Monday, July 18, 2011

Tide Pooling with Little Margo, more than just a slippery step.

We are walking over the tide pool areas, we have been carefully stepping over the rocks, and through the seaweed and looking into puddles of water for the past 40 minutes or so.  Margo has already tumbled once, and is now holding my hand with every step.  Aria, her friend is gliding from place to place, "Margo look over here, a blue banded crab", and then she moves to another spot, Margo is barely able to catch up to the last spot.  Finally the words come out, "I don't want to be a land marine biologist, I want to be the diving kind."  And then she trudges on, trying to manage the rocky, slippery footsteps, and take a moment to look at the wonder of the living sea creatures hiding in each little pool.  We are at the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve at Moss Beach

I am glad she is enjoying herself despite the difficult journey to get from one place to the next.  We see all kinds of wonder...the bat star fish, the big purple starfish, both alive, both clinging to the rocks, or relaxed in the pools of the ocean water.  Margo is bending over and touching every see anenimi she passes by, and there are lots of them.  We walk closer to the edge of the platform, where the rocks meet the incoming tide...and now we find little eels, and limpets, and even sea grass, and little crabs that live in the grass.  These two little creatures are holding on, until the tide returns and covers them.  They will need to wait a few more hours for sure.  About 15 more minutes have passed, and now Margo was ready to return to the car, asking us to walk back to the sandy beach, where she can manage the gravity.  Aria and her brother are still engaged in the adventure and study of the little sea creatures...Margo has had it with unsteady walking and slipping and holding onto me, her mom, with every step she takes.  What do I do????

I see the rangers talking, not too far from where we are standing, so I separate myself from my daughter and go to speak with the rangers.  I think I look a little desperate...I really am desperate because I want Margo to enjoy the tide pools and the treasures they hold, but I do not anticipate all the extra energy she needs to just walk around without tripping.  I never remember it being that difficult...but then again I did not struggle with balance either when I was young.  So I approach the rangers and quickly explain "My daughter has a developmental motor planning and balance disability which makes it extremely difficult for her to step through the tide pool area.  I am not as sure footed as I would like to be while helping her, and well, she is not enjoying the beauty out here.  In fact her dream is to become a Marine Biologist, but right now she is about to give up on the whole adventure.  Can you come alongside and help her get re-engaged into the beauty of this place?"  Neither hesitate to offer help, in fact one of them says, "Oh I remember her, she is the one who needed help crossing the stepping stones to the beach, sure I can help out."  Thank God for Ranger Laura, she comes right up to Margo and starts to show her some of the little animals to see, and the next thing you know, Ranger Laura takes Margo by the hand and they begin to walk, watch and talk.  Margo relaxes, she is walking with someone more sure footed than her mother, and someone who teaches her about the sea and its environment.

Margo wants to go to the sea caves she observes, and Ranger Laura thinks that is a great idea, and off they go.  Soon the other little kids who had started this journey with us, come to Margo and Ranger Laura, to discover along side them.  Margo is relaxing and talking about the ocean, and the shells, and the little blue banded crabs.  And Ranger Laura stops, bends down and points out the interesting tide pool animals they can see.  It continues on like that for almost an hour, and at last Ranger Laura and Margo are walking back on the sandy beach.  There Ranger Laura explains why the harbor seals need space for safety...and then she pulls out her binoculars for Aria and Margo to get a look.  It is fun....they watch the young harbor seals jump into the cove and swim, and play with each other. 

Soon Ranger Laura is called to check on some other area of the tide pools and we walk back to cross over to the other side of the creek.  My boot is soaked in the creek, as I slipped off the rock...Margo is clamoring on a fallen tree.  At first she wants me to help her across the fallen tree, but no I say, you can do this, just keep crawling to the other side.  After a few minutes, she starts making progress, and before you know it she is safe on the other side.  Land oh Land, Margo is on solid land, and happily reflects upon a wonderful day.

It is a great day, Margo keeps going, yeah she complains, because she is tired, and anxious about falling on the hard rocks of the tide pools.  The best part came because I was at the end of my rope, and asked for help... there was Ranger Laura!  I love the ocean, and the tide pools, and I am so glad I can share this adventure with my little Margo.  Thank you Gia for the ride, and thank you Ranger Laura for Margo's personal tour and your gentle hand holding while you both walk across the slippery rocks.

I am going to trust that there will be other Ranger Lauras in Margo's life to help her, as she stumbles across a rocky path from time to time...

Monday, July 11, 2011

Coffee with Shua....the best way to enjoy a cup of joe

Coffee Maxine?
Ethiopia is the birthplace of coffee, at least according to PEET's Coffee...and Eritrea is the same, but different.  Eritrea is next door to Ethiopia, and at one time was part of this large coffee nation.  But Eritrea was also a colony of Italy after world war 1 for many years...mix those two coffee drinking cultures together and you come up with a wonderful cup of joe!  It is not just a cup of something that has the aroma of wealth, but it is a cup which is made with tradition.  A tradition that invests in the development of friendships, and family relationships, not just the black gold.

There is never a quick cup, and in fact we are always offered three cups in series, the first is the strongest, the second a little less so and the third follows in the strength of a good cup of Peet's coffee.  But I get ahead of myself, this is the story about Shua, and how she became my friend.
Shua is Reggatt's mom who is visiting from Eritrea.  She speaks her native language and a little bit of Italian....I speak French and Japanese, so no, we don't really talk, at least not with words.  But just about every morning when I bring little Margo over for a play date, Shua will greet me with the 'becks', you know the little kisses on each cheek.  I always give three, just like I learned from my french mom.  She smiles brightly and then asks if I want some coffee.  And no it is not in English, but with gestures and kindness, and sometimes an interpreted message from her son-in-law Tee.   

I remember the first time Shua made me coffee.  Out came the green beans, poured into a little tin pot attached to a long metal handle.  The stove is turned up, with the flames dancing against the pot, and I hear the shh, shh, shh, sound of the coffee beans being tossed to and fro; almost like a rhythmic dance that lulls you to sleep or brings you an extra moment of relaxation.  Next I hear the pop and crackle of the beans as they become darkened, to whatever flavor Shua deems is best.  Suddenly she glides about the room presenting the darkened beans, still roasting in the pot to be smelled.  I brush the smoke gently towards my nose and sniff, oh my goodness this is a lovely rich aroma.  Shua presents the treasure to the all of the adults in the room and finally even to the children.  Each person provides that suttle glance of approval, and the next step continues.
The beans are poured out upon a woven mat shaped like a large rounded leaf and then carefully placed in the grinder.   The clay pot, is preheated with hot water prior to adding the ground beans, and once filled with the grounds and water is placed over a low fire to just stew.  About 10 minutes later, Shua begins to pour the black gold, into little espresso cups.  Some will add a bit of sugar, others some cream, but I love it straight.  And soon, I am saying 'Taroom', after the very first sip.  This is the traditional comment one must make if the coffee is good.  Silence, means the coffee does not hit the spot, then the preparer must go through the process again, without saying a word.  It is understood, serve your best, and if it is not to the liking of your guest, whether that is your family member or someone like me, start all over again.  But Shua is an expert, she never has to start all over again.

Shua also serves her best in life.  I see it as her children have grown and moved to other countries to live...I see her best in the life of Regatt her daughter and Shua's two grandchildren, Soli and Abbi.  I watch her care for her husband, Abraham, with kindness.  Shua is gentle and kind, and I see that every time we greet one another, and share a smile between each other, and those little becks. 

Before her departure from out neighborhood, off to stay with one of her children in another state, Shua provided me with the Eritrean traditional coffee ceremony.  I have attended a few Japanese tea ceremonies with my friends while in Japan, and this peaceful ceremony provides the same sense of beauty and grace I had observed many years ago at one of my student's home. 
There is a special table, covered in carvings and beans, that is set up over a piece of floor covering.  The incense is lit, and the process begins,  Shu, Shu, Shu, Shu, start the beans, roasting in the pot.  I am invited to smell the aroma of the roasted beans, and soon, they are ground and placed in the pot.  We wait, and smile, and I take photos so I will not forget...and then we drink.  We laugh, and talk a little bit, but mostly we sit and enjoy the moment.  Yes the little girls, are running around, but that does not matter. Here on the mat before the table is Shua, and the coffee.  "Taroom", Shua, "Taroom" for your friendship.