Turtle Island to Ethiopia


January 15 2014 • Writing about these experiences here is not simple. I am looking through eyes that were shaped by the history of being born in this lifetime on Turtle Island (North America). One of my Ethiopian-Italian cousins remarked that I looked like a Brazilian. I translated that to mean that she was seeing my African, Indigenous Native American and European bloodlines in my being. All of that makes me who I am, culturally, politically and spiritually, despite Bob Marley’s One Drop. I celebrate a river of Africana in me.

I am finding the sojourn to Mother Africa so far, joyous, nurturing, nourishing, informative and also at times deeply painful. I have no regrets about coming here and am so far very open to coming back to maintain active ties to family, but also as an active educator and creative writer who is about building bridges, building community. I hope that I am embodying a process of being a bridge and being community.

The pain comes from witnessing the poverty, disease, environmental crisis and economic injustice that has both local and international causes. I don’t want to understand this all too quickly. I am too new here. This is a complicated reality. I think I am old enough to recognize some things, but I need to stay in a mode of listening and watching with humility, patience and openness. I need to see the ways I am connected to this, not separate from it. I need to understand the deep sadness I am feeling this morning before sunrise. I need to be present with whatever comes up for me and hopefully have some healthy intelligence and compassion. For me, meditation and reflection is essential.

A few days ago I met a family friend here, Efrem, who has gone through the meditation retreat I am going to end my journey with. It will be a 10-day silent retreat focused on learning Vipassana Meditation. He might very well end up being an aide giving support to both the facilitators and participants. Sorry, but I can’t let myself believe that this was all just coincidence. Efrem was educated in the U.S. and lived for quite a while in Memphis TN. His life was really impacted by race in America. We share many common experiences. I need to thank Aruni, a Sri Lankan member of the Common Ground Meditation community I belong to who recommended this retreat for me. One of the young African American men from our center already has completed this last fall. I am assuming I have made the right decision to take it also. I expect it to be rigorous and challenging. If I truly am learning something in this process, I am changing even now as I type this.

I am hearing music in my head now: Joy and Pain by Frankie Beverly and MAZE as well as an Ojibway Eagle Song that Aurelio Denasha probably still sings though he has been in Australia for a long time now. I miss him very much. I am also missing my friend Meski today. She may not be able to make it home before I leave in March. I am missing my family back home and my new grandson and granddaughter that I am yet to hold and sing to. Felipe and Tonya have a new baby girl, Metzli, I have yet to hold. I haven’t seen Aisha and Tarik’s boy Andre for a while too. I have been gone a month now. But let me not overlook that fact that Mimi Girma arrived back home the day before yesterday and I will see her soon…my young sister! She certainly lifts my heart up!

I told many of you that I was coming here to visit the sacred and historical sights. Am I procrastinating the posting a story about my trip to the headwaters of the Blue Nile, the island monasteries on Lake Tana and the ancient monolithic stone churches of Lalibela? I have many photos of all that from both myself and our Ethiopian-Italian cousins. I am smiling now for sure. Ethiopia for me now is both joy and pain. I will tell the story after I can counsel with Mimi! LOL

Life keeps happening though I am far from Minnesota. I got the sad news that my dear friend Marie Galban’s son died in Europe last week of uncertain causes. Please send here good thoughts and energy. She is experiencing every parent’s nightmare, the death of a child. She requested that I send a copy of We Are the River which Lucas loved hearing when I performed it at El Milagro Lutheran Church that I used to take my mother to when she lived in Minneapolis. I feel so blessed that something came through me that touched a child and that can now give some comfort to his family.