taking attendance (or practicing presence: part 2)

Present.

I sit this morning in stillness, reading a soul book a soul friend gave me.

Present.

I sit this morning listening to the song of birds. One little fellow is having himself a good ol’ time: a solo act of twirps and tweets and toots among the branches. I practice mindful listening, acting as a conscious port of entry for guest-sounds that come and go.

I don’t attend to this mental door enough.

Just recently on the way to school, I asked Dave a question. Next thing I know he’s saying something vaguely in the background. And by background I mean the screen of my email and the work issues I’m already addressing mentally. I literally asked him a question yet did not wait long enough to hear the answer!

Absent as a wife.

Sometimes I will stare at a student while they talk, even nodding at appropriate moments, and then a minute later realize I have no idea what they have just said. Instead, my mind is on the treadmill of lesson plans and grading and emails and policy frustrations and colleague conversations and…

Absent as a teacher.

Sometimes, a coworker will be talking to me, and I will literally still be typing an email while thinking about a different email I need to send. I sacrifice presence for the sake of productivity.

Absent as a colleague.

More times than I’d like to admit I’ve found myself saying to a friend who is in the middle of a story: “Oh yeah, I do remember you saying something about that.” Vaguely. But just as I didn’t fully attend to the first conversation, I will later only vaguely remember this one as well.

Absent as a friend.

While I was reflecting on this, I went through past pieces I’ve written about mindfulness. When I stumbled upon this one, I sunk under the choking weight of repetition. I literally wrote about the same. exact. thing. in 2014.

I’m even absent as a writer!

But, since mindfulness is a constant, kind returning, I do just that: return.

I take, and retake, attendance.

Present.

In this present moment, I am grateful.

I am grateful for vacation, a break from work, a time when I don’t need consistent attention to my phone (though, do I ever, really?).

I am grateful for our upcoming 6-night silent meditation retreat, a chance to reset.

I am grateful for summer, a time to reconnect and refuel.

Present.

photo journal of our trip to Rio

It’s a tough life to constantly be several posts behind on the trips we’ve taken.

But I’ll take it!

We spent the first weeks of 2018 in Rio to study at Caminhos Language School.

The mornings we spent several hours in classes. And then some afternoons, we had private lessons; most of those were about and about exploring Rio, and one was even at a bar. My kind of learning! Here are a few glimpses of that world.

Of course, our favorite thing was the beach. Our go-to beach was Leblon, and we stayed away from the “popular” beaches as much as possible. We couldn’t get enough of the sunsets, rainbows, sports, people (especially beautiful and/or “enhanced” people) watching, cold drinks, and squeaky cheese. We even saw a whale one day!

We did all the touristy things in a whirlwind day tour. The best, despite the crowds, was Christ the Redeemer.

On that same tour, we also hit the Chinese Vista, the Metropolitan Cathedral of Rio de Janeiro

Sugarloaf Mountain…

Parque Nacional da TijucaSanta Teresa

and Escadaria Selarón.

We spent New Year’s Eve on the beach celebrating a Brazilian tradition. We wore white, sat under a captivating full moon, watched the fireworks reflect in the waves, and offered flowers to the sea.

But my favorite pictures from Rio come from the hike we took to Pedra do Telegrafo. It was this crazy urban walk straight up LOTS of stairs at first, then became an uphill hike through the rainforest. It’s a rock suspended in midair…or at least that’s how it appears. You can imagine all the selfies! But, the location was complete with an acai stand and professional photography. And the view…breathtaking. Speaking of breathtaking: pretty sure there was a collective sigh when I got down from the rock after finishing my “stunts.”

wonder

Tonight was a miracle.

Dave and I sat on the world famous Ipanema beach, eating acai with granola and bananas. In every echo of our ears, there were the accented voices of vendors:

Aguuuuuuuua, cervejjjjjjjja.

Queijo, queijo, queijjjjjjo coalho.

Limonada, mate, Globoooooos.

cammmmmmmarão.

Hola Heineken. Longe neckeeeees.

Later, we met up with colleagues from Caminhoes Language School to play volleyball.

There we were, covered in sol and sand,

while the setting sun painted streaks of magenta stripes across the sky,

a sly hide-and-go-seek with Pedra da Gávea,

ocean rippling lava and light.

In the north sky,

lightning danced the illuminated story

of jagged exclamation points and question marks.

In our hands were Caipis,

beneath our toes brown sugar sand,

in our hearts joy.

And then, there, in the distance,

a whale meandered through the waves,

along the coast.

Arching and dipping,

a liquid serpentine volcano.

A whale.

What is this life we are living?!

A life of wonder.

Wonder.

holidays: the rhythm of life

I sit here in the glow of a twinkling tree. It is my in-law’s tree. It is Dave’s parent’s tree. It is the tree of the only parents I have anymore.

My eyes feast upon the bird feeders that gather feathery visitors of brown, yellow, blue, and grey. Flashes of red draw my attention to a couple-eternal of cardinals.

Acoustic Christmas music caresses my ears, wrapping my heart in a bow. A melody of holiday angels.

It is the first time this season I have let myself feel Christmas. Nostalgia drips from my eyes and rolls down my cheeks. My folded hands are now wet.


Back “home” in Brazil, the ocean calls to me.

I hear its thunderous heartbeat from miles away. I feel its rolling cadence kneading my spirit. I meditate on my breath, thinking of concentric inhales and exhales, waves kissing the sandy shore of my soul. I bathe in the monthly light of the moon, a recurrent concealing and unveiling of a divine mystery–the slow, secret wink of a goddess.


Our modern-day technology deceives us.

There is no calendar app to sync with the ancient, enduring, authentic meter of life. There is no alarm that vibrates when it is time to reconnect with nature, family, death, or–worst yet–ourselves.

There is so much noise and very little listening. Cars and radios and TVs and fireworks and honking and cranes and complaining and evasive eyes and white noise and racist poses and Pavlov’s bells and to-dos and exhausted yeses and meaningless nos and.

and


The holidays are an anchor, tethering us to the rhythm of life.

They demand us to stop.

They force us to grieve.

They invite us to connect.

They remind us to breathe.

They demand us to remember.

They urge us to reflect.

They inspire us to be.

 

first Brazilian road trip: Ilhabela

October 12 in Brazil was a holiday, Nossa Senhora Aparecida, resulting in a four day weekend.

Seeing as we live in South America (that still feels cool to type), a trip to the coast was in order!

So Dave and I planned our first Brazilian road trip! Our destination was Ilhabela, a small island reachable by ferry from the coastal city of São Sebastião. We left São Paulo bright and early on Thursday in an attempt to beat the massive migration from the city to the beaches that occurs every holiday weekend (think I-70 in ski traffic). Armed with breakfast from our local padaria, translations for emergency cellphone-less situations (“help, our car broke down”), and gallons of bug spray (we were warned countless times about the atrocious borrachudo bites), off we went!

It was very much like a typical road trip on any highway back in the states. That is, until we got off in some raw, podunk town only to get right back on to the highway a few miles later. (Cool side trip bonus: we did pass a small religious parade that had half of the road closed down.) Just when we were prompted to do that again, we realized we had the no-toll option on Google maps: whoops!

Once we got out of the city, the drive was beautiful. Rolling hills eventually gave way to a rather aggressive winding road dropping down the mountainside to the sea. (I guess we have a little bit of Colorado here!) Just as we started that descent, we hit the traffic we had been expecting the whole way: not too bad in the scheme of things.

After about an hour-long cue for the ferry, we were on the water! We could see Ilhabela in the distance, vertical and verdant. Even though I’ve never been there, it reminded me so much of Hawaii.

On the island, we drove the one main road that runs along the Western side of the island (the developed side) to Hotel Maison Joly, where we were staying. To our left were the Atlantic-fed waters of Canal de São Sebastião. To our right were small neighborhood streets jutting up to the wild Parque Estadual de Ilhabela. All along the streets walked couples, families and other groups of people, mostly in wet swimsuits. Sunbathers lined the beaches. Runners dripped in the humidity. Dogs frolicked in the sea.

After dropping off our luggage, we visited a beach recommended by our hotel staff: Praia Portinho. Parking, as to be expected, was crazy; we barely managed to squeeze into a spot in front of the bar on the beach. Score! Plastic chairs with umbrellas shaded picnickers, and soon us. Sadly, as it’s still spring here (oh right), the water was super cold. However, we did enjoy people watching (and by people, I mean swimwear watching–what little there is of it). We explored the rocks and watched the sky. We felt small.

After a long commute capping a long week, we stopped for some pizza on the way back from the beach (the Brazilian go-to dinner…who woulda thunk it?!). Day 1 in Ilhabela in the books.

The next day, we sat on the patio of the hotel to enjoy a delicious breakfast with a sea view: fresh squeezed juices, an overeasy egg cooked in a heart-shaped hole in toast (how cute is that!), fruits, assorted breads and pastries. While finishing up, the owner of the hotel came over to chat with us. He was delightful. He suggested activities for us to do on the island, and checked in to make sure our stay was up to his standards.

Friday consisted of spending the morning at the beach: Praia Pereque. Then we explored the one road to the Southern end of the island. Because we were planning on hitting up dinner late (it doesn’t open until 8pm, oh Brazil), we napped. Good thing. The highly rated Thai restaurant on the island didn’t seat us until almost 11. (What is that?!) But the view was beautiful (the outdoor garden area and the people watching), and that curry was del.ic.ious.

The highlight of our trip came Saturday: a speed boat trip to the east side of the island. We visited three beaches: Praia Fome, Eustáquio and Castelhanos. It was amazing to ride the waves alongside birds diving into the ocean for fish. And on the open sea, we couldn’t help thinking about our friends who lived and traveled on a boat; clearly their courageous and adventurous spirits inspired us more than we realized at the time.

Here is a video of our boat-trip-slash-roller-coaster.

 

Sunday. Oh Sunday. It was a 12 hour commute to get home. It was brutal. It agitated the underlying sense of culture shock I’ve (we’ve) been feeling lately. So I’ll save that for another post.

Here are some pictures from our first Brazilian road trip!

Next up on the Team-Possum-Always-Have-A-Ticket-In-Your-Pocket-Adventure-Agenda:

1745301_1

November 2017: Guarujá and Buenos Aires

December 2017: Illinois

January 2018: Rio

February 2018: Southern Brazil road trip

March 2018: Lollapalooza and Campos do Jordão

 

 

 

 

photo journal of field trip to Belem

Day 1: Travel and arrival to Belém

Day 2: Travel and exploration of Marajó

Day 3: Travel from Marajó back to Belém

Day 4: Boa Vista, Para

Day 5: Belém to Sampa

flowers and monkeys, oh my!

When Dave and I transitioned down here, one of our biggest worries was the shift to city life. No longer would our yard be filled with deer, elk and bear. Rather the sounds of cars and smells of exhaust and emissions of lights would form our daily backdrop.

While this is true, I have been pleasantly surprised at the connection to nature I have been able to experience in Sampa. Every morning between 5-6, there is the most beautiful bird song outside our window. When it rains, the drops on the roof outside my classroom are musical. As I walk to school, I pass stunning flowering trees caressed by streaming sunlight. My campus is open, airy and sunny, with lots of places where I can work outside.

Here are some pictures of the blooms in our hood.

And then today, Dave and I ventured to the local park in Morumbi: Parque Burle Marx. Wow! It felt so wild–a green haven right in the middle of the city. Food trucks filled our bellies and playing families entertained our sights. The grass was a welcome respite from walking. The best part was the paths that felt more jungle than urban park. There, we encountered a giant green parrot eating high in a tree and the playful presence of marmosets.

Here are some pictures of our adventure there!

For videos, check out my YouTube channel.

 

dynamic

Yesterday, Dave and I–along with our best friends the Boyds–explored Glacier National Park. A short jaunt around John’s Lake ended alongside the “dynamic McDonald Falls,” as described by some hiking guru’s map we bought for $11.95 at the gift shop. I imagined loud, obnoxious, energetic water motion–kinda like when I call myself a dynamic teacher. Upon arrival, that was exactly what we encountered. However, when our friends mentioned that the last time they were at these very same falls “it was merely a trickle,” realization dawned on me as to how Jake-the-hiking-guru was actually using the word dynamic:

dynamic: marked by usually continuous and productivity of activity or change

And sitting in meditation beside the dynamic McDonald Falls, I could not help but reflect on our lives. Sometimes still like John’s lake, sometimes a trickle like the McDonald Falls of the Boyds’ first trip, and sometimes–as in now–the powerful and overwhelming current of change forcefully charging downstream.

dynamic: marked by usually continuous and productivity of activity or change

As we are currently homeless and bound for Brazildynamic now holds deeper meaning for us. On July 22nd, we will depart the country and abandon everything that has been familiar in exchange for new lives as expats. Dave will not work. I will work in a completely different environment. And we will live in the city, gasp. And just as the raging current shapes storied-alcoves out of rocks, something new will form in us.

Something mysterious.

Something beautiful.

A new story formed by the dynamic watery wheels of change.

meditations on the sea

It is vast against the horizon. So much so…it IS the horizon. It shifts the sand beneath my cold toes, and still further dizzies my eyes with its periphery-dancing. Yet the sea does not dread the distances, calculating arrivals and departures, lost in the abyss of so-whats and then-whats.

It is buoyant despite emotional spasms. At one rock outcropping–battered knuckles of stone rising against the blue–there is anger. Foam churns, one million crashes in a busy liquid intersection. It is violent, destructive. Just five rock-knuckles down, small children and grown men laugh in the surf, their bodies caressed by the gentle tide. Here, there is joy: a playground for the young at heart. Yet, the sea does not worry about its vacillating waves of ups and downs, giggles and groans.

It is storied. An infinite amount of narratives are surrounded by its borders. There is no place on earth not footnoted by its boundaries. Beneath its surface another language exists: tall tales of ferocious hunters and tiny fables of minuscule plants. Yet, the sea is at peace in its own identity, authentic and brave and beautiful.

It is inconstant. The only thing that stays the same is that it changes. Fluid, flexible and fluctuating because nothing is in its control; it bows to the moods of the moon and the pollution of the people. Always unsure of who it was or who it will be, the sea just is.

It is frightening. Dangers lurk beneath it and above it and beside it. Fear multiplies like grains of sand: storms and tsunamis and sharks and stings and sunburn; currents and cancer and career changes and crashes. Yet, though drowning in a million anxieties, the sea is not anxious.


 

 

building a prayer

It has been a rough couple of months in the Davenport household. In January, news from Dave’s work of impending “changes” resulted in insecurity. In February, I made the heartbreaking decision to resign from the school that has formed me for the last five years. So many questions plagued us: will we have jobs? will we take pay cuts? will we have to sell a car? will we have to move? will our lifestyle have to change? These weights, compiled with other disappointments, had me in daily meltdowns for nearly a month.

But, alas, things have worked out for us. As they always do.

As they always do.

And I find myself now overwhelmed–not by stress–but by gratitude. At another time, I will share the decision I made to change my perspective…and how that created light where there was none. But for now, I want to share how we honored the many blessings in our lives as of late.

In the shadow of an ancient volcano eruption–looming walls bloodied by fire–we constructed a cairn. In the cool shade of a giant ponderous–branches tangled and blossoming–we partook in a sacred ceremony of craft. Stone by stone, we declared our blessings. We built a prayer.

 

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