“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.

Advertisements

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.

The Pull of the Moon

k15

Where the river flows into the ocean,

Ripples mark its way, colors merge

To hues of blue and green and brown.

 

And pushed by the incoming tide, salt water

Squeezed up the narrow river bed

Gush and foam, twist and roar.

 

Then the tide recedes, and

Pulled by the moon’s silver strands,

The river once again ripples in.

 

I watch it day after day,

One small river, flowing into the bay.

In and out, ripple and gush.

 

It is a dance so well-rehearsed.

Salt and sweetness intermingle,

Pull and push linger.

 

And I know,

As long as it is going on, in my tiny town,

Then around the world, the moon and the sun and the earth,

Still orchestrate this intricate nature’s dance,

And I can relax.

The Pull of the Moon

Mortality Checkindex heart

Nine o’clock at night and all is quiet. I doze in my hospital bed when suddenly the monitor I am hooked to with many leads starts flashing an angry red. Startled I look up at the heartbeat counter, it shows a big red 0. Before I manage to move, five people show in the room. They stand in front of my bed in a row, they look at the monitor then at me. I look back at them not sure what is going on but sensing that I play a key role in this bizarre scene I cannot resist the urgent need to say something meaningful.

“Zero heartbeats, does that mean that I am not alive? “this is the best that I can come up with being totally unprepared for playing the dying patient.  No one smiles.

I feel a bit winded and lightheaded like I did for the past week but my heart that for a few weeks now was beating and fluttering in my chest like a caged bird desperate to fly away feels strangely quiet. Maybe I am indeed dead.

I cast another look at my attentive audience. Two female nurses and three very young, attractive male nurses and I wonder if the abundance of male nurses in this hospital presents a subtle way to help female patients stay alive. It’s a funny thought, so I start to giggle while I toss in the bed in a try to get a better look at the alarming signs on the monitor. In that exact moment, the display flickers and my heartbeat start to climb up. I breathe in, breath out, smile an encouraging smile at the crowd in front of my bed.

“I guess I am still here,”

No one smiles.

I nod my head to my unresponsive audience, rest it back on the pillow and close my eyes. I am tired.  It’s been a long week and tomorrow they will fix whatever it is that does not work in my heart. The long words and explanations that were thrown at me had one thing in common; like a flawed machine my heart, the one I trusted until now has failed me, and someone needs to go in and fix it. Tomorrow another piece of machinery, a pacemaker will assume the responsibility. The pacemaker will do an excellent job they assure me.

“You will be as good as new,” these words are like a mantra that supposed to make me feel good.

A specific model, a series number, battery life, all this detailed information is shared orally and in written documents.  My signed consent is requested, and still, I feel that my presence in the process is not, I am not a heart mechanic I am only the carrier of this damaged piece of equipment. Only the carrier.

It’s a somber thought that I need to come to terms with. It makes me feel that in some ways the process of separating from my body had already begun.

Mortality Check

To everything there is a season.

changing-seasons-e1465793199667

 

“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

 A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;”

Ecclesiastes 3 King James Version (KJV)

 

Always in September – when

Summer’s buoyancy yields to the

High-Holidays weighty deliberations.

The Days of Awe wrap around me a heavy cloak,

Till the day of final judgment seals.

Until next year, I repeat the refrain.

Until spring returns – inaudibly in my heart.

A time to be born, and a time to die,

And it all starts in September.

 

It always starts in September,

A sudden trace of coolness, in the air.

Crisp mornings grab on patchy fog

Vanishes into translucent blue.

And for a second, a red leaf

Shines through the green density.

And I know that with blazing reds and orange the summer will soon die.

Then the somber air of winter’s grays and whites will settle.

There is time to be born,

There is a time to die.

And on the way don’t we change our colors,

Just like the seasons do?

changing-seasons-e1465793199667

The Purr of a Cat

 

“You cannot look at a sleeping cat and feel tense.”

Jane Pauley

 “There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats.”

Albert Schweitzer

 

The purr of a cat,

It can’t get any simpler than that.

When this bundle of softness

Radiates warmth all around,

And your body succumbs

To the rhythm.

 

And life slows down,

As you breathe in and out.

The slow beating of your heart,

The melody of the streaming blood.

The purr of a cat,

Do you need more than that?Sheleg

The Purr of a Cat