Tuesday, November 22, 2005

A weekend in the country

It was magical, the snow, the way it had covered every single tree that lined the laneway towards my friend's country house. We were entering a fairy tale land with white soft contours just a few hours after leaving the angular shapes of busy bustling Toronto. As if we had arrived in Narnia through the car instead of the wardrobe. The next day we shovelled, took a walk with the dog, fed the birds, watched blue jays and chickadees peck with zest at the feeder. White flurries formed momentary curtains when the sun dislodged large patches of snow from tall trees. The lake gleamed, majestic, omnipresent. By evening most snow had melted. Sitting by the crackling warmth of the fireplace, we gazed at the leaping flames, looked outside at the continuous rippling of water, the changing tones of sunset, and talked late into the night. My friend's partner had passed away over a month ago. She needed to talk about him. His spirit was there. I could feel it. She is discovering the challenges of living alone in the country. But the rewards are abundant.

I enjoyed being there. That feeling of communion with nature, that peacefulness, that friendliness and solidarity it brings in people. Breathing in the smell of pine, of damp soil, of burning logs. The deep silence at night. A light breeze swishing through the trees. A lone bird calling. The silence again. One learns to listen to one's heart. It felt good to be replenished with a good dose of nature before going back to the city.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Twelve Women Breaking Bread

There were twelve of us at a potluck dinner to raise money for educational projects for women in Afghanistan where 90% of women are illiterate. It's part of an initiative by an organization called Breaking Bread for Women. It is run entirely by volunteers. I'm impressed that no one is being paid a huge salary to run this organization. I like the ongoing reports on their website about how donations are being spent, for example paying teachers' salaries, building new schools, etc.

It is stimulating and empowering to be in the company of women eager to help others. Our desire to initiate changes, knowing we can make a difference turned the evening into a cheerful, upbeat exchange of ideas and stories.

With globalization, faster communication and travels, the western world is more aware of the needs of developing countries. Dare we think there will be a new pattern to our self-centred consuming habits? That instead of indulging in another pair of shoes, another dress, another piece of jewellery we don't need, we will see what that money will buy: $750.00 is a year's salary for a teacher in Afghanistan, which means the chance for women to be educated, to get out of the cycle of poverty and eventually help bring peace to their country.

It seems like a naive and idealistic project, but I believe that massive changes often start with small steps in the right direction by people who listen and act with their heart.