Tag Archives: Caribbean

chapter seven

IMG_6281IMG_6284

Dear Beth,

Happy New Year! I’m excited to kick-off Living Chapters 2014-style with you in your new whereabouts of St. Croix. Knowing this short term move will help determine if this island will become your new home, I can imagine your challenge over the next few months will be to stay in the present and not get overwhelmed by questions of the future (isn’t that always the challenge?!)

You’ve become somewhat accustomed to migratory living over the last couple of years with short stints at a pool house, carriage house, boats and friends’ couches. While you never expected to make any of these places a permanent nesting ground, you found ways, especially through Living Chapters and the help of friends, to make yourself at home by being very intentional about the ways you have chosen to live. Knowing I will play a role in keeping you grounded this month as you embark on your latest adventure, I’ve been wondering how do you connect to a new place while staying connected to yourself?

I want this month to be a mindful exploration and reflection of your surroundings. Throughout January I am asking that you use your senses as well as your creative faculties to create a field guide to St. Croix. As your partner in crime I too will make a field guide for St. Paul, my recently named home that I’m in need of getting better acquainted with.

Here are the requirements:

Your field guide should include 4 maps, 6 walks, a daily written reflection, and 3 interviews. Each week you’ll share one of these things on Living Chapters. They should be accompanied by some sort of reflection (which may or may not be derived from your daily log). The daily written reflection is intended to be more of a space for you to develop a writing practice and keep connected to yourself.

After every walk I want you to make a list of everything you remember seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, and tasting. I also want you to collect something from each of your walks that you can bring home into your domestic space to create a sense of place.

The interviews should all be done at your home over a simple meal that you’ve prepared with locally-sourced ingredients. The interviews should be designed so that they give you insight into some aspect of St. Croix, i.e. culture, history, food, etc. It’s entirely up to you who you choose to interview.

Lastly, I gave you a copy of Rebecca Solnit’s A Field Guide to Getting Lost to accompany you this month as inspiration. She refers to each chapter as one of her maps. Her writing is beautiful and meditative. Early in the book she references a quote by the pre-Socratic philosopher Meno that I want to leave you with, “How will you go about finding that thing the nature of which is totally unknown to you?”

Have fun in St. Croix!

 Just finding this blog today? Read the prologue for more details on what Living Chapters is all about. Check out the Chapter Summaries Page to get caught up to date.

par·a·dise

What is your definition of paradise? Have you been there? Have you tasted it, heard it, inhaled it or held it?  Does “Paradise” exist? And why do we pine for it? I’ve been contemplating these questions this week, while attempting to meditate on the north side of St. Croix, a tropical island in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

On this particular trip and in past travel experiences through exotic places, I often wondered if I would stumble across paradise. I listened for it in the rainforest, looked underneath coral and shells for it, went swimming under  turquoise waters looking for it and sipped down multiple fresh mango smoothies trying to fill myself up with it.  Like in meditation, I feel somewhat lost in this search for paradise. Its as if I am wandering about trying to find some kind of bliss I am not even sure exists. What is being zen? Do you feel that way in paradise? And if so how do you find paradise?

Before giving up on this quest entirely, I decided to look in one more place: The online Merriam Webster Dictionary… and there it was! Alas paradise and its true meaning(s)

par·a·dise

noun \ˈper-ə-ˌdīs, -ˌdīz, ˈpa-rə-\

: a very beautiful, pleasant, or peaceful place that seems to be perfect

: a place that is perfect for a particular activity or for a person who enjoys that activity

: a state of complete happiness

These explanations left me a bit perplexed. How can paradise be so many things that are different and separate from one another?

So Webster is telling me this: Paradise is a PLACE, one that is so peaceful and beautiful that it seems to be perfect. Is it a place that makes one believe they are content and happy in its perfection, a place that intoxicates one with its surface beauty or the fruits it has to offer.

OR maybe

Paradise is a different PLACE for different people. It is really a place that is elusive in nature, and needs to be sought out and found in a step by step process. First by finding your individual “particular activity” or purpose then by seeking out the one and only and perfect place that will suit your purpose.

Merriam dictionary also says: Paradise is “an imaginary place or state of utter perfection and happiness”  So we have all been searching for an imaginary place of utter perfection? Did we somehow miss this definition in school growing up? I am not sure which is more difficult to track down – finding the imaginary place or one of utter perfection.

I looked a little further and found the origin of the word paradise.

“ Middle English paradis, from Anglo-French, from Late Latin paradisus, from Greek paradeisos, literally, enclosed park, of Iranian origin; akin to Avestan pairi-daēzaenclosure; akin to Greek peri around and to Greek teichos wall ”

The origin of this word seems to describe the feelings I  have personally when trying to define the word or search out this state for myself. I sometimes feel enclosed or boxed in, as if I have to follow Paradise’s prescribed notions. It was like Paradise itself had set up a boundary for me to search for something that may not exist instead of searching for and observing the things that do exist in my world right in front of me that bring happiness.

Well, where else would you go when lost in search of paradise?

Wikipedia of course: This is how it is defined there:

“Paradise is a religious or metaphysical term for a place in which existence is positive, harmonious and eternal. It is conceptually a counter-image of the supposed miseries of human civilization, and in paradise there is only peace, prosperity, and happiness. Paradise is a place of contentment, but it is not necessarily a land of luxury and idleness”

To me this seems like a bit more of a realistic description. Maybe its a post modern paradise?

I believe paradise can only be a place or state in which we interpret and experience individually. It is an existence that we can build for ourselves holding reality and positivity as a guide while, at the same time, letting go of all expectations of others’ definitions of perfection. It’s somewhere in the realization that we do not deserve, find or are given paradise – we create it.

So go ahead and find your own sweet spot wherever you are. Whether it’s in zen meditation, staring out the window of a car, waxing a car, playing guitar or taking 30 second videos… enjoy the process however you plan or live it out and don’t feel judged – it’s your own private paradise after all.

9/14/13

Just finding this blog today? Read more about the Living Chapters project here.