Juliet’s grave (not real anyhow) theater and clowns, money lending, private property, and ethical banking, Shakespeare, Galileo, constant discussion of power and abuse and oppression and art and freedom, ancient burial sites and sacred sites are harder to find around here, covered by lots of churches, train to Assisi via Florence, St. Francis and St. Clare, mysterious and magical, poverty as a choice amongst riches, stigmata, civil disobedience and effective leadership (in and out of the church), spiritual and personal power as bedrock of leadership in changing systems, train along Adriatic Sea to Lecce and Otranto, met friends Giuseppe and Beatrice, tambourine tradition of Tarantella, dance and drums return in a big way, beautiful Mediterranean, tones of Spain, Albania, Romania, and Greece in the air, olives too, found two tambourine and frame drum teachers, Roberto in Lecce, and Pino in Altamura, amazing bread, near Matera (one of many, many UNESCO sites I’ve visited), had a rupestrian (cave) church to myself while thousands shopped and drank less than a mile away. Wow. Awoke to church bells this morning, setting sites on Greece in a few days…
— End scene —
I am grateful for every moment and blessing, leading up to, and on this journey. I’m greatful for my intentions, which have held me close, kept me safe and surrounded by great people that share my passions. I am grateful for all the family and friends who have inspired and walked with me along this path. I hope you know who you are, but if you are feeling modest, I will tell you about it in private next time we connect.
I hope you enjoy the collage above! I hope you can feel my excitement!
In the spirit of the mystery of this season and of the wonder of this “Great Wander” on which I am currently, I’d like to share two things that helped to start my day. I hope they enhance yours!
“You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.”
One of the books I am traveling with (thanks Zach!) is The Wayfinders, by Wade Davis. Below, is a link to one of his Ted talks. The fist time I saw it, I never wanted it to end. So I just watch it a lot instead (you have to, because he says so much in so little time). I plan to nominate and vote for him in the next US presidential elections. I am in awe of the invitations into sacred spaces he has received across cultural lines. I admire how he is handling these privileges. He is a major role model for me and I feel a deep kinship to his dream of the future. I think his work is crucial for our time and for bringing the true potential of the light of Christmas into the world. Enjoy this clip called, The Worldwide Web of Belief and Ritual.
“Here Comes the Sun, and I say, ‘It’s all right!'”
Perhaps my favorite song for the Christmas/solstice season (a nice live, acoustic version): “Here Comes the Sun” by George Harrison.
Wishing everyone a warm, holiday season. From my heart to yours, may the days ahead burn bright, inspired by the promise of the returning light.