Skimming Deep

Searching, traveling, talking, reflecting, and exploring. Read along with me as I continue on my journey through life.

Tag: love

Ancestor Cards: #1 Devotion

Three years ago, right after Memorial Day, I started this blog. And the way I started was with an announcement that I had booked a trip to New Zealand and then a streak of a 38 days where I posted a photo each day and wrote about it. It was a fun way to get into blogging practice and also have some time for observation and self-reflection. I’ve decided to give that streak another go.

And for this streak, I’m going to use a black velvet bag of ancestor cards that I picked up along the way in my spiritual travels. There are probably a number of different versions of these cards (like tarot cards, angel cards, etc), but these are simple. A bunch of cards each a word, a message from my ancestors. I will pick a card each day and reflect on its meaning for me at that moment.

Today’s card is DEVOTION.


Not an easy one to start with. Devotion = “feeling of strong love or loyalty.” Also “the use of time, money, energy, etc. for a particular purpose.” We are devoted to our loved ones – family members, partners, pets. We are devoted to our jobs. We are devoted to our causes – social justice, racial equality, peace, freedom for all.

My life has involved devotion on all these levels. Devotion in an outward direction. When young, I was devoted to my studies – always striving to be the top of the class, always looking to learn more and expand my knowledge.

I’ve always been devoted to my work, first as a teacher, then as a community educator and organizer. My life was my work and vice versa. I was devoted to the youth I worked with, the community that I was part of, the people that were in my life, dedicated to the same cause of empowerment of our people. This has changed since moving to the Bay Area. My work isn’t the center of my life anymore. I’m not devoted to my job in the same way I was in Boston. In some ways I miss that deep connection to my work. But in other ways, it’s been nice to have a break. My devotion has had time and space to be redirected elsewhere.

My devotion to my family has always run deep. Love, protection, esteem, respect, care for all these individuals who are tied to me by blood. As I get older, I realize how deep these ties are, and how important they are to me. And I love seeing the growth of the next generation, the little ones carrying on the family name, history, and collective memory, imprinted on their subconscious, to emerge in unexpected ways. I also am blessed that my life has brought an expanded family; new loved ones have entered my life and pushed me to accept and love those not tied by blood but by marriage.

I have learned to be devoted to myself – not an easy direction, inward. And not just devotion to self-improvement and growth but also devotion to cultivating my own happiness and contentment. Going inward to find wells of inner strength and peace. Going inward to find self-love and self-acceptance. As I get older, I find this is possible. Where I used to seek all this outside myself, often disappointed by what I found. I have been learning to find what I need inside which has allowed me to more fully appreciate and love what is outside.

Devotion has a sacred energy. Something of the unconditional, of wholeness, of complete dedication. How do we grow in our practice of being devoted to ourselves and others?

Can I Get Some of THAT?

I’ve been obsessing over Jimmy Fallon, not him in particular, but his late night show.  I go through these spurts of obsessing over things and going all over the internet to find anything related to that thing.

I went through (although this is kind of ongoing) a Jane Austen phase where I was looking for any books and movies that had any references to Jane Austen and her books.  I might write a separate blog post on this– I didn’t realize how much is out there paying homage to good ol’ Jane!

I often go through a recurring phase of looking for bloopers reels on youtube.  I love watching old TV show bloopers reels, like Seinfeld and the Cosby Show.  It’s wonderful seeing these great actors being human and silly.  I get a kick out of that.

So lately my obsession has been Jimmy Fallon and his late night show.  It started when my cousin showed me this:

I was dying!  And I watched it a few more times with him and then I’ve shown it to multiple friends and family since.  There are so many things I love about this clip: the amazingness of the Roots playing this whole mashup live (no records or DJs!), the fun JT and Jimmy are having, the skills they have, and just the electric vibe of joy in that space.

Then I found that they had done this several times, though I think history of rap #2 is the best.

Just recently, I got back interested in JF when this video went viral:

Once again, more awesomeness by all these guys and the Roots (how cool to have them as your back up band, just playing the soundtrack to your life??).  Again, joy, fun, love of what they do.

Then I stumbled on this precious clip:

Love it.  You can do more searches of JF with other celebrity singers singing and the Roots backing them up on classroom instruments.  Robin Thicke, Carly Rae Jepsen, Mariah Carey…

And then it’s easy to just get sucked into all the other clips on JF’s channel.  His other currently viral video about hashtags back with JT.  His thank-you notes.  His game show activities with his guests.

So what I love about this is that Jimmy Fallon has found what seems to be HIS dream job.  It’s so obvious he loves what he does.  And it’s obvious he’s grateful and even a bit starstruck by himself.  Like he can’t quite believe he is where is.  I could be totally reading into this, but he seems to still be a grounded, normal person who has skyrocketed to fame, but more importantly, landed a situation where he is joyful going to work.

I heard him on Terry Gross’s Fresh Air a few weeks ago, and there seemed to be some of that disbelief that he, a normal guy, is where he is today.

I want me some of THAT.  To find a job, situation, place in life where I get to bring together all my loves: food, social justice, education, that outdoors, people, love, hope… change.  I’d be curious to sit down with JF and ask if he had any vision of what his life would be like.  Right now, I don’t feel clear on my vision; but I am clear on my loves.  And maybe that’s what he’d say, just be clear on your loves and keep them front and center and keep moving toward them and with them.  You’ll get there.  Or maybe you already are there.

I have landed me a job!  I’m not sure if it will bring me the kind of joy that the late night show brings to Jimmy Fallon, but I’m moving along, keeping my eyes open.

The Power of Community and Culture

I've been at the Seresin Estate for a little under a week, and each day has been different. What a change from my previous place where I was pretty much weeding a home garden everyday, which was really nice and rewarding, of course! Here, there has been a lot of variety, which has also been really educational and interesting. And I've been eating self-cooked meals everyday which has been nice for a change.

Front view of the house where I'm staying. Cozy, quaint. In the middle of vineyards!

  • Monday afternoon: I arrived and we weeded. By “we” I mean the two other WWOOFers, the head gardener, and his apprentice. A nice team of five with lots of chatting, storytelling, and jokes. Made chickpeas and veggies with rice for dinner.
  • Tuesday: in the morning, we did more weeding (a different area from the day before– maybe it was onions?) and then all afternoon we did the biodynamic preparation 500 that I explained in my previous blog post. And that “we” included our team and about 20 other volunteers and employees from the vineyards and winery. Made swiss chard and pasta with feta and colby cheese and cooked up some lamb sausage from the farm for dinner.
  • Wednesday: we continued weeding onion plants, a challenging job because the onion shoots were not much bigger than the weeds! And that was it for that day. This was the most tedious work we've done so far, but enjoyable because of lots of conversation and nice weather. Made falafel and pita with the others in our house for dinner. YUMMM!!!
  • Thursday: we prepped a section of land to plant potatoes using stakes and string. And in the afternoon we planted a few hundred potatoes in teams of two with a few more additions to our team of five. That was cool– planting all these spuds by hand (most people nowadays do it by machines, especially when doing on the scale we were– a lot!). Made grilled cheese sandwiches with swiss chard and spinach for dinner.
  • Friday: planted more potatoes, the rest for the land that had been prepped. Good morning's work. Filled some packets of wonderful composted soil for tomato plants which will be planted in a few weeks. Then after lunch did the preparation 500 again at the other estate, Raupo, which is the biggest area and where the best grapes are grown. Extra long day but felt quite accomplished at the end! Had some pancakes that one of the other WWOOFers made for dinner.

Strawberry patches in one of the garden areas on the estate.

To give you an idea of how each day works here, here's a typical day's schedule:

  • Wake up with the sun (I have my shades open for this reason) around 6:30 or 7am.
  • Lounge in bed a little.
  • Do my morning routine.
  • Eat breakfast– usually some muesli and yogurt or milk and a piece of toast with tea.
  • Read or take a morning walk.
  • Go to the estate (which is about 3 miles up the road) by one of the WWOOFers van or by walking (about an hour walk) or by bike (about 20 minutes).
  • Arrive at the estate by 10:30am-ish just as the employees are finishing up their morning tea time– a break where they eat snacks and drink coffee and tea. They start at 7:30am, but not us!
  • Get started working. Go until about 1pm when we break for lunch in their “smoko” room– basically the break room which is called “smoko” because it used to be where people would take a smoke for breaks; but people don't smoke here.
  • After a half hour lunch, work some more until about 4:30pm. And then head home.
  • Get home and relax a bit.
  • Make dinner with the other WWOOFers.
  • Take a shower. And then relax for a few hours– read, write, check email, just sit and chill.
  • Go to bed by about 9:30 or 10pm.

I'm outdoors all day which is wonderful. Such a reversal from life before where I'd be in an office all day with a glimpse of the outdoors on my walk to and from the train station and maybe during lunch if I had to go buy my lunch that day. Being outside for at least 6 hours a day is really do-able here in New Zealand. Even if it's a little cold or cloudy (or rainy), it's so beautiful. And there are the sounds of the wind, the birds, nature.

One thing I'm really getting exposed to here at the vineyards is the power of community. Even though it's a company– producing wines for sale all over the world– there is a feeling of family and closeness among the employees and even with the managers and higher ups.

Every Wednesday, they have a company smoko where all the winery and vineyard staff get together with the managers to give updates over some kind of food that they take turn preparing. Last week, the person on made amazing cheesy scones. So everyone hears the company updates and gets familiar with how the business is running. They also hear updates about the garden, which isn't so much part of the company side but is really about keeping some biodiversity and using the land for positive and meaningful things. The WWOOFers are also acknowledged at this meeting, which was held, not at a stuffy conference table, but standing around on an outdoor patio, over coffee and scones.

In addition to that meeting, I get the sense from the people I see daily over morning tea and lunch, those who work in the vineyards, that they all have each other's back and enjoy each other's company and respect each other. They truly believe in the organic and biodynamic principles. They really value each other as individuals. They value the earth and the animals on the farm. And they get paid doing this!

I've learned that the winemaking/ vineyard industry is really that, an industry as any other, and that few growers and winemakers think about the impact on the earth as Seresin does. Why do we have to rip up and destroy the earth to get what we want out of it? If we take an approach of respecting and giving back to the earth in exchange of what we take out of her, everything is more beautiful, sustainable, harmonious and productive.

Here's an example:

Notice the difference in these two unedited photos of vineyards. The top photo is of a conventional vineyard which uses herbicides and chemicals. The bottom photo is of one of Seresin's vineyard rows. Notice the color difference– brown grass on top, green grass on the bottom. Notice the feel you get– dry, brittle, a bit barren on top; lush, gentle, relaxed on the bottom.

So good wine here is about a holistic view– from the soil to the plant to the grape to the production to the people to the gardens amongst the vines to the treatment of their animals and people. It's about building a culture of sustainability, of respect, of value and love. Something I also really believe in and want to bring to anywhere I go and work and live.

I'm learning to read the earth these last few weeks. It's like learning a new language: what are edible plants, what are natives versus exotics, what is herbicided versus organic, what different birds are, etc. I can't wait to come home and see if I'm able to read the earth as I'm doing here.

A view outside the house where I'm staying. Hello, tree, said the bush.


#34: Sibling Love

My niece and nephew are visiting from out of town with their parents (my brother). They’re a cute pair- fighting, playing, running around and they remind me of the carefree life of being young in the summer time.


I’ve been in vacation mode for the last day or so which is dangerous because I still have two months of work ahead. I hope I can get in gear and not slack off.

Laughter and Love

I’ve been having meals with lots of friends lately.  I think it’s the spring air that makes people want to be out, especially after being cooped up all winter.  Also I’m making more of the effort since I know I’m going to be leaving in the next few months.  Maybe it’s also just a desire to reconnect.  In any case, I am reminded how much I love to laugh and eat with those that I care about.  Life is all about LAUGHTER and LOVE.  Aren’t those the joys that we live for?

I haven’t had enough laughter and love in my life lately.  But maybe it’s been there all along and it’s about finding it in the ephemeral moments that you can grab or just let flit by. 

What makes me laugh?

  • a corny joke
  • funny facial expressions
  • silly actions by people who just have no shame
  • a story told just in the right way, with a great punch line
  • random experiences that just catch the funny bone in the right way

We all need to laugh more.  What made you laugh today?


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