Sunday, November 25, 2012

3 Moments When The World Made Sense

Well I better write at least one post a year to keep this blog alive.  

I’ve recently been reflecting on how things often don’t make sense to me. How I’m still figuring them out, and probably will be for a long time. However, during at least three points in my life things made sense – if only for a few seconds.  I’d like to share those moments here.

The world was at my feet on the Appalachian Trail.
1. It was the fall of 2001 and I was hiking up a hill on the Appalachian Trail. It was more of a mound – imaging a large grassy knoll called Max Patch. I was planning to sleep there that night with my then-hiking buddy, Crispy; he had gone ahead as I could not match his crisp 4mph+ pace. The sun was on the descent over the western hills and the grass was perfect. With 1900 miles under my belt and a glimpse of the future ( I had just received word I had been accepted as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Ivory Coast) I felt strong and confident. It was something about the angle of the slope and the descent of the sun that made the hill feel like a gigantic treadmill, a rolling canvas of green possibility. Extrapolated out I felt like the entire planet was literally at my feet – a playground to explore and discover step by step. That was one moment when I felt like I understood the world.

I was able to connect the dots of our galaxy in West Africa.
2. It was the fall of 2002 and I had been living in my village – Toumbo Yaga, about 3 hours west of Bondoukou in Cote d’Ivoire, West Africa. A few months into adjusting to a new culture, overcoming language hurdles, and getting comfortable with this pocket of the world with mango trees, scarce water, thatch roofs, and 400 villagers trying to feed their families and stay healthy. I had just finished dinner with the chief of the village his wife, and their 10 children – a simple affair near the fire with some mashed up cassava.  As I padded my way back to my house in flip flops, I stopped a moment oto look up at the sky sparkling with stars.  Now when I was a little girl my dad would stand out on the deck and learn the stars.  I thought he was silly, but over time I bought my own H.A. Rey book of the stars and started piecing together the sky during fall nights at Wellesley, at sea during my time at Williams-Mystic, and southern hemisphere stars during my 6 months in Christchurch, New Zealand. 

So it was on a dark, clear night in Africa that I started my usual journey across the sky – arc to Arcturus, pointers to Casseopeia, onwards to the square of Pegasus, and on.  I reached the horizons and continued in my imagination, connecting the dots. And bam! For a brief moment, kind of like in the Celestine Prophecy, I understood our galaxy.  Well “understood” might be an exaggeration but at least I felt at a base, primal level that everything was connected.

This photograph marks the formal start of my career.
3. It was the middle of 2004, and I was walking down a road in Madagascar and saw a woman sweeping her stoop. I stopped, snapped her photo, and asked a few questions such as, “How often do you sweep?” and “Where do you put your sweepings?” and “Do you use compost on your garden?”  She was somewhat baffled and amused by this blond lady speaking her language.  I smiled and continued on, pleased with that exchange.  At that moment I thought, “Meredith, that’s just weird. No one else asks people about their garbage and recycling.”  [insert pause]  Then I thought, “Hmmm. I guess that’s what I should do in life.”  And that moment sparked my interest in pursuing a career in solid waste management.

For these three moments in this lifetime where things made sense, connected, and seemed possible, I am grateful.  These days I'm spending my time cultivating the conversation around organic recycling, anaerobic digestion and composting through my work with Harvest. Good times.