Author - Michelle Aslan

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Self-pity
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Energy Distribution
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Sourdough workshop at Sprouts, UBC
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Sourdough Goodies Workshop at Simon Fraser University
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GSS Mini School
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Imagination and Education
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High octane Go-Juice
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Food To Table Event
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Exercise
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Shadow in the Shadows…

Self-pity

Feeling sorry for oneself is an energy draining, self-destructive habit. Self-pity turns an intelligent human being into a victim and creates a very toxic relationship with friends and family. It stops one from recognizing that the ego has a chokehold on them and is masquerading as their friend.

Emotionally intelligent beings experience reality as it is, not as they would like it to be. Another trait emotionally intelligent people have is that they don’t indulge in addictive behaviors. They know that escaping reality is not an option. They have come to realize through their own life experiences that the safest place is in the eye of the storm, where you experience the “what is” and then make an informed choice based on inner integrity.

The best antidote for self-pity is: strong work ethic, walking ones talk and staying focused on ones life’s purpose.

Energy Distribution

Everyday when we wake up in the morning, we go through an energy distribution phase where we make a decision, consciously or unconsciously on what we are going to focus on. Empowering habits lead to a successful life. Whereas, disempowering habits lead us to mediocrity in every aspect of life.

Sourdough workshop at Sprouts, UBC

I am excited that I have been invited to teach a cultured sourdough workshop by Sprouts cafe at University of British Columbia on March 30th.  In this workshop graduate students at UBC  will discover how to make healthy sourdough bread without using any baking soda, baking powder, commercial yeast or corn starch.  Most baked goods that are produced commercially are not health sustaining long term. As they contain too much sugar, butter, and undigestible flour. Sourdough baking is a delicious, sugar and dairy free alternative, that not only tastes good but is easy to digest.

The amazing thing about cultured sourdough baking is that the carbohydrates are pre-digested during the process of culturing and the nutrients are made more bio-available. The lactic acid in sourdough slows down the rate at which glucose is released in the blood stream. And also lowers the cultured baked good’s glycemic index.

Cultured Sourdough Baking Workshop
Sprouts UBC
March 30th, 2017
2:30 pm to 6:30 pm

Sourdough Goodies Workshop at Simon Fraser University

I am very excited to be teaching a “Sourdough Goodies” workshop through the Graduate Students Society, for grad students at Simon Fraser University.

In this workshop students will discover how to use sourdough starter to transform conventional pastries into more nutritious sourdough treats that taste delicious and will make one feel great. Sourdough cookies, pies, cakes and loaves become more bio-available through fermentation.

During the workshop students will sample various sourdough pastries, see a presentation on sourdough goodies and receive a demo on making a sourdough piecrust, cakes and cookies.

 

GSS Mini School

As the Director of Graduate Student Society, at Simon Fraser University, I am very excited to be working on the project “GSS Mini School”. The mini school offers 1 to 2 hour, free workshops to all graduate students as a perfect energy booster for reducing anxiety, enhancing emotional wellbeing and finding much-needed relief from the general stress inherent to studying at a university. Our goal is to increase graduate student engagement one workshop at a time. Some of the workshops and events we will be offering are:

  • nature walks
  • learn to knit at the graduate student lounge
  • discover how to make healthy, delicious desserts
  • enjoy a free movie night with salad and pizza
  • Networking mingles that help increase engagement with fellow students

Imagination and Education

I have been invited to speak and facilitate a workshop at the 10TH International Conference on Imagination and Education on July 2nd to July 4th, at Simon Fraser University, downtown campus. The workshop I am facilitating is on how to go from Stuck to Unstoppable in Education. In this workshop conference participants will discover how to:

  • build a growth mindset culture in classrooms
  • change student’s thinking about success and performance to manifest positive change
  • collapse disempowering behaviors and habits to improve a student’s productivity and enhance their performance 

High octane Go-Juice

Coffee plays a large and extremely powerful role in the lives of millions of people. It is a comfort and a ritual in the morning for legions of workers, and its vast collection of affectionate nicknames is a testament to the favorable eye and fond heart with which it is viewed. From the simple but familiar sounding “cup of Joe”, to the more exotic and dramatic “morning thunder” or “liquid gold”, and even the more accurate “jitter juice”, it is clear that in the minds of the majority, coffee is an elixir and potion capable of injecting a certain desirable emotion and power into life that would otherwise be lacking. Unfortunately, this beverage brings with it serious and long lasting destructive effects on the human brain and body, often unexpectedly and without warning.

The tragedy is that coffee’s dark side is unknown to most. Strenuous educational campaigns have been mounted against alcohol, tobacco, and illegal drugs like cocaine. But coffee seems to have slipped through the cracks unnoticed, where it can work its insidious damage in plain view, undetected. Unlike other “recreational” drugs (and make no mistake about it, coffee is a drug), where use decreases with age, when it comes to coffee, the older a person gets the more likely they are to identify themselves as a coffee drinker. By the age of 18, 30% of Americans consume some type of coffee beverage on a daily basis. By the age of 50, the number has doubled to at least 60%. Some studies indicate that consumption among senior citizens may be as high as 75%. The fact that older people drink even more coffee than younger people dispels the popular myth that people drink coffee just to function at work or in school, or to party all through the night.

So why and how has this toxic, destructive, caffeine laden beverage crept into the very fabric of society? How has it embedded itself thoroughly and seemingly irrevocably into the framework of interaction, of work, play, and amusement?

The answer is deceptively simple: coffee offers the sweet and seductive temptation of something-for-nothing, with beautiful promises to endow the user with almost supernatural powers of charm, endurance, vitality, and intelligence: Feeling down? Drink some coffee! Still feeling down? Drink some more coffee! Didn’t get enough sleep last night? Well, have a cup of liquid lightning! Conversation stalling over the dinner party with the Jones? Who’d like a cup of coffee? All better? Great! What’s that you say? You need to pull an all-nighter because there’s a big presentation tomorrow? Don’t worry, have a cup of brain-brew! You’ll do just fine! Make it extra strong! High octane Go-Juice is what we need!

All of which is fine and even miraculous until the day the headaches and nausea start to kick in, which is the signal to “up the dose”. Try 4 cups instead of 2 and the problem might go away. For a little while.

When the inability to sleep, combined with the cardiac arrhythmia gets to be too much, it might be time to move up to 6 or 7 cups a day. If the acid reflux and heartburn persist, try 12 cups. If your bones start crumbling due to osteoporosis, well, no amount of coffee in the world is going to fix that. Caffeine, after all, requires a tremendous amount of calcium to neutralize. And the anxiety, the irritability, the diarrhea, the dizziness, the high blood pressure, the high cholesterol, the nutritional deficiencies, the tremors, the pounding heart and the depression? Well, you can’t have super-human vitality without a little inconvenience, after all!

All sarcasm aside, the simple fact of the matter is that the primary active ingredient in coffee, caffeine, is a powerful and degrading substance. This stimulant triggers the release of adrenalin, the “fight-or-flight” chemical responsible for ensuring that the strength and energy necessary to survive an extreme encounter with a wild animal or dangerous situation will be there when it is most needed. In this context, adrenalin makes sense, and will preserve life.

With coffee, however, the adrenalin induced “fight-or-flight” response is being triggered each and every day, week after week, and year after year. No organism can withstand that form of stress without reaping the consequences of such traumatic conditions. Imagine, for a moment, a human being who was forced to encounter and endure an ambush and fight with a dangerous wild animal every single day of their life, several times a day, struggling for their very survival. Would that human being grow up to be healthy and strong, living to a ripe old age in good health?

Absolutely not. Over the course of the years, their physiology would be worn down from the constant strain and fear, and their organs would begin to break down from the constant onslaught of the toxic chemical cocktail produced by an organism in severe mental, physical, and emotional trauma. They would die an early death, robbed of decades of life and happiness.

Every cup of coffee stimulates the exact same condition in the human body as what has just been described. As the body detects the presence of caffeine invading and breaching the brain/blood barrier, it reacts by triggering an emergency response. The heart beats faster, the lungs work harder, and the blood vessels leading to the brain become narrowed in an attempt to channel the dangerous substance out of the body as quickly as possible. For it must be unequivocally stated: caffeine is an absolute, unadulterated poison. Just 10 grams of caffeine accumulated in the bloodstream would result in immediate death. Caffeine injected directly into the muscles results in sudden and severe paralysis.

Fortunately, the human body is so remarkable and resilient that it calls the kidneys and liver into action to strenuously prevent any accumulation of this concentrated deadly substance. But the result is a nation and world of human beings whose very organs and nervous systems are being worn down by the stress of life-and-death battle taking place inside the body as it struggles mightily to preserve itself. Eventually, of course, it becomes too much. Not only are the liver and kidneys worn down and devitalized, but the very linings of the bladder and stomach become too damaged to resist ulceration and cancer. Blood pressure becomes chronically elevated, and diabetes sets in as the body no longer retains the vitality to regulate normal metabolism.

In this context, it becomes clear why consumption of coffee increases with age. Robbed of the natural health, energy, and vitality that are the birthright of all beings, people turn to coffee in the hopes that it will provide what they desperately know they are lacking. As the body becomes more and more damaged, numbed, and destroyed by the toxic influence of caffeine, the individual needs ever larger and larger doses in order to stimulate any sort of favorable response.

The adrenal glands eventually are so over-stimulated that the coffee drinker needs to intake massive quantities of caffeine just to feel “normal.” Bowel movements even began to become dependent on the stimulation of caffeine, as the intestines themselves fall prey to the fatigue and stress of constant stimulation. At this point, a vicious cycle is the order of the day, as the very poison responsible for the havoc and destruction is applied as the cure.

Is there a way out of this tragic situation? Can human beings enjoy steady energy, productive work, stimulating conversation, motivating activity, and physical well-being without this veritable cocktail of destruction? The answer is yes, absolutely and with certainty. But it requires an attitude of maturity, and a realization that it is only in the world of fairy tales, con men, and real estate seminars that the promise of “something-for-nothing” is presented as a serious option. In the real world, vitality and personal power, wealth, and health are accumulated through simple but regular and consistent, cause-and-effect actions, not through quick-fix potions and concoctions.

By applying the principles of a healthy lifestyle, and by scheduling life in such a way that adequate fresh food, exercise, and rest are not neglected, energy and long life can be mutually compatible. Literally years and even decades of life can be preserved and enjoyed by embracing and listening to the body’s messages and requests, and by refusing to succumb to the siren-song of coffee and the artificial stimulation that is its attendant nurse, bringing liquid disease and death.

Michelle Aslan

 

References:

Allen, Stewart Lee (1999). The devil’s cup : coffee, the driving force in history. Soho: Random House. ISBN 156947174.

Lovett, Richard (24 September 2005).  “Coffee: The demon drink”. New Scientist (2518). Retrieved 2009-03-2010.

Bolton, Ph.D., Sanford (1981). “Caffeine: Psychological Effects, Use and Abuse”. Orthomolecular Psychiatry 10 (3): 202–211.

Smith, A (2002). “Effects of caffeine on human behaviour” Food and Chemical Toxicology 40 (9): 1245, 1249.doi:10.1016/S0278-6915(02)00096-0.PMID 12204388.Retrieved March 14, 2010.

 

Food To Table Event

  • Food to table event
  • Food to table discussion
  • Michelle Aslan serving healthy desserts
  • Would you like some delicious, healthy desserts?

An event that celebrates fresh food and community.  I was invited to prepare a delicious raw meal with some yummy desserts for this event. At the “Food to Table” event we had a meal made of fresh ingredients, sourced directly from the local market. Most importantly, it was about sharing a meal and some special time with friends while celebrating Vancouver’s fresh bounty.  This was an amazing event with the right menu, and the right people!

Fresh apple pie with coconut ice-cream

 

Exercise

Exercise is the most important component of a healthy lifestyle. Vigorous (for ones fitness level) and regular physical activity is the only way to ensure that the body is well fueled and is properly metabolizing and processing all of the healthy sugars and other nutrients found in fruits and vegetables.

Attempting to eat a healthy diet but then sitting on the couch all day is a recipe for disaster. Diet and exercise are two aspects of health that cannot be separated from each other. A healthy lifestyle includes a consistent attention to physical fitness and motion. Strength, flexibility, stamina, and coordination should all be a focus.

Without this, the sugars being consumed will wreak havoc, creating a foggy mental state, a “loopy” feeling, and unbalanced emotions. This point cannot be over-emphasized. Healthy food fuels an active body and poisons an inactive body.

Adequate exercise ensures that caloric demands are great enough to require the consumption of a quantity of food that will meet the nutrient needs of the human body. If one is inactive, and because of this inactivity only requires a minimal caloric consumption, then one will be undernourished as a result and symptoms of ill health and deficiency will be inevitable.

Exercise also ensures that the nervous system, the circulatory system, the lymphatic system, and the endocrine system are functioning at an optimal level. All of these systems function best in an environment where demands are being placed on them. The saying “use it or lose it” applies here. Without exercise, these bodily systems will become weak and inefficient, eventually degenerating to a point where health is jeopardized.

Shadow in the Shadows…

My friend Nicole and I went hiking through the forest one summer morning. We were talking and admiring the many kinds of trees, some of which we recognized and some that were completely foreign to us. I have always been drawn to nature, and once we began walking on the trail, it felt as though I was coming home and coming to life here in this green, lush, beautiful, environment.

I looked around at the overgrown scene, with vines and leaves and every kind of plant imaginable. Shorter trees vied with the taller ones for sunlight. The raspy calls of insects filled the forest. The air was sweet and crisp, and it teased the senses. It was a setting in which I knew I belonged.

My friend Nicole turned to me and said, “I’m glad I decided to go hiking with you. This beats walking in the city, surrounded by the traffic and the smog.”

I replied, “Yes, it does, I love it here. It’s exhilarating!”

We kept walking, silently admiring the various trees and the sunlight dancing through the thick branches and leaves. I didn’t feel like conversing much and I guess Nicole could sense that.

There were many intriguing things in the forest. There was a tiny spot of colour that turned out to be a frog on a tree. There were leaves and small twigs on the forest floor. Flower petals, vines and even a few smaller branches had settled onto the ground. A strange elation swept through me, and felt excitement pulse through my veins. Ferns grew abundantly on the forest floor, carpeting the area in shades of green.

Suddenly, a silence took hold of the forest. The stillness disturbed me and sent a chill down my spine. The hairs on the back of my neck bristled, and I knew my friend and I were in danger. I turned my head from side to side nervously as I continued to walk, my eyes trying to probe the foliage. My friend must have sensed my apprehension, because she looked at me and asked, “What’s the matter?”

My heartbeat accelerated, my mouth was dry, and I could feel my body tremble.

Something moved in the foliage, something large, a shadow in the shadows…something that was pacing alongside us. I couldn’t actually see it, but it was stalking us silently, and it was something wild. I could feel the intent and the focused stare.

Nicole looked at me. “You’re scaring me, what’s the matter!?”

“Don’t look so frightened,” I replied. “The forest went so quiet all of a sudden and it feels kind of dangerous. Like maybe an animal is stalking us.”

“Oh my God! I’m going to pee in my pants!”

“That’s not an option,” I replied. “You’re wearing a dress.”

“How can you joke at a time like this?” She looked tense and frightened.

“Don’t you fall apart on me,” I said.  “I need you! If there’s something out there, fear is not going to help us. I plan to walk out of here in one whole piece. Are you with me or not?”

“Of course I’m with you, you idiot! Don’t you dare leave me and run!” She was beginning to panic.

“Somewhere I’ve read that large cats will give chase to anything that starts running,” I said.

I could see the relief sweep through her, and could feel the tension leave her body.

Laughing, she said, “You silly! You’re scared of a cat? Let me see! Where is it?”

“I’m not talking about a house cat or a wild cat, Nicole. I’m talking about a cougar or maybe even a Panther.”

She blinked in shock. ” I think I’m going to be sick!”

“Well, you’d better not. Whatever it is, it’s moving closer. You know, I read in the “Tipitika” that the moment of death is very important.”

She looked puzzled. “What are you talking about?”

“The type of sensation you are experiencing at the moment of death is very important,” I replied. “That moment will carry you into the next life. And if the moment at the time of death is full of fear, then the next life will be full of fear.”

“You’re a fountain of information, Michelle! Are you telling me that if that thing comes out of the bushes and stands in front of you, you’re going to laugh and chuckle!?”

“No,” I whispered. “But at least I will be aware that I am experiencing the sensation of fear. And I won’t be engulfed in it. Being aware and equanimous is the key.”

“But I thought you said we were going to get out of here in one piece!”

“We are,” I said. “I just wanted to share some pertinent information with you, so you would gain some knowledge on the nature of sensations. Experience and wisdom go hand in hand.”

Now she became sarcastic. “Well, stupid me! Thank you! I am feeling sensations of great relief after listening to that piece of knowledge!”

It was suddenly oppressive and hot. I could feel the dampness on my back, and there was a warning rumble. The growl was low, but in the silence of the forest it carried easily. There was no mistaking the sound of a large cat.

Nicole threw down her pack and whispered, “Did you hear that? And it’s close! We should get out of here.”

“Yes!” I whispered back. “That is a large wildcat. And from what I’ve read, running is not going to do a bit of good if it’s made up its mind to make a meal of us.”

“You’re very reassuring aren’t you?” she asked. “Aren’t you scared? I don’t know what made me want to go hiking with you!”

I couldn’t help but grin. “An hour ago you said you were glad to be with me.” I picked up her backpack and handed it to her. “Here take this. Now put it on.”

I waited till she had done so. “Now, hold my hand and turn around, back towards the trail. I’ll keep an eye on whatever it is that is lurking in the foliage while you lead us back on the path. And let me know if there are any obstacles in the way. This way, we’ll have a view of both the front and the back.”

I was watching the foliage warily. Suddenly, my breath caught in my throat. I could have sworn I had seen a pair of green eyes only a few yards away from where we were. But when I blinked, there were only dark shadows and endless ferns. As hard as I tried, I could see nothing, but the impression of danger remained acute. I said to

Nicole, “Keep walking!”

“Do you see anything yet?” she asked.

I told her that I hadn’t seen anything yet.

By this time, I was feeling a bit tired and sticky. My feet hurt and walking backwards was no fun. I tried to walk as quickly as I could, hurrying along the trail, thinking about how I had lost my sense of wonder and homecoming.

Nicole said, suddenly, “I can feel you tremble! Are you scared?”

“Yes, I am.”

She was trembling now. “Do you think we will make it?

I tried to calm myself and reassure Nicole at the same time. “Have I ever told you about how my granddad used to make beer in the bathtub?”

“This isn’t the time to talk about booze!” she hissed.

I kept talking. “I fell in it once, while I was helping him make the beer. I was five years old, and I thought I was going to drown. When my granddad fished me out of the wooden tub, I was shaking like a leaf. Beer was dripping all over the floor, and my granddad could see that I was in shock. He took me into the bathroom and held me in his arms in the hot shower. He kept reassuring me that I would be okay, and that it was going to be the best beer I had helped him make that year.”

“A few days later,” I continued, “my family members were drinking the beer and congratulating me on how clever I was for helping my granddad. They kept saying that it was the best beer they had ever tasted. The thing is, I peed in the beer.”

“You did what?” Nicole couldn’t believe what I had said.

“I peed in it, when I thought I was drowning! When I remembered what I had done, I was too scared to tell him.”

She was laughing now. “Why didn’t you tell him later?”

“Well, they were drinking it and complimenting me on how good it was! I thought it was best not say anything.”

“You crack me up!”

“Well, I told you my secret. You can’t tell anyone okay?” I was grinning at her.

Still laughing, she agreed, “Okay!”

Pointing at the foliage, I said, “I think Mr. Green Eyes is laughing too.”

“You what!? Did you see it? Why didn’t you tell me? What was it?”

“I don’t know,” I said.

“What do you mean you don’t know! You just said ‘Green Eyes!'”

“That’s all I saw,” I told her. “The most incredible, beautiful green eyes. I think I saw them, but I’m not sure.”

“Oh for Christ’s sake! You’re supposed to be watching for danger!”

“Why don’t you watch for it?” I replied. “Turn around and I’ll take your position and lead.”

“No! No! You do it. You’re good at stuff like this!”

We kept walking as I kept my eye on the foliage. At the same time, I was trying to sort through the mental turmoil and find the refuge within. For a moment, I could hear only the beating of my heart, drowning out every other sound. And then a thought came into my mind. “Be still.”

“Is it following us? Do you sense it?”

I tried to ignore all sounds and just observe.

“Are you with me!? What do you see! What are you thinking?”

“I’m not thinking anything, I am observing the Ego.”

“Good Lord!” shouted Nicole. “Forget your ego! Both our lives are at stake, and here you are observing your ego!”

“Shush! Be calm,” I replied. “Being is with you at all times. I am trying to be still.”

“What do you mean, ‘being’?”

“‘Being’ that’s breathing you, digesting your food, making your heart pump, that being. Call it God, Presence, or whatever you want.”

“Fine! Go on.”

“You see, Being is with us at all times. It’s from there that we’ll find a solution to get out of here in one piece.”

“Well, what do I have to do?”

“Nothing.”

“Nothing!?”

“All you have to do is be calm and be still. Try deep breathing to calm yourself down.”

Taking my own advice, I filled my lungs with the forest air. It was amazing to experience all of the various smells, holding myself within, listening and being. Then, I felt something, something welling up inside, something strong and overwhelming. The emotion was intense and I felt as though I would burst.

Nicole looked concerned. “Are you okay?” she asked.

I squeezed her hand and said “I love you.”

Nicole looked touched. “I didn’t mean to yell at you, I love you too. You’re my best buddy. What are we going to do?”

“I’m going to send it love and comfort,” I replied. “Maybe it needs help.”

“Trust me Michelle! It does not need your help! This is not a dog that you can help, this is a wild animal! I know you think you are nature’s child, but this is different! And I don’t want you to do anything stupid, you hear me!?”

“I’m not going to pet it, Nicole. I’m just going to surround him with affection and comfort, so he thinks we’re his buddies and might change his mind about having you for an appetizer.”

“Look who is talking! I’m six inches taller than you! If it was thinking of having an appetizer, it would choose you, you shrimp!”

I laughed. “Don’t blame me for the fact that you’re tall. It’s not my fault your mom fed you giraffe’s milk! I know panthers don’t like shrimps. You, though, I’m sure he would like you. You’re beautiful, you have gorgeous blue eyes, sexy long legs and meat on your bones!”

“You’re sick!”

“I’m trying to compliment you and you think I am sick!” I was smiling.

“Can you see him?”

I gently replied, “I want you to be quiet. Don’t talk for the next five minutes, okay?”

There was fear in her voice now. “You’re not going near it are you?

“No, we’ll keep walking. Just don’t talk.”

I could still sense the shadow in the foliage, and I sent feelings of warmth and love into the ferns, imagining the beautiful animal receiving it. I sent images of beauty, of clear crystal water soothing his warm skin. Wrapping him in comfort and holding him close to my heart, and surrounding him with compassion and gentleness. I sent it reassurance of its beauty and of what an awesome and powerful spot it held in nature.

“Do you hear it?” asked Nicole. She squeezed my hand.

“Hear what?”

“Listen!” she said.

I heard a rumble in the distance and felt Nicole walk faster, towards it. A few minutes later we saw a jeep approaching us. There was a man in uniform in the drivers seat, and I could feel the tension leave Nicole’s body. “We’ll be safe soon. We’re going to be okay,” she said.

“What do you mean ‘going to be okay?’ We are okay!”

The jeep pulled to a stop a few meters away from us. The driver called out, “Are you guys okay?”

Nicole let go of my hand and ran towards the jeep. She looked at the man and said, “I think we’re lost!”

The man replied, “You shouldn’t be walking here. Didn’t you read the sign that said, ‘Endangered Wild Life – Stay Away’?”

Relieved that we had been found, I laughed, and said, “I’ve been meaning to get some reading glasses. I just haven’t gotten around to doing it yet!”

Nicole wasn’t amused at my wit. “Oh, shut up! For God’s sake, stop joking!

The man gave us a ride to our car, which was parked a couple of miles away from where we had been hiking. It was an interesting afternoon, walking from solitude, to fear, then towards awareness and ultimately to stillness.

That night in our hotel room, Nicole was in her bed writing in her journal. I was sprawled on my bed, about to drift off to sleep.

Nicole spoke. “Are you asleep?”

“Hmmm?”

She took that as permission to continue. “I think you should tell your granddad what you did. I think he’ll have a great laugh!”

“He passed away when I was twelve years old. I miss him sometimes.”

“Oh! I’m so sorry!”

“I think he heard me, though.”

“What are you talking about, Michelle?

Although my own answer surprised me, I knew that it was true.

“I think he heard me in the forest and had a great laugh…”

Michelle Aslan

 

 

 

Copyright © 2017 Michelle Aslan.