May in the Gambia (update) LO25545

Date: 10/28/00

Dear Learners,

May only has electricity for one hour every day, and then only on an
irregular basis. So, although she has an e-mail facility in the local town
Banjul, that is some way away so she thinks snail-mails might be faster.
Here is her response to all our responses and my reply to her which I sent
out recently with a picture attachment of May wrapped in her
environment;-) with some of her children to some LO friends, but if there
is anyone else on the LO who would like to see the faces of May and the
children I will gladly oblige by sending it.

I have learned, though she did not tell me herself, that there was a time
recently, just prior to our reading/writing when she was questioning her
role in Africa. She has had absolutely no support from anyone other than
her I think perhaps there might have been some 'strange
attractor' at work in the air that day I saw her beautiful book;-)

This feels like a project;-), so with Rick's permission I will hope to
keep you posted, as they say.


Dear Andrew,

Today I wanted to cry when I read your words and *others that you send. *[
I pasted all the responses over a couple of weeks from the LO into one
letter for May to read]

It has become too easy for me to take for granted the work I am doing here
because I thought about it for so long now, and the problems I try to solve
day after day become routine. So, you see, for you to remind me how important
it is was very good for me (Better than money or anything physical you might
give.) because 'respect' is such a big thing here in the community I live in,
many of my 'fathers' (the elders of the village) who give me advice are very
careful to advise me in a way that I will understand how to do what I need to
do, without telling me 'direct'. What I read from you was the same. Although
I will have to re-read to fully understand everything, the best source of
support and encouragement seems to come from the back door and not the front
door there was a lot to take in. But I will try and learn what I can from it.
The (paper) Mill is very close to running now. My three biggest battles
almost over, (water, electricity and equipment). After four months of
carrying buckets of water on my head and trying to get power connected for
nine months- I have just a few pieces of equipment to finish putting together
and some odd things to collect. (Generator, water tank, guillotine etc.)
These things will come, because everything comes with time. And I am learning
patience here.
I want to elaborate on the 'bike story'- (Butterfly or bike?) It was because
the people in the village advised me I should continue to greet my neighbour,
the man who took everything I had shipped from across to the Gambia, (sewing
machine, bike etc) that people have since done many jobs for me for free.
(Building works and such like.) Because to cause trouble, with the family
that I live next door to, would not be wise. I asked the man with my second
set of keys were doing in his room and where he had gone for two days around
the time my things were taken, of course he denied everything. And I calmed
myself and told myself it's not for me to punish this man, I simply asked him
to return my things if he had them. I know I would have reacted very
differently in the UK, but the rewards would not be there. I live now in a
society where everybody helps everybody - with the belief that if you do
good, good will follow you. Only this morning someone brought me breakfast,
whom I have barely spoken to, and this happens most days, not only to me
because I am the only white person in the village, but everyone.
I'm off to finish washing and other jobs - thank you for taking the time for
me. I hope I can write to you in the near future on the paper we are making
here, so you can see what you helped to create.
I ask just one thing, that you go to the bookshop and greet my family- Let
them know I am well and looking forward to the Grand Opening (of the paper
making facility) soon.
short snip-
I hope this letter finds you in good health.
Thank you once again.

Dear May,

Nature as 'earth' has no known way toward forgiveness. Only men and women as
a *'world' upon earth may do that;-) - so, along with you we must learn
patience and gentleness within both realms. Perhaps that is another art that
we can master? It seems so.

This world is very complex because it is one thing by its many connections;-)
In you I saw and find promise, in promise we create can islands of
understanding because promises necessarily involve others, we cannot properly
forgive ourselves nor can we effectively promise ourselves. We may, as 'one
among the many' persons choose to freely bind ;-) among ourselves for the
purpose of any number of projects. Islands of predictability in oceans of
uncertainty. The creation of new covenants out of 'caritas' are not so much
made on paper as written into and out of it by loving hearts and caring minds
and so become immeasurably;-) intrinsically worth so much more than the paper
they are written on.
Like a van Gogh painting, the irreversibly beautiful outcome of a painted
plodded furrow of endless worry about where the next batch of funds or
colours and canvas would come from‚^ņ¶always and only from his beloved brother.
Such a kind of transformation I found in your expressivity.

Why is your personal creativity so very important to my imagination? Because
you remind me thoughtfully of the butterfly so much a modern 'symbol' (in
chaos theory) of our fears about what trains of actions we set out through
our actions and reactions.
The future is forever 'Open', as was your beautiful and tremendously fragile
book of trees open on the desk the morning it met me in Toby's shop. I was
just reminded of the power of beauty to focus attention and to become a guide
for us all of sorts or kinds;-) <> (kinder-"children";-)

Many things are beyond our current imagination and the endlessly Open nature
of nature both human and otherwise lends our projects a way of ceaselessly
upholding while unfolding. I see in my mind's eye the vision of an autumnal
leaf, shining like a flame as I write those words. What I wonder is written
into that image?

Many people are terribly confused May. They often speak in a variety of ways
about 'letting go'. They feel not 'cradled' but 'constrained', owning so many
'pointless possessions' has 'become being owned by them' as Buddhist
scriptures say it;-) so that they seek on the one hand to fall, but know not
what to fall into. If I said you might have experienced falling into your own
creativity, I expect you'd sense what I mean? The way our authentic and
deeply held ideas can fall into new places;-) and present us with new gifts
of ideas and projections;-)?

Perhaps this citation from a remarkable woman exiled in America called Hannah
Arendt will resonate with you and increase your courage and visions and in
patient time your children will all write to us in beautifully scripted
letters, as I kmow you may teach them by pressing not just their hands but
their hearts and minds into the fibres, so as to change the world into new

"Each time you write something and you send it out into the world and it
becomes public, obviously everybody is free to do with it what he pleases,
and this is as it should be. I do not have any quarrel with this. You should
try not to hold your hand now on whatever may happen to what you have been
thinking for yourself. You should rather try to learn from what other people
do with it."
(1973 Library of Congress MSS Box 70, p. 011838)

May, I think Hannah Arendt is saying, -"let go."

I see there is an African butterfly on your stamped envelope...

A tear, even withheld, is such a letting go?


end paste

(*The word 'world' derives from the word wauld 'old man' --- ;-)


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