Summoning Synchronicities

It’s an interesting thing to search for the synchronicities in life. Are such events simply coincidences? When I first started noticing events matching up in complimentary ways, I thought so. But when I feel close to center, synchronicities seem to increase, and it feels convincingly like there is something deeper.

Peace Like a River
Peace Like a River

Our moon calendar – which describes planting, harvesting, and transplanting techniques and times – has a major objective for each month. March’s objective was: “Reap a Harvest”. In March a few of our pumpkins matured, we began picking the leaves of beans, sweet potatoes, and pumpkins to cook alongside our Nshima, and we even got to eat our first mulberry (literally one!). Maybe the moon calendar is just that good – but it does begin with a disclaimer that it is a moon calendar based on the harvesting cycles in the ‘temperate’ United States, and is therefore totally inapplicable outside of this locality. Still, we reaped a small harvest. It seems that worthwhile things come slowly, and often in small doses.

Beans and Bananas
Beans and Bananas

We also received a WOOFer in March. His name is Simon, and he is a young French man of 22 years with curly black hair and a friendly smile. He fit in well at the farm, and after a few days of adjusting to life without words between he and Kapembwa, the two were laughing together and talking with their hands like old friends. Simon also brought with him a slack line, which provided endless entertainment for the local kids – who marveled at his ability to walk on the line, and tried themselves many, many, many times. Laughter and smiles abound. simon on slackSimon even went so far as to hook the slackline up over the river, and try to cross. More laughs came as he reached the middle, the slackline bowed into the water, and he plunged into the current. After a few more tries, he made it across. Observers didn’t know whether to marvel or laugh or clap, but there was amazement mixed with nervousness, and hushed, sarcastic whispers of ‘witchcraft’ as an explanation of his ability. Others quickly denied this, discarding it as an excuse for their own lack of balance on the line. It is more common than we might think to make excuses for our own lack of balance.

bananas house

During Simon’s stay we hauled about 50 bananas trees from a nearby neighbor’s house and planted them all around the compound. We had expected to buy about 20, but our neighbor Bashikulu Kombe (The grand Father of Kombe) told us that he was trying to clear the bananas anyway, so we should just take all of them and then give him a small token of appreciation. This was a wonderful gift, although the work was not easy with the biggest of the bananas – which stood more than twice my height. Kapembwa worked diligently, as always, and I grumbled, but we planted and mulched them all. We were even lucky enough to have some thunderclouds break the 2-week drought and save us watering by hand. Kapembwa was excited that ‘God had done the work for us’.

We were also blessed by a little gift which we had been waiting for, for some time. Claire and I decided, upon getting Osa (our female dog), that she should have a male companion. Still, we knew that seeking out this dog would not be appropriate, since we were busy acclimatizing to the place, and had our proverbial hands full. We agreed to let the dog find us. As I picked up 22 small chickens from town to start our chicken coup, the owner’s dog had puppies. As I was walking around the compound to see the chickens, one of the puppies came out of the group, right up to me, and started nipping at my heals. As if to remove any doubt that it might be coincidence, Liko (as we have since named him) continued following me all the way to the gate on my departure. I scooped him up, put him in my improvised saddle-bag, and cycled him home. And, as is not uncommon, Claire was open and happy to receive another bud of joy to the farm (hence the name Liko, meaning ‘Bud’ in Hawaiian).

Osa, Ubuloshi (withcraft, the cat), and Liko in the Fire Circle
Osa, Ubuloshi (withcraft, the cat), and Liko in the Fire Circle

That week, we were fortunate to help a friend of ours, named Luke, at a beach resort that he has created on Lake Tanganyika. Simon and I accompanied him as he prepared for a group of guests coming the following weekend from Central Zambia. Luke was eager to fix up the place to make a good impression on what might become repeat guests, and I was eager to make a good impression on Luke, as he is the only ‘Musungu’ born and raised in Kasama, and aside from being a great guy, he has loads of knowledge on farming, Bemba culture, and many other topics relevant to our lives here. Claire and I are incredibly thankful that the other young ‘Musungu’ couple living here in Kasama are such wonderful people. Logistically, we were likely to be friends regardless, but the fact that Luke and his wife Steph as engaging, thoughtful, joyful people is a blessing for us. Luke is an eccentric farmer and Steph is a friendly, free spirited educator… Coincidence? Synchronicity?

Luke(right), Simon, and myself loaded to the brim in Luke’s car
Luke(right), Simon, and myself loaded to the brim in Luke’s car

It was a true pleasure to get on a motorboat and set course for the beach. Lake Tanganyika is massive (the second deepest in the world, and second largest by water volume), so even though we only had to cross one bay, the trip was still over an hour. Approaching the beach is breathtaking – Coconut palms line a white-sand beach, with crystal clear waters lapping at the shore. We spent 2 days working relentlessly to tidy the place up, and 2 quiet, peaceful nights discussing life, Zambia, and the World.

A dresser made of an old boat in one of Luke’s Chalets
A dresser made from an old boat at the beach.
The view from a Chalet at Luke’s Beach
The view from a Chalet at Luke’s Beach.

As is usually the case, Simon – as a traveler- was eager to discuss the world, its state of affairs, and the impacts of western ideology in an increasingly globalized world. This is not an altogether new conversation, but it seems my perspective on such issues has shifted. Simon was eager to discuss the negative impacts of globalized consumer capitalism, complete with the statistics of the Western footprint, the increasing scale of deforestation and environmental degradation, and the unequally distributed, unbalanced terms of trade between the ‘North’ and the ‘South’.

Rest and Recuperation
Rest and Recuperation
Simon is a smart guy. Well-read. He is just starting his travels, and starting to see first-hand the realities of all the global theory he has learned and read about. He is very excited, worked up, and frustrated about the state of affairs in the world. He wants things to change. But he is also relishing in the benefits of travel and experience which this inequality affords him, and he is not necessarily willing to sacrifice this. Sound familiar?

A wonderful thing about Simon is that he is self-aware about these issues. He knows that he is not ready to make this sacrifice, and he is struggling to see how he can fit into a system which he views as fundamentally unsound. As usual, the conversation wrapped itself in circles, revolving back to where it started – globally, things look pretty bleak.

Watching Simon in this situation is like looking into a mirror. I see my life 3 years ago, and don’t doubt that Simon came through synchronicity. I feel blessed to have shifted my angle of perception, at least a little. My only advice to Simon was this: Definitely, we need to change. But this change won’t come through frustration, complaints, or anger (I do not intend to belittle the importance of increasing global awareness of the problem).

Positive change can only come by planting seeds of joy, happiness, and solidarity. Planting seeds takes care, it takes awareness, it takes time, and it’s local. But everyday, in our yards, in our gardens, even breaking through the black density of tar and concrete which cement our society, seeds are sprouting. We can choose to ignore this, and continue with our lives. Or we can care for these sprouts, and plant new seeds. The beauty of it – the real truth – is that we have this choice with every second, every moment, every breath we are given. The fundamental question is not one of the state of global affairs and the future of the world. It is a question of what choice each one of us is making in this particular moment. What seeds are we planting?

Which got me to thinking… We sure have a lot more to learn about farming.

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