My Little Garden…


irina's letter (sml)My dear José,

From my first step on Portuguese land I felt so excited… me, in your homeland, walking same streets and smelling the same air.

I know that without you it won’t be the same.

But I am an explorer. Just like you. And I feel so peaceful here.

No excitement of Paris or Rome, no crazy crowds of Hong Kong.

Just peacefully at home…

 

It was about nine months ago; during the terrible experience of giving away and discarding the bulk of the contents of a home Irina and I so lovingly created and nurtured into the wonderful stage-set of our lives, that I came across this note… written with her usual flair and careless cursive style seven months earlier, during her short visit to the city of Porto ias portoon the way back to Hong Kong from her Camino de Santiago pilgrimage and, roughly two weeks before her untimely passing to God’s side.

Irina often wrote her thoughts on little notes she would mail or place in books or travel bags for me to discover but this one “felt” different; it read as an expressed wish and I have no idea why she did not give it to me when she came home… maybe because she too felt equally drawn to our warm and comfortable place at the foot of the mountains edging the South China Sea in the wonderful Three Fathoms Cove Bay.

Finding and holding this note; as people walked through our home looking at all of our things that I could not take to the little “cave” that was to become my next place, broke my heart all over again…

I felt the crush of her thoughts and very presence as I stood in the middle of the living room barely aware of all the strangers peeking and poking everywhere within our 3-storey Cantonese village house which had become a shrine to her memory; a place where neither our dog Max or me could make a turn without tripping on the fingerprints of her bigger than life self… her scent still prevailing and actively holding all of our spirits together… painfully, dreamily, peacefully.

I have treasured this one note closer than all of the others not only because it was her last, but perhaps because I sense it wasn’t finished… that there was more to her thought-flow which was left open; maybe as a sixth-sense over our unthinkable journey ahead, or maybe for me to influence its completion.

And so, when all the people, moving trucks and trash collectors left and all was done, when Max and I were finally alone; he in the very large backyard and me; as his “tenant”, in the sliver of a flat that sat within the walled-in compound, we sat together looking at the mountains and our new surroundings with a mix of hope and not small trepidation over the task ahead to heal our souls and rebuild our lives as I knew she would want us to do.

To that point, I had seven long months of getting intimate with pain and a terrible first Christmas/New Year season behind me but… I also knew we were being showered with prayer constantly as I felt a remarkable peace and clarity of purpose even with the absence of a considered script to follow.

That is when; as I placed the remaining “stuff” in its new places within the flat, that I felt Jesus’ presence guiding my thoughts, inciting me to transform Max’s yard into a garden where all of God’s life sustaining elements would be represented and celebrated, as a means of acknowledgment and gratitude for His loving gifts of pairing Irina’s short life with mine and of remaining side-by-side with me through the ensuing redemptive fire of her departure.

It begun with building a fountain with all of the elements that were so dear to Irina; the coolness and sound of crystal-clear waters cascading down rocks, the presence of plants and flowers and, the ethereal night reflection of living waters… strangely (for me who had never built a fountain before), I begun without drawing any plans beyond the image Jesus had placed and kept in my heart, as well as; for the next two plus months of long days, His constant “whispering” informing every decision on quantities, materials, plumbing, under-water electrics, and every cut and action as together, we slowly brought it to life without mistakes, electrocutions, material excess or shortages of any kind… He provided the know-how, I provided the labour.

It is perfect beyond my expectations and remains, as living proof of one of the many miracles I have had the good fortune to witness throughout my life… a healing thing of beauty filled with meaning, reflective of His Grace and Love.

Thus we; our Triune God, Max and I, officially completed and dedicated the works on the first anniversary of Irina’s passing… in the midst of a beautiful sun-filled day and clear evening with heartfelt scripture readings and the appropriate amount of Vodka toasting Irina’s bright spirit, my new lighter heart and my closer personal relationship with our Triune God… the renaissance of our “Great Dance” together as C. Baxter Kruger would refer to it.

Since then, Jesus and I have continued to evolve the garden to what it is today; all elements now present… water, fire, earth and air which, albeit still a work in-progress, has become a peaceful place filled with natural beauty, where we read, talk, laugh and cry with joy together… with Max always nearby, following with his beautiful brown eyes every reverend moment.

By our Triune God’s Holy Grace, this little complex Max and I know as “home” was transformed to become a place of peace and deep healing, a sanctuary where our hearts meet and where both her and I found ourselves “Just peacefully at home…” as our beloved Irina desired; Max and I here, and she on the other side of the stars.

Copyright, Joseph Pereira 2018-2020

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Remembering…


remembering

When you remember me, it means you have carried something of who I am with you, that I have left some mark of who I am on who you are.

It means that if we meet again, you will know me.

It means that even after I die, you can still see my face and hear my voice and speak to me in your heart.

Your remembering is my consolation and helps remind me that I actually exist.

Frederick Buechner

My Father (upper left), My Grandmother (below my father), My Beloved Irisha (center), My Mother (lower right), Two of my Aunts (next to mother and father)

Copyright, Joseph Pereira 2018-2020

To my Daughters…


The Girls (small)Dearest Emily and Nina…

It’s 2 o’clock in the morning in Hong Kong and probably not the “normal” time to be writing you a letter but in-truth, I’ve been writing it in my mind and heart for a long time now so… it feels appropriate to do so whilst all is quiet; whilst the distance between us diminishes to only a memorial sliver without distractions.

The memory is sharp and clear still of that 2nd day of November in 1995 when my sight first kissed your perfect newly born tiny selves… Nina’s voice no more than a tentative “meow” (a brand-new kitten’s voice is what it reminded me of), whilst you Emily already carried a stronger timber as a prelude to the operatic and melodic quality it became shortly thereafter.

I held you both individually only for a little while before surrendering you to an incubator, but even then, I remained close and mesmerized by the perfection and the miracle of your lives. Supposedly all babies are beautiful each in his or her own way, but you two were beyond beautiful… you were perfectly formed; delicate, velvety, elegant; not just as far as I was concerned, but as an intricate part of my reality; in-truth, all that is sacred and matters to me.

From that point on and each year thereafter I saw you grow, form and evolve into the gorgeous, intelligent women you two are, in what feels now to have been, a lightning fast time warp continuum… a mere squiggle of life/light within God’s wondrous universe, which one can’t possibly grasp in the moment(s) until it’s past… until we are able to observe and digest those life moments backward. For each life leaves its unique imprint; a signature if you will, that is indelible… that never fades nor ever disappears.

I well remember and still marvel at the detail of your lives as seen from my soul… from the scissor haircut on the 2nd floor of Amy’s house, to you at the wheel of a white van rolling from one steep driveway through a street and into a house across that street with all of us adults chasing after you, to the braided corn-rows of your hair in Bali, to the feel and comfort of your arms as you hugged me, through the tears at several pet-funerals, to feeling your pain during all of your illnesses and hospital stays, to the pride of seeing you perform in plays and compete in track & field, to the softness of helping Emily arrange blue-blue and all of her sleep buddies whilst tucking her in at night, to the conversations with Nina in Chianti’s balcony in the middle of the quiet night, through the joy of finally seeing you ride a bike and jump into the South China Sea from the top of tall junks, to the pride of seeing your work on display at West Island and your graduation with honors from your Universities… and the “movie” goes on, frame by frame, detailed, crisp, compelling and clearly etched forever-more in my heart.

I have loved you steady… not always perfectly but always truly and, I love you still. Without doubts or reservations, perhaps now better than before if I were able to compare it.

I am grateful to God for you and your Mom that so ably raised you – nearly single-handed – to be all that is best in the world to be, all that you are. And, I am grateful to you and to God, that such received love bore fruit… that you picked-up the ball when it was passed to you, and you’re running with it boldly through the many scuffles and touch-downs already achieved and ahead of each of you.
Proving to yourselves and all that care to see, that Love is all that is needed and never wasted.

I sometimes sit in my little garden, think of you and feel sad that I’m still thousands of miles away from being able to look into your eyes and/or hold your hand on a walk and share these thoughts with each of you through touches, hugs, kisses and words. Although, as our hearts and spirits are linked – therefore – all between us is known deep within ourselves in real-time and always.
There is much comfort in that for me.

Now, at the end of another unexpected year; on this Holy Christmas time, I am at-peace with you and with all that is important for me to be at-peace with. I have tried to live my life without regrets, I have loved well; at-least as well as I have been able to, I have been loved back and granted more blessings than most people are able to experience in several life times and… I desire nothing, other than what God will have planned and in-store for me.

And so my dear daughters, my dearest and closest friends, I wish you both well on this Christmas of 2018.
I know that God is with you and will continue to guide you and protect you so much better than I was ever able to do.

I know that God loves you and knows every single hair on your beautiful bodies. I know that you will never ever be alone… that all you will need to do is think of Jesus for Him to manifest His Godself to you and let you feel his loving arms around you. This is the only true gift and the greatest gift of all; that you and Him know and love each other intimately.

For this and you, I am eternally grateful.

With much love always… your loving Father and Best Friend King Daddy-O.

Copyright, Joseph Pereira 2018-2020

Grief…


BonhoefferIn his book “The question that never goes away”, Philip Yancey wrote; “Grief is the place where LOVE and PAIN converge…

Theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer penned some of his thoughts about the death of those he will always miss, he stated…

Nothing can make up for the absence of someone we love, and it would be wrong for us to try to find a substitute… we must simply hold-on and see it through. This sounds very hard at first, but at the same time it is a great consolation. As it leaves the gap unfilled and thus, preserves the bonds between us. It isn’t useful to say that God fills such gap. God does not fill it… on the contrary, He keeps it empty and through this, leads us to keep alive our former communion with each other, even at the cost of pain.

…I’m still stumping through this as one may imagine but, I do think Mr. Bonhoeffer ended his statement too abruptly. For to me, our awesome God does a lot more than letting us keep “the gap” open and memorable… He INVITES US to meet Him there – in the gap – and by this find healing and refreshment in His loving arms.

This I Believe…

Copyright, Joseph Pereira 2006-2016

New Possibilities…


LoveMy girls have boarded Cathay’s flight to LAX, under expansive blue Hong Kong skies and majestic puffy white cloud formations.

A good morning to start their new adventure; lives filled with unimaginable possibilities…

May they dream expansively and all of their dreams come true.
Copyright, Joseph Pereira 2000-2014

You are all you need…


At SMU Jul12Just had a delightful lunch with a good friend… unhurried quality time to let the mind meander and share what is individually important, what inspires and move us.

I am grateful for this and thought of you… my daughters; now wrestling with decisions that perhaps, you may not feel prepared to tackle.
Yet, you are so much better than the sum of such pointless fears and; when in-doubt, I know you to be Bold and rise above it all.

I am in a peaceful place for I know that YOU are all you need, all that is required.

May the short video below inspire you. You are much loved and never alone.

Copyright, Joseph Pereira 2000-2013

A Brand New Day…


A Brand New DayOne of the many things my Father shared that made a lasting impression, was his views on the importance of beginnings and endings, these he felt to be key components for one to live gracefully… to accept “gracefulness” in one’s life.

Specifically, that being “graceful” was determined by how one chose to “start” and “end” everything one engaged with and did. Of the two, that the style and quality of how one chose to “end” something far outweighed all other circumstances. Becoming the very essence of what remained deep within us – and much less importantly – what others saw and remembered.

I have had many opportunities to observe and confirm the trueness and power of my Father’s wisdom, but also, to admire the difficulty of living such seemingly simple concept. This because we humans don’t exist in a vacuum… our conscious thinking, reasoning and resulting actions this moment, are very much influenced; not only by all that surrounds us in the present, but also by what we remember… all that we often subconsciously, have accepted and let “sink in”.

Thus, it stands to reason that it is our subconscious we need to be mindful of and keep in-check, otherwise, it (we) could naturally and “ungracefully”, short-circuit our own best present intentions, our very ability to believe in and/or accept ourselves and dare to dream beyond.

So, as we “archive” 2012 and start this brand new year, both my Father’s words and a collection of 10 simple statements from the works of Dr. Joseph Murphy, remind me and inform this note… my sincere and best wishes to you all:

  1. We have the ability and power to attract and choose everything in our lives.
  2. If we think “good”, “good” will follow… we are what we think all day.
  3. Our subconscious mind will not argue with us, rather, it will accept what our conscious mind establishes and directs.
  4. Our conscious mind is the “watchman at the gate”. Its chief function is to protect our subconscious from registering false impressions. Thus, and as our greatest power is our capacity to choose, why not strive to do it positively and well for ourselves?
  5. All suggestions and statements of others have no power to hurt us unless we allow this to occur. As we have the ability to choose what we think and do, the only power we must be mindful of and grapple with, is the movement of our own thoughts.
  6. We must watch what we say and strive to account for every idle thought or word. It is counterproductive to think or say; “I will fail” or “I will lose my job” or “I can’t pass the exam”… our subconscious mind does not know we may be kidding… and it will subconsciously; lead us to actions that may drive such things to happen.
  7. Yet, our minds are not naturally evil. No force of nature is naturally evil. But, the quality of what we think and do will depend on how we choose to use the power of our natural selves. What if we chose to use our minds and actions to bless, to heal, and to inspire ourselves and all people we come in contact with everyday?
  8. What if we were to eliminate “I can’t” from our vocabulary?
  9. We can choose… we are the captains of our souls (subconscious mind) and thus, the masters of our fate. What if we chose Life? Chose Love? Chose Health? Chose Prosperity and to be Happy?
  10. Whatever our conscious minds assume and believe to be true, our subconscious mind will accept and bring to life.

This I believe…

May you all live this New Year presently and one moment at-a-time. May you all not judge what comes into your thoughts and life as either “good” or “bad”, for you are bigger and better than a momentary experience.

May you all boldly craft and live your own versions of success, health, wealth, love… and let such, brilliantly shine as a beacon of light from the amazing human individuals you all are.

Copyright, Joseph Pereira 2000-2013

Much ado about balance…


People often refer to “balance” in life or in work as if it was something pre-determined and concrete; a line-in-the-sand or a clearly defined goal that once reached, would produce such imagined “balanced” state of well-being.

The problem I have with this is that to me, the concept of “balance” isn’t fixed; rather, it is an ever changing “living” component of our individual lives whose definition is as diverse as we humans are and thus, any discourse about this “balance” – like with art –really is a highly subjective matter.

Who is to say that someone’s hectic and seemingly exhausting life isn’t really perfectly balanced… for them? Or that someone else’s highly organized seemingly moderated and diverse lifestyle isn’t really a nightmare of control and blandness to be avoided at all cost… for others?

In the past few years as “work-life balance” vision, objectives and words found their way into corporate statements and our own wistful vernacular, I have come to consider such as “unbalanced”; superficial “flannel”, which does little more than add noise and possible dissent into our corporate and private lives.

It is a relatively modern trend to view “work” as something singular and different from an individual’s “life”, but I’m reminded and offer that there should not be such a clear distinction between the two; that they are in-fact interdependent, each an integral part of the other and each – at times – requiring that more focus be given to one over the other.

For I can’t imagine living possible; in balanced ways or otherwise, without actually working at producing something in real-time; be it the pollen a flower produces for dissemination by bees and wind, to everyday necessities we acquire by the application and exchange of our life skills, to the contribution we make as we guide our babies to hopefully grow into the “next generation” of productive people.

All subject to daily external influences which impact and alter our lives and how we may have to modify our reactions to engage and deal with such influences moment by moment.

The idea that these and all other evergreen “productive life” components which together contribute to an overall life-on-the-planet balance of sorts, should each have and follow some form of prescribed self-balance – even if we could actually come to agree on what that “balance” should be for us as a species – is flawed and unreachable me thinks.

Have we – in our relative affluence – grown softer and more demanding of what is “due to us”?

Do airline pilots, typically regulated to fly about 40 hours per month, have more “balance” in their lives than the average Western individual working 60 hours per week… or a person working 18+ hours per day in an Asian factory? Which amount of work vs. “work-free” time, and/or “level” of balance within ourselves should we be striving for?

What about our poorer and distant neighbors… the folk elsewhere in Africa and India for example, scouring nearly around the clock for the means of basic survival such as finding relative safety, drinkable water and food of any kind that we, with our self-induced complicated lives, take for granted as a basic given? Do they need or even think about “work-life balance”… or is having the gift of actually waking-up breathing yet another day, hopeful of being able to make it all the way through to the evening with – perchance – some improvement, balance enough?

Perhaps our search for “balance” is a distracting cause; the wrong value to use when assessing ways to enhance our human existence holistically and in a sustainable productive manner. For all of us still breathing – in all of our wondrous diversity – manages to achieve our own reality based version of a “balanced life” if not on a daily basis, certainly over a period of time.

Remarkably, I believe our existential needs remain largely unchanged over the thousands of years our animal species has been around… regardless of gender and varying levels of modern day complexity, we are basically a “caves & commons” species; requiring security and solitude for self-reflection, healing and survival, as well as, communal engagement and interaction to give & take, lead & support, fight & love, reproduce & evolve to live another day.

The fact we may believe this ought to happen more gracefully or in a more even manner, albeit interesting, does not determine the overall worthiness; the blended achievement occurring in our current everyday lives… as “imperfect” as we may think such to be.

* Published in the Good Men Project: “Much Ado About Balance

The End of Architecture…


I came across an article about design and the practice of architecture which noted that; with unemployment rates in the profession at greater than 45%, serious global strife and the decline of real estate development activities plus a rising general view of architecture as a commodity, there would likely be a reduction of graduates in this field over time and the few would be generally educated and ill-prepared to face increased professional complexities. Thus, the article asked; “Have we come to the end of architecture as we know it?

Whilst I believe these to be genuine observations and concerns, Architecture and Design cannot end. They will remain robust, strong and vibrant in direct proportion to the robustness, strength and vibrancy of our God inspired imaginations and hearts.

Economies do not “drive” Architecture and Design. The respective professional practices are impacted by these realities yes, but they are not ruled nor drowned by them. Instead, like a surfer, they ride the circumstantial waves – albeit not always gracefully – brought on by the social-economic fluidity of the times.

What moves one’s heart and imagination to subject themselves to 5+ grueling years of study and the untold hours invested over drawing boards and computers, the transference of “fun” into endless discussions, arguments and meanderings, the dark circles under all-nighter eyes, the abuse taken and given from/to those of lesser heart… the angst from musing over conceptual problems, the all-or-nothing preoccupation over some aesthetic characteristic that only a “creator” would appreciate and truly understand… is a love that is lasting, not a condition that is nearing its end.

Even if the established social-commercial world as we know it were to end tomorrow and we would have nothing but dirt and a couple of half-dead twigs, Architecture and Design would spring forth and persist because it LIVES in us. It is imbedded in our DNA by a creator that may have screwed-up on some things but made-up for it multi-fold in others like our unending capacity to generate and appreciate Beauty and Love; our Imagination and Free-Will. How awesome and truly impactful are these?

The danger that does exist and always has is not in the process or the result of bringing Architecture and Design to life, the danger is in one’s interpretation of what these ought to be like…the judgments (societal and otherwise) over what is good or right and bad or wrong. These are all subjective, flawed and must only be considered with a great deal of caution.

NYC - MOMA - Le Corbusier's Urban Planning for...
Image by wallyg via Flickr

Architecture and Design is not ending or dying. The institutions charged with teaching it’s foundations may make mistakes and be misguided at times but, they are not THAT flawed… they are not meant to assure that students that come out degree in-hand from its halls will be successful (it’s illogical to believe this), these institutions are just responsible to light little flames of knowledge and basic understanding on these immense matters, that each individual will carry and some; over an experiential lifetime, will transform into bonfires of sheer wonder for many to admire, use, hate, and enjoy.

Architecture and Design will not die because they are not the by-products of a “production process”. Architecture and Design springs from the human spirit and its imagination in a manner foundational for beauty wonder and hope to rise from a future of our own making.

This I believe.

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