It’s an unusually cold night here in Abadiania, Brazil!
For the only time in my five visits since 2004, the town is almost empty. It’s Saturday; the day that many people end their two-week stay here at one of the B & B’s (pousada, in Portuguese) that host them when they come from all over the world to see the famous healer John of God at the Casa Dom Inacio—the House of St. Ignatius. Most people, particularly those coming with groups, arrive on Sundays or Mondays, so this lull is brief. Late August is often a busy time here, and I hear it’s expected to heat up, both the weather, the population, and, well, no experience here ultimately escapes that description.
My sister-in-law Liz, here for her first visit, commented as soon as we stepped into the Brasilia airport how relaxed and non-frenetic the atmosphere was. She’s right—certainly in contrast to the environments of “do, do, and do more!” that pervade our lives; or compared to, say, arriving in Mumbai.
For those of you who know the crew at Irmao Sol, Irma Lua, the pousada that’s been my home away from home, there are a few new residents.
Joining Bono—the black mutt who has long been top dog here—are Max (see below) and a bevy of kittens who look to be about 6 months old.
There’s an older white cat around who may or may not be there mother, but Max in particular has taken singular joy in chasing one very friendly (to us) kitten, literally up a tree. Several trees, in fact. The kitten seems well-used to it, and Bono, Max and the kittens lend the air of a cartoon-chase to the environs. But it seems to be a well-rehearsed routine, and none of them are immune to being distracted from the chase, by say, an interesting piece of chicken or the noise of the dogs in the street.
It was good to have this day to settle in. We’re both feeling—you know—the way you feel when you’ve kinda sorta gotten some sleep, maybe, not sure, for a few hours in an airplane. Liz took a sleeping aid on the advice of her travel-savvy husband, and was out cold, but woke up telling me she hadn’t slept all night. Imagine her surprise when I told her that indeed she had. We’re both ready to hit the hay, and it’s 7:40 p.m.
The adventures pick up steam tomorrow. Boa noite!
I’m sitting in the Delta lounge waiting for my direct flight to Brasilia—a direct flight being a miracle in and of itself, as it means I don’t need to deal with changing planes in Sao Paolo airport, or with the fact that Brazilian domestic airlines allow only 5 lbs per carry-on bag.
True to the challenge of achieving “escape velocity” before vacation, I’m down to the last minute with handling details of tasks undone, as always, just having to let go of that which didn’t get handled.
I’ve come to realize how taking two weeks off is almost unheard of in these times; at least it persists in being so for Americans. I am reminded of Ron Roth’s oft-repeated phrase that we are human BEINGS, not human doings, but we live our lives as if the opposite is true.
I love going back to the Casa for many reasons. Of the spiritual benefits and the magnificent opportunity to be there I will write more as the time goes on. But right now I’m just appreciating that parking myself in one location, where there is no demand on me, where you are expected to do nothing but rest is beyond most people’s experience anymore. Going to a one-horse town in central Brazil is a good way to remember that life consists of more than the endless to-do list that runs from here to the Restaurant at the End of the Universe.
I first returned to the Casa after a five-year break, arriving on the heels of Ron Roth’s death in 2009, about 3 days after his passing. This year, I’m coming a few months after Sai Baba left his body. John of God is the last living member of this trio of great spiritual healers and leaders whose presences have graced my life and led my journey since my spiritual re-emergence in the 90’s. Joao (John) is now about 70, and I do not take his continued existence here on this earthly plane for granted. Every moment I get to spend there is precious beyond all measure.
I am a Filha da Casa: a daughter of the House (of Dom Inacio—St. Ignatius). When I was first told that in 2004, I knew nothing of what it meant. With each year the meaning, the responsibility and the grace of that knowledge grows in me.
Some of you know the story that on one of my return trips to the Casa, the agent at JFK checking our visas before we boarded the plane chattered out loud, half to herself, that my name, “Spiwack” reminded her of a teacher her brother had whom he talked of incessantly. I walked away not thinking of it till I stopped in my tracks, returned to her and said: “was this in the Bronx, a long time ago?” Indeed it was—my mother had been her brother’s beloved kindergarten teacher, who had made an indelible imprint on him. I boarded the plane and sat stunned, as I knew my mom had arranged this unusual way of letting me know she was with me on my way to the Casa.
Yesterday, as I wound up my work with the Army at LandWarNet in Tampa, FL, one of the last people to come for a quick consult was a vibrant, glowing woman who really didn’t need my services in the least. As she sat down, I admired her necklace, remarking they were my favorite colors. She immediately took it off her neck, claimed she didn’t even like it, it just matched her dress, and insisted that I take it. After refusing, I gave in to her refusing likewise to put it back on. Then I noticed her name: Sandra. My mom’s name. I couldn’t help but think of the fact that once again, I’m on the way to the Casa. And my mom, whose “daughter of the House” I was first, seems to bless my trips to the other House.
I will be sending my prayers for the safety of all in the approaching hurricane; and I will be writing from Brazil.