Ramblings of a bereaved mother

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Ramblings of a bereaved mother

Our culture expects people to move through loss, ignore it, don’t talk about it or them, get back to work, pull up your bootstraps and carry on.  “It takes a year” they say.  That is our industrial, consumeristic, you are not valued unless you produce culture talking.  Get busy and all will be well.

Thank goodness our community is different.

We are a year and a half without our Z-boy.  I hate to say it, but in some ways, this year might be worse than last.  I had a year of denial and being in a fog.  Now, the fog is very slowly lifting.  And it seems like this is for real.  He is not coming back.  This is not a nightmare.  How is Zafer not here?  I can’t get my head around this.  I try and try.  My body will only let small bits of data come in at a time.


photo by Libby Capaldi

I have incredible community support, talk therapy, psychics, books, retreats, shoulders to cry on, family to commune with, one Death Faire, sound therapy, keening, ritual, spiritual services, tarot, parties celebrating Zafer’s birthday and a huge Z-fest at Memorial Day.  I’ve had cranial sacral work, deep tissue massage, acupuncture, meditation, yoga, journaling, grief group meetings, running, biking, lots of wine, a surf lesson, a pedicure, lomi lomi healing, and probably things that I have forgotten.

What a privilege.

Think about most of the population going through grief.  They may not have the support and may find themselves isolated and financially depleted.  Their brains are literally changed, turned upside down.  Where do these people go to find pain relief or just basic support to get through their day?

Functioning has a new meaning.  I used to multitask and handle a million things while juggling family and dinner.  Now, I have a hard time logging into a bank account to manage a simple transaction.  Details are incredibly difficult.  I am grateful and blessed to have amazing staff at Abundance that have picked up where I leave off.  I used to love tons of stimulation.  I find that I need to be at home and introspective now.  Possibly a blessing.  The leader should delegate and be at higher levels anyway.  Thank you Zafer.

Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome is a real thing. 

It was midnight and we heard a loud knock on the door.  Our house was lit up with spotlights from the Sheriffs car.  That is how we found out our son had died from smoking heroin.  The Sheriff showed up a few months later because some sort of paper work had not been filled out properly for Zafer’s “estate”.  I started shaking and as he left and broke into tears.  Arlo was extremely shaken.  A state trooper called my phone when the First Lady of NC visited last month to make sure our space was safe for her.  I went into extreme panic thinking someone was dead.  PTSD takes control of your body and emotions.

I used to think I was just a normal average girl from the south.  Not anymore.  My mind and life is forever changed.  The things I see and the ideas in my head are 100 percent different.  Life and Death have very different meanings to me.  Compassion has gone way up and judginess has gone way down.  Thank you Zafer for that gift.  I can talk to people about really weird things and I’m thankful that people trust me to tell me about their odd ways.  It’s so refreshing.  I no longer do small talk.  That is not a thing anymore.  Either go deep and be real with me, or go home.

There are so many lessons in death.  It brings all your issues up to the surface.  You have a list of insecurities, scarcity, baggage you have pushed under the carpet, hard truths, things that you need to say or do.  Death pushes it to the top whether you like it or not.  Some would say in crisis is opportunity.  The teachings are all saying to me to look deep inside my soul.  Our souls were sent here for certain lessons and Zafer and I had a contract that he would be leaving at the age of 19.  I am supposed to learn and do something with this.  And we’ll be together in a soul family soon enough.  Time is not linear in the afterlife.

The quantum physics entanglement theory says “anytime two entities interact, they entangle.  They lose their separate existence and if one is tweaked, measured, observed, the other seems to instantly respond, even if the whole world now lies between them.  And no one knows how.”

When I heard this concept from my friend, Jordan, it instantly opened my mind in a hopeful way.  When Zafer moves, I move and vice versa.  His DNA is in me.  We are one.  And that means we should also choose carefully who we entangle

with.

How do we keep going?  One step in front of the other.  One day at a time.  The beautiful people that hold us up.  The people that can understand the pain.  I don’t wish this pain on anyone, and when I find someone that I can relate to, it is like a ray of sunshine on a summer rain.  We connect at a deep level and it’s like talking to myself.

Sadly, our friends lost their beautiful son recently.  This family can relate to my family like no other.  When they have crazy thoughts, we assure them that we have the same exact thoughts.  We can understand each other implicitly and it has been a mutually helpful relationship and deep bonding.

We come up with coping strategies like texting each other memories of our sons and photos…the good, the bad and the ugly.  We will never stop talking about them.  We tell each other the awkward things that good meaning people do to us.  We laugh a lot and we cry a lot.

It’s now my job to find the meaning and do some healing for Zafer, my love, and for this community.

That is one reason we are putting on our second Death Faire, this Sunday, November 5th .  Please come whether you have experienced loss or not.  We all have this in common.  Sooner or later.

Join us for a keynote by Stephen Jenkinson who will also be holding a Sparkroot weekend workshop November 3 & 4th.

 

The Weavers

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The Weavers

About a day after Zafer died, as I was sitting in shock on the couch not able to move, barely able to breath, Lyle came in and said “do you remember the Fates from mythology class?” and I was very fuzzy on that…I’m sure we covered it in Greek mythology, but I must have been daydreaming during that section.

He described the tapestries of the universe and how the three sisters were busy weaving and some threads had to be cut in order for the bigger picture ahead to happen and play out properly.  It was a grand plan and a good plan.  For some reason, this scenario gave me comfort that this was Zafer’s plan and that there was a much bigger reason for this tragedy.  I have clutched to this idea.  In no way do I feel like Zafer’s leaving was a good thing.  It just keeps getting more painful as the shock, distraction and denial wears away.  There are still the waves and then there are the intense stabs and the fog and the feeling crazy and the way the body reacts to intense emotional pain.
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And I think back to the week before.  My stepdaughter and husband were ready for a family.   They are big career, big city people and always on the go.  My aunt Joyce was turning 80. (or 35…whichever).  There was a big to-do about everyone coming for her birthday and it was decided to fly Zafer in for the weekend from Boulder.  Jessalyn knew he was coming, but didn’t know the reason for his visit.  (my aunt, not hers) She made plans to make a trip from Washington DC to see us.   There was some drama about parties and guest lists and it became kind of a hilarious error of comedies.  Jess wanted to surprise us all with her news of pregnancy.

So, the solution was to have a pre-party at our house in Moncure and then a second party for Joyce in Raleigh the next day.  My immediate family (Lyle, Jess, Zafer, Arlo, Kaitlin and Dan) would have a table outside the room of the party…because that is all the room there was at the restaurant.  There were many jokes and we were all super happy about it.

The Friday night, everyone collected at our house for some southern hospitality…shrimp and grits, wine and beer.  Jess grabbed her glass of wine per usual and we had a raucous chaotic party on an April evening.  Boys going off the rope swing, guitars playing, songs sung, family making fun of family.  Kind of a beautiful blending of my family of origin and my immediate family.  I could not have been happier.  Half way through the night, Jess and Lyle asked for us to meet in the man-cave privately.   Jess announced the impending baby. (the wine was just a prop)

Tears, so happy.  What a surprise. 

We brought in Zafer and Arlo and Dan and she told the boys.  Zafer and Arlo both grabbed her and I wish I had caught that on camera….they knew how important it was to Jess and Dan.  They were so freaking happy to become Uncles.  Zafer in the back of his mind started thinking that he needed to produce some cousins to play with the new addition.
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The weekend was one of the sweetest weekends I could remember with all the personalities and dynamics.  New York cousins, Colorado cousins, the country mice, city mice.  Really lovely.
I took Zafer and Pamela & Will, my cousins, to the airport and Zafer assured me he would be seeing me in a month so we could have some one on one time together.

I never got my one on one with Zafer.  Instead I have gotten a constant Zafer in my thoughts and in my grief and my path is changed.  All of our paths have changed.  That was a big cord to cut.  We are all seeking the relief of the pain and the meaning and we are all supporting each other.  It is still a very lonely and individual process.  I hear that one day, grief can become a tender joy.  I think if we do our grief work and call on spirit and our community and develop an ongoing relationship with our loves, that this can become possible.  It will take a very long time.

I’m still in awe of our support, the net that has caught us, and continues to hold.  From elders that have lost their children to help putting on Death Faire/Día de los Muertos (500 people that came together from all walks of life for celebration and remembrance.)  There is no way that the spirits didn’t help on that day.
I’ve had incredible healing sessions from Carrie Wise where my soul seemed to leave my body, massage with Scotty and Ben, talking and talking and telling stories, hearing others stories of pain and grief.  I even had a friend lose his son unexpectedly and I felt uniquely qualified to help.  I was saddened and also grateful to help him.  We’ve had bears and quilts made of Zafer’s clothing.  Thank you Mom and Kate.  So beautiful and so painful.  Cousin Kate cried through her stitches making that quilt.  What a great way to process grief.
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Lyle is working on a magnificent project.  The Life of Z.  A “scrap novel” of each year of Zafer’s short life.  The endnotes will be much longer than the actual pages.  He paints and adds business cards, photos, soccer cards, and whatever he finds as we piece together the history of the last 19 years.  It’s incredibly healing for him and hard for the immediate family to look at.  One day we will read it with a tender joy.

I’m trying to determine what the Weavers are seeing ahead.  In some ways, life is easier as we let go of control by necessity.  We have the most committed community, the sweetest and craziest conversations, beautiful visions of the future.  Beautiful people that have stepped into our lives.  We are so so grateful.  A beautiful family that keeps rising to the occasion.  A sweet baby to take care of and teach.  We don’t take things for granted as much anymore.

Missing Z and learning that he is right here.  Right here.  (Oh…he thinks the Trump debacle is hilarious….joking a lot about that especially to make Kaitlin mad).

We have a beautiful nightmare.  Thank you everyone for your love and support.
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Zafer turns 20

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Zafer turns 20

20 years ago, I woke up in our old falling down farm house and noticed that my water was breaking.  Exactly on time.   Lyle and I had no a/c but did have plumbing.

The contractions were slow, so we stopped at the 501 diner in Chapel Hill to have a burger, fries and giant milkshake.  I was determined to have a natural birth and my lovely Duala worked with me while Lyle asked if we should play chess to get my mind off the somewhat uncomfortable contractions that started finally.  As midnight approached, the overly tan golfer-type doctor came in and said there was trouble and we had to do a C-section.  At that point, you have no power to negotiate.  So, Z-boy was born at 1.08pm on August 24th.  He weighed 8 pounds 1 oz.  He was beautiful and healthy.

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tami pregnant

I loved being pregnant.  My body felt amazing.  My cute Dr. Tyler looked at me in horror on one check up and asked how I had gained 10 pounds in one month.  I said complements of Ben and Jerry, thank you very much.  Zafer and I had a beautiful idyllic autumn together walking in the woods, taking care of chickens, days going by like minutes.  When it was time to go to back to work, I found a caretaker near the office.  I dropped Zafer there and it smelled like cigarette smoke.  I gave my notice and Zafer and I started selling scrap metal art together.  I could take my baby on my hip and I started an art brokerage business with Lyle as my biggest client.  I took 100% of his proceeds, so that worked out well.  Big chess sets, little bugs, colorful metal flowers…looking back, it was so fun, so crazy, never mind we barely had money for diapers.  It was always an adventure going to art shows and creating a new business.

My days are filled with books on coping with the loss of your child, talking and talking and talking with Lyle, the family, friends.  Trying to form a belief system on the fly.
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I’m in a constant state of being held up by some of the most amazing people with incredible wisdom and experience.  Just a few examples are:

Hope and Elizabeth take me to the Honeysuckle Teahouse and discuss the spirituality of Z.  We had the most beautiful and hopeful meeting that left me positive and able to get through one more day.  Their stories of how Z has effected them and that they have an ongoing relationship with him even though they have only known him after death.

I go to to Phifer’s 50th birthday party and find myself standing across the table from Carole Guld.  Her beautiful son, Stephen, died at age 21 from complications for chemotherapy 30 years ago.  Carole is an 81 year old, stunning senior Rockette who happened to know my great Aunt Gene who was a radical lesbian.  The two of them were very active in the synagogue.  I didn’t realize it at the time, but she told me later that Phifer, Muzzy and Adair forbid anyone to go near us and we created this intense sacred space (around the food table….unfortunately).  I feel surrounded by a security blanket as everyone just wants us to heal and live.   Carole took my Mom and I to lunch and confirmed many things I’ve learned and also told us things would get better…it would not always be so painful.  Seeing her bright spirit and joy for life kept me going yesterday.

Tim Toben and I had an intense lunch and he looked thoughtful.  “You must talk to my mother and to Bill Peck who lost two of his children.”  Tim lined up a meeting with the deep, lovely, spiritual Carolyn and she talked to me for 3 hours at her retreat center that she, her boys and her husband created.  Her friendship with Thomas Berry was very helpful in her development.  Her words to me about Zafer were incredibly powerful and she told me that absolutely:  “You are entitled to miracles”.  She is right.  I am experiencing miracles every day.
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The visits from the young and the older, the beach getaway from Lexie, the mountain getaway from Dave and Lisa, the words of encouragement keep me and this family going.  Ongoing talks with Frank about an evolving relationship with our dead loved ones and how to keep them close, really close.  Sitting on the porch of Costa Rica with Alisa when I don’t think I can go on….and so many others, so many others helping.  So much gratitude.

Arlo just got back from Outward Bound in Maine.  He was with other teens that have had significant loss and trauma.  He came back a little bit lighter, a lot more wiser and ready to take on life’s challenges.

Z beltie

Today, Zafer turns 20.  We will make pizza, eat cupcakes, have a toast and remember so many good times with him.  We’ll remember his second birthday party in which Lyle and I made his cake, decorated it with his tiny trucks and heavy equipment so it looked like a construction zone.  He woke up from his nap and had a complete meltdown because there was icing on his toy trucks.  We quickly cleaned them off and continued his birthday celebration.

To celebrate Z, please make a toast, make a wish for yourself, and here is a song from one of his playlists….play it loud and dance around the house like no one is watching you.  He would love that.


<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/37549027″>The O’My’s &quot;My House&quot;</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/robbybarnett”>Robby Barnett</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

 

 

 

Googling Séances

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Googling Séances

Yes…it has come to this.  Lyle and I sat around the other night wanting to bring in the spirits.  We googled “how to have a séance”.  It was a stormy night and the doors and windows were open. We lit candles and invited in the spirits.  Mainly Zafer, of course, but we would have been open to any of our loved ones and hell, we’d take strangers too.  All of a sudden we heard something that sounded like a beat on a drum.  It was an erratic beat.  Lyle had put a glass of water on the table as was suggested in our google search.  Evidently the spirits will sometimes move water around.  Lyle got up to investigate the beating drum sound and it was the gutters dripping on a recycle drum.  Oh well.  We’ve asked for help from our neighbor Whitney who is way more in touch and open to this.  Then we thought we should have an event and and a bigger group and Lyle said he would rig up the water glass with string to move it and freak people out.  We were laughing about this and our grief became a tiny bit of joy.

As we move through our grief and work on functioning again to some degree, we are learning.  The first thing is that this will take the rest of our lives.  The second thing is that we must be gentle with ourselves and explain to others that even if we look good on the outside, our minds are CRAZY AND SCRAMBLED inside and I personally don’t remember things, I can’t comprehend things, my mind is still a blur.  Details are incredibly difficult.  I can work on higher level concepts, I can have coffees and lunches with people, but putting together the action plans afterwards are just not happening.  I get confused very easily and just have to drop a conversation or an email thread.  It’s not personal, I just can’t process all of this in my brain and also keep up with schedules and other people’s agendas.   I’m thankful to our staff and board who understand to keep reminding me to do things and they have check lists for me to make sure the typical very competent Executive Director can keep it together.

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Our family is handling things the same way that they live.  Jess is the high powered executive and working on policy layers around the opiate epidemic.  Kaitlin is being very profound and spiritual and on the west coast hiking with kids through the Sierra Nevada mountains.  Arlo is a camp counselor at his childhood camp in northern Ontario.  He has family and friends watching over him which is so comforting.  I get reports almost every day on his state of being.  My mother is very active in reading and grief counseling and being positive.  Lyle is thinking big, very big.

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Zafer was a skaterboy and a group in Pittsboro had begun a campaign to start a skate park.  The group got a fantastic start and then got busy with their lives.  An idea has started for Lyle, myself, Kathie and the group to get back together and this time, there is a new force behind it.  Lyle is on fire with ideas of design, art, creating a gathering space and since Lyle was a champion skater in his teens, he has some knowledge about how to do this.  Stand by for a very special park in the works that will benefit so many youth and adults.

We hold a summer camp and have had many iterations over the years.  I love the idea of camp, designing the programs and the topics, but teaching and being with the kids is not my strong point.  This year, being with the kids was medicinal for me.  I cried most days with some small trigger.  Many of them had “Z” names.  They were the cutest, sweetest, smartest, kids.  They asked how old my kids were.  I had to tell them one had just died from trying heroin.  Kevin, my camp partner is a complete stud.  A few times we looked at each other and I said this is on the verge of crazy.  He had complete command of the kids and no fear.  The first day we had only 4 kids bleeding from minor bike accidents, but we felt like that was success.  The kids gained confidence, learned a ton about biking and the natural world.  Leif and I took them on a “spirit bikeology” adventure.  It was complete joy plus a few ticks, lots of red mud and sweat.  Alisa taught them about black snakes and purple martins, Jason and Will about farming.  Hannah, Jen, Charlotte and friends taught them cooking.  One kid who had a hard time paying attention became the best in the kitchen and took ownership of salad dressing and making salad.  Another happy boy looked at me and said “this food looks disgusting, but it is DELICIOUS!”   That is what summer camp should be in the piedmont of NC.

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The support continues to pour out.  I met with two beautiful beer brewers.  Sean of Full Steam and David of Yesteryears Brewery.  I’m a huge lover of their beers, true.  These two men met me with tears in their eyes and just wanted to do something to help me and my family.  They can’t bring Z back, but they can make a collaborative beer that has peppers and citrus in it and that commemorates Zafer and benefits Abundance.  I was so touched and I see how far the ripples have gone and continue to go.

Our dear friends, Bryan and Carolyn lost their 25 year old boy in a similar way 3 years ago.  They of everyone know how it feels.  They keep tabs on us, send comforting emails and Bryan calls and says “we love you and need you to stick around”.  Yes…I get that.  I’m going to stick around for as long as possible.

Leif came by and caught me on a bad day.  He said “I’m sorry you are having an accelerated awakening”.  And he is exactly right…we are slammed up against an awakening.  I would vote for a slow build.

Charlie and Kristi are still our team in Colorado dealing with the awful paperwork, sale of a car, dealing with the narcotics agent.  The case has become a federal case now, so there evidently are more complications and Mexican cartels involved they tell me.

Alisa walked in the door the other day.  She is deep in her grief of just losing her husband to ALS.  We buried the two side by side in our home gravesite.  “There is a reason for all of this.  We are going to build something big here and Chris and Zafer are going to partner with us on it.  I know it.  They are just on the other side.” Big ideas are brewing about what is going to happen around here and it gives me comfort to think of Chris and Zafer collaborating with us.  I don’t know the reason or meaning yet, but something very large is emerging.

People are asking how to help and how to make it better.  The only answer I have is to heal yourselves.  Join together.  Help make this place a better world.  Turn all this tragedy into something as good as the awfulness.

Personally, Abundance can use help with upcoming events.  Our Pepper Festival is going to be fabulous this year…a fashion show in collaboration with Raleigh Redress and Julie Moore.  A kid’s cooking contest (pairing middle and highschoolers with Chefs).
We need volunteers, we need to get the word out to new restaurants and food artisans to bring their wares to Pepper Festival for the biggest festival yet.  Zafer was very proud of our work on this festival.

I’m seeking the remedy to grief and so far, it seems to be the basic self care:  fitness, sleep, good food, reflection, and a ton of talking and stories with good friends and even strangers.  Good books.  My sweet friend Gary, prescribed southern fiction.  He said STOP reading all those grief books and near death experience books…take a freaking break from being in that hole.  I’ve taken him seriously and started on a new pile of books.  But I still sneak in the grief literature a little.

Seeking Mysticism 

Shutting the eyes and the mouth to experience mystery.  To connect with my son. I dreamed that Z left me a note that said “I’m leaving” I met with Tracy, a very spiritual friend and also Zafer’s cross country coach.  She had incredible insight into Zafer.  She said “He was exasperating, coming in late, not following the rules AND he was a top 5 runners and you couldn’t help but love him”.  She said he had huge ambition and he wanted everyone to reach their highest potential.  He was frustrated and couldn’t do it by being on this earth…he had to go to a higher realm.  That was comforting.  She said I can access him…just pay attention to those subtle things that happen.  I’m working on it.  Every day.

Something cosmic is happening even if it hurts like hell.  Learning to trust.  Learning to trust.

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Milking the Goats

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Milking the Goats

I’m in awe watching Alisa milk the 2 community goats we have here at The Bend.  7 families “share” the goats although, Alisa and her family do most of the work.  I’ve been getting lessons on milking which I thought would be simple as pie.  Nope.  There is a lot to learn about bacteria, rhythm, getting to know the animal, the baby goats, feeding, muscle memory, etc.  I’ve found that mornings are hard waking up again and knowing that Zafer is not on this planet anymore.  It’s a reality that hits me hard as soon as I open my eyes.  I can cry and then go milk.  It’s hard to milk, so my tears usually dry as I get focused.  I thought I would never get the rhythm until yesterday.  I started the routine and with two hands, the milk started flowing.  Wow.  Something in my brain switched and it gave me hope that maybe, just maybe, I could get a handle on the grief.
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Losing Zafer is debilitating at times and I understand that it will be something that I (and this family) will carry until the day we die.  Then I hope to join him.  Can’t wait.  So, our job is to come back down to earth and manage the grief.  We are all desperately seeking ways to lessen the pain.  Everyone is dealing with this in their own unique way.

Jessalyn is taking the policy level.  She works with Blue State Digital, the agency that got Freedom to Marry passed.  A powerful group.  Her next project just so happens to be with Shatterproof (an organization dedicated to protecting our loved ones from addiction).

From Jess:

“Following my meeting with Shatterproof, Dan and I were invited to attend CARA family day on Capitol Hill. CARA (comprehensive addiction and recovery act) is the the first major federal law to address the opioid epidemic in this country, and congress is on the verge of enacting it.
Right now a conference committee from the Senate and House is about to convene to decide exactly what’s in the final CARA bill. Dan and I were invited to share Z’s story with legislators and their staffers to make sure CARA stays as strong as possible, and to get it to Obama’s desk quickly for signature.

And at Blue State Digital, we’re working to support the effort with a digital campaign calling on supporters to call or tweet their legislator – to tell them vote YES on CARA.”
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Arlo is taking the Zafer energy and putting it on the hemp t-shirt business that Zafer and friends started a few years.  Watching the excitement of Arlo and Greyson, Tot, Tucker, Tyler and Sean and others gives me a boost to get through my day.  Zafer had big ideas and vision for this company and Arlo is learning as fast as he can about fiber, business, salesmanship, money and how to keep shipping t-shirts.  He has the guidance of his parents, Eric Henry, Linda Booker and Melissa Best…all heavy hitters.  http://www.hempsmith.rocks/

We have a domino effect in our house….Arlo screams in excitement, I jump off the couch (finally) and run around vacuuming and doing yoga simultaneously and Lyle walks out and becomes elated to see the two of us moving and to see a brief moment of joy.  It can also go the other way if one is crumpled in a chair sobbing, we all go down.

Kaitlin’s response to losing her brother was to grab her best friend Zack, his dog, a car that needed to be moved cross country and the three of them went across the United States with their backpacks, their Mary Oliver poetry and their Zafer playlists.  Seeing the open skies of the west helped begin her healing.  There is a much larger story…but not for prime time.  Kaitlin was visited by Z, protected and also in her dreams.  She has returned with her road wisdom and we are taking it all in.  She discusses how our culture is just not cut out for handling death.  We need to borrow from all the other cultures that know that there is way more to this universe than what we can see.
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“The antidote to loss is an awakening consciousness.” John Breckenridge

Lyle and I are hanging on and taking advantage of all types of support.  We are lifted up by this strong family, our sweet sweet friends and community.  We are never in psync with each other so we can just try and understand where the other is and assure them that the wave will pass soon.  Seeing the grief of your loved ones is another horrible aspect of this situation.

After receiving Zafer’s autopsy report, I fell into hysterics.  Reading about your son arriving in a white body bag with a tag on his right big toe is horrific.  They described every part of his body from his chest scar from a skate boarding accident in which I was there getting him stitched up to his tattoo of the flatirons on his back to his recent nipple piercing.  Zafer had a perfect body, the cutest feet, six pack abs, a gorgeous smile.  The autopsy revealed that Zafer died from heroin.  There were no pharmaceuticals or alcohol or fentanyl involved.  Simply heroin and it killed him.

After reading this report, I drove straight to Barbara Lories and cried and cried with her.  She explained in her grief that she didn’t know what it was, but there was a plan, a bigger plan and I believe her.  I have to believe her with her wisdom and 90 years.

I find my days go by quickly and in a fog.  I was in the HABA department at Chatham Marketplace and Terry, the deli chef sought me out.  He told me that he had been to Z’s service and he was sorry.  Terry said I used to help Zafer tie his ties when he was on the way to a school function.  He said he had lost his 7 year old son who was hit by a car.  I asked Terry if he would see his son again and he said he certainly would.  It gave me strength.

When the grief is at it’s worst and I don’t think we can survive it, a text comes in, a phone call, a visitor with flowers and food, a song, a smiling face, a letter from a stranger with a Zafer story.  I have to trust that the Universe will send us what we need to heal and to get through this.  I’m grateful to the friends that I can cry in their arms, go for walks by the river, sit and talk endlessly about Zafer.  I want to talk about Zafer forever and we will.  I’m grateful for the calls and emails from other parents that have lost their children.  They know exactly how I feel and I don’t think my thoughts are so weird.  Wanting to dig up Zafer (don’t worry, I am not going to do that) is not the strangest thought.  Someone told me that other cultures do this on the anniversary of the death.  Being jealous of people dying.  Daring the lightening to strike me.  Seems to be the norm.

Grief is strange and uncontrollable and something we are learning on the fly. 

A team is forming to create something with the Zafer Julian Estill Memorial Fund.  A skate board park has been mentioned….it will take some thought.  It will be some positive energy for something that will help the community and that Z would be proud of.

This weekend the family is piling in to celebrate Memorial Day weekend.  We always do this and it’s swimming and badminton and this year there will be a huge hole in our hearts and 3 bullet holes in our aortas as Arlo says.
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I’ve asked Zafer to be present anyway.  We’ll be looking for the signs. 

Lyle heard the Whip-Poor-Will last night.   Wanting to improve his bird knowledge, he googles:

“Due to its haunting, ethereal song, the eastern Whip-Poor-Will is the subject of numerous legends.  One says the whip-poor-will can sense a soul departing and can capture it as it flees.”

Zafer, missing you and sending you peace and love.
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Four Weeks

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Four Weeks

Life as I’ve known it changed 4 weeks ago with a simple eerie knock at the door at midnight by the county sheriff.  Lyle and I went to the door that was lit up by his spotlights.  I immediately thought Arlo and Greyson had gotten into mischief and that because Arlo’s truck is registered in Zafer’s name, that is why the sheriff kept saying Zafer’s name.  I felt myself being Mama Bear and feeling protective of Arlo…as in “you are not waking up my child”.  My body was fanning out to make sure the sheriff didn’t try to wake up Arlo.

He kept saying Zafer’s name and something about bad news.  Again, I knew that he was mistaken and at the same time I could tell something was wrong because Lyle was crumpled over and screaming.  I turned lights on in the kitchen and the sheriff handed me his phone to talk to the Boulder police in Colorado.  Heroin was mentioned.  They asked me if Zafer drank alcohol.  I said not much.  I handed the phone back to the sheriff and he asked if he could leave.

I went into the NIGHT OF HELL.  I asked Lyle not to wake up Arlo.  We went from room to room and he went outside to wail and scream and I got into fetal position in my bed.  I couldn’t understand what was happening and I had no idea what to do.  At one point in the night I looked in the mirror to see if I could figure out what was going on.  My face looked like The Scream painting by Edvard Munch.  Frozen and a look of horror.  I knew that something was extremely wrong.  I knew that the most horrible news I could ever receive had just been delivered, but I couldn’t accept it (and still have not).  The minutes went by like hours, time seemed to stop on this dreadful night.  I just wanted the sun to come up.  Around 3am, Arlo woke up and came out and I sat him down and held him tight as I told him that his beloved brother had died from heroin.  All I wanted to do and all I could do was to protect Lyle and Arlo that night.  I could not cry and I could not say those words again.  I just needed the sun to come up.

I was walking along the road with two friends – the sun was setting – suddenly the sky turned blood red – I paused, feeling exhausted, and leaned on the fence – there was blood and tongues of fire above the blue-black fjord and the city – my friends walked on, and I stood there trembling with anxiety – and I sensed an infinite scream passing through nature.   Edvard Munch

We all three got into bed and held hands and I think they drifted off to sleep around sunrise.  I called my brother in law, Jim to ask him what to do.  “You have to tell people now” he said.  I don’t want to tell anyone.  I don’t want to say those words because that might mean it was true.

As I sat on the porch steps not knowing what to do, a Subaru sped down the driveway like a bat out of hell and out popped Lexie and Gary Thompson…both crying and they encircled me.  Again, how did they know and they were crying.  It gave me a little strength and felt like the cavalry had come.  Friends to help figure out this and guide when my brain was completely gone.  Arlo got up and went to tell Zafer’s second Mom and best friend Greyson.  He got into bed with Kathie while he told her.  Broken hearted she called me and I asked her to get Zafer’s body back here.  “On it” she said.  And what a hard job for her to have to do.  I called my Dad and asked him to drive to Mom’s to tell her in person.  No Grandmother should have to get this news over the phone.  He went immediately.  I called two of my best friends, Melissa and Gary Phillips, and they both got in the car immediately.  Camille brought pharmaceuticals so that I could get through this day without collapse.  Very helpful, indeed.  I’m not a pharma person…but this was appropriate technology.

Alisa who is preparing for the death of her sweet husband, Chris, kept me on the phone as she raced from Pittsboro to our house.  There was some unknown woman walking around the yard in the chaos.  I immediately thought she was a death doula for some reason.  She was from the high school and they had gotten misinformation that Arlo had died and she came over to clarify the news.  Again, how did she get that information so fast?  What the hell was happening?  This is not real.

The news started spreading, the people started coming.  Jess and Kaitlin and Dan started driving south.  People started getting on planes.  Anabel from Paris, Phifer from California, family and roommates from Colorado, from New York, all the Canadians were en route, and high school friends from around the country.  When you get devastating news, you think you are all alone and you don’t understand how it effects your loved ones.  There was a ripple effect of grief that spread.

One of the first things we did was to go up to the trail and look for a place to bury Zafer.  The “Farewell Trail” that Bob named had not yet been started. (We had been talking about the trail for burying Chris just the night before)  A plan was made to get it finished and ready for Zafer’s homecoming.  A beautiful spot was picked out and it somehow felt comforting to know that he would be nearby and in a gorgeous setting that we could visit often.  A work plan was made and heavy equipment came out…Bob and Joe and Trip and Leavitt and others created the trail and burial site.  Lyle and Arlo wanted to dig the hole for Zafer’s coffin with the backhoe.  I can’t imagine the pain.  It needed more help.  My Dad and brother, Michael, finished and it broke the backhoe.  From there, hand digging was necessary to get it ready for the graveside service.  It was done with such care and respect and beauty.  Truly beautiful. I’m grateful

Gary went to get food.  Seems like the southern thing to do and he broke the news to Angelina and others in Pittsboro.  Angelina began cooking and crying into her beautiful, amazing, comforting food and put together huge boxes to be sent home.  People started contributing to the cost.  Most of my kids have worked for her and she did wonders with Zafer.  She is the best mother anyone could ask for.

The rest of the day was a flurry of figuring out what had happened, what was going to happen and The Committee was formed as Lyle and I could not really do much but mumble and I don’t think I even got myself a glass of water for many days…everyone did for us, thank goodness.   Decisions were made for us.  We did have moments of clarity…like how we wanted to honour Zafer and his service.

I could feel an intense energy and power growing in all of us.  Like never before.  Never.

Lyle and Arlo and I are so very lucky to be surrounded by this community and to also have an amazing and strong family.  Yes, I just take that for granted.  But not anymore.  Someone asked me if we really had this storybook family and adventures and I thought about it…yes…we do…I kind of thought everyone had that.  We certainly bicker, have stress and have major disagreements AND we have so much fun and laughter.  Zafer’s wit and sense of humor is something I hope to channel.  Something I will deeply deeply miss.  His siblings laugh so much together.  There is and always has been a deep love for each other.
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A 7 day wake happened at our house…20 + people living at our place…it was like a small village of eating, planning, crying, drinking, welcoming, music playing, story telling, massage, pedicures for men, singing and holding each other up.   Hundreds of people came through the week bringing gifts for the altar, food for the mourning, words of comfort and hugs and kisses.  The young and the old together and all chipping in to clean and live and celebrate.   The best gift was all the stories of how Zafer had impacted people’s lives.  How he had helped them out of depression, made them go the extra mile, his hilarious sense of humor and appreciation of “dress up”.  His opinions about life, his new revelations.  I got to know my son better that week in some ways than I ever could with him being physically present.
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The Committee was a force to be reckoned with.  “Did The Committee approve this?” Uh, oh….did The Committee see this?  We had the honour of about 20 women and men who formed spontaneously, had spreadsheets, conference calls and who got it done.  Many took time off from their day jobs to help the effort.  They put on a week long wake and a service for 500, they dealt with the death logistics of flying Zafer home, the legal issues, the minute details, a graveside service and then the aftermath of cleaning up.  We are in complete awe of the way they came together in crisis and the comradery that formed.  Hilarious stories came out of this event that will be with all of us forever.  We’ve been in community together for years and know how powerful that is, and Zafer’s death brought out the best in everyone.

That story is big and for another blog to be told by someone else. 

The family and friends left on Sunday.  And that is when, exhausted, we started having to face a new reality.  That Zafer is not here in physical form anymore.  And that is what I’m working on everyday.  Putting together a construct in my brain that makes sense of this, that includes his spirit and my spirit together.  I’m working on how to develop a new relationship with him even though I can’t see, hear, touch or smell him.  I’m working on developing my own belief system of where he is, what he is doing, why this happened, why it happened to me and my family, why he can’t smell honeysuckle anymore (or maybe he can), why I can’t see him grow and mature.  Why I have to feel the worst pain a parent can ever feel.  Why I feel like I’m drowning some days.
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I also can see the gifts and the beauty that is coming out of this.  Everything I look at now is different.  The trees are more beautiful, the flowers are brighter, the air is sweeter.  Zafer has connected hundreds of people.  Zafer has made people stop in their tracks and reconsider their life paths, and the meaning and importance in their life.  Zafer has made people think about love.  Possibly the most important and eternal thing there is.  Love.  We have love and that is a huge gift.

Thank you Zafer, my love.

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A Spontaneous Visit to Baha, Mexico

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Swimming with sea lions on a chilly rainy day in the sea of Cortez was not what I thought I’d be doing last week, but through a series of events, we were hanging out with hundreds of 1100 pound animals in the wild that were ADORABLE.

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Uncle Glen originally reserved a 45 foot single hull sailboat to celebrate the successful treatment of his cancer. In the meantime, my sweet, stoic father-in-law was given 3 months to live and went a year beyond that. Not knowing what was going to happen, no one thought the sailing trip was a go. Don passed away on January 18 and all the family started making arrangements to get to Canada. The family was tired and in grief and our Captain and Glen’s best friend, Lumpy thought sailing was exactly what was needed to lift spirits. As we were driving to the funeral, I was on the phone with Delta trying to get a flight to La Paz, Mexico.
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There were about a million reasons not to go.  I was throwing a climate adaptation conference the next week, Arlo is prone to throwing ragers, there was absolutely no cell or internet coverage where we were going…it was completely wild with not many humans.  Lyle had obligations, classes to teach etc.

With the help of Abundance staff, Bob and Camille, and encouraging words from family and friends, we drove from Canada, packed our bags and flew to Cabo where Captain Lumpy and his partner Terri picked us up with fresh salsa and Paloma drinks (tequila and fresca). We had a raucus drive to La Paz with a stop at the Hotel California (inspired the Eagle’s song) where we sold them a bottle of Fair Game Ferris and landed in La Paz ready to provision the boat. We met the other two sailors, Jill and Randy, bought enough water, beer, tequila, food and toilet paper for 7 days and 7 people and launched L’OISEAU AU DES ILES into the great beyond!

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And it was wild…no people, a few sailboats, mostly wind, waves, birds, shark, rays and porpoises. Every night we would anchor in a little harbor by a deserted island. We cooked in teams and ate 5-star every night after sunset cocktail hour and a little dance party, very quick yoga or cards.

We hiked what we thought was a 2 mile hike to the other side of an island one day…it was more like 4 miles there and we had little water, became covered with cactus spikes and had a few discussions between the 7 of us….once we got to the other side, Terri and I spotted two porpoises about 10 feet away and we chased them down the beach. A complaining Lyle went skinny dipping in the sea of cortez when he forgot his bathing suit. Good times by all.

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Getting ready for sail is such a thrill. Very dramatic, somewhat scary and everything has to hit the right timing. With Lumpy at the helm, we were in very good hands. This man has handled a lot of situations and some crazy sailing trips with horrible weather. He’s calm and gentle but firm about directions. His partner Terri and he communicate perfectly. She senses what he needs. I steered the boat one day in pretty rough waters and big winds. If I started going off course, he would just say “right” or “left” in the middle of his conversation. The feel of the boat is instinctive to him about keeping the sails tight and the boat on course.

We had no cell or internet for an entire 7 days. This caused me a lot of anxiety about going in the first place. Glen said “isn’t that the reason to go?” Others can handle things and what is the worse that can happen? Someone can die and I can’t really change that from the ocean. By day two, we had the sun on our faces, Lumpy had made 7 days of music to listen to, had pacificas by 8am and life really could not get any better. Being without technology was actually huge.  I highly recommend taking prolonged breaks from all this stimulation and communication.  Books, talking, thinking, silence and music are so much better for the soul.

Lyle took the dingy over to some structures that were old metal leaned against each other and met a couple of fishermen. They had just caught a small shark and were cutting it up to take back to a La Paz hotel. With a US 20.00 bill he bought a huge amount of shark that we cooked that night on the boat. It was divine. (they were using the whole animal)

Because we had limited water supply, showers were jumping into the ocean. It was chilly, so right back out. My hair looked like medusa and Glen was telling us about the millions of mites that live on our skin and in our hair. By day 5, I actually was going a little crazy thinking about a fresh water shower with soap and started obsessing a little about washing my hair.

One morning we were going to snorkel over to see the fish and live corral on the edge of our harbor. I jumped in with flippers and snorkel. The water was cold and current was swift. I realized after I was about halfway to shore that I really didn’t know how to snorkel or use the too-big flippers. I was basically about to drown with all this gear. Starting to panic, I made it to some rocks and Lyle gave me a quick lesson. I headed back to the boat, but started to panic again…I thought how embarrassing this would be to drown right by the boat. Lyle saw my struggle and started talking me through it, and he kind of helped me to the dingy…but I learned a lesson…sink or swim…damn…might need to think before jumping in all the way.
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Being on the boat and with these 7 folks was a joy and a trip that I will never forget. Great company, time for solitude and thought, cards, Terri’s readings, and good healing from the stress and grief that we had just come from. Lyle kept us entertained with a competitive bird count.  We spotted blue footed boobies and about 38 other distinct birds.  Terri had lists of questions for us to ponder, songs to sing, games to play, rituals to perform.  And stories of Don were told every day as they will be over the years.

Thanks to Glen, Lumpy, Terri, Jill, Randy and Lyle for a really wonderful week.

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Empty Nest Full Heart

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There is a mysterious heaviness. I think it is a simple case of empty nest. Except not so simple. My eldest is leaving in the best possible way. Zafer worked all summer as hard as he could raising money to go to his new school, University of Colorado @ Boulder. The boy did manual labor for Logan Parker, cabinetmaker, Angelina, local food diva and an archeological rock dusting project. He met his goal to subsidize the tuition bills. A fabulous lovely amazing school in the smartest and healthiest city in the nation (according to Boulder tourism). He is independent, smart, handsome and has a great attitude going off into the big wide world. Boulder is about the coolest town ever with my sweet cousins, Charlie and Aly, Julian and Hudson, who will be looking after Zafer.
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I feel so good about how prepared he is for the world. So how come I’m a bit crippled and break into tears spontaneously? It’s a transition that I didn’t expect would be so big. We have crazy schedules and not much spare time and seems like having one less kid to take care of and clean up after is a relief.

It’s about the biggest change we’ve had since Uncle Mark died and it is now seeming like a loss. No more family dinners of 4 or 6 (with Jess and Kaitlin). It will be 3 at dinner.

Good news is that Lyle and I can go sailing. We can take Baby Blue across the nation again. We can work on the house, we can read, we can visit with our sweet friends and family. We can treat Arlo like an only child. I can have private time, time with the girls, time for adventure. The future is so bright. And yet, it’s so sad and heavy.

The question is, did we do the best possible job we could have? God only knows…there were such highs and such lows. We quit our jobs to be able to stay home and raise the boy. I sold Lyle’s art that he made out of scrap metal from our woods. With baby on my hip, I sold a ton of art in retrospect. We put him into a playgroup at Blanche Morrison’s….maybe the best mother earth woman in the county to help raise our kids. I was so lucky to have her guide me through new motherhood. Blanche would say “either he is going through a developmental phase, or Lyle is, or you are” to almost every crisis. I love that woman.
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From there to Montessori. Another wonderful program with Claudia. When it came time to go to public school, Zafer evidently had the hardest time at adjusting. He would cling to me at drop off while the other kids were super happy to be there. He kind of hated school for 13 years. Didn’t like the system, didn’t like when the other kids made fun of him for not believing in their god. He had different parents than most of the public school kids, different political beliefs, different scientific beliefs, and he was embarrassed about our very long driveway. Our house was a broken down farmhouse and our cars were a bit beat up.

Zafer was parachuted into a family of chaos. His Mom, Dad and brother thrived on spontaneity and lack of routine. We are a bit messy and sometimes dramatic, and our clothes don’t always match. His Dad wore a top hat, his Mom constantly took him to parties that she thought were costume and they were not. There is some definite scar tissue that he will have to work out in a therapist’s office. Zafer adapted best he could by keeping his side of the room in order and by support from his big sister, Jess.
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While we thought Z may end up running for a GOP office or working for Monsanto, we started to see glimmers of light when he began running the farmers market for Angelina. He started eating her greens and telling me her secret health tips. He filled up his water bottle on the way to cut cords of wood for Logan and mentioned the BPA free plastic. He loved driving Baby Blue around town. (extreme hippie mobile). He bragged about Logan’s solar panels and I felt a huge wave of relief.

This is really about me. It’s an identity crisis. A Mom for 18 years and a big part of who I am. Friends are explaining it to me and assure me that everything will be ok. Arlo is here for another two years, but has one foot out the door.

Things will never be the same. That is devastating. And the world is Zafer’s oyster and we get to watch that unfold. And that is pure joy.
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Sabbatical: In Conclusion, The End and Universal Truth Learned

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I’m at the end of this great adventure and I want to thank all of you for listening, for reading, for feeding and housing me, for sending encouragement during a few dark moments, for poems, books, songs and texts, emails and good advice. Huge thanks to my family and colleagues for holding down the fort and for allowing me to go. This blog gave me focus and allowed me to take you all along for the ride…sometimes bumpy.

During my 42 days away and almost 8000 miles, I had a different set of responsibilities. They were about the basics, food, shelter, warmth, soul searching and auto-mechanics. It felt like I was 20 years old again, but with more knowledge and experience.
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I’m home and realized that I’ve changed at a profound level. I think it’s greater confidence, calm and grace. We put on a community event Saturday and typically I’m running around hyperventilating and worried about things going wrong. I knew (because of Jenny, Briar Chapel and the great community help) that this was going to be the best 5K race we’ve ever organized. I didn’t look for the problems, just trusted that everyone was having fun, and it was a fabulous day.

The next day was a ½ marathon that Jenny and I have been training for. I literally had no anxiety…it was my first one and worse case, I stop and walk. Not the end of the world.
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Training for a ½ marathon while on the trip really helped me metaphorically:

*Taking the first step is the hardest…once you start, you just put one foot in front of the other until you get to the finish line.

*Rest is just as important as work….I forget that often.

*Gave great focus

*Accountability…After a long run, I would reward myself by texting Lyle and Jenny…that motivated me to keep going. It helps to share the joys and concerns in one’s life.

*Taking things day by day, mile by mile and sometimes minute by minute.
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Some random universal wisdom:

  • Girls just want to have fun
  • Water is life…I take for granted in lush NC
  • There is a solution to everything, seriously…everything.
  • Your life reflects your beliefs
  • Impermanence is devastating and is also magical; crisis is opportunity
  • Being judgie is not good for anyone…more compassion, please
  • I think religion and spirituality are about clarity, intention and removal of doubt
  • We each create our own reality
  • There is ENOUGH
  • Miracles are just a change in perception
  • Gratitude keeps worry at bay
  • Alone time helps sort things out
  • Being in the moment provides great joy
  • Take a deep breath
  • It’s going to be OK, in fact, it’s going to be phenomenal!
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    I want:

    More quality, less quantity. Instead of a bunch of good experiences or projects, I want EPIC experiences, SWEET relationships, AMAZING projects that rock our world and make change.

    I want to go deep and know what’s going on in people’s hearts, not their heads.

    I want people to reach their full potential. I think many people have only scratched the surface of what they are capable of…think how great this community would be if people let go of their inhibitions and fear and just went for it!

    To help create more meaningful jobs. We have so many talented people doing such good work around here. I want them to be paid handsomely for creating our resilient community. I want Abundance, the Plant Eco-Industrial Park, the Distillery to enjoy resources and wealth along with this entire community of businesses, farms, organizations and for the small local folks to be rewarded for their courage and creativity.

    I hope I can inspire others to take that extra step to do what you want, to think about doing something that might seem scary…guess what, it won’t be after you get started.
    things just work out…magically in the best interest of you and at exactly the right time.

    It’s time to get back to work now and I can’t wait!

    Until the next adventure…

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Travelin’ with Two

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Santa Fe, Taos, Earthship Community, Ojo Caliente, NM and Amarillo, TX…wonderful and a blur of two exhausted happy people reunited. Ha!earthship riograndegorge taos2 taos

We drove the blue highways from Gore Oklahoma to Hot Springs Arkansas. I had heard from someone that it was a place of interest. And Bill Clinton grew up there. Must be cool? Leaving the bleak Texas and Oklahoma flatness and dustiness, we came into the lush terrain that seemed more like home. Mountains and trees and green. Over the Ouachita Mountains to the Zig Zag Mountain of Hot Springs was beautiful. Coming into town through the typical strip malls and Walmart and McDonalds I wasn’t sure this was a good decision…another tacky, depleted small town. We stopped at a little visitor center that pointed us to Gulpha Gorge first come, first serve camping ground (no showers….not that I care). Lyle and I set up camp by a running creek and cliff. The prettiest camp ground yet. The ranger showed us the trail to town. You could hike 2 miles over the mountain to the town. I heard there was a micro-brewery in an old bathhouse, so that was motivating.

Lyle’s email to family:

I don’t hike anymore.  I thought about this last night as I struck out on stepping-stones in Hot Springs Arkansas, heading over a mountain in my backless Birkenstocks.  Tami and I had our campsite set beside a wonderful brook, and decided to take Dead Chief Trail to town.

It was only two miles.  Tami’s been training for a half marathon and is in the best shape she’s been in for awhile.  I’ve been obsessed with “getting my steps” ever since Jim gave me a fitbit wristband that would count them for me—and let me compete with him—so I’m in decent shape these days too.

It took us an hour to get to town.  We arrived winded and stunned.  In Hot Springs there was a plaque at the trailhead that explained in the early 1900s people traveled from all over to indulge in the curative power of the volcanic water.  This was a medical town. 

Further, there was one doctor who prescribed aerobic activity to his Hot Springs patients.  He was so convinced of the power of fitness that he designed and built a series of trails, each one harder than the next.  As his patients’ health improved, he would ratchet up the hiking regimen.  The pinnacle of his trail achievements was Dead Chief Trail.

During our hike, in between gasps, I explained to Tami that Dad would frequently spy a short cut down the side of the mountain that would occasionally get us hopelessly lost.  At one point we encountered “Short Cut Trail” that was roped off by the park service, and appeared under construction.

We had a wonderful evening in Hot Springs, and hiked home in the dark—moving me into closer contention with Jim.  This morning, we are driving to town, for a soak in the curative springs…

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When we came over the mountain, we were on Central Avenue that had a gorgeous magnolia lined promenade with all the historical bathhouses built in the early 1900’s to take advantage of the hot springs. There were all sorts of contraptions used to heal everything from obesity to syphilis to just sore muscles and hysteria. (I think that is what women are said to get from time to time). This place was a stop for all the famous gangsters and also the baseball players to soak out their wild nights. The sadness is that only two bathhouses remain in use. In the 1950’s when western medicine said hydrotherapy doesn’t help, just take a pill, the Golden Age of Bathing began to decline. I personally think they should bring back Hot Springs as a healing center or maybe we should figure this out for Pittsboro. Hydrotherapy certainly helps most things and has no side effects.
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Regarding camping, let’s just say, it’s been very cold and I have to tell Lyle which way I’m sleeping. It’s a big decision and takes planning to turn over. I’m trying hard to “glamp”. I can do it, but it’s exhausting…. although…after cooking something in the van, the food tastes amazing. Starvation helps.

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Onward to Dewitt Arkansas for an all day consulting gig for Lyle. (The rice and duck capital of the World) Her name is Tami and he sometimes gets her mixed up when texting which can be disasterous. Lyle explained we were coming through in Baby Blue and she said you can stay at our hunting lodge. The last time I had been in a hunting lodge was when we bought 450 acres next door to stop the constant gunshots and preserve some land in Chatham with a covenant protected development, Abeyance. There was an old homestead that was falling into the ground with broken windows, empty beanie-weanie cans and a stack of hunting magazines interspersed with Playboys. That is fine…I bet there is an old rusty shower and maybe indoor toilet? We can just park the van and sleep in it.

Nope, this was a drop dead gorgeous, high thread count lodge and eco-tourism place that had about 8 bedrooms, pool table, wrap around porch overlooking bald cypress swamp with ducks and alligators. The fridge was stocked, a beautiful bottle of red wine out and I couldn’t have been more in heaven washing laundry and sitting by the outdoor fire watching the birds and ducks. Didn’t mind all the stuffed ducks and deer and camo everywhere…

The interesting part about the rice capital of the world is the mono-cropping. There were constant crop dusters dropping various chemicals. Because of so much standing water, they also fly over with mosquito killer and they have no frogs or other eco-systems. The mosquito repellent doesn’t work, but just imagine all the different chemicals we are consuming in our rice…and we wonder about cancer. This part of Arkansas has no small farming. They ship all their food in from California or further. Lyle’s progressive clients are worried about the resiliency of their community if something happens to fossil fuels either in cost or supply. Their work is cut out for them.

I’m finding it fascinating looking at all the businesses that are wiped out by “progess” (maybe because my family hardware store was wiped out by big box), but the other Arkansas resource is mussels and they used to harvest the mussel shells for mother of pearl buttons and had big button factories. Until plastic came along. Now they are closed.

Onward to Tennessee. I will kiss the ground, when I see NC!

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