Yesterday, I met a man who had lost his wife and wanted to die, sold everything he owned and set off with a suitcase in his eighties. He stopped in the valley, settled and started a new life. He adopted a new surrogate family of young people and lives a very full and very different life just down the road in the village.
What happened? Same sort of thing seems to have happened to a lot of people I have met here. People who experience this place, having previously experienced other places, find this valley gives their life a boost and their spirit a lift. In short, it polishes the soul.
This seems like an issue it is worth exploring. What is it exactly that is at work here? We could all do with a nice shiny polished soul. This could be useful. Here is a theory, or more accurately, a compilation of casual cocktail and dinner party research. A rough summary of what other, more thoughtful, people have told me they think is at work.
Here we all live with a very powerful version of mother nature and it affects people. Nature rules and there is a lot of physical energy: Geothermal, solar, magnetic, wind and water all are formidable forces. Nothing mystical about that; expected at high altitude on the side of an active volcano on the continental divide, where the ground shakes and some magnetic tugs are so strong they move cars up hill.
If you live here, you get to dance to natures beat and nature is a teacher like no other. For the godly, dancing to natures beat reminds us we are mortal, we are small, we are part of an inter-connected ecosystem.
This means just like the bees and the butterflies we better get on with it. Get out there and do what we need to do. Build our legacy with a sense of urgency and remember that bricks and mortar are easily leveled: A snake, a flood, disease, lighting strike or eruption is not far away.
Today is the only given. Live each day like it could be your last, risk taking is relative, focus on things nature can not take away.
This farm is a God friendly place. All week long we have hyms coming from the garden, religious radio in the house, or folks scurrying around with prayer books in one hand and balancing a wheelbarrow in the other.
On Saturday afternoons and Sundays, the place is deserted. Everyone is in church starting on Saturday night and going on for most of the day Sunday. Folks wear their best clothes, men in smart pressed trousers and the ladies in frocks.
Indigenous ladies always look gorgeous in their brightly colored cotton dresses. Today, our resident indigenous family dressed their little girl in traditional dress - not the jeans she is allowed to wear the rest of the week.
Chiriqui is the most protestant province in Panama and we are a veritable enclave on this tiny farm. That said, my little Sunday reflection has been about what a 'broad' church the protestant church is. It has come to pass that on this farm we are a mix of evangelicals; Or the church goers who don't go to Mass, mostly defectors from the Roman Catholic church.
My reflection today was triggered by curiosity about the strong 7th Day Adventist tradition here in the mountains of Northern Panama. I have recently starting working with one, and his clean living and healthy habits are a stand out and got me thinking.
Thinking.......and feeling quite embarrassed, ignorant and rude that I knew so little about this tradition. Initially, I had wondered why he worked on Sundays, never realizing Saturday was the holy day. Then I assumed he was Jewish. Worse, I have been feeding my poor 7th Day Adventist friend frowned upon stimulants: Tea and coffee, most recently coke and offering him alcohol.
I also realized on this my day of reflection, that I am consuming huge quantities of legal stimulants mostly in the form of tea. This week I'll be swapping Yorkshire Gold tea for lemon grass. Its going to be rough; As black tea virtually runs in my veins, I will surely need God to help me through.
Here in Coffee land rescuing and being rescued is a way of life. If you do not rescue on a fairly regular basis or are in need of rescuing yourself you are not living, you are existing in a bubble.
Everyone understands the blessing in rescuing, to be able to help others; Harder to see the blessing in the vulnerability of being rescued but I think that is the greater blessing in the end. To be helpless, dependent and to loose things is not easy or anything we want. It is a mini-death experience and a very difficult blessing to receive.
Today, we were enjoying our first Chiriqui Saddle Club breakfast meet. We all rode to the lovely Panamonte hotel for the most delicious breakfast. Horses munching grass outide and riders enjoying a splendid feast. Must make special mention of the complimentary strawberry and mint sherbet refresher. That was to die for, really really good and one of the best food surprises in Boquete in a while - thank you chef!
Half way through my fruit salad, we got an emergency call. Sadly, 20 goats and a little palomino horse were looking for a home. No food and they were starving. Very thin and ribs showing. One of the ladies has a 100 acre farm and agreed to take the goats, I agreed to take the horse. The fabulous truck driver Alexi, who helps ferrying all sorts of goods around town was on the end of his phone came to find us all at the Panamonte and agreed to help. Within an hour and half the little horse was in our paddock.
This is our second rescue animal. We also have a sweet yellow rescue dog. Our dog is the nicest dog I have ever had. Well behaved, happy to eat anything, happy to sleep on her little bed, just happy. Her name is Joy. The horse that arrived this afternoon is also a nice animal, not a reject but a loved and treasured friend. We don't even know his name yet but we have started feeding him up right away: Lots of hay, grass and sweet feed with minerals and oil.
So today, we rescued. I hope when the time comes I will have the grace to be rescued and have a rescuer. In the meantime, thoughts go out to the family who are suffering this loss and am grateful once again to my Education for Ministry friends for introducing me to the practice of theological reflection.