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The Elephant in the Room

AS SPIRITUAL AS I GET

hanukkah-menorah-2

It’s Hanukkah, the time of year when Christmas is all around us. Some may say relentlessly so. Decorations and lights, music, shopping opportunities are everywhere. They prompt me to think a bit more than usual about being Jewish and what that means. For better or worse, I’ve never “looked Jewish,” and many people are surprised to find that I am. I don’t talk about religion much, and I don’t practice the faith outwardly. I tried the Unitarian Universalist church for a long time, but it didn’t take, not in any deeply connecting way (not their fault – I felt like a traitor to my people, a nice Jewish girl going to church on Sundays. What was I thinking?) Living in an area with a heavy Roman Catholic presence and a tradition of Yankee Protestantism, I simply don’t fit in and never have. At least that’s how I feel. I don’t fit in. Never have. Unlikely that I ever will.

In an excerpt from my novel set in 1968, PERSEPHONE IN HELL, Sammy is Glory’s older brother. He’s had a thing for Denise throughout high school and makes no secret of it. Denise is pretty but dull and unaccomplished. She looks good in tight sweaters; that’s the attraction.

“Everyone knew how much Sammy liked Denise, even though he was going off to college in only a few months and Denise would be left working at the dry cleaner in town.

Denise wasn’t so sure about who she liked, especially as she was an inch or two taller than Sammy. She had wanted a taller beau. But her mother said Sammy was a good catch. A college man, destined for success. Didn’t the paper say he’d graduated number three out of the whole class? A brilliant boy, an Ivy Leaguer, maybe law school after that. Good enough by far for her under achieving daughter.

Then Denise told her mother the truth, that Sammy is Jewish.

“He doesn’t look Jewish,” her mother had replied. “He looked perfectly normal, handsome even, in his tux on prom night. And he was so polite. You must have heard wrong, Denise. You must be mistaken.”

Denise told her mother there was no mistake – Sammy is Jewish. You don’t have a name like Samuel when you’re Christian, she’d said. That’s a Jewish name. And she’d driven by his house last winter and had seen blue candles in the window, but no Christmas tree, no wreath on the door. She’d thought that was oddly strange, but then heard that Jews don’t celebrate Christmas. She didn’t know what Jews do celebrate, but it is some weird thing involving blue lights. They don’t believe in Jesus, Denise had said.

Denise’s mother didn’t know how Denise knew such things, but she was shocked by the report. She instantly reconsidered her daughter’s future. What had been a clear, smart scenario dissolved into a murky, uncertain view. And she wasn’t about to incur the wrath of Father O’Brien. God forbid her daughter date a Jew.”

Now, times have changed…they’ve changed….times have changed….haven’t they?

Best regards to everyone of every religion, race, nationality, gender, age, weight, height, and sexual preference. It is the content of one’s character that matters. And have a very happy holiday season. If it bothers you that I’m using the word ‘holiday’ instead of ‘Christmas’, well, I mean it with all good will and no, I don’t plan to change the way I wish you well.

Snow in Massachusetts

MOTHER NATURE

snow-drift

There are people all over the world who live in climates where snow never falls. They don’t experience snow except in movies. They don’t know the cold that comes with snow. Some have never seen it for real, never touched it, never been closer than a picture in a book. I am decidedly not one of those people!

Some get a dusting of snow and think they understand snow. They don’t know snow. I know snow. I know snow in the most intimate, most familiar, most embarrassingly common manner. I know snow in the Platonic sense, that is, in its quintessential form.

I have known snow for so long, you’d think we’d be comfortable partners by now. You’d think we’d be caring for each other, helping each other thrive, wishing each other well and long life. You’d think so – you’d be wrong.

In this scene from my novel PERSEPHONE IN HELL, four year old Glory and her older sister Penny are running home from the candy store, through the snow to their protected play house under the pine trees in their yard.

“They had a good long walk ahead of them, three quarters of a mile or more. Just outside the store, Glory stopped…Must take off my mittens. They’re ugly orange and there’s a hole in the thumb. They’re not beautiful. She took off her mittens, stuffed them into her pockets, and continued on, holding her little bag tightly in her bare hands. Penny ran ahead, but Glory couldn’t run. She could barely walk. Her bare hands were frozen.

I’m so cold. My hands hurt. They’re all red. She wouldn’t let go of her candy bag to put her hands inside her pockets or put on her mittens…The snow fell a little harder. Glory’s hands couldn’t move. They were frozen to the bag. My legs are sore. I don’t want to walk anymore. My eyes are tired. She leaned against a telephone pole and decided to rest.

Just then, a man in a felt hat and top coat walked by. He stopped and looked at Gloria. I’m cold, so cold. And where is Penny? He said, “Little girl, where do you live? I’ll take you home.” Glory pointed down the street. Not supposed to talk to strangers.

The man picked her up and carried her down the street. Glory closed her eyes. So tired and cold. Need to rest. The man didn’t ask if they were close to home. He held her tightly and kept walking.”

Mother Nature and I, we don’t always get along. Like mothers and daughters everywhere, we don’t always agree. We disagree often, in fact. Every summer when the air is hellishly hot and humid. Late spring when the mosquitoes and black flies come out. Autumn was my favorite for the longest while, but then I noticed the leaves die off in fall. (They do so quite dramatically here.) And she and I fight outright every winter when the snow and cold and the early dark sky make me wonder how I am to survive until the seasons change again.

 

 

My Life on a Space Station

TIME AND OTHER NONSENSE

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What would my life be like if I lived on a space station? I mean a station orbiting high above the earth, rolling gently through our galaxy, rocketing into outer space. I mean an enclosed world all to myself, a world with no one but me.

On my space station, there’d be no conflict. No arguments, no yelling. Peace, calm, my mind at rest. Would it be freeing? Would I feel like I did as a child at the end of each summer, waiting in boredom for school to start again? It could be an eternity of boredom.

I’d need to stay busy, I suppose, or go mad. Ballroom dancing? Fun, but not without a partner. Gardening might be essential for survival, but I doubt I would find joy in weeding. I’d need to exercise. Treadmill, yoga. And meditation. I could watch my own navel.

How would I spend my time? Would I bring the complete works of Shakespeare with me to fill the hours? Would I choose great literature, opera, ballet? Mozart? Yum Yum and Van Gogh, Monet? Star Trek? Anne-girl and her Gilbert? Jo and Beth, Meg, Amy? The Big Bang Theory? Would I study string theory, quantum physics? The stars? Or would I discover them for what they all are, points of light too far away to reach.

Why would I choose to live by myself, in the middle of nothing, without company from any other human being? Would the melancholy become intolerable? I might crave affection to distraction. I might get all the way out there, billions of miles from anyone, only to find that I miss humanity. Of course I would miss my children. I would miss Paris, and the beauty of a New England autumn, the Acropolis and Rome. Mont Ste. Michele, Giverny. Would I miss you? Would I grow old and in the utter silence of a frozen universe, think of you?

 

 

A Cranberry Bog in Every Pot

CALMLY RANDOM

cranberry-bog

Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Liberté, égalité, fraternité. A room of one’s own. What is it that makes a woman feel complete, that her life is worthwhile? Is it a full belly, true friendship? Love? Hope? Maybe it’s freedom. Maybe respect. In 1851, freed slave and anti-slavery speaker Sojourner Truth said, “Look at me. Look at my arm! I have plowed and planted and gathered into barns and no man could head me. . . And ain’t I a woman?”

Imagine having to justify your very existence as Truth was compelled to do. Imagine living a life devoid of respect, lacking in trust. Imagine fighting for the most basic of rights – the right to be black, to be a woman, to vote, to be free.

In comparison, my life is a ball. It’s a fairy tale, an amazing dream existence. I know it. Lately I’ve been thinking of buying an organic cranberry farm. I could work the fields, build wind turbines for power. I could make cranberry wine and chocolate covered cranberries. I could live by the shore in the beautiful sandy flatlands of southeastern Massachusetts. I could plow and plant, or hire someone to do it for me. I could gather my harvest, a bounty of ripe, crimson berries. Berries with roots that dig deep into the Native American soil. Berries that clung to the soul of this land for eons before those old Pilgrims ever stepped onto our windy beaches.

In pursuit of happiness, will I be happy? Would I be more content with a full belly, with a simple chicken in my pot instead of a cranberry bog? Would fraternité please me more than the lonely bogs under the stars at night? My cranberry bog might be my room, the one place where I feel free to write and create and be who I need to be. One thing I know – égalité is something I won’t give up on. Even now, even 160 years after Sojourner Truth cried out with such humility and common sense for justice, the world tries to hold women back. There are those who say we should be content with the privileges we have. There are many who rail against women who use their voices for change. There are some of both genders who show contempt for the female sex. Why? What’s wrong with being a woman? Ain’t I a woman? Are you saying there is something wrong with me?

So we know that Truth’s work is not done. Every woman has the right to find what makes her happy, where her freedoms lie, what constitutes her liberty. A reason for living, each one deciding for herself what that reason may be. A pot for every woman. And the cranberry bog of her choice in every pot.

De-cluttering

CALMLY RANDOM

messy

True tales from when I was selling my house…

 

I’m selling my house and the realtor said I had to clean up and de-clutter. Rather freaking out here. Heavy lifting is done but clutter is still everywhere and the entire house needs dusting, vacuuming, cleaning, cleaning, cleaning. Did I mention cleaning? Ugh! In my future life, I plan to be wealthy enough to hire a weekly house cleaner. Also, I intend to simplify. I do not want stuff anymore!

Showing to 5 potential buyers on Sunday at 11 a.m. (this is Friday evening). With any luck, one of those 5 buyers will love the house and offer full asking price or something reasonably close. I am feeling very lucky lately – will keep you up to date. Wish me good fortune and a quick sale!

PS If you read any of my novel PERSEPHONE IN HELL, you’ll find the character Joyce who is Glory’s mother. Joyce is the world’s worst housekeeper. She is not a traditional mother. I am not as bad a housekeeper as my character Joyce. That’s about all I have to say.

 

Foot Fetish

TRAVELS

We had a simply mah-velous time in Greece and Italy, despite the various setbacks we encountered. Okay, so it’s a little strange for me to have taken so many pictures of feet.

Feet at the Acropolis, Athens Greece
This foot was at the Vatican (why can’t I get it to load properly? Please touch your right ear to your right shoulder to view this photo!)
Tired sideways feet at the Spanish Steps, Rome Italy

Even feet need feeding in the Greek isles!

Very, very, very tired feet at the oracle of Delphi, Greece (no, I didn’t get my fortune told, the priestess was on break) Left ear to left shoulder, please.
Famous pigeon feet of Piazza San Marco , Venice Italy

These feet were big enough for a person to sit between (if we could have hoisted ourselves up!) Florence Italy

Young, happy foot (presumably the other one is too) Pompeii, Italy
Extremely old, extremely unhappy feet, Pompeii
Sleepy feet, Coliseum, Rome Italy
Balancing feet, Venice Italy

Foot of the goddess, with mortals

 

Melancholy in the Pines

 

DREAMS AND MELANCHOLY

Pomegranates

There is no good reason for my melancholy tonight. It just happens sometimes.

 

Melancholy in the Pines

I miss you
Umbrella pines
Pistachio trees
Green olives hanging
In front of my eyes
And cypress, so tall
And slim and graceful
An Italian dream
And the pomegranate bushes
Heavy with the fruit of Eve
Don’t take a bite
Vesuvius will open up
And swallow you
And keep you silent for eons
For two thousand years or more
And you’ll suffer for it
The gods are harsh
They’ll punish you
For being a strong and independent woman
Who knows her mind
Who wants a bite of that apple
That pomegranate apple
From that tempting tree
I can’t blame you
There is a world of temptation
In the olive branches
In the pines
There is melancholy in the pines

I miss you
Cypress trees
Unripe Greek pistachios
Waiting to burst
Pomegranate promise
Eve