The Next Chapter

“That discomfort that you’re feeling? It’s change. It’s also The Universe whispering
to you that it’s time to DREAM BIG and begin the next chapter of your life.” ~ Sarah

I woke up this morning immobilized by anxiety about what is The Next Chapter in my life.  I had started to work on the completion of my fund raising and the anxiety got so bad I had to stop.

Thoughts flew through my head.

Was this a reflection of the appropriateness of my crowd funding? Was it a sign not to do it? Maybe I am doing something wrong.

The fear that can overwhelm us when unexpected change occurs – personal tragedies; early death; natural disasters; destructive wars – has physical and mental ramifications. I felt the anxiety deep in my gut today.

I was ok for an entire year after I went through the trauma of unexpected change surrounding the destruction of Hurricane Maria.

In September 2017 I felt like I was starting a whole new chapter in my life. I was in the process of signing a contract for a pay increase for yoga services; hotel demand for yoga was the highest ever and the testimonials I was getting signified that my yoga was ‘different’ and people liked it enough to ask for a Teacher Training Program.

Personally I was alone for the first time in 25 years – my husband had passed after a 10 year illness and my children had left home to pursue their own adventures.

Due to the finances of illness I still had to work with trust as far as my financial status went but I was ready for a life even more dedicated to yoga and wellness – my passion.

If you read this blog you know my story – I came up to Canada and put my life on hold in Dominica till I could work again after spending a night with Just a Mattress Between Me and Maria.

During that year I enthusiastically helped my friends and family; provided months of care giving services to a loved one; tried to get accustomed to all that was new;  and I rarely felt that sick feeling of fear in my stomach.

But now that I can resume my life again – every step towards normalcy is met with great fear and trepidation within me.

The quote above appeared just as the anxiety threatened to take over! My whole mindset changed – I am not feeling stress at fund raising – I am feeling stress at making change.


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Self-trust is the first secret of success. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

I learned raising my children that financially – to a certain degree – I was going to have to trust we would be ok.

Yoga opened my mind to the fact that nothing changes if we worry about abundance in the future; just trust and likely all will be well.

I worked hard every day of my life and rarely splurged but I saw from very young that there are financial inequalities in this world and they did not have much to do with whether you worked hard or not.

I was a single mom – single moms have a hard time getting business loans or mortgages to save for the future. It was not possible to do the typical financial saving arrangements because there was always enough but almost never more than enough.

Over the years this simple technique has worked for me. It did not change my finances but a lot of the worry was released when I decided to just trust.



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Illness and Finances

Medical bills: How out-of-pocket costs can get out of control Australia

Medical Bills Are the Biggest Cause of US Bankruptcies: Study

Does Britain have medical bankruptcies? Yes

Health issues and health care expenses in Canadian bankruptcies and insolvencies.



When my husband got sick he wanted all the tests the doctors talked about – he was so young and so healthy we just could not believe it was a terminal illness – we believed that just one more test and they would give us a diagnosis we could work on – we could try to fix.

He had no medical insurance – nor did I – medical insurance on an average wage in the Caribbean is rarely viable.

We used every penny of our retirement savings during my husbands 10 years of sickness.

Medical Bills were definitely a huge part of the expenses we had but we were also severely affected by cost of medications (100’s of dollars a week); care giving costs and loss of income. This is true all over the world if we read the articles above.

Wherever they live the sick person becomes a dependent and the family/spouse has to support them; the sick person usually gets to a point where they need full time care giving and the family has to care for them. In the care giving process family incomes are impacted even more by loss of income from whatever family member looks after the ill person when the care giver is not there. On top of all this extra expenses for medications and medical equipment add to the financial shock.

I really do have to wonder at an industry meant to look after our health that is priced out of availability to most of the people when they get ill.

Are all the tests necessary? When you are sick you think so. But looking back now I see we got a diagnosis from our tests but we got a debt that seriously affected our ability to care for the ill person after.

After doing all the tests Dominica’s medical industry could offer (x-rays; cat scans; ECG) doctors did not know why he was having seizures and dramatic behavioral changes after the seizures. They said maybe it would help get a diagnosis if we could leave island and see a neurologist and do an MRI.

During this time I saw a friend of mine who is a practicing doctor and Professor of Medicine. I told him what was happening to my husband and he gave me an accurate diagnosis from a 30 minute conversation without even seeing my husband.

I found out later he was right on – at that point my husband had seen at least 6 doctors – this will forever be a question in my mind – how did he know without tests and all the doctors we paid to see did not?

In the end we went to another island and the doctors there did 2 MRI scans; one with a dye and one without. The Neurologist we had contacted also had us do an EEG in her office after we had the MRI done.

After maybe 1,000s of dollars in test expenses and doctors we were sent home with the same diagnosis as my friend had given in 20 minutes of listening – without even seeing my husband and without tests.

Go figure!

Now I can with great empathy recognize that it is not foolish spending; it is not lack of financial planning that made those people from all over the world go bankrupt – it is just being unlucky enough to get sick.

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A year later


Image may contain: tree, outdoor and nature

Photo by Chad Ambo. Posted by Discover Dominica.

One year ago I woke up to find the world as I knew it forever altered.

Hurricane Maria had struck! To stop and look around on September 19 you would think Dominica would never recover. But I knew it would and I have never doubted that over this last year.

The first time I ever laid eyes on Dominica was in 1981 – 2 years and a few months after Hurricane David had struck.

Image result for images hurricane david dominica

Dominica after Hurricane David – photo credit National Geographic.

I had read an article in the National Geographic Magazine and I came to Dominica thinking I could help.

Back then I could only imagine how the island had looked after David; people said the hillsides were black; no green; they talked about houses lifted up and moved; miles of devastated forest; the loss of all family photos and records.

That is not what I saw – I saw a small island nation operating as normal;  I saw trees growing; green everywhere and lots of food – basically the same flow of life as the other islands I had been on.

Now I know I had only a small concept of just how amazing the recovery process had been. How hard Dominicans had worked – often for free to clear roads and clean up debris. How hard volunteer organizations from the region and the world had worked to contribute to the recovery. How miraculously Mother Earth had healed and rejuvenated the nature. How dedicated the farmers had been to bringing back our most important resource – food.

Dominica will recover again as then. The pictures and the video show this.

Dominica a year after Maria – a much stronger hurricane than David!


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Silver Lining

In one night the world as I knew it changed –

– my home was unlivable; most of what I owned was soaking wet; the floors covered in inches of brown water; the walls and furniture were papered with shredded leaves.

– Dominica my second country where I lived and worked for 20 years was damaged so severely it was beyond imagination.

– all work was gone – the medical school where I worked for 20 years as a Science of Yoga Teacher was closed; all the hotels I worked for were damaged.

I knew that what I had gone through was challenging but I also knew that others had it much worse then me.

Over the next 7 weeks I saw terrible mind blowing destruction from Hurricane Maria.


The acts of kindness I saw and heard of will always gladden my heart.

The feats of bravery in the days after will forever be in my memory.

I lived in a small island nation that had been flattened by the winds of Maria ……. but the first words I had in conversation with my neighbors were in gratitude for life.

I lived where the roads were blocked …….. but Dominicans had walked clear across their country to check on loved ones.

I lived where most communications were down ……. but thanks to workers at the radio station and the Dominicans who walked there we could find out who had survived.

I lived without running water …….. but thanks to the neighbors I experienced the joys of days at the river; getting water; washing clothes.

I lived without electricity …….. but spent nights laughing and talking under stunning star filled skies.

I lived without shops or grocery stores to go to …….but experienced a sharing economy where I and my neighbors shared what we had.

I lived without TV; internet …… but I got to truly know my neighbors as I listened to their stories and ideas.

I lived where all schools were closed ……. but the children gathered at my house to write, draw and paint with anything that survived the storm.

Hurricane Maria completely changed the lives of everyone but going through that experience you can find the little joys; the little successes that allow us to see a flash of the silver lining of life.

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Locks Hair in History – Cree Chief Pîhtokahanapiwiyin


Cree Chief Pîhtokahanapiwiyin (c. 1842 – 4 July 1886)

Locks are not new nor are they unique to one culture or one peoples so I have decided to do a series of articles on people of the past and the present who chose to have their hair in locks.

I love my locks. I started growing mine in 1981 when I saw a man from India doing a yoga pose called the Eagle.

I just knew that hairstyle was the hairstyle for me. People are fascinated by locks to a point where I have to be careful strangers don’t grab mine when I am out in public on the street or in a store. (I consider this highly disrespectful – I would never touch another humans hair; especially without permission – but I am a forgiving soul.)

I do not think everyone should have their hair the same way – but I am thankful for the camaraderie I feel in almost every place I go when I meet others with locks. There is always a special greeting or sometimes just eye to eye contact.

I have had some pretty crazy questions asked about my hair. I will address them in another article. 🙂


Poundmaker_with_womanThe English called him Chief Poundmaker. Here he is with his wife.

He was not known as a warrior or a hunter but a ‘peacemaker’. He was a gifted speaker and negotiator and those who met him were very impressed by his wit and his passion in defending his beliefs and his people.

He spent his life peacefully rebelling against the Canadian government because the lands of his people were stolen and sold to the settlers while the bison a food source the Indigenous peoples had hunted sustainably for 1000’s of years were slaughtered for the rich to wear fur coats.

bison pelts

In just a three year period, starting in 1872, hide hunters killed eight million bison. They did not want the meat so the carcasses slowly decayed into piles of bison bones.

bison skulls

Greed was a significant cause in the near extinction of this amazing animal but it is also documented that wiping out the bison was a ‘scorched earth’ war policy – a policy aimed at winning the war against the original owners of North America so the immigrants who were arriving could own the land.

We cannot change the past but we need to remember we are all immigrants in this great land.

We need to study the ways of the Indigenous Peoples – the original ecologists.

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the next day

The Day after Maria hit and for much of the week to come I never went further than a few feet from my little dry space – but I saw many unforgettable things …..


….. my house was a wading pool with inches of light brown water on the floor in every room but the kitchen in some places deeper than others. Furniture made of cheap pressed wood was swelling and disintegrating.

….. a twisted bent piece of galvanized roofing that seemed twice my height in length, embedded firmly in the the cement wall just a foot from my front door causing me to climb over it to get out.

….. my 80 + year old landlord in his bare feet climbing over the piles of twisted bent galvanize roofing intertwined with huge tree branches and household goods trying to get to his place.

….. hearing my landlady look at their house from across the street and commenting the lights were on – but it was the sun as the roof was gone.

….. the realization my landlord and his wife had gone outside in the eye of the storm after their roof blew off and the next door neighbours had braved the storm to bring them to safety at their place across the street.

…… roosters that had survived outside without a coop lining up on the wall outside my window; homeless; their feathers wet and bedraggled; for once fairly quiet; making low sounds to each other.

….. a beautiful hummingbird whose green and purple feathers were iridescent hovering inside my apartment at the window for a long time before darting outside to the dramatically changed world that existed.

….. a tree that just last year was covered in juicy mangos and grew so close to the house that I could reach a fruit while standing on my balcony was lying on my landlords bed as if sleeping there.

TORRENTIAL RAINS – harder than I have ever seen.

….. a brand new brown waterfall tumbling down the hillside; across the road and spurting out feet before falling onto the ground in the small valley and Massacre below.

….. rain pouring through the roof of every room in my landlords 4 bedroom house until there was inches of water on the floor.

….. more and more brown curved cracks forming in my ceiling creating a vein and artery like pattern everywhere but a small place in the kitchen.

….. rusty dirty brown water falling from from my ceiling in every room  until all exposed furniture; clothing; documents; books; electrical equipment were sodden with it.

….. the dryness of the few things I was able to protect in plastic bins

….. the bits of leaves plastered to my living room walls and my yoga mats



….. brightly colored sodden clothing and bedding hanging on downed lines and tree branches as far as the eye could see.

….. mattresses perched on the back of cars in every drive way or leaning against a sunny wall on the balcony.

….. gangs of neighbours coming together on the road with cutlasses and cars to clear the road.

….. families rushing outside to clear debris and temporarily repair what they could.



as people climbed over the debris to visit loved ones and make sure they are ok

Hi – how are you?

Fine – I’ve got life.


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Just a mattress between me and Maria

On October 18 just 3 days after my 63 birthday I went to bed knowing a hurricane was coming; it already had a name – Maria.

This was not something new to me; I listened to the news and saw it was a category 3 – I had dealt with a hurricane like that before. Over the years I had absorbed the Disaster Preparedness that the Dominican Government tirelessly distributed and I followed it much as I could. I had food put away for a few weeks and I had a barrel of water plus tons of more water stored in various containers.

I had enough quality candles to light many nights and I had batteries and flashlights ready. I was in a basement apartment so I never bagged my essential stuff as I never even considered I could have water damage. I never protected my computer or other business equipment either.

Outside as I brought in my plants so they would not become projectiles I had to let go as I am just a tenant.  I could not change the fact that my landlord had huge trees some of them very old growing very close to the house and there was garbage everywhere; I knew the chicken coop and goat shelter were just pieces of wood and galvanized hammered together and would shatter at the slightest hint of true hurricane force winds. My Dominican landlord is just the sweetest man but as he has gotten older he has been less able to keep up.

During that day in my preparation for the hurricane I saw a book that a Canadian comedienne called Deborah Kimmett had wrote – the title was ‘That Which Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Funnier’. I know her as she is the sister of my brother-in-law – I had already read it – but the tittle really resonated with me this pre-hurricane day and I put it on the table in my living room to read again soon.

After everything I could move was put away – I ate; unplugged all electrical appliances; checked the hurricane’s progress online put both my phones in the living room/yoga room to charge and went to bed. While I was in bed watching a movie on the computer the electricity was turned off island wide and all went dark. I lit a candle in the kitchen – something I do not usually do but this was a weird night I also locked my bedroom door which I never do.

I woke to the most eerie sound; I had heard winds before but this was truly a ghostly evil sounding howl screeching around my windows. The other thing I felt was a popping in my ears – I think that was the air pressure changes. It took me a few seconds to really absorb what was happening – it felt to me like the walls were vibrating in and out and there was a lot of crashing sounds outside. I was hearing a loud smashing sound on my back door. I opened my bedroom door to peak out and all seemed fine. I closed and locked the bedroom door  then I pulled an old wheeled desk in front of it but the noise was so extreme I decided to take my lap top and get into my closet as I had heard you should do. My closet did not have a working door so I pulled 2 mattresses over the doorway and grabbed the cover of the outside bigger mattress. Just as I did that – smash – a piece of the chicken coop flew through my bedroom window and it felt like the mattress was being yanked hard out of my hands.

In rapid succession after the window broke; I heard a loud smash in my living room; then my brand new bedroom door with it’s brand new lock flew part way open pushing the wheeled desk out; the lock parts flying across the room. I was so scared by this point I felt nauseous. Thank goodness the desk got jammed against some plastic boxes and another heavier desk and the door could only open about 1/4 of the way.

While this was happening I just huddled in my closet holding on the mattresses for dear life. It seemed like Maria was purposely trying to take the mattress – my last shelter from the stuff flying around in the room – trying to pull it out of my hands.

Water slowly seeped into the closet until I had inches of water on the floor – I had no idea where it was coming from – I just kept piling sheets and blankets on the floor so I wasn’t kneeling in a pool of water. At some point I remember realizing my phones were in the living room – I let them go – no way was I going out into my hurricane filled living room after them!

There seemed to be an ease in the winds (the eye of the hurricane) so I crept out to see what was happening. I saw my solid back door had burst 3 locks and pieces of wood and solar water heaters were on my back balcony and in my yoga/living room. Near the door everything was covered ceiling to floor with bits of dirt and pieces of leaves. There was inches of dirty water on the entire living room/yoga room floor – in fact the only area in the whole house that was dry was part of the kitchen. I just could not believe it – 3 locks burst open like nothing; inches of water on the floor – I stood stunned for a few moments.

At some point I heard my landlord calling out and my neighbor so I thought they were safe. I heard a noise out front and went to look through the louvers on my door. It was a neighbor checking his car – the little I could see with a flashlight in the dark was mind blowing even then. Huge pieces of galvanized roofing bent and twisted into grotesque shapes and big branches everywhere.

Looking into my spare bedroom and bathroom I saw they were flooded with inches of water too – where was all the water coming from? I just closed the door to that!

I knew this was just the eye of the storm so the winds would be coming back. I pushed and shoved a big heavy plastic box of books in front of the back door and then piled other heavy stuff on top.

The back door started to pound on the boxes so I grabbed the phones which were miraculously intact but wet and covered in bits of leaf. As I turned to go back in my room I spotted the book I had put aside ‘That Which Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Funnier’ – the title inspired me and made me giggle at that desperate moment – so I took it with me even though it was damp and covered in debris.

Back in my room I blocked the bedroom door with the small desk again and then moved the large desk right behind it and crawled back into that wet closet just as the howling started anew. I ripped the rest of my clothes down from the hangers and placed them over the wet bedding to try to stay a little dry. It seemed like I spent hours more counting to stay calm and holding on the mattress cover for dear life. I can never for the rest of my life forget that howling and crashing of those hours.

It was still dark when the winds started to die down and I finally thought it was safe to let go of the mattress. My hands were seized in a sort of gripping shape for a while after I let go. I stayed in the closet and napped a bit just in case the hurricane returned and then got up to see what was what. Illuminating the damage with my flashlight I saw that book ‘That Which Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Funnier’ floating in the water. I giggled picked it up off the floor and left it to drip dry then started to move the furniture in front of the door to check out the house. The back door had opened partially again and inches of water lay everywhere except for a few feet of dry floor in the kitchen.

I was so tired I just moved a partially dry mattress to the one dry spot and lay down for a nap till daylight. I got up and went right outside – I only got 2 or 3 feet and I met a 10 foot long piece of galvanize folded like paper into my entranceway. Climbing over it I went outside to see a Dominica that had dramatically changed over night.

Your mind cannot absorb all the changes – I think it shuts down a bit – stops processing – computer brain over load. Every single direction you look the landscape is like it was bombed – and all those buildings you thought were a strong shelter to withdraw to in a storm were roofless or crumbling.

I look up to see my landlord in his bare feet climbing over the broken glass; galvanize roofing and downed trees to cross the street and see what happened to his house. We talked him into going back to the apartment he was sheltering in and waiting till the rains were done. Mr. Hector and Rita’s story is for another time!

It rained very hard The Day After Maria. I went back inside to make tea for Hector and Rita –  I started to feel water falling on me and looked up to see long jagged cracks in the ceiling where dirty water was literally raining down. I learned later that the roof of the building was gone.


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# Recovery Dominica

According to the PDNA, Hurricane Maria caused damages and losses that amounted to 226% of our entire national GDP.

When numbers get too large to imagine, there is a danger that they leave people numb.

To put this into perspective the enormous human disaster of the Indian Ocean tsunami while incomparable, with regards to the loss of human life wrought damage and losses of 90% of GDP on Ache province in Indonesia…the most badly hit area and 1% of Indonesia’s national GDP.

Hurricane Maria’s 226% of GDP damage and loss come just two years after Tropical Storm Erika, inflicted damage and losses of 90% of our national GDP. Erika came four years after Tropical Storm Ophelia that also wrought massive damage.” ~ Dr. Hon. Roosevelt Skerrit;  Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Dominica; UN Speech

Yoga 1 015Dominica is a mountainous forested volcanic island of 70,000 + people just 16 miles across at its widest point.

Everywhere you turn nature seems to have a new gift – steaming bubbling water flowing out of the ground; black sand beaches; birds singing; rainbows shining; food growing everywhere you look.

Many people are intensely drawn to the “Nature Isle” – the culture is friendly, vibrant and confident; the volcanic  environments stunning.

People travel here from all over the world – many leave after their first visit with a lifetime love of this island and her people. This happened to me so I understand it – I visited for a few weeks in 1981 and my love for the island never left me. I ended up marrying a Dominican farmer and have spent the last 20 years living here. I feel truly blessed to have had the opportunity to live in both Canada and Dominica.

Dominicans are a well traveled populace – almost everyone born here has traveled off island and experienced life in other countries – those who were born and raised in Dominica love it with an intensity that makes them choose this island as their home even though we have the lowest wages in the Caribbean.

On October 18 2017 we were hit with a category 5 hurricane in Dominica – I was there in a closet with only a mattress between me and Maria the next day when I came out everything looked so different my brain sort of shut down.

The weeks following Hurricane Maria were mind blowing; fearful; cathartic; heart warming; life altering. I found it interesting that my love of nature never waned and in fact it was like my thankfulness for natures gifts was magnified.

The iridescent hummingbird hovering in my apartment hours after the hurricane; bubbly river spa laundry days; the gathering under the light of the star studded night sky or the silvery rays of the full moon.

It is inspiring to the nth degree to see the myriad of ways people have raised funds for this teeny tiny island. When an entire country loses it’s entire telecommunications  infrastructure; 95% of buildings are damaged; 20% of all buildings destroyed; and 80% of all businesses are impacted they need help.

I have gathered a teeny tiny portion of the links to fund raising efforts beyond Red Cross and UN – each effort drawn from a personal love for the island. It is truly heart warming.

I plan to keep adding links but I know I will not come close to listing all the efforts being made out there



Police in Tortola send supplies

St. Lucia Rugby Football Union contributes


Marketing Class in the US


Jamaican power companies raise funds for Dominica relief

Socan Employees Help Hurricane Maria Relief Effort Dominica



The ANSA McAL team recently hit the ground running in coordinating care packages for the people of Dominica.

The Dominica Association, Rotary Club of Ottawa South and Rotary Club of Orléans are hosting a fundraiser on Saturday, Nov. 25.

Food and Supply Drive in New York

In England

The Apollo Youth Club in the UK


FAS7STAR and CAPITA Finance will be using the Hennessy Artistry platform in Barbados to raise funds to provide educational assistance to the children in Dominica.

Kalinago Territory

Digicel committed to build seven schools, each will include one large classroom that will be able to double as a hurricane shelter, and 360 homes in one of the worst damaged areas on the island, the Kalinago territory, which is home to the only indigenous Carib population left in the Caribbean.

Scotts Head/Soufriere

Scott’s Head and Soufriere Schools have their own fund raising program – teachers are meeting in tents I believe – this will help recovery.

Wotten Waven



This fund raiser has a unique idea for supporting Calibishi Small Business



Restoring Dominica As an international community of governments, community organizations, and citizens we WILL rebuild Dominica to the beautiful nature island it was always meant to be–lush mountainsides, houses painted with tropical island colours, welcoming shutters with warm faces just inside, creole music playing in the distance.  Together, we will work alongside the people of Dominica to restore their island home.

Some people like Simon whose house left island very quickly to galvanize funds to help his beloved villages in the south end of the island – he returned with relief before I left.

Kingston for Dominica has been gathering supplies and held 2 events – a Concert and a Dinner & A Show.

The Windward Islands Women’s Football Championship in support of Dominica’s cause is dedicating all proceeds generated from ticket sales to the island’s football association to assist with their speedy return to competitive football.

The Rotary, The Lions and Kiwanis Clubs of Saint Lucia have come together in a joint effort to raise funds to assist our fellow Dominicans in the rebuilding process.

The Dominica-American Relief & Development Association (DARDA) was organized as a way for Dominicans living in and around the New York area to help raise funds and provide aid to their homeland as the island attempted to recover and rebuild in the aftermath of Hurricane David. – Now they are raising funds for recovery from Maria.

A Trinidad organization Living Water Community is working on building houses perhaps hundreds. “Initially our focus will be on Dominica because not only were they the most devastated, they don’t have a ‘mother’ country whereas the others do. I think 30 percent of Dominicans lost their homes while much of the island’s housing infrastructure sustained varying degrees of damage.”

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Catching a bus ……. what scent is that?

Riding on a bus in the Caribbean in fact almost everywhere is an intimate experience with people you have never met before.

In Dominica and most of the Caribbean the buses are small with only 3 or 4 rows of 2 or 3 seats so the experience in rush hour can be very intimate :).

I got on a bus the other morning and I could hear passengers behind me talking.

1st person: sniff; sniff;  Smell that? Something like Benadine and some kind of sweet scent ……. maybe a flower.

2nd person: sniff; sniff; yeah I love that sweet scent – it is real nice; can’t give it a name.

3rd person: sniff; sniff; that is not Benadine; but I know that smell …… it reminds me of a hospital.

At this point I turn around and smile – carbolic soap and ylang ylang essential oil. We all connect for a split second – laugh – and then go back into our own worlds.



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