love note no. 22: dear second born.

Dear Second Born,

You turned fourteen yesterday.  I read this birthday post and birthday post and and marvel at the young woman I see today.

You are beginning another seven year cycle of life. 14-21 years of age marks a time when thinking blossoms.  You are leaving the stage of learning through only feeling and are ready to meet the world with a critical and discerning eye.  This is the final phase of your childhood.

In this phase you are on a personal quest.  You are seeking answers that I can’t give you.  I can try to present what I have discovered for myself but you cannot rely on what I have to say alone.  I have already watched you ask why we choose to live a certain way and decide for yourself what is true to you.  As your big sister advised you yesterday, it is a time of questioning.  To truly begin “to live the questions,” as Rilke so magnificently puts it, is a skill that will benefit you for the rest of your life.

In this time, you will spiral out into the world, a delicate training in how to cultivate judgement and how to make decisions.  You will form your own philosophy by exploring different philosophies.  You will gather information, experiment, explore your theories, and hopefully make a lot of mistakes.

Don’t be afraid of making them.  They are really just markers and signposts leading you to another path – a path that is more aligned with who you are becoming.  You are probably wondering, What does that look like? Well, my love, I have no idea.  You will begin to hear more clearly the voice inside, your intuition, urging you to stop and see what brings you joy.  That will look different for you than for myself and for your siblings.

Now you are creating a life of your own.  Here is the poem that I chose for you this year that you copied in your book:

This is an important skill too – how to let go gracefully and create anew.

To prepare you for this exciting start to your journey at fourteen, we embarked on “21 Days of Creation.”  For the last twenty-one days, we have gone into the past and explored the present.  For the first seven days, we travelled to the Philippines. On our first day, I told you a Philippine indigenous creation story.  For the rest of the week, we created a family tree and talked about what it would be like to grow up in a nation of scattered islands.  We talked about the stories of my grandparents and your grandparents.  We looked at the indigenous writing that is almost forgotten.  You wrote your name in this language so we would never forget, invoking the wisdom of our ancestors.  We talked about the power of your names.  We also spoke about migration. Why did your great-grandparents decide to leave the Philippines?  Their decision to leave changed all our lives.

And in the next seven days we spent time looking at Canada – the land that stretches from sea to sea to sea. We compared land mass and population of Canada to the Philippines.  Canada is 33 times bigger than the Philippines yet the Philippines has three times its population.  Then we narrowed in on Toronto.   The place where my family landed in 1973.  The place where you, your siblings, your father, and I were born. I read to you a Haudenosaunee creation story because that is the land that we lived on.  I wanted to acknowledge that piece of our own history – how do we reconcile that?  That we bought stolen land.  It’s a complicated story we have – immigrants leaving a land that was also stolen to a land that also did not belong to us. I am still navigating those murky waters and I was honest about not having the answers.  On a map, you mapped out my own migration.  I think we counted that I had moved fourteen times in Toronto and it was in our last house that I had lived the longest – 10 years.  We also labelled your favourite places in the city that held special memories.  We talked about your birth and your early years and our homeschooling journey which has allowed you time for you to have a slow childhood.  Finally, we talked about our own migration, leaving Canada.

For the last 7 days, we focused on Costa Rica, specifically, this area where we have decided to live.  I told a Bri Bri creation story involving cacao.  We talked about the Afro-Caribbean roots and listened to all the stories from The Rich Coast Project which is archiving the stories of this area.  You listened to stories of how life once was here as we spoke to local friends who grew up here. You drew a map of this area and labelled your favourite spots and landmarks.  You cooked using local ingredients.  Discussions always led to why we moved.  Why did we immigrate here?  As she is beginning to understand the components of her own creation that began in the Philippines, she is beginning to understand what motivates movement like our choice to move here – to reconnect with land that feels so familiar and to try to create a self-sustaining life.  I grew up in the city yet my family grew up in a rural province in the Philippines.  I am just regaining the skills that were lost to my generation.  I am learning again so that I can pass down those skills to you so that wherever you end up in the world, you will always be able to sustain yourself.

The day before your birthday, I ask you to draw a Venn diagram, three circles that represented the Philippines, Canada, and Costa Rica.  The three places that have contributed to who you are today.  The circles overlap in different places but in the centre, all three overlap. Ask yourself what is the common theme of the three, or two of the countries, or what is specific only to that one country and to fill in the circles.  What can we learn from migration?  What is home?  How does our environment affect the life we create and define the story we tell? The stories we write about ourselves?

How does place and time affect your own creation story?

Then on your birthday, I went to the beach early to prepare for your rite of passage into this next phase of young womanhood.  I asked you beforehand for your input.  You gave me a short list of who you wanted to be there – women who have spent a lot of time with you over the last several months that we have been here.  I drew a labyrinth in the sand for you.  I told you it was the final day of our Creation together.  I drew the labyrinth but you would have to walk it.  I led you to the entrance and gave you your last instructions of creation. With each deliberate step, I asked you to envision your dreams and to speak your intentions.  I wanted you to visualize what you wanted to create and what you wanted to feel over this last phase of childhood.  This was another skill I wanted to teach you – that your dreams are real and your words are powerful and you have this power to create with you always and can tap into it in peaceful meditation. I left you there and walked back to where the rest of the women were waiting to greet you with your first cacao ceremony and women’s circle.

I watched you walk slowly.  I saw your mouth moving.  Your head was bowed low.  You stopped several times and it seemed you were staring off into the distance.  Each step was intentional and full of purpose.

This is the magic of the labyrinth.

In The Faraway Nearby, Rebecca Solnit writes:

A labyrinth is an ancient device that compresses a journey into a small space, winds up a path like thread on a spool. It contains beginning, confusion, perseverance, arrival, and return. There at last the metaphysical journey of your life and your actual movements are one and the same. You may wander, may learn that in order to get to your destination you must turn away from it, become lost, spin about, and then only after the way has become overwhelming and absorbing, arrive, having gone the great journey without having gone far on the ground.

In this it is the opposite of a maze, which has not one convoluted way but many ways and often no center, so that wandering has no cease or at least no definitive conclusion. A maze is a conversation; a labyrinth is an incantation or perhaps a prayer. In a labyrinth you’re lost in that you don’t know the twists and turns, but if you follow them you get there; and then you reverse your course.

The end of the journey through the labyrinth is not at the center, as is commonly supposed, but back at the threshold again: the beginning is also the real end. That is the home to which you return from the pilgrimage, the adventure. The unpraised edges and margins matter too, because it’s not ultimately a journey of immersion but emergence.

This is the place where I can’t follow you.  Where I stop and you begin.  Your father and I have been with you co-creating since you were inside of me.  Now we are handing the task over to you.  You are ready to create anything you wish.  You are ready for the twist and turns that lead you to your centre.  We are always there to support you on your journey if you need us but we can’t follow you into those sacred places of descent – the place where you become  and unbecome who you are at your choosing.  Because the act of destruction is a natural companion to creation.  You can discard or destroy what doesn’t serve you at any moment.  You define the criteria.  You alone can decide.  This is the purpose of the next seven years  – to allow yourself to create even in darkness, in the unknown, trusting that you will spiral back out into the light.

You don’t have to be afraid.  In fact, I want you to love being in solitude.  You will have more time than most teenagers to sit and think by yourself.  But you will also have so many people who love and support you.  You are surrounded by people who are passionate about their own creations.  They are your guides.  Listen to them and ask questions. Keep what you need.

Right before I began to draw your labyrinth, before you arrived to begin your journey, we saw a sea turtle making his/her way into the ocean…

This was a little miracle.  You see, over the last few weeks, multiple dead sea turtles have been found on the beaches.  It was a sad mystery.  But yesterday morning, this little dude was a symbol of hope and beginning.  I recently looked up the significance of the “sea turtle” and I found this description:

The turtle totem symbolizes our peaceful walk on this earth. It represents the path we take as we embark on our journey through life.  In contrast to emotional or spiritual development occurring in bursts, the way of the turtle anchors our personal unfolding in a slow, more grounded series of steps and longer cycles of transformation.

The turtle is associated with our physical and embodied evolution on the earthly plane. Call this spirit animal for help to be more grounded. You can also get help slowing down and pacing yourself, so you can take your next step with more confidence.

And our friend Hannah who lovingly prepared the cacao for you to drink spoke of a golden orb spider dropping down just over the cacao as she prepared it.  You have always had an affinity for spiders, leaving them be, and admiring their webs.  When you were little, you would love to find the webs just covered in morning dew.  To you, it was the most beautiful thing nature created.  You are the weaver now, integrating all that you have learned into your own web.

I just finished reading aloud “The Phantom Tollbooth” by Norton Juster to your younger sister and brother.  It’s one of your favourite books. Milo sets out on a quest but the King of Dictionopolis and the Mathemagician of Digitopolis both tell him that there is something that he needs to know about the quest that they can’t say until the quest is over.  Eventually, he rescues Rhyme and Reason and returns from his quest.  He is then told what he couldn’t hear at the beginning – the quest was impossible.

And then they tell Milo, “So many things are possible as long as you don’t know they’re impossible.”

We love you and are excited to watch you blossom in this next stage of your life.  You are surrounded by all of your ancient grandmothers and a wise council of women who are committed to guiding you through the darkness when you need it.  Both your grandmother and sister sent you beautiful advice and a commitment of support yesterday.  Distance and time does not create barriers to love and wow, you are SO loved.

Happy birthday.







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