Walking home from school Wednesday, I reflected on the day’s events. It had been the usual work frustrations and breakthroughs. Some projects seemed hopeful, others hopeless. I tight-walked across the rope between optimism and frustration all day, but at the end of the day my spirits were high. It’s just going to be like that sometimes, I said as I walked my usual path home.
After several days of cold rain, the sky was bright blue. The slightly warmer sun seemed to shed a stage light on the village, making it appear new and more beautiful than I’ve ever seen before. The daily sites of my commute stop me, although unchanged from than any other day. Something about this day seemed fresh and exhilarating. The women calling out to each other as they washed clothes against the mountain backdrop, still sprinkled with snow from three weeks ago. Men gathered around the football pitch, playfully tossing the ball back and forth with sharp kicks as others cheered on.
At one point I couldn’t draw myself away from a group of kids playing. The children, the same ones I see every day, were playing a game with a few dirt-filled polish containers on a hopscotch-like board etched in the soft brown ground. I had seen them play this game before, and even joined in one day, but something about their amusement memorized me. I stopped and stared. I watched each of their faces and youthful movements. I pretended that I knew what they were saying and cheered them on as they made assumingly successful moves. Why did I always rush to get past them? Why couldn’t I let whatever it is that I think I need to do right after school to be and enjoy this very special moment? Kids being kids, in the purest of ways.
Finally I decided to turn home but couldn’t get there. My house lays part way down the dissension into a valley and you can see the other side from the road, near our compound’s entrance. On the other side is a prairie like landscape with rolling hills and six trees in a singular line. The trees seem like they do not belong, alone and exposed by the flatness. Yet, they are calming and reassuring. In this crazy thoughtful state, they begged me to pay them attention. So I sat just outside of the fence to our compound and stared across and into the valley. The moment was so calm and spontaneous and I decided to use it for my daily meditation and prayer.
During this period of enlightenment, I was fasting. Last September, shortly before leaving for Lesotho, I did a juice fast and really enjoyed it. It was my first fast and, although it was difficult, I liked the sense of purifying myself, shoving out the bad and making way for the good. I decided that it would be a good time, physically and mentally, for another.
The last one was a juice fast and seven days. Well, I don’t have a blender or an income to buy that much fresh produce from the grocery store, so I decided to do a shorter one with one broth meal a day and lots of tea and lemon water. I paired it with heavy meditation and prayer and lots of journaling.
My hunger pains roared since the first day, but I was never hungry. Food was on my mind, but I didn’t need it to satisfy my days. Instead I conquered meetings, planning sessions and tutoring appointments. I felt strong, invigorated on an empty stomach.
Much of my centeredness came through my meditation and prayer, which has been focused on presence. I asked my mind and heart to be still so that I could enjoy each day and spend all I had in it. What I found was a productive, happy me. I took time to look up at people when I greeted them. I explored into my Sesotho in ways I hadn’t before. I didn’t hesitate at any moment; I just jumped in.
My thoughts dived deeper into the meaning of presence and mine here in Lesotho.
What if I took that counselor job at the Montana Christian camp out of college instead of deciding to look for a reporting position?
What if I had stayed in Idaho?
What if I had never started The Post? What if I kept with it?
What if I had taken one of the several reporting jobs offered to me?
What if Peace Corps Niger hadn’t been evacuated?
Would I be here now? No. If I would have reversed my decision in each of those scenarios, I honestly believe that I would not be sitting in a hut, listening to the cows come in for the night. Yes, my life would have been different. Would have it been better? It doesn’t matter.
This is my present.
Not all days in this country are filled with joy or reassurance. Sometimes I do wonder what if and have to talk myself into staying. However, when I actually let go and live each moment to moment, knowing the good will replace the bad if I hold on longer and not worry about the future until it comes, there is so much beauty to be found and the notion that I live in Africa never gets realer. In the present, I am coming to learn, is filled with the greatest satisfaction. It’s here that I see my life and every decision I’ve made to this point a blessing. It’s here, in this moment and in this country, a remarkable destiny, that I smile at children, at trees and the idea that I am truly happy.