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Olive Oil. The Forever Peace.

Emily came home last weekend as she was studying for an accounting midterm and needed her mom.   I was good with Fifo and Lifo but when she brought up perpetual and periodic inventory, my mind went blank.   After all it has been 25 years since the CPA exam.    I sat down at my computer to google the answer and an email appeared…Dexter Filkins.  I stared at it for a few seconds…Dexter Filkins…Dexter Filkins….oh geez Dexter Filkins!!

Lets go back two years..2014... when I had an inspiration to travel to every country…find what is indigenous to that land…and create products that would connect people to the earth…its people…and their traditions.  After a family vote…we named it Ground…the parent company would be Ground Mother and the countries would be Ground “country” with a logo that represented that land.  I did all the admin…got the name, the urls, etc… and then tucked the concept neatly away in my heart knowing that it would manifest in its own time.

In March of 2014, as many of your might recall, Kaelin and I met Emily in Morocco as her internship in Ghana was coming to an end.  We stayed on a farm outside of Marrakech..excited to connect with the farmers and learn about what they grew.  Do you remember the car ride from the airport that I wrote about?  Yes it wasn’t a “they”..it was a “him”…and he was a businessman who developed the property…and guess what…he grew olives.  Needless to say, we became fast friends.  He didn’t speak good English but it didn’t matter.  The “farmer”, Fouad,  asked me to teach him how to produce olive oil that would meet the International standards and in exchange he would help me understand the landscape and pursue my vision.   We accomplished a lot in those ten days considering we were on vacation but I returned alone three weeks later to seriously pursue Ground Morocco.

It’s difficult to find the words to express the experience…it was magical…and oppressive…fascinating…and demoralizing…walking in lead shoes one moment and on air the next.  The energy was so thick at times I felt as if I couldn’t breathe.  At one point in the journey I didn’t know why but I felt a strong urge to run..to go home.

“Why are you so quiet Peg gie?” Fouad asked.  “ I think I am going to go home.” I said quietly.  “What?!” he exclaimed.  “Are you completely crazy?  First we are four hours from an airport and Peg gie you are in Africa so you cannot just “go home”.  Everyone is letting you in…that is not normal Peg gie…you are getting everything you wanted..and you want to leave?!  I don't understand.”  “No Fouad…you are getting it for me…no one looks me in the eye…and I sit in these meetings and dinners and feel as if I don’t exist. I don't know how to feel about any of this...I am the one who is putting together the project and everyone acts as if I work for you.  I'm over it...I just need to go home."

Fouad and I were kindred spirits…we had the connection of the olive and business from the moment we met…and an ability to be painfully straight with each other .  “Peg gie….you are the one who comes to this country to do business…you are the one who wants to be introduced to all of these people who happen to be men….you come into this culture but you act as if your methods and your culture should rule.”   “ You don’t like it..fine…don’t do business here..that’s easy…I have things I need to be doing too..so you decide...but if you want to do business in this country you have to understand the culture..it is only right.”  I sat with his words for the rest of the journey to the town of the Rose…he was right…I was not in Kansas anymore.

It was not easy but I spent the rest of the trip in observation rather then judgement.  At the end of the two weeks I had developed an entire bath and body line with locally sourced ingredients....met amazing artisans...and learned a lot about myself.  Although I was far from in love with Morocco, it was difficult to say good bye.

As soon as the wheels touched down in the USA I was on Amazon ordering the Book of Islam.  I was determined to gain an understanding of the culture through its history so I could have perspective.  I watched every Front Line doc on the Middle East…picked up some other books and then as we all now know…got in a “not an accident”.    

Fast forward to last October.   I was in thick in cognitive therapy on all levels but my priority was regaining my ability to read and write freely.   I was back to a life of practice practice practice.  I was listening to books online, listening to a lot of NPR and Frontline…and somewhere along the way I got the tip that I had to read “The Forever War…by Dexter Filkins.   

Six pages a day was all I could read at that point.  Hard to explain but the brain just shuts down and if you push it, the inflammation flares and it’s a long painful night.  I stayed with the program for the first week.  About 48 pages in I was motivated to pick up the pace…so I did….slowly but surely I added a page a day…and then added reading in the morning and at night…and before I knew it I was at a chapter a day.   As I read the final line….closed the book…and sat back in somber contemplation about the realities exposed in “The Forever War”…I realized I had read the book….I did it….my ability to read was coming back!

The next few days were filled with gratitude…for the knowledge and understanding I had gained through the book….true journalists…God bless them…they go where most wouldn’t and report back…so we can all be informed…if we choose to be.  And wow..my brain..the body’s ability to heal if you respect it enough to listen and follow its lead…give it the time it needs…and again that book that motivated me to dig a little deeper push myself a little harder…

Olive harvest was upon us not much after that last page was turned.  Caught up in the aromatherapy of freshly milled oil I was inspired to share a bottle with the author of The Forever War…Dexter Filkins.  I wrote a note of gratitude and sent out a bottle of our Olio Nuovo knowing that most likely he would never receive it..or understand it.  That didn’t seem to matter as I handed it over to the UPS driver the following day. 

I hadn’t thought about that bottle of olive oil until the email came across my computer last Friday night.  Dexter Filkins…thanking me for the olive oil he had just received…a very kind and heartfelt note of gratitude and appreciation.  The circle was complete.

That’s it…reads like a soft ending in a world of reality TV.   Strangers connecting….in gratitude…appreciation…and with kindness.  Hmm….what a wonderful world this could be.  

In the spirit of this story and in appreciation of the kindness you continue to show me.....

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In gratitude,


P.S.  Emily got an A!   


March 17, 2016 by Peggy OKelly
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Laurie Terzolo

Laurie Terzolo said:

Just read your notes about Morocco and I felt compelled to reach out. I was there for the first time about a year ago and I was traveling with one of my sons and my husband. It was quite an adventure-one I will never forget. I found incredible, heart stopping beauty in the desert and witnessed fascinating people and experienced a very different way of life. Although I see Dexter’s point about expecting to operate under our own culture rather than theirs, I too felt oppressed, isolated and invisible. Days went by when I would only see 1-2 women. While my son and husband were embraced and rejoiced, I felt vaguely like I had accidentally wandered into the men’s restroom and I did not belong there. Morocco stretched my understanding of the world and women but I clearly need to keep learning.

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