‘You can do a lot of things with life’

6 August 2013

I’ve gotten to spend time with my Grandpa (a personal hero) the past week. It’s great. Lots of throwing the ball for Joe his puppy and sitting and listening. Sometimes–mostly–just being. Being together. He will also regularly throw in some wise words from almost 89 years of life fully lived. Saturday in passing, over a beer with Joe impatiently waiting for someone to throw a ball, he offers me “you can do a lot of things with life.”

Yes, Grandpa, you can. You have. Moving from small town to Michigan grad, POW, worked with Bucky Fuller, and building his own architecture firm. Not to mention more than 60 years of marriage and raising 3 kids and keeping the next gen in line when we all came along.

I’m now a Michigan grad. Third generation and third of my siblings. Very few people in the world can say that and I don’t mean that in a itmakesmebetterthanyou way. It’s a fact that I stand in awe of near daily.

I’m positioned well in this society so that if-as I have- I work hard I’m one of the lucky ones that could ‘make it.’

You can do a lot of things with life. I can do a lot of things with my life because of who I am, where I’m from, who my parents are, and the school I graduated from.

A lot of things….a lot of things the people I met in workshop weren’t allowed to dream of. Denied access to because of who they are and where they’re from.

I’ve got some plans for what I’ll do. I also had a plan in a prior life that got run off the road. So now I take planning with a grain of salt.

One step at a time. Like walking down the Transpantaneira. They add up. Some straight down a path, some sideways or down a detour.

I can do a lot of things with my life and I’m stepping out of the world I know in Metro-Detroit and Ann Arbor and moving to Harlem. Tomorrow orientation starts.

A week ago I was settling into my last night at Nazaré, writing notes and drawing pictures. A week ago I walked out under the brilliantly lit Brazilian night sky, stared up for the last time in awe of the stars above me and the ground I stood on, the dirt I dug my feet into on the grounds of Colegio de Nazaré. I took it in. Breathed deep. Walked back inside.

Tomorrow is my last day in Troy. I leave for orientation for JVC Thursday.

‘You can do a lot of things with life’ and I’m about to embark on something entirely new.

At Nazare

3 August 2013

I woke up from a nap, a sesta if you will, Friday afternoon very confused. Sitting up, sun coming straight at me, I thought for a moment–my eyes adjusting to the bright light after hiding behind my lids–I was at Nazare. I thought I was waking up from a sesta against the front of the church where I went when I needed to get away. Where I went to soak up some rays after the cold front broke and the sun came back out. My eyes took in the familiar, in an old way, but now unaccustomed sight of the houses behind mine. I expected to see trees, red dirt, open space, the buildings of Nazare just down the way, perhaps a cachoho, the kombi, shouts of kids on the Cuadro out of site. My eyes adjusted to the site of green green grass and houses not my own. Houses that aren’t Nazare. I’m back. I’m home in this place that is both familiar and foreign at the same time and missing my home and friends at Nazare.

At Nazare

I learned Portuguese

well I tried to learn but

ela no entiende still got said

even at the end

Josenildo learned violin

Ana did too,

she, the first to reach out,

when I wondered what was possible

not knowing this language

we struggled to talk to each other but we struggled


the key

Diego showed me friendship

sitting against the wall

he reached out with words

in portuguese

he reached out with care

genuine & honest

beyond words

Walex too,

goofy bouncy kid,

porque triste? so many times

the kids asked me

cuz they knew

and i dont hide my feelings particularly well

At Nazare

sun sets by six

pink hues, golden lights shifting across the daily blue sky

followed by dinner of rice and beans

never could remember that word in Portuguese

it’s cena en espanol

At Nazare

Diego, Josenildo, Ana, Walex,

the kids

los alunos de Nazare

invited me into their lives

we laughed,





we created a home

a life

that seemed like a lifetime

but was just a summer

winter there

to say just a summer


what we shared

at Nazare

don’t do that

i love these kids

(those kids?)

the kids of Nazare

los alunos de Nazare

i’ve returned from our life created at Nazare

left my home at Nazare

left, as I knew I would,

too quickly

Too quickly the feelings of life

at Nazare

of waking up

and concrete under my feet,

and exactly how the sun hit

in the heat of the day

are fading

those daily things

that inevitably get taken for granted

the things that make up

the routine of living in a place

of making it home

At Nazare

I found a home

we made one together

sharing life–

the daily grind

good and bad


we made a life

a home.

Nazare will always hold a part of my heart. The kids, los alunos de Nazare and mis amigos, will always hold part of my heart and they will always be in mine.

Goodbyes Are Always Hard–30 July 2013

30 July 2013

I woke up early today, about 6:30am. I didn’t want to sleep through anymore of my final morning at Nazaré. I wish I had gotten up that early more days. Nazaré early feels crisp though it looks hazy–dust sparkles in the air as the sun hits from an angle I was unfamiliar with. All people and things coming awake.

This will be my final writing from Brazil. I left Nazaré this morning not without a few tears. I left Nazaré looking backward. I left not wanting to go but knowing I had to. I knew I had to leave all along and that it would come faster than I wanted. It did.

At least I got goodbyes. workshops at Gus Harrison never got proper goodbyes.

I’ve prepped myself the best I could. And the kids too. They knew I’d leave though I think we all lived in denial it would happen. Wesley did yesterday. Every time he saw me ‘Vôce não vai emborar. Fica aqui.’ I have to go Wesley. I don’t want to but I have to.

Yesterday were the first goodbyes. Roxanne and Chis headed out in the afternoon.

First though we had a concert for the other kids and staff of Nazaré. ‘O Primeiro Concerto dos aulunos de Nazaré’. All played the best they ever have. The five songs most everyone knows. We were all very proud.

Most of the afternoon I spent wandering around Nazaré taking photos and videos with Diego and Walex. Diego introduced Nazaré in Portuguese and I would talk in English for my friends back home. Ill post the videos here soon.

Saying goodbye to Diego was hardest. After a walk around to the girls dorm and the cuadro where Josenildo and Paulo were playing fútbol I came back up to the main house. We had spent the morning together, Diego and I. Dancing and goofing around while he finished chores. Tayanara, Ana, and Karen joined us (plus the baby Luis Fabriano) out front.

I don’t have any reflections right now. I’m just doing my best to imprint these images on my heart to hold forever.

We had about 6 weeks together. Just six weeks but Nazaré became home. For 6 weeks Diego and others invited me into their lives. For 6 weeks we played and laughed together, sang together, shared in moments of sorrow and joy.

Right now all I can see in my minds eye is Josenildo playing with the silver ring on his finger. He keeps his distance. I can’t stand to leave. Right now all I can see are Diego’s eyes looking back into mine holding back the tears. I squeeze his arm. Ciao amigo.


I came around the corner holding back tears but Diego wouldn’t let me cry– for our últimos fotos we would be muito alegre.