Wednesday, November 17, 2010


The rain filled our cistern that was under the basement in our house in Port-au-Prince Haiti. I was a very young girl (which was a long time ago) and always the cistern interested my brother, my sister and me.  We used to sneak out and open the cover unknown to the maids or our parents, to slide in, like in a dark cave and fall in the coolness that invaded our soul.  It was fed by rain water collected from our roof.  It should have given me an appreciation for the scarcity of water -- but that came later.  After all, we were surrounded with water since we lived on an island.

I remember going to the beach every time we could and relishing our outings along a coral reef.  We took a small motor boat way out off the shore to swim between long and luminous coral formations with so many diverse Caribbean fishes.  The attraction of the deep and the height of the coral formation seemed irresistible to us; it was like an underwater fortress full of life and unimaginable riches. The beauty, the shapes and colors it displayed overwhelmed me.

One time I got off the boat while my friends were getting in.  Alone and armed with my spear gun, I was safe.  I swam to a place all sunlit and looking like a pool; white sand, with the light falling on a slant and creating marvelous patterns, maybe twelve feet under me.  I was mesmerized.  Suddenly I knew I was being watched.  A barracuda, a huge one -- I remember it being huge -- was swimming creating neat circles around me.  My brother-in-law who was like a fish himself had told me many stories about Barracudas.  In the Caribbean they are the next most dangerous fish after sharks.  I froze, nearly dropping my gun that I trailed along my side instead of using it, and started to swim toward the boat knowing that I could not out swim a Barracuda but taking my chances anyway.  It was a simple reaction in my mad pursuit to safety.

My friends on the boat waved at me, smiling from a distance when I lifted up my head to get my bearings, until they noticed that my swimming was at a pace much too fast for being normal.  They put the boat in gear and I arrived to it out of breath, barely able to tell them that a Barracuda wanted me for his next lunch.

One of our friends puffed up his chest, macho that he was, and told me "I will bring you your Barracuda." Just moments later, he, too, was swimming at full speed toward the boat.  "My god a huge Barracuda," I never forgot!

Water was a pleasure and an adventure.  We loved swimming at the time.  With my sister's family, we went to a river on the outside of the city to spend a day of picnicking and fun.  We settled on its shore and found a green pool where my sister and I took off our bikini tops and talked and laughed a storm, once in awhile shooing our curious husbands away.  It is one of my best memories of this time, sitting in the water and watching our families downstream swimming and kicking water.

But I live now in Colorado where water is becoming scarce with the weather changes out West.  We live inland and rely totally on our lakes and rivers.  I live close to a lake created by a dam and it is already maybe 10 feet or more below its original level.  Its sandy borders lay dry and whitish and remind me every time I pass by that water is indeed the stuff of life.

When I do the dishes by hand, I turn off the water and first wash everything with only my sponge being soapy wet, then rinse them with a diminished flow of water.  My husband saves water while his shower warms up and captures it in bottles labeled "plants."  We do what we can.  I keep thinking of so many women or children who have to walk each day to the nearest source of water and bring it on their back to a simple, humble home.  Water that is not necessarily potable.  My water comes easily,safely in a faucet.  In so many parts of the world clean water is a luxury.  Many people are dying now is Haiti with its epidemic of cholera, a waterborne disease.  When I went to Cambodia, we gave money to build a pump and a well and we hope it got used for the community that was so poor.

Clean water is our safety and our life giver.  Water here comes from melting snows and ice that cover our mountains and feed the rivers.  There is talk here of bringing more water to our growing city from the Pueblo reservoir one hour south of town.

The Colorado river that springs from Rocky Mountain National Park to irrigate the Western states is the source of many concerns and competing demands.  The Colorado river feeds many towns in many states of the West where the water shortage is greatly alarming.

I like to think of my days spent at the beach where we spent time under a thatched beach umbrella waiting for the air to get hot to the skin in the afternoons; we would then close our eyes in ecstasy while cooling off in the nearby waters.  Sometimes little fish nibbled at our skin and that was such a treat.

Whether ocean water or river or lake waters; they all are our most precious commodity.  I think that water is also our big connection, our link.  I remember sitting on the beach thinking that on one more shore around the world, in the same ocean, someone is also sitting by the beach and thinking of our sense of connection, our common humanity just as I was.

Ships connect us and run these deep routes of the world as they have for centuries.  They run rivers as well as oceans and it makes with airplanes in the air, the global village our earth has become and will stay.  Water is our life blood.  After all, it makes us human; we are mostly water.

Copyright 2010 Micheline Brierre 
Editing by Barry Kaplan

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Sadness In Our Joy

A good friend of mine, younger than my daughter, has cancer and lives on the outside of Bogota,  Colombia.  She is struggling with the chemotherapy, lost her hair and eyebrows and and I would love to be there to give her a hug and encourage her along the way.  I met her when I lived in Bogota and have kept in touch with her ever since.  I have another friend who has had cancer and recently got re-operated on for the same reason as the first time.

I keep in touch with both of them by email and sometimes just thinking of what they go through is so very sad. It is what I call the sad part of my happiness and my joy.

Many things make us so sad.  We must live with them and let them go in the flow of our lives while we know that our happiness is always present like in a deep lake even if many pebbles create ripples through our consciousness.

Also, I have another friend whose eye is affected by a retina that got displaced and she primarily sees only through her good eye now even though the other eye is making progress.  I could go on and on. There is so much suffering out in the world and tuning into it sometimes is overwhelming.

Yet we go on living and guard our happiness like a squirrel guards its nuts before winter. We can be happy and sad at the same time even though it is hard to place the two together. 
My happiness is like my base in life.  It is the state in which my life has earned its place through much learning and much trust in my abilities, the struggles with myself and constant introspection. I came to a point of great peace that I trust to be a part of me at last. It encompasses many others whose life is an example of radiant beauty and a true inspiration.

My sadness comes in many ways. My husband's recent operation and his suffering, the news of the recent tsunami in Malaysia, the poor men in Chile that spent so long trapped underground, the cholera in Haiti, the many bombings in so many countries, the sickness in my friends, my sister's cat who got lost ... the list is endless.

Then there is my inability to make a difference, the sense of helplessness.  Yet I know that the world always has been with its problems, its disasters, its sickness and its riotous joy.

We live in a huge dichotomy, happy and peaceful yet constantly battered with the hurts that life brings us.  So I smile today and will feel like crying this afternoon but I live in great peace and my happiness is intact.  It is the basic state where I live even if yet on the surface so many things are affecting my joy.

I have come to believe that life is a place both of sorrow and peace, yet also joy and sadness.  It is a matter of accepting this fact that ultimately brings us solace and a smile on our face.  So today I place my joy in the sacred place of my heart next to my acceptance of the intrusion of pain and accept both, as part of my humanness.

It is the role of time to teach us the duality of life, the incredible dichotomy that makes us laugh or cry or deviate from the straight course we had imagined for our path to also encompass the sadness that we must embrace as a part of living.

There are things I cannot do.  My inability to act is a part of my suffering, yet those things make a better human out of me since they teach me empathy, they teach my feelings to enlarge and encompass a great bit of my consciousness.  I can feel grateful, I can feel for others, I can feel how life flows by me with its greatness and its pain; I can feel all of life's discovery and its losses. I am a real being and I can praise the fact that everyday I can learn and grow and be me.  I am always in a state of becoming.

I realize that if I did not feel pain, I would not be human; and if I was not human, I would also not be able to feel the joy; like the warm morning light upon my walls suddenly invading my house as a marvelous happening that lifts my happiness to a state of ecstasy.

Life indeed is a constant lesson and our sadness is wedded to our joy.

2010 Copyright Micheline Brierre
Edited by Barry Kaplan

Thursday, November 4, 2010

A Dream Well Lived

It comes so naturally to most of us; we forget how eerie and strange is our ability to recall.  The memories we keep in our mind are ours alone and are like one-of-a-kind items in a smart boutique.  Our memories are not to be compared to anyone else's and stay in our mind like stalactites in the darkness of a cave; but flash a light on one of them, and it plays itself like a melody replayed on demand at an encore performance on the stage of our life.

There is something magical and so taken for granted in the huge store of events suspended in our lifetime. Often my sister tells me "Don't you remember?"  And I remember, but not exactly the same way she does. Sometimes an event that we both lived together is remembered differently.  Life and our personality has filtered what we stored.  Our memories are not only unique, they are made of all the things we have paid attention to or that caught our interest.  The rest is remembered, maybe, or left to the passing of time and is easily forgotten like doves flying away from us.  We recall what we loved and most often remember what we abhorred.

Remembering needs often a trigger.  Something like a song, a smell, a face of our past, a sight, a sensation deeply felt.  It soars then in our mind like a kite in the wind, lightly sometimes or with the power to overwhelm us.

I remember living in Lima, Peru and walking with my kids on the beach.  Lots of little pebbles made all sorts of clicking sounds as we walked.  The waves crashed on the beach. We came upon a little trickle of water running off from the hill above and small fish swam in the enticing little pool at its bottom.  It was so unexpected.  We found a cup and brought some of the fish home for our aquarium and settled them in.  I remember coming to the kitchen where we kept them the next day and seeing nothing in the aquarium but the newcomer fish who had eaten the domesticated ones. 

Then there are rite of passage memories, like kissing our first boyfriend, bathing in the ocean or having our first babies, smelling their scent and sniffing their skin or kissing our parents and the feeling of their no longer young skin, so soft it seems like butter.  Or getting married or divorced; those moments that come in full force and that haunt us for life.

Our ability to recall is sometimes fading, or disappear as we age.  Like Alzheimer's patients who look at their family and do not remember them.  The absolute horror of it.  It seems like a whole range of our life is lost when our memory goes.  Forgetting our loved ones is saying goodbye to so many days of our life when we were happy and laughed or were angry or hurt, inspired or lazy but fully conscious.  Our life goes in a dark hole of the mind and we are subject to live strictly in the present minute.

Our memories trace for us a path that we embrace as we grow and learn, become more of our true nature and face new moments to enrich ourselves.  We recall, to relive our trajectory, correct its course, to know who we are, who we have been, or who we want to become.  To sort through people we have met and save time for our best friends or the ones that make our soul soar.

It is not enough to remember; it is just as important to trace our future and cry over what is gone and smile at the days as they collect and create more moments to savor and bring up someday to our mind as a dream well lived.

2010 Copyright Micheline Brierre
Editing by Barry Kaplan