The prize

A fusion of good and bad.

Of the shiny and the dull,

At times I cast my hook

To tempt the fish, I desire

Ask them to grant me a wish,

Or two, or more.

& promise to throw them back.

Fishing is about tenacity,

Dipping a hook into an unseen depth

Trusting in the possible, hoping

For a prize waiting at the end

Of the line.

Casting, and pulling out,

Disappointment not an option

Hope is the prominent tackle,

A golden fish is the prize.

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The Prize

My kingdom for a lawn-mower

Mowing our extensive lawn is my acknowledged job. While we rotate other chores, no one will ever try to take that one away from me. I spend endless hours on the riding- mower and wonder time and time again how I was pulled into doing it almost from the moment we became the owners of this piece of land our motel occupies.

This is a complicated question seeing that I am so technically challenged. Every machine from the car I drive, out of pure necessity, to the printer in the office, even a simple stapler dares me to a mind duel, one I usually miserably loose.

Yet the lawn-mower is my private escape, my mode of deliverance, and in some odd way, my direct touch with nature from a safe and respected distance.

From the top of the mower, roaring along, there is no question that I am in control. I dictate the pace, the course, and the depth of the cut into the grassy lawn. I get to decide which part of the yard will be cut and which left to grow. Flowers nod their head with respect (perhaps fear) when I zoom next to them, and most of the small insects and other assorted living things, hiding in the tall grass, make sure to stay out of my way.

But it is also about bonding.

As I travel along, sideways, and around my kingdom, I can inspect and marvel at every small detail. Far but not really out of sight, I can see every blade of grass, every tiny flower, every new rock that emerged out of the earth to threaten my smooth sail along the lawn.

The newly planted flowering Weeping Willow trees I placed in the ground last fall after careful consideration of their growth rate and flowering ability, I ride by them to check their progress. I look with pride at the wild lilies I planted along the border, so small when I uprooted them from someone else’s garden they are now thriving in the wet environment next to the front conduit. The Nine Cattail that sways slowly in the breeze, my modest contribution to the assortment of flora in its muddy bottom.

 Back and forth, riding from one side of the lawn to another, I watch with satisfaction how the tiny blades of freshly cut grass are flying out of the mower’s side chute. Every few minutes, I look back over my shoulder at the clear lines I created in the overgrown grass. It’s the sense of fulfillment deriving from a task well done but also the pride of an artist inspecting his creation.

It is like an allegory I did not fully uncover, but one day will reveal itself to me and until then the lawn-mower, green and yellow John-Deere, and me, will keep on cruising along, from one side of the lawn to the other, keeping an eye on its inhabitants.

My Kingdom for a Lawn-mower

Human Connections

I reflect on a sentence I read on the front page of Yahoo while I stir the coffee and watch the milk swirls and changes the color from dark brown to tan.

“Human connections are important. Try to encompass at least ten of them every day.”

I wonder if I can accomplish this challenge without leaving my home on this dreary rainy day.

1.   The first thing I do is look at my cellphone– David from 7 cups is looking for me.

2.    I log into the site that connects volunteer listeners and members who need a captive listening ear. David and I have a short conversation about his aspirations to take on the world. He says he likes to talk to me, and this time he ends the conversation by himself. I joke about – David and Goliath – he gets it and sends a smiley.

3.    I check my online writing group, no one responded to my last post, so I move on.

4.    I send the daily Hebrew word to Sara. Later she will send me a letter composed of these words. Today’s word – The eye of the storm. She texts me a thumbs-up.

5.    An email from Beth. She just found in her DNA test that we are third cousins twice removed and is overcome with excitement. I suggest a few possible surnames for her to check. None fits she writes back, adding an icon of a sad face.

6.    An unknown caller from Honolulu. A formal, somewhat scary male voice announces that I should call back in the next 10 minutes; otherwise, the police will intervene. I know it is a prank call, but for a brief moment, I stop breathing. What if it is true?

Fifty-five minutes passed, and I scored six interactions, I am pleased and reward myself with another cup of coffee and yesterday’s donut.

7. In my Facebook, I find two birthday announcements and a picture from two years ago of my dog the day we got him. I send birthday wishes and marvel at how small he was only a short time ago.

8.   I sit down to write a long-delayed letter to my pen pal in Scotland. We’ve been corresponding for over twenty years. We’re doing it in the good old-fashioned way; paper, envelope, stamp then the wait.

9. My daughter calls to ask for a recipe. I pull my cookbook that is held together with will power and sticky fingers and read the ingredients to her. This is an old recipe my mother used to make. I am happy to pass it on and keep the generational food connection alive.

10. Outside on my birdfeeder, yellow Goldfinch shares the grains with a small red squirrel. Above them, on a bent branch, a blazing red Cardinal performs its metallic chip. Patches of bright colors against the gray backdrop. I snap a quick picture. Later I will post it on Facebook.

Outside the rain keeps coming down.

Human Connections

“Life is like a landscape. You live in the midst of it but can describe it only from the vantage point of distance.” Charles Lindbergh

On the road to my daughter’s home, this morning, I drive by the river. I look at its shimmering blue, now that it got freed from the winter ice hold. I never lived by a river, I never woke up to look at its slow up and down movement, how the changes of the seasons are reflected in the water’s color and flow. I never lived next to the ocean in a proximity that enabled me to listen to the waves break on the shore and watch the white foam unfurl on the sand then backwash.  But I did live in the desert and was captured by its palate of colors and desolate beauty, and for a short time, I lived at the foothills of the Rocky mountains and savored the infinite sea of green.

I easily connect to symbols and metaphors that originate in the world of natural scenes and concrete landscapes. A mountain, a stream, the ocean, the vast unending desert, they go right into me and stir up the words. The external landscapes evoke an intense resonance inside me. Often, they revive images long forgotten, and with that, they bring in their wake a sense of ambivalence that never leaves me and going back and force between two homelands just makes it stronger.

The air in one feel so soft around me, the sounds, the smells, and the colors familiar and with the people who knew me from the day I was born I share a common history, going back thousands of years. But most of all  it is the language; that wraps around me caressing, accepting, signaling “here you are never foreign.”

Then I think about the soft snow cascade of white, and the spring eruption of colors. The luscious green of the warm summer days and the blazing reds of fall.

Which of these landscapes is mine, which one reflects on my life?

Where is my vantage point of distance? the one that will enable me to see my life with clarity and precision? Or perhaps I am the lucky one. For a few months each year I get to change my distance and with this change alter my vantage point of view. As a writer get to describe that point of view in words.

My Inner Landscapes

This morning  I look at the old oak tree towering over the yard and realize that the snow is receding. At the bottom of the tree I can see a small heap of stones. It is there that we buried, my cat, Sheleg (snow) last October.  She died before the snow came and the ground was still soft. My husband and I rushed her, in a shoebox all the way from the motel where we spend our summers, to our winter home, two and a half hours to the south and dug a small ditch under the tree.

 Meir, my other cat, the one we shipped from Israel is buried on the other side of the same tree. He died several years before, in the dead of winter. The ground was frozen and for hours I tried to create a shallow ditch to bury him in.

I tried everything. I lighted a small fire on the exposed soil. I read somewhere that even if  the first 4” from the surface are frozen solid underneath the ground becomes warmer and softer. When this didn’t work, I tried an assortment of digging instruments, I found in my husband’s toolbox, resorting from time to time to stamping on the ground in frustration. I even considered storing Meir in the freezer until the spring thaw, but the thought of having to face him every day gave me renewed strength to continue.

 Do graves makes a person feel more connected to the land, I wonder.

Eighteen years since we left Israel, the long, gloomy winter brings back images of the house we left, clinging to the side of a cliff. The road, a narrow strip of black asphalt meandering until it gets lost in the desert. And the small cemetery, at the bottom of the hill, only a dozen of graves, marked by a few Salt Cedar bushes with their broad unruly crown, and low to the ground stature, engulfing the soft whispering desert wind or bending with resignation to its immense power.

My husband does not think that burial is an issue. He told me many times when we had these bizarre conversations that he wants to be cremated and his remains spread in several chosen locations. Cremation is against the Jewish religion I remind him. We Jews go back to the earth where we came from and preferably in Israel, so we will have a first-row spot when the promised resurrection of the dead will happen. And besides, I always had an unexplained affection for land.

The thoughts of my final destination trouble me. Will it be back to Jerusalem, next to my parents, on the hill looking over the city? Or perhaps in our small town in the desert, the one where we lived for twenty-five years? Or under a big oak tree in this land that I see now as my home, covered in winter with a blanket of snow.

My grave concerns

POV

Some people see the world from a basement window,

Some see it from their first-floor balcony.

And I know folks who watch over the world

From their penthouse on the twentieth floor.

Same scenery, inhabited with the same details,

But some see only legs marching by,

While others cast a wondering eye

Watching unfolding scenes from above.

If we’d to see the world from behind bars,

Barbed fences, locked gates,

Will we think that it is assembled from

Small rectangles, divided by lines?

Captive of our senses we stumble along

Until we hit a wall and pressed to turn,

Altering our point of view, the angle of our sight

Can it change our life?

Walking a mile in someone else’s shoes,

Taking the elevator down to the basement.

Unknown landscapes will be revealed to us,

If we only let ourselves adjust to the dusk,

Be dazzled by the light.

Point of View

Growing pains of grand parenthood

My daughter asks if my husband and I can babysit for her for a few hours while she and her husband participate in a class for parents who have behavioral issues with their toddlers.

In the past I would say;

 “Why do you need a class, an outsider, to give you a piece of advice when here, in front of you stand two people who raised you and your three sisters with decent results.”

In the past I would offer my opinion.  As a savvy educator, and a parent I would give a detailed lecture on what will work and what will not accompanied with true life examples;

“Remember how your youngest sister used to cry all the time?”

“And how your older sister never went to bed without resisting it for hours?”

“And how your gramma, my mother, got me to stay in bed on Saturday mornings by leaving sweet surprises?” this one she remembers but nod her head in disagreement.

Wiser with the years I know better. I just smile and say, “sure, no problem, whatever you need.”

From the corner of my eye I can see how my husband looks at me and winks. We finally got it, he says without words. If we want to stay part of our grandchildren lives it will not be in the role of a sage, but that of the sitter.

The readers may raise an eyebrow with surprise or perhaps disagreement. Grandparenthood so I learned on the know-it-all net is nothing but a bundle of joy. It is life fulfilling, it’s a unique, sweet connection, it is everything we were not as parents. In other words, it is a second chance to do it ‘right,’ now that we are older and wiser and have a lot of free time.

When I reflect on my frequent conversations with my friends most of whom grandparents themselves, I realize that here again, I am witnessing a marketing ploy of a product that is not real, a bit like the golden haze around the final stage of life – the golden years of our retirement.

I have no qualms about my years as a full-time parent. In fact, I am still a parent only now my children are adults who are themselves, parents. They matured into ‘know it all’ contemporary, Facebook-style parents. This change makes me almost overnight – a relic.

It took me some time to understand that what I once considered true and trusted ways of parenthood are looked upon as old and useless, even though the proof of their success is standing right in front of me holding their own children.

Growing pains of grand-parenthood

hand 3

My sixth grandchild who was born last week brought back this question of naming I often contemplate. For nine months I tried to guess the name, somewhat hoping, for a name that will carry a meaningful family connection, yet troubled by that old conflict of naming newborns after dead relatives. I was relieved but with a tinge of disappointment when the name was revealed, and it had nothing to do with either dead family relatives or any obvious cultural references.

Am I putting too much emphasis on names, reading too much into their place and meaning? Is a name just a name and nothing more? The answer to this question is elusive.

When I was born, in the middle of a legendary winter snowstorm, in Jerusalem. My parents decided to name me after my grandmother, on my mother’s side – Levia (a lioness in Hebrew). I can almost see the discussion that went on, at the time, between my mother, insisting on preserving her dead mother’s name, and my father, arguing for a modern name to go along with their new life, in the young state of Israel.

The compromise, as is so often is, was two names instead of one, Ariela, Levia. Consequently, I was blessed with two names that are almost one. Ariela, the one I use, means; let God be her lion resembles my middle name.

This is a good story, I believed, as I kept repeating it, over and over again. I have no idea where I got it from as none of the facts except my actual name is true. I discovered it years after both my parents passed away and I had to put the puzzle together all by myself.

According to the Jewish tradition newborns were often named after a dead family member; to honor and keep the memory. Being born to a holocaust surviving family, there were many naming options, and so I was named after my great aunt who ‘did not make it.’ My grandmother, her sister, was alive at the time I was born. I find it ironic that two names, not one, were not sufficient to keep the memory from altering itself in such a capricious nature.

Perhaps this is the reason that I keep mulling over the naming issue, about weighting a newborn with a name that is heavy with emotions and old memories, on one side, and wondering about the importance of keeping memories alive on the other.

Repeating a well-known quote “…you die twice. One time when you stop breathing and a second time, a bit later on, when somebody says your name for the last time.” (Banksy). I can see how when one grows old names start to feel like a symbol, a continuation. A person searches for this thin thread of immortality to obtain comfort. I can also see that without the memories attached, a name is just a name and nothing more.

What’s in a Name

BEFORE THE PEACE

 

index

I saw his photo in a magazine,
with his army gear,
just a day before,
he was a killing machine,
controlled by commands,
obeying, almost blindly,
powers bigger than himself.

 

In a town he never before saw,
in a country so close,
just across an unseen line,
drawn by politicians,
and years of hate,
he sat, for a minute, on the side -walk,
raised his eyes and looked around.
For the first time,

 

 In a town he never saw before,
 in a street full of unfamiliar sounds
 and scents, the blast
of guns still explodes in his ears,
and the sweat running down his face.

 

He hunkers, down on his knees.
He sends his hand to touch.
It is only a small, tri-color cat,
just a plain street cat,
he strokes with the tip of his fingers,
and for a fraction of a second
it takes him far away,
to what could be and isn’t.

 

In the softness in his eyes,
in his gentle touch,
in his hand that lets go of the gun,
I think I saw a hope for peace.