8. Peanuts and Pooh: A Lesson in Peace and Presence

Gripping the small rough shell, I press one end between my thumb and fore-finger until it cracks and falls away in halves revealing two reddish peanuts inside. Rolling the two beads in my hand, I flick the red casings, letting the wind carry them away. I lean back against the warm yellow wall of my house and gaze up into the reddening clouds of evening. My papa sits off to one side bent over our propane tank and waits for the tea kettle to begin to steam. By closing my eyes, I can hear my siblings’ contented peanut-munching and I can smell fresh mint as it is added to the boiling water. I hear the cries of neighborhood children playing in the road and I feel the cool breeze of winter dancing through my hair and across my face. Beside me are my usual three books. One for language, full of scribbled-down notes on Wolof pronouns and proverbs and French verb conjugations and vocabulary. Another for taking down thoughts and observations, for keeping track of goals, and for doodling. And the third – though reserved for before bed reading – my latest fantasy novel, weighty classic, or inspiring non-fiction. But right now, all three sit unattended beside me;at this point, I have no intention of opening any of them.

I noticed recently this change in my behavior. For the first three months it seemed I was constantly busy scratching down notes and setting goals, working on little projects and reading studiously. Each afternoon when lunch was cleared away and everyone retired into their rooms, I would set myself up with these three books and get to work”. As I tried to “take advantage” of all my free time and fill each moment with active learning