Oct 30, 2010

Pure chocolate

How good is good enough? At what point do we activists risk settling for what's attainable instead of what really should happen, and at what point do we go the opposite way and not get anything accomplished because of high ideals?

The spark for this musing is a lovely YES Magazine article on activist trick-or-treating, in which children go door-to-door GIVING fair-trade chocolate to people along with educational materials about the evils of the normal chocolate trade.

A friend for whom I have immense respect responded, "I would entertain this idea if and only if the chocolates were made with unrefined whole sugar. Many (if not most) fairly traded chocolate products that I see around are made with refined sugar, under one of its fancy marketing names - organic sugar, cane juice, raw sugar, sucanat, and others. Refined sugar, in my view unsustainable in the human body, is hardly an activist symbol I'd want my child to be promoting. (And then we'd have to talk about the milk powder in so many organic/fair trade chocolates.)"

I agree with her, and yet also hear myself saying that tired refrain, "We can never be perfect, so let's take this not-so-small step first." To push the idealism even further, I would add to the list that the chocolate should only be locally produced to minimize carbon footprint. Then add that we shouldn't be eating it anyways. But that would be a whole different and ultimately doomed campaign.

But we can win small battles. Look at the awareness and behavior change around fair-trade coffee. I don't support the industry at all, don't think people should be encouraged in this massive carbon-footprint emitting, money-wasting, time-wasting, body-weakening, dependency-forming global drug addiction. But at least the women and men and children producing the drug are finally being paid a living wage, a closer-to-fair cut in the whole racket. That's significant, as watered down as it is.

So given that North America is addicted to chocolate, the most important and most achievable first step is the fair trade and organic issue. We've done it with coffee, why not chocolate? We can afford it, the world's farmers can supply it. Let's create a will to make it happen. And what better ambassadors for chocolate and child labour than children?

Oct 23, 2010

Last Chance Texaco

Standing bow pose will be the end of me. Standing on one leg, chest leaning down toward the floor, one hand pointed straight forward to the mirror, other hand on my ankle pushing back and up - my long lanky body was just not made for this kind of balancing.

Atleast not for one minute. But after 50 seconds of struggle, falling out and jumping back in, I suddenly make the right lunge and I am a standing bow, beautiful and strong and arched, foot rising majestically above my head, hand pointed determinedly at my determined forehead in the mirror, and anyone else who's fallen out is looking at me thinking "Damn he's good!"

What I'm thinking is, "Damn, why couldn't I do this 50 seconds ago?" Why does it take until the last chance to let go and just do it? Why do I have to let the seconds hand on the clock take away my fear instead of just releasing it? That's all I have to do really, let go of any fear that I'll fall out. My body does know how to do this, my muscles are strong enough to hold it for a full minute; it's my mind that's limited.

My buddy Jonathan and his son decided one day to learn a 1.5 flip off the diving board. For a full hour they tried, bellyflopped, backflopped, headflopped, and tried again. And for a full hour they persisted and they failed. More than a bit dejected after the initial enthusiastic high of "My boy and I are going to conquer this together!", they decided to just go for it one last time. Nothing to lose. And guess what - they did it. That magical last try, go for broke, bust past all the mental barriers and just make it happen.

I realize I wrote this same blog posting two years ago, when after a full hour of surfing lessons I managed to stand up on my very last try. Right after the instructor had yelled for us to come in. As I triumphantly surfed in (for at least 4 seconds!) I wondered why I couldn't have done this 30 minutes ago, when my body wasn't so tired, when I could have then kept working to get better. All that time I thought my body couldn't do it, when the real problem was my mind thinking my body couldn't do it.

How many times do we need to learn this lesson, to realize that we're suddenly dancing free and wild and beautiful because we forgot to wonder if we know how to dance? We are capable of so much more than we let ourselves believe.

Oct 20, 2010

My Furry-Bottomed Friend

I promised you a word. Just one word. And it’s taken me months to find it. Why couldn’t you just ask for a cinnamon bun like a normal person?

Some words were just too obvious, some too trite, and most too generic and zodiac-ish that don’t capture the unique You. Yes, you’re alive, vibrant, honest, true, beautiful, fun, creative. Outrageous. Yes, you’re a listener, a laugher, and even at those times when we let the world get on us a bit too much, a shrugger.

Nurturer, lover, dancer of all media and rhythms and emotions and tribes. Extoler of Virtue, how’s that one? OK, it’s 3 words, but come on, really, one word for the myriad interwoven patchwork of You?!

Back to the adjectives – brave, tender, strong, gentle, hard-working (hyphens still make one word?), hard-playing, giving and even - once in a while - self-giving. Whole, broken, shattered and glued.

Still no closer to a single word, but there’s the link, the glue. The magical hyphen to bring it all together; for the real essence of a person lies not in the chunky words but in the gooey links between. The impossible way that you hold onto and grow these multiple roles and feelings and involvements, histories and hopes, vistas and valleys into a cohesive Self who has meaning and beauty and consistency.

Velveteen. That’s my word for you. Beautiful broken and rebuilt you. Tattered and shabby from love and life, hugged to shreds then left in a box, warmer of warm beds and cold shelves, faithful through fever and fire, longing and longed for, lover and loved and lost and found. And through it all remembering to laugh and to cry, to share more than hide, to equally embrace faith and despair.

May each new Joy and each new trial fray your edges and wear out your furry bottom a little more. May your tail hang crooked and your ears be sewn back on just strong enough to listen a while longer. You love and are loved by the world. Your softening puzzle pieces fit back together a bit easier, and a bit different, and a bit surprising, every time you play. Every time you find the courage to ask, you build and re-create. You, my Velveteen friend, are real.

Oct 5, 2010

Simple Touch

In the morning there are lovers in the streets, they look so high
You brush against a stranger and you both apologize
- Joni Mitchell, Down to You

Oh how coarse and rude and unrefined a beast I can be. Setting down my mat and towel for yoga the other day created a wind that blew up the carefully-placed towel of the woman beside me. Believe me, in the intense and sacred space of a hot yoga room, where people come up to half an hour early to protect their favourite spot, that is a punishable offense.

To my relief, she instantly shot me a dramatic raised eyebrow, sharp exhale, head-flipped back gesture of over-acted anger that made us both smile. Made me think of my dear friend Kim in Kentucky. Made me feel connected to my neighbour for the next 90 minutes.

A few people would have chosen to be annoyed. Most would have chosen to quietly ignore it. She chose connection.

How many opportunities for simple human connection do we miss every day by choosing to be annoyed, or in a bubble, or polite?

Oct 4, 2010

Tooth Fairy Poetry

Dear Zekiah

Sometimes I’m an impatient fairy – I must tell the truth
It feels like a thousand years that I’ve been waiting for this tooth

Months ago it wiggled and we both were quite excited
You started telling everyone that soon I’d be invited

It wiggled and it waggled and it wobbled even more
I even hear you talk about removing it with the door!

Every day I waited just to hear that it was out
But every day that stubborn tooth stayed in – it made me POUT

I started to feel cross and angry, so eager was I
I thought it would never come – I even almost cried

Looser and looser and looser still that silly tooth became
So loose that here in Fairyland, “THE WOBBLER” became its name

Then finally the happy news rang out across the land
The Wobbler was no longer in your mouth, but in your hand

An airport is a funny place for a tooth to leave your face
Perhaps The Wobbler wanted to fly to a new place

Indeed, The Wobbler will tonight fly high away with me
Back to Fairyland for all my friends to hold and see

Perhaps last night you heard me come, or felt my fair wings whir
I leave for you this special book, your heart and mind to stir
And take with me the most famous tooth of all - the prized “Wobbler”