Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Monday, September 26, 2011
I borrowed this prompt from a book on personal writing by Genie Zeiger. She wrote, “think of two opposing times, experiences, people, or…. and imaginatively contrast them. This idea came to me as I was looking at all the types of yogurt now available in supermarkets and remembered when “yogurt” was a word I’d never heard.” I followed the list style that she used in her piece called Now and Then.
Now and Then
Back then I always felt lucky. It didn’t matter what was happening. Closing my eyes and repeating my favorite mantra, “things could always be worse,” I found a silver lining. Then I had no trouble believing, when I read on a place mat in a Chinese restaurant, that I was born under the luckiest of all signs of the Chinese Zodiac, that I possessed the luck of the Rabbit.
Now, I still feel lucky but know well the capricious nature of fortune, of dumb, blind luck with her Janus-faced whim pulling simultaneously toward past and future, good and bad, life and death. Now I understand that luck isn’t something that happens. Luck is a way of seeing, a way of creating meaning and hope—the way I choose to organize my world. In the words of Amy Tan, “if you can’t change your fate, change your attitude.”
Back then I spent long hot summers in Jerusalem, my aunt’s small apartment, filled to the brim with cousins, aunts and grandparents. Miraculously, the tiny dining room seemed to fit all who came for Shabbat feasts along with their predictable cacophony of discussion and argument. The table seemed to groan under the weight of steaming plates of rice, bowls of slow roasted brown eggs, stews and soups wafting the smell of dill, cumin, parsley and lemon throughout the house.
I loved the feel of the smooth stone floors, the solid, wooden trundle beds and lack of clutter that enabled six of us girls to sleep in one room. Walking down the street I couldn’t help but notice the ancient sandy stones of Jerusalem’s buildings pockmarked from bullets of wars past. Safe in the apartment’s courtyard we played, soaking up the heat of the middle-eastern sun.
Now I live in a New England farmhouse. The house was moved to Amherst in the 30’s when three towns were flooded to create the Quabbin Reservoir and provide drinking water for Boston. The wood floors in the living room dip. If you jump up and down or step too hard the whole house rattles and shakes.
Now in the summer, we are lucky if my husband and I can pack up our car and son to get away to Cape Cod for a week. The few American cousins are scattered and we meet friends for long beach walks, the smell of salt, seaweed and fish thick in the moist air as we search for rocks, shells and sea glass and as we boogey board and swim. Back then when I travelled with my parents I missed my friends and wanted to write letters. Now when I travel with my own family, the Blackberry and work emails are never far from my twitching thumbs. No matter how I try to push them back, thoughts of work like the breaking waves, surface and intrude.
Back then my piano teacher, Mr. Negri, came to my house to give me lessons. While I practiced my scales and played my pieces, my mom puttered in the house, tending to my sisters, cooking dinner and cleaning. He told stories and drew pictures. On the inside cover of one of my John Thompson books he drew a beautiful hand with fingers perfectly curved for playing.
Today, we drive our son to piano lessons, violin lessons, chorus, Hebrew School, baseball and soccer. He changes clothes quickly in the car – expertly shuffling though backpacks and notebooks to find what he needs – hurriedly brushing crumbs off his shirt while I yell at him to keep the greasy empty pizza box on the floor of the car.
Then I was a child. Every night after all the kisses and tucking in, finally alone in my bed, I opened the shade and looked to tops of three pines and the stars beyond. My reliable sentinels, always there! I thanked them for the day, and yearning for tomorrow, asked for protection for my family and me.
Now I am a member of the Jewish Community of Amherst. I admire the folks that gather on Saturday mornings to hold services in the building that was once a church. The old melodies move me, even as I’m thinking to myself how out of place the historic organ feels. I pay particular attention when we get to the prayer for healing. These days when the Rabbi pauses to give congregants a chance to speak or contemplate the names of those in need of healing, the list of names is longer than it used to be. Then I only had one friend with cancer. Now I am surprised by how many family and friends have struggled with the disease that was once taboo to name.
Back then when I thought about my future I comforted myself with images of the hearty nonagenarians in my family, of Aga, my hundred-year-old grandma, and Mickey, my husband’s hundred-year-old grandma. Now when I ponder the future I see my son and his friends, their zest and energy reflected in the worlds of meaning and hope they are building for themselves.
Thursday, September 22, 2011
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Grim, that was the only word that could describe the scene before me.
I threw the piece of parchment I had been writing on letting it drift in the cool fall gale drifting among the red, brown, and orange leaves. Floating away from the burial ground of the kings of Avon Arret toward the black shape of Lake Sanguis.
The priest was reading from the book of our ancestors the ancient kings of Xenophilia but I was not listening to him, the fool believing in an almighty force a god, Ha. My father was not destined to be killed by a assassin from Al- Habar in the far east of the land. The far-east warriors have a god but did that stop them from killing my father in cold blood? No!
Manservant came up to me offering me a piece of licorice that I took because mother was watching and then threw into the Forest of Diti where the earth goddess dwells. Finally as if after many years the Raven-Speaker priest recited the last rites and laid my father into the dark mouth of the grave… Forever,
Monday, September 19, 2011
Sunday, September 18, 2011
Tuesday, September 6, 2011
Saturday, September 3, 2011
The fission between happiness and sadness, hot and cold, shadow and substance.
Masomenos, child of two opposites that never should have met.
I am the lowly and the great: living in the castle and on the streets.
When the earth and sky, sun and moon, lightning and thunder met, I was created.
I am tangible and elusive.
The seen and unseen.
Known and unknown.
I am Masomenos, who never should have existed but was needed here all along.
I am not living or dead.
Not invisible but not seen…
Masomenos, the offspring of lies and truth.
I definitely exist. Yet I do not.
I am the impossibility of the world, everything that ever existed pureed in a blender until it was nothing.
Then it was me.
I am the shattered fragments of a golden mirror that wasn’t meant to be, red rain falling to a cracked glass that is lying on the pavement until all disappears, and then it’s there again.
Like some celestial merry-go-round, in the sky, that keeps things going: a piece of chalk writing words on the sidewalk by itself—
What it writes makes no sense.
But I do.
I am Masomenos, spinning out of control, on a tiny speck in the universe.
Five while crocodiles biting each other’s tails until they disappear, and then they’re there again.
An infinite pink ribbon, wide as a fingernail but long as time wraps and re-wraps itself about the earth.
Only I can untangle it.
Mortal, but here until the end of time.