Tuesday, December 7, 2010

I got a girl in the war, Paul, the only thing I know to do, is turn up the music and pray that she makes it through

After a little over 3 years here in Israel, B. and his family are returning to Sudan. Their decision to go home is a result of a number of things- the impending referendum on independence for Southern Sudan in January, some aid money from a charity organization, and the growing realization that they can't stay in Israel forever and that it might be better to leave voluntarily while the kids are still young than to be forced out when they are older. For a while I was angry at B. for taking his family back into danger. But it's his life, his family and his decision. And he  really believes in South Sudan and he wants to be there at its inception. It's his home and that's where he wants to be. Now, I am mostly very sad and scared for them. All the little (and big) things in my life right now pale in comparison when I think of this family I love making their way back to Africa and starting their lives there. B. believes that South Sudan's succession will go smoothly and even if there is a war, he will be far from it. I am not that hopeful. He also believes that one day it will possible for me to come visit them in Sudan and for his eldest daughter to come to university here in Israel. I can't imagine that future. Then again, there are many people who have, in their lifetimes, witnessed they never could have dreamed of. In the meantime, there's nothing I can do but pray. So this is my prayer:
I pray that your journey back home be without incident. I pray that humanity's capacity for kindness will win over its capacity for evil  I pray that you find your home as beautiful as your remember it.  I pray that the country you build will flourish and grow. May it be filled with peace and justice. May your rains come as they should and your sun shine on your faces. May you see your children be tall and beautiful. May you carry their children on your shoulders. And I pray that you will remember me and this country. Remember the bad- how hard it was to be asylum seeker here. And let that be a warning. But also remember the good- the kindness and community you found here and the laughter beyond words. I pray I will see your faces again. 
"I'll pray and then I'll sleep" (Marilynne Robinson, Gilead)

May all your wildest dreams come to pass.

 Music Rec: Girl in the War, Josh Ritter

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Two hearts are better than one

This Thanksgiving I did not roast a turkey. I didn't make stuffing, or cranberry sauce, or pumpkin pie. My apartment was quiet and empty Thursday evening. Instead of hosting friends, this year for Thanksgiving I got all snazzied up, pulled on my slinky, sexy brown dress and with great joy attended the wedding of a great friend to the most gentlemanly man I know. It was a spectacular wedding- joyous and energetic and low key and suffused in love and good will.
So this year I am thankfull for friends, and friendship and love and the strength of will and conviction it takes to face the world with the absolute belief that goodness awaits.

Thesis Watch: In the hands of my adviser

Book Rec: Tender at the Bone, Ruth Reichel

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

When you're a stranger

When I first moved to Israel I was enamored of the produce here-tomatoes that taste like tomatoes! Cucumbers that taste like cucumbers! And most of all- seasons: artichoke season that comes along with fresh garlic and broad beans in the spring; two weeks of cherries and apricots in early summer; four months of strawberries and chestnuts in the winter. Then I went to Italy and bit into a piece of arugula and was spoiled forever.
I traveled to Italy in late July to meet my sister in law at the Jewish Studies conference she was speaking at in Ravenna. Theoretically, it would have been a good idea for me to attend the conference as well, but the idea of sitting and listening to people talk, even about subjects I care about quite a bit, just seemed like all kinds of wrong. So, instead, I did a lot of wandering, mostly without a map. I wandered through Ravenna, drifting into vegetable gardens and being gifted with a tomato straight off the vine. I ambled through Byzantine churches and Baptisteries, eyes upward to behold the most spectacular mosaics, shot through with color and detail and emotion. I spent a day at the beach (named, rather hilariously- Big Mama Beach- no, really.) and dipped my foot into the Adriatic, which I found to be disappointingly similar to the Mediterranean. (My Lake Michigan bred limbs are always bracing themselves for the shock of cold water. And I'm always slightly disappointed when it doesn't come.). I trekked into the heart of Pisa for a quick glance at that leaning tower and, when, after dozing off on the train ride from Pisa to Rome, I opened my eyes to such riot of bright colors and sea, I thought I had mistakenly wandered into a Monet painting. In Rome, having parted with my sister-in-law I met friends, and ate and walked and ate and walked and read and walked and ate and talked and walked and laughed and ate. Because, really, what else does one do in Rome?
I found myself, during all this wandering in a foreign country where I didn't speak the language, with a lot of space for my own thoughts. I did a lot of thinking. I thought about art. I thought about Moses's hand reaching down to stroke a lamb in the great mosaic at the church of San Vitale. I thought about how, in all of the mosaics Jesus' birth and death belonged to the women, and his return and kingship belonged to the men. And in the Galleria Borghese, I thought about Mary herself, the look in her eyes as she looked down at her son-full of surprise and joy and sadness- as if she knew from the outset what life held in store for her child. I thought about how moving I find religious art, despite the fact that I am not a Christian. And standing in front of Bernini's David, I could not help but smile, because I thought I recognized this David, with his concentrated poise and cocky frown, all drawn back and in mid-motion. This is the Goliath slaying David Michal fell in love with in the Bible. I thought about religion and power and exile.
I thought about myself away from myself. I thought, in a gray dress on the seashore, laughing with a sheepish, brown skinned boy as we tried to communicate with only a few words and our hands, that here I might be beautiful to someone, and more importantly, I might be beautiful to myself. I thought, running through the streets of Pisa with my sister-in-law, getting soaked to the bone by a summer storm, not wanting to say goodbye, that family is all the more precious when you are in a strange place. And, at the outset of our shabbat in Rome, during which we sat and read and ate and were quiet, watching the clouds and dusk gather over the rooftops, as my friends chatted in the dark room behind me, I thought, there is nothing more sweet than friendship. I thought that there is nothing more important than discovering who you are when you're not where you're from.
Last week, I traveled to Tel Aviv to take advantage of the mandatory vacation time that comes with the high holiday season in this country. I had planned on visiting the Museum of Art, which, to my great shame, I have yet to see, hit the beach and hang out with some friends. Instead, I ended up primarily seeing friends. It was lovely, in all the ways seeing friends are lovely, but by the end of the day I found myself slightly anxious and irritated and I realized that I had needed some time by myself, in an art museum; at the beach. I needed to be away from my life and all those familiar things. I needed to be in a foreign country for a bit and have that first sharp bite of arugula again.
On my way to Tel Aviv I ran into a guy that up until that point I only knew in the virtual world. I introduced myself to him and we laughed about the fact that despite the fact that we both live in Jerusalem and have many friends in common, we were meeting for the first time on a random bus in Tel Aviv. I asked him what he was doing in the city, and he said he was trying to find the beach. I told him that it's pretty easy- you just walk West- and we laughed about that too. Then I got off the bus and as I turned around, trying to orient myself, I thought, well, aren't we all? Aren't we all trying to find our way to that great, wide, open space?

Thesis Watch: Almost there, really

Book Rec: Beach Music by Tim Winton

Cubbie Watch: T. Colvin's scary vampire impersonation is pretty much symbolic of the whole season

Sunday, May 23, 2010

What happens to a dream deferred?

The culinary course has been canceled. In fact, the whole culinary arts program at the college has been shut down. I'm not really surprised- the powers that be did delay the opening of the course three times before officially nixing it- so I caught on pretty quickly. To be honest, I'm not really sure how I feel right now. I suppose I'm angry at the college for slamming the door on a dream of mine. (Yes, there are other culinary arts programs in the country, but none of them are practical for my life right now). But mostly I'm feeling a whole lot of....nothing. I've been eking out the latest rewrite of my thesis, going to work, making my way through a large editing project I've undertaken and just existing, which is harder than it sounds. At some point I know I'm going to have to get off my butt and figure out a plan of action. One day my thesis will be done, the project will be finished and my job will no longer be relevant and I'm going to have to figure out where I go from here. Today is not that day.
What happens to a dream deferred? Who knows. But today I made roast chicken.

Thesis Watch: I'm entrusting you guys (by you guys I mean, all one of my readers) with the responsibility of never, ever letting me rewrite again. That's it. I mean it. It's the final rewrite.

Movie Rec: The Messenger. Ben Foster. 'Nuff said

Cubbie Watch: Erm, Carlos Silva?

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

can you hear the horses coming?

In a conversation I was having with a friend recently I described my emotional sense of self as being "like a cell waiting through osmosis" and I thought that that line was a lovely bit of unexpected poetry, but I had no where to put it. That happens sometimes. I had a snatch of something-"and all your colored horses come crashing to the ground"- rolling around in my head for years until it found its place. Writing's funny that way.

Thesis watch: I'd like to say it's done, but it's not.

Book rec: Lowboy by John Wray

Cubbie Watch: Yeah, I'm watching.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree

This is my dream: One day I will own a little place called Innisfree. It will have a bright, open kitchen with a view of the sunlit garden. At the front, beyond the kitchen, it will be lined with rows and rows of bookshelves. There will be couches and chairs and low places for children to sit. In this little place I will feed people. I will feed their souls and their bodies. I will point them to books that I loved; that opened up new worlds for me. I will say, "Read this. Have an adventure. Fall in love with a fictional character. Understand the world just a bit differently." Then, I will hand them a sandwich, or a bowl of soup, or a plate of pasta and when they eat they won't think of Jane Eyre's Thornfield, or Hari's Damar, or Touqueville's America-they will think of no place but home.

In this past month I have taken the first step towards Innisfree. I signed up for a course in the fundementals of cooking at a local college. It's not culinary school and it's not a downpayment on a little bookstore-cafe, but it's a start and it's certainly a far-cry from everything I have been doing in my life up until this point. The reactions to my news from people in my life have been varied. I've gotten a "that's great. I'm so proud of you" (Surrogate mother, Carol.); a "I didn't know you were serious about culinary school" (real biological mother, Mommy); a "that's awesome, go for it" (sister, S. and friend, N.) and a "but you already know how to cook" (real biological father, Abba). For my part, I am excited and I'm terrified. Change is hard for me, especially when that change involves the actuallization of a fantasy. I'm afraid I don't have the financial wherewithall to pull this off. I'm afraid that I don't have the strength of character or stamina to survive in the kitchen. I'm afraid I will never learn a proper dice, overseason my stock, chop off a finger and burn the place down. I'm afraid I will fail. I'm afraid I'm not meant for this. I'm afraid of my own evolution.

So for the past few months as I have been contemplating this change in my life, I have been feeling alternately elated, and backed into a corner by my own fears. When that happens I often immerse myself in other peoples' worlds. I read a lot of blogs. I watch a lot of tv. I try to find places and stories that resonate with me so I can see some sort of reflection of myself. But sometimes the cacophany of other peoples' voices becomes too loud and it becomes difficult to hear my own. It becomes hard to express myself, to create my own narrative. So if I have neglected this blog, I'm sorry. I simply haven't felt the compulsion to write in a while. I have been too busy navigating the web of other peoples' words and trying to face down my own dreams.

Change is hard, man.

On to Innisfree

Thesis Watch: Evidently I was never taught how to properly write a paragraph.

Book Rec: Wolf Hall by Hillary Mantell

Cubbie Watch: Oh look, spring training! Oh look, we've lost Guzman for the season already. It's gonna be a good year. Sigh.