The following is the second in a series of posts about Maezy, my daughter’s, first trip to Africa and my third trip for a Savory Global Network training. She is five years old. The Savory Institute invited her, and other family members of staff, to join the team and Savory Network hub leaders in Zimbabwe at the Africa Centre for Holistic Management–the original Savory Network hub. It is magical, happy place. Here is the first post


Bright mornings

May 26, 2016 4:30 am Dimbangombe

We did go on the run. Sithi came at 6:30 am, to sit with sleeping Maezy just as the sun turned the eastern sky a rose color and the dented moon still shone in the western sky. Tre, Sarah and Candice left at 6:15 for the run and I tracked them out, running alone. I was not afraid, except for the part of the run that went through the tall thatch grass. I heard many, many birds on the morning run. The air was crisp. It is late fall here. I saw giraffe tracks, but no other large game. I was ok with that. I ran past the beautiful garden, from which we ate salad from at dinner. I heard the fried chicken was from the ranch too, but I skipped it because it was floured.

When I got back, Maezy was still sleeping. She woke up in her brilliantly happy mood. She was in her PJs with her hair a tangled mess sticking out in all directions. She rubbed her eyes as I woke her up. She sat up, hugged me and then said, “Well hello, Sithi!” She raced over to her and gave her a big hug. I dressed Maezy while Sithi helped us tidy up. Then they went outside to explore the training grounds while I got ready for breakfast. Mazey and Sithi have so much fun together—laughing and talking. Mazey is a good judge of character and decides instantly if she likes someone or a situation or not. She is very happy here. It is a happy, grounded, peaceful place that is full of life. I feel more relaxed here than most places in the world. It brings out the best in people too. There is more deep, honest conversations, more sharing, more laughter. Perhaps it is the character of the people who come here, or the spirit of the place. Or both. Either way, Maezy is thriving. She also has had some gluten in desserts and it isn’t affecting her at all. No runny nose, no bumps on her skin, no hyperactivity.

Breakfast yesterday was bacon, sausage and eggs with toast and corn fritters. I had the meat, Maezy had the corn fritters, eggs and bacon, with apple juice. She’s drank so much apple juice on the trip—every plane ride and restaurant meal in the airports.

Savory Global Network’s disturbance and abundance

Our work of the day with the Savory Institute staff is to go through  a facilitated process with Tre of understanding how “disturbance” leads to “abundance.” This process uses the principles of Holistic Management to apply to life in general to help all people experience abundance outside of a ecological or management context. As a pastor would use stories of the Bible to guide people in their lives so that they may make fulfilling decisions and live with grace, so Tre is using the “stories” and principles of Holistic Management to guide people. Thus the concepts of “disturbance” (animal impact in a brittle environment) leading to “abundance” (the healthy grassland). We first analyzed and reflected deeply on our own lives and the disturbances we’ve had, the work we’ve done and what we need to thrive. Each of us defined abundance for us. We moved at the end of the day into defining abundance and what it means to thrive in our role at the Savory Institute, we will then move into what abundance and thriving means for the Global Network.

It was a powerful process. Tre is an incredible leader. There was true, open communication. I’ve never been in a work meeting like this before. There were tears. Lots of tears. People shared true disturbances. I cannot believe the experiences of some. The burdens they bear so courageously. I would have never known. Each of them emerged from their disturbances stronger and healthier. Tre’s point is that disturbance is required for abundance to occur.

If it is intentional or unintentional, we need disturbance in our lives.

I shared about my health challenges, my struggles with concepts about motherhood and career and addictions to fear and anxiety as an energy source rather than love and joy.

We were asked many questions in this process. One set was:

  1. What does it mean to thrive to you personally?
  2. What personal outcomes are important to create your life of abundance?
  3. How do you know you’ve achieved/realized abundance?
  4. If you could “unknow” things or experiences, what would you do? In other words, if you started today with a clean slate—life began today, what would you do?

To me, thriving means health and energy, giving joyously, deeply connected to love through my family, community and the land. It means to be aware of, expressing and enjoying my most uninhibited self. The ability to do meaningful work that is deeply satisfying and flows instead of simply a series of activities. In order to realize this I need to heal both my body (detoxify) and my concepts of achievement (we talked about the industrial values of rewarding efficiency and productivity at any cost and I believe I have lived this– in essence mining myself in order to produce until there is nothing left in terms of energy and health. It is so, so liberating to be free of this expectation).  To me, abundance realized is healing—all systems functioning as they should and being a source of life and energy for the land, my family and community in a reciprocal, regenerative way.

If I could “unknow” or change anything, I would “guard my mind” more, choosing more carefully which thoughts and concepts I accepted and internalized. Sometimes the people you love will give you poisonous thoughts and you accept them because you love the person. If life started today, I would only internalize concepts that uplifted and rejuvenated me.  My fear is to live a tasteless life (where we do not truly and deeply experience life and thus do not remember it).

We are totally bound together

As we worked, I could hear Maezy and Sithi playing and laughing. They drew pictures, took walks, played tag. Daniela shared an Italian saying about “the sweetness of doing nothing.” She wanted this for Savi on this trip. She said children are “flattened” by the structure and schedule that is demanded of them in our schools and society. It is important for a kid to be a kid, to get bored and enjoy long, slow days. I agree. A book she recommended: the Continuum Concept about motherhood. Another she recommended is Strengths Finder about understanding our innate talents. Allan mentioned a book called Flow about how to live a life that is most meaningful (it is about getting outside ourselves).

He said, “You are all my glimmer of hope. We could not have had this discussion 60 years ago. Things are changing and you are leading it. It isn’t just about your children, it is about all children.” Another point he reminded us of is that, “nature only functions at the community level, not a species or population level. We must  recognize that we are totally bound together (as a biological community with nature and a social community with other people).

I realized from this that I need to address my concept of individual contribution and work. It makes me literally sick to my stomach to not feel that I am pulling my weight. It is a deeply held value to me to be self-reliant and independent. However, the truth is that we are bound together as a family and community through so many connection points (complexity) that is not able to be measured in this way. We are not truly independent. How do you know the impact and measure the contribution of really being part of a family and engaging in it? If all are truly regenerating the system (contributing and receiving) the health of the system should grow exponentially. It is interesting to me that in the garden at the ranch, these values and concepts are manifested (literally growing). Values of order, efficiency, production (industrial values) vs. community, connection and new ways of defining health. I struggle with them, work with them, as we create a new way to garden (the desire for neat rows and tidy beds is still there, next to a desire for the most nutrient-dense food, coming from regenerating soil). My sense of ownership in the garden is also based on this self-reliant ideal, when really the interconnectedness of the family/community (social and biological) is the power and health of the garden. I can see many future blog posts about the garden.

At lunch I talked with Brad, the movie producer. The former musician (he still says bro and does this rocker hair toss every now and then) who has done amazing work with children. He has a maze from the 14th century tattooed on his forearm. He said when he was going undercover and covering some “heavy stuff” on child trafficking that it really got to him and he was in a deep depression. He would go through a meditative process of walking a labyrinth to process and cope. He said it saved him.

Mazey missed dinner. She fell sound asleep on the couch during the Sundowner hour. I could not wake her for dinner, so I covered her with Chris’s coat and then carried her to bed where she slept soundly through the night.

People who come here are bravely facing the most complex challenges literally on Earth. Yet there is peace here, happiness and true connection. This proves to myself that great results can come from joy and perhaps there is no greater source of power and strength than love to address these massive challenges.

Running with lion…tracks

May 27, 2016 Friday, Dimbangome, 4:30 am

Lion tracks on the run yesterday morning. Tre, Sarah and Mike waited for me and we hit the dirt road headed toward Victoria Falls at 6:30 am. We ran past the crop field and the elephant’s stall (she must be protected at night from lions because she is not part of a herd). As we headed up the dirt road at a spot where the dirt became sandy and bright red, Tre called out, “lion tracks!” And there they were, fresh and clear in the sand and dusty road.

Maze and I showered when I got back to the bungalow. Sithi comes at 6:30 so I can go on the run and she watches Maezy while she sleeps. Maezy usually doesn’t wake up until after I return. The shower was not hot enough for Maezy’s liking and we took a very short shower. By breakfast time she was back to her chipper self and playing with Savi, who she adores. What a wonderful role model for Maezy. Savi is a ballerina and a rider. Kind, good and beautiful. We watched videos of her dancing at breakfast and Maezy was amazed. Breakfast was sausages (spicy and non), onions, eggs toast and yogurt. Maezy loves the yogurt and tolerates the eggs,which are overcooked compared to the way her dad fixes them for her. I ate the sausages and onions. Daniela told us about her Italian family and how the first time she visited them in Italy they fed her constantly. She said they never wanted her to be hungry for a moment. I am so happy to work for a strong, intelligent woman who puts motherhood first. She said she always took her daughters with her. She didn’t draw lines between work and motherhood. She said that having work of her own allowed her to not become overly absorbed (and dictatorial) in her daughters lives, which would flatten their spirits. Her relationship with Savi (and I am sure Mia too) is one of a deep bond, of joy and respect. As Savi is a great role model for Maezy, Daniela is a great role model for me.

We worked on our Abundance and Disturbance plans during the team meeting sessions. I realized that my plan for my role must be about “resource conversion.” I must cultivate a new energy source to fuel my work and let go of the industrial production-at-any-cost mentality. My plan focused on how to do this and be part of a regenerative work community. We did break out group work. I worked with Allan and Andrea. Allan talked about the three wicked problems of organizations: that they protect themselves despite what is right, they become self-serving and they can lose their purpose and vision (I’m not sure this is the exact list). He said that boards destroy organizations, not staff. We met outside in the soft sunshine. I looked around as Allan spoke and saw a lizard sunning itself on the rocks of the rondavel. A squirrel zipped around the grass and trees near us. A butterfly fluttered through the air and landed on Allan’s knee. This place is full of life. Allan said the place where we sat used to be bare ground, “and now look at how it has come back over the years,” he said with a smile.

In the late afternoon I got a migraine. I wasn’t surprised as at lunch they served a bean salad with corn, broccoli with sesame seeds on it and fish fried in flour and egg. I didn’t realize the fish was fried in flour until after a few bites. It brought me down, but I took my cannabadiol and lay down, waking up a few hours later with a headache but nothing like the severity of the past. Mazey and Sithi played games and read the scavenger hunt book while I rested. As I dipped in and out of consciousness I could hear Sithi’s rhythmic, soothing voice talking to Maezy. It completely relaxed me.

Maezy is completely comfortable and confident here. At dinnertime she ran around with Savi, barefoot. The new hub candidates arrived last night. At dinner we did welcome introductions. Maezy, sitting with Daniela and Savi (not even me) gave her own introduction. I was so proud. She speaks so clearly and confidently. Maezy also made a new friend, Grace, who is Phyllis and Paul’s daughter from the Dharma Lea hub in New York. Such a sweet girl. I also made a new friend, Ian Chapman from Australia who happens to be my friend Lee Champman’s (from Walking G, we spent summers together living in camp trailers at the ranch and teaching riding lessons to the campers, before that we were childhood friends as she came to camp since she was nine or 10) uncle-in-law. I visited with Brian Marshall who is in the hub with Ian.

During introductions, Jesse from the film crew shared, that yesterday, while filming elephants she had one of the most pivotal moments in her career in film. Sharing this caused her to tear up as she spoke. This place has that effect on people. Allan told a light-hearted story about when he and Jody got married in the Cayman Islands that Jody didn’t want to take his last name as was basically the law there. The officiant told her that if she didn’t want to take it she must contest it with the governor. Since she’s never actually contested it, she’s been using a false name all these years!

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