Food for the soul

After some heavy duty posts the last few entries, This one will be fluffy and full of joyful experiences here at the Hui. We are now the caretakers of the sweetest, cutest, and most beautiful black pit bull girl I’ve ever met!

Her nickname is Sweetie Pie, and she just showed up on the property the other night, scared and starving. So I’m helping babysit her until the weekend’s over and the dog catcher can come for her (everyone says the dog catcher is a very compassionate guy who loves animals so we have nothing to worry about). Something important I’ve learned from my partner Marc–who loves pit bulls–is that they are widely misunderstood as aggressive, dangerous dogs. Yes, it’s true they were bred as fighting dogs in Britain. But what many don’t know is that their handlers were always in the ring with them, and any dog that bit a human was culled right away, never to be bred. The bottom line is that pit bulls LOVE humans and are very loyal. The trouble generally comes when adults are placed in unrestricted situations with other dogs or have irresponsible owners that encourage them to act against their good temperament (normal behaviour for the breed).

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Well, the other dogs that live here aren’t big fans of Sweetie Pie, but Sweetie just sits there looking at them with a “what’s-the-big-deal” expression. She’s incredibly wily. After attaching herself resolutely to Sparky, we tried to keep her enclosed in the garden (having a stray pit bull following the hostess around isn’t the best scenario when you have paying retreat guests onsite). Without knowing the garden at all, she bolted straight to a hidden weak spot in the fence and burrowed for a grand escape. She sits on command and is obviously well-trained, and calmly waited every time we put a leash or collar on. But she freaked out when she realized she was leashed in the garden, leaping around and tearing up the chard and green onions. All she wants is to be with someone. So I’ve been sitting with her, scratching her ears and rubbing her belly (which looks like it might contain a few pups). She calms right down and nuzzles in, and eventually after a big meal and a cuddle she lays down and sleeps in the sun. What a sweetie!

There is certainly something about this place that is deeply grounding and healing for earthlings of all sorts. I saw it happen with the guests at the last workshop, and I have already seen it in the faces of those who have just arrived today for this week’s workshop on building mindful relationships. Our staff shared an opening circle with them, placing leis on each person’s shoulders and welcoming them into our community. With twelve staff members, full workshops, and friends always dropping by, the Hui is always full of energy. It’s a happy, healthy energy, full of cooperation and mutual care.

I attended my first staff meeting the other day, which couldn’t be more different from a regular worksite staff meeting. In a circle, we all checked in with each other about how we were feeling in the group. This creates space to nurture the sharing of joy and gratitude, and also creates a safe container for the hard things too. I have been a part of many circles like this. But I’ve never seen such peaceful and caring words from the heart AND productive short-term planning rolled so neatly into one functional meeting before. I’m reading Starhawk’s Empowerment Manual right now–it’s a guide for collaborative groups–and I think they should take a page out of the Hui’s book. Everyone is so motivated and happy to be here that they all put in more than their share. The other day, we spent hours scouring a nearby house that was at least 100 years old, dancing around to old funk hits till the place gleamed (and I made some money!). No matter what the work is, somehow it turns out to be fun. Everyone pitches in to keep the place clean and to cook meals together, play charades, and hold dance nights in the yurt.

Today was one such magical day. It started with a trip to the beach with Connie, Dougal, and Sabine. Sabine, the German WWOOFer–who makes mouth-watering spaetzle and bakes us tasty treats–has to leave tomorrow because her visa has expired, and we are truly sad to see her go. But she intends to return here in the spring, after a stint in my neck of the woods! (Victoria-Vancouver Island folks, take note!) In honour of her departing, we harvested the first pineapple from the small crop that was planted onsite. This is a big deal because pineapples, flowering only once a year, take at least a year and a half to produce a fruit! Hands down, it was the tastiest pineapple I’ve ever eaten in my life. Unlike the pineapples bred to be easily canned, it didn’t contain a big tough core. After slurping up the sweet juices, we dove into the waves at Dixie Maru beach. It felt so good to finally get into the ocean. Soon enough, a sea turtle came up and popped its head out to say hello.

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On my way out of the water, I was beckoned over to help a girl bury her little brother in the sand. Chatting my ears off like an old friend, they told me about all the best hangout spots on the island. The girl, about ten, told me her name is Puhi Kauila, which means “eel” in Hawaiian. The boy, who looked about eight, goes by William most of the time. She’s lived in six foster homes; he’s lived in five. Regrouping, the four of us Hui staff shared a deep circle of gratitude about our families who, for better or for worse, were always there for us and loved us unconditionally.

As soon as we returned from the beach, we were off again on another adventure. This time, we were headed to a trail along the magnificent cliffs of Molokai–the highest coastal cliffs in the world. Just two miles up the road, we ventured into the woods with Sweetie by our side. The trail, which is pretty much nonexistent at times, winds through invasive trees planted in strange straight lines (left there by settlers who thought it was a good idea to plant non-native species to “hold water”). We popped out at the edges, looking straight down 2,000 feet. It was spectacularly thrilling and vertigo-inducing. As the sun dropped low in the sky, we emerged onto a peaceful field that looked back toward the Mo’omomi Preserve and dropped off into an abyss of blue. We watched as what was probably a whale shot water into the air. Sometimes I can’t believe this is real. We live here!

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Sharing these moments together is certainly food for the soul. We’ve celebrated two birthdays this past week, and they only served to remind me how much of a difference it makes to your health when you are blessed with a caring community and a sanely-paced lifestyle with time for fun and beautiful moments. The two birthday women, Bronwyn (owner-founder) and Sparky (hostess extraordinaire) are vibrant, energetic, joyful, and full of beauty. Like all of the Hui residents, they look and act many years younger than what mainstream society would have you believe about what it’s like to be a certain age. I’m the youngest person here, surrounded with silver hair, and I can hardly keep up! It definitely inspires me to take care of myself, so I can have this much fun when I’m 70.
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Or even 80. As part of this health train, I’ve been tagging along to drop-in Svaroopa yoga sessions taught by a firecracker named Connie (another Connie in my life..!)–some have assured me she is 81 years old, some say even older. She looks younger than many 60 year olds, and is in way better shape than most of the 50+ age group that attends. She’s teaching core release of the deep spinal muscles to eliminate back pain, encourage relaxation, and boost the immune and digestive systems. For a $2 fee, these two-hour sessions full of cozy blankets and props is not a hard choice.

I came here for nourishment–body, mind and spirit. And I am getting filled up indeed.

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