Tag Archives: expat memoir

Small Is Sexy — or, Less Is More

Rainy October in the Panama highlands. Foggy mornings. Cool nights. Soggy garden paths. Time to make soups and stews in the crock pot. I’m thinking for tonight some local grass fed beef with onions, sweet potatoes, herbs and red wine. Yum.

It’s also orange harvest season, so pots of marmalades are continually simmering on the stove and god! the perfume is exquisite. I’m lashing out this season and trying all manner of exotic marmalade and jam combinations. Orange-ginger. Orange-chipotle. Orange-cranberry. Orange-tree tomato-cabernet. Orange-coffee-rum. That last one? Well, it triggered a whole raft of other possibilities, so now I have bottles and bottles of Pirate Juice (rum-ginger-coffee-habanero liqueur), Panama Panacea (orange-coffee-rum liqueur), and Cordially Yours, Panama (orange-rum liqueur), all happily curing away in preparation for the 2nd Zapadora Flea Market in December.

(Hats off to Dianne for her inspirational energy. “Well, what about this? And this? And we could try this!” and to my friend Emily, for the gift of the many, many oranges, and for recommending the book, The Flavor Thesaurus.

“People in motion”

It’s a lovely Sunday afternoon. Partly cloudy, warm. Still. Very still. I am sitting on the newly expanded terrace, sipping a cup of tea, and looking out to the Pacific. The clouds appear stationary in the sky, waiting there on the horizon in varying shades of pearly gray, blue and white, just hanging out, in no hurry to go anywhere. The neighborhood is quiet—a few birds chirping, a distant dog barking. The farm has been abuzz with so much activity for the past six months that this respite from movement feels odd.

I have had a lot of reason to think about movement. I moved out of the hobbit house in January, so the house could move upwards and outwards to incorporate new spaces, open up to new vistas. I moved across the world to visit my daughter, Sarah, in China. I moved in with my son, Phillip, while the construction was happening. I moved forward with completing and launching a book, Risking Everything: Coming Out in Coffee Land. I moved on from the last vestiges of an old, non-viable friendship. I moved back into the hobbit house (which now almost resembles a grown up house!). Dianne and I have moved deeper in our relationship. Moving…always moving. In. Out. Across, Up, down, forward, on. Moving.

We call ourselves human beings. When we meet someone, we say, “How are you doing?” I think it might be more accurate to ask, “How are you moving?” and to call ourselves “human movings.”

Think about it. Think about the language we use. “She’s moving up the corporate ladder.” “He’s moving on from that situation.” “Move over.” “They’re moving in on us.” “We are on the move.” “Get a move on!” “Move it!”

Even at apparent rest, even when life seems to be going nowhere, there is movement. Air moves in and out of our lungs. Our hearts move blood from one side to the other. Electrical impulses move through our brains, triggering muscles that move to pick up the teacup, click the keyboard, answer the phone, experience a moment of insight. The earth moves through space. Electrons, in seemingly inanimate objects, dance without ceasing. All of it…motion.

I have started taking yoga classes again after a hiatus of many years, and this regular practice of controlled, conscious motion is making me more aware of how I move. Am I stiff…here, in the neck? Why is that? Is the movement forward fluid or painful? Can I move more deeply into a back bend today than yesterday—or is something stopping me? Is my breath moving easily or coming in labored gasps? Is my mind wandering away to the ever-present list of To Do’s that make up my days? What do I need to adjust? If I move my weight from the ball to the heel of my foot for greater balance, will I find centeredness in a one-legged pose—or will I topple clumsily and have to begin again? What needs to change? How do I move differently, right here, right now?

And, how do the ways I move (or don’t) in yoga reflect how I move through life? Am I in such a hurry moving from one task to the next that I increase my stress and anxiety, in an effort to get it all done? Am I hardly moving at all, and feeling dulled by the inertia? Are my movements efficient or scattered? Do the events that happen, the reactions of others, cause me to lose my center and throw me off balance? Am I moving unconsciously, always focused on the past or future, missing the now? How much effort am I expending, moving through my life?

The phenomenon of motion has fascinated scientists through the ages. Sir Isaac Newton was one of the first to mathematically describe what he called, The Three Laws of Motion. Summarized very briefly, they can be read as:
1. Every body persists in its state of being at rest or of moving uniformly straight forward, except when it is compelled to change its state by an external force.
2. The change of momentum of a body is proportional to the force impressed on the body, and happens along the straight line on which that force is impressed.
3. To every action there is always an equal and opposite reaction.

Motion is energy. Life is energy. As humans, we have many options for directing the energy of motion and thus influencing the course of our lives. If we are stuck, we will stay stuck until we create motion to move us out of “stuckness”—or until life throws something our way that propels us, willingly or un. We can choose to direct the rate of motion, sometimes, by monitoring and consciously directing the amount of force or impulse we bring to bear on ourselves or a situation. And, finally, no matter what we choose, or don’t, there will be a reaction in the Universe. We don’t exist in isolation, any of us. Throw a rock into a pond and watch the ripples expand, ever and ever and ever out, the vibration carrying into the far distant shore, on and on. Motion.

A light breeze has begun to move through the tall purple grasses. The clouds have moved away from the sun and the Ghost Kitty has stretched herself out to capture the warmth. A hen just laid an egg—I can tell because she is announcing her achievement with great, crowing pride. The neighbor’s child is moving around beyond the hedges, chatting to his father, whistling for his puppy. In the span of fifteen minutes, life has moved on, changed, shifted. Did you notice?

How are you moving? Are you moving gracefully, consciously through your days? And if you are, how are you doing it? Or, are you stuck, feeling unable to move at all, frustrated and anxious? Are you moving frenetically, a whirling dervish out of control, unable to come to a place of rest, propelled willy-nilly by external forces? Do you feel buffeted by things, situations, people? What motion can you initiate, what impulse can you bring to bear that will change the direction, the pace, and the reactions of the world around you to your movements?

Sometimes life calls on us to make major shifts, great leaps of motion in a different direction. Sometimes the smallest of adjustments can result in a radical change of perspective and experience. Not moving at all, staying frozen in inertia, is not an option. That is called death…and even then, the electrons in your matter will continue to dance.

How are you moving these days? I’d love to hear.

Sunset over Baru 150x150 People in motion
Fire on the mountain...from the terrace of Finca Luz
Somewhere....under the rainbow

Are we having fun yet?

Rainbow over Boquete 150x150 Are we having fun yet?
Somewhere....under the rainbow
Well, it is a veritable hive of activity on the mountain today. The sun is shining, the breeze is blowing sweetly from the North, and the parrots are screaming overhead and whirling through the air like emerald dervishes. The construction crew is bustling about. The new roof is on. The clay tile floor has been laid. The electrician is pulling wires.
La Casita de Mariposa Azul creciendo un nuevo techo1 300x224 Are we having fun yet?
Estamos creciendo un nuevo techo!

Outside, Alexis (my farm manager extraordinaire) is cleaning the pond as we prepare to welcome a school of tilapia. And—muy emocionante! —the fat red hen has four new chicks! They ventured out of the coop today and followed her around, looking, pecking, hunting, and never wandering more than a foot from mama’s eye. What fun!

I was thinking this morning, as I drank my perfect cup of coffee and contemplated all the various to-do’s of the day, “I am having FUN in my life!” Yesterday I went to David (small city about 45 minutes down the mountain) and shopped for paint, insulation, and some mysterious metal part that my son, Phillip, needs for a machine. I negotiated through the heat and traffic and various shops, accomplished most everything on the list (mas o menos, we call it here). I did it all in Spanish and it was fun! I spent the evening with Dianne and a friend we hadn’t seen in a while, swapping stories, drinking some lovely red Australian Shiraz, and that was fun! As the moon rose in the misty sky, we danced a jive set on the terrace. Big fun! Teetering on a stool to view the insulation choices for the ceiling of my bedroom? Fun!

IMG 1436 168x300 Are we having fun yet?
Fred builds a small forge--and yes, that IS a vacuum cleaner! Fun!

I remember as a child, when I complained that something or the other wasn’t any fun, my mother admonishing me, “Life is not about having fun!”

I love and respect my mother, but on this point I think she missed the mark. Life is about fun and enjoyment…or it can be, if we bring to it a moment-to-moment attitude of gratitude, appreciation and liberally lace our awareness of ourselves and the world around us with a big dose of humor.

This does not easily apply to those events of tragedy or sadness that inevitably befall each of us, but even then it is what we tell ourselves about what is happening that makes the difference. We have to give ourselves permission for joy and laughter. We must make a conscious effort, daily, to exercise this particular aspect of Self, so that during the hard times, it is there—tuned up and ready to kick in when we need it most.

I am choosing, more and more, to savor and enjoy each moment–perhaps because, at 60, I know full well that there are fewer of them ahead of me than behind. My good friend Michael Hudson publishes a blog called Ordinary Mindfulness. He brings to his musings and meditations a profound spirituality and humility. I want to emulate his focus on the magical here and now of daily life…but I want to do it with the countenance of the Laughing Buddha, Hotei, known in China as the Friendly One.

Salud Are we having fun yet?
He reminds me of Tom Robbin’s Jitterbug Perfume. Erleichda! Lighten up!

girls 225x300 Are we having fun yet?What was the last thing you did that was fun? When did you last have a really rollicking belly laugh that brought tears of mirth to your eyes? Have you recently shared in some pure unrestrained foolishness with someone you love?

I would love to hear about your experiences of what brings joy and fun to your days.

Till the next time. And remember: Life is too short to drink bad coffee!

Elizabeth Worley