December 31, 2013

Wish List

I strongly believe in a spiritual underpinning to the universe. I try to access it through Jewish ritual, by spending my time as much as possible with what is real, and by keeping my eyes and heart wide open. I don't subscribe to psychic stuff. (Ok, I confess, I love the occasional tarot card reading but not like I love the Rabbi of Ger.) 

But I do love this.
Specifically, I am a sucker for the exercise called "Pot of Goals" on page 81.It takes 7 days. On Day 1, number a page from 1 to 20. After each number, you write, "I wish.." Then you fill it in with wishes for "what you want to do, to be, to experience, more than on what you want to consume or own...for example, wish for 'living in the mountains in a big house' instead of 'a big house in the mountains.'" 

Don't think too much about each wish. Just write.

And then do follow the rest of this schedule:
  • Day 2, narrow your list to 12 wishes. 
  • Day 3, to nine wishes. 
  • Day 4, to seven wishes.
  • Day 5, to five wishes.
  • Day 6, to three wishes.
  • Day 7, to three final wishes. Which, Sonia says, usually reflect your truest desires at this time.

She says to tape this list somewhere where you see it everyday. Me, I just put it away. And when I check back with it a year or so later, well...damn, stuff has come true.

Ok, I get the part where the simple act of focusing helps drill a clean hole into your subconscious so that your soul's yearnings drive your conscious choices. There's no psychic voodoo attached to writing "I wish I could go on an adventure trip every year" one year and finding that two years later, I have hiked the Cotswolds and The Jesus Trail. To writing "I wish my quilting would be more artistic" and then finding myself a student of Jude Hill's Spirit Cloth. Or scribbling "I wish I took myself more seriously as a writer" and finding myself the author of a blog.

But here's where the soundtrack gets a little eerie and the spirit world starts to giggle at my arrogance. One year, in desperation, I wished that "I get to be in my backyard without the insanity of the Evil Neighbor." (A guy who, at his finest, would leave his radio outside blasting Rush Limbaugh into my yard while he ducked back into his house.) We all know you can't change other people. So you'd expect my wish would produce a change in my behavior, right? That I would find my way to tolerance and equinamity?

Guess again. Because my wish for peace and quiet in my backyard culminated in him getting 10 years of Federal prison for embezzlement and fraud and money laundering.  How does THAT work??? (But the real moral is just don't fuck with me, baby, because I am Connected!!)

So I am a believer after all. I thought I would try a new list tonight, when the New Year's zeitgeist is all about resolutions, intentions, whatever you want to call it.

I numbered from 1 to 20.

And then I just stared. Because at this moment, well, I feel no yearning. No deep desire to change anything. Oh sure, there are those 20 pounds, but they've been on the list so long that the statue of limitations has kicked in. And yes, I want to learn how to work those stupid remotes,but that's about as realistic as "world peace" in a beauty pageant.

So this new year's eve, how about I turn instead from wishing to enjoying? A few glasses of Prosecco, my homemade mu-shu chicken with lettuce wraps and my homemade hot and sour soup, with that man of my dreams.  After the kitchen is clean, we get a rerun of Columbo and maybe a movie (although there is an inverse relationship between drinking Prosecco and remaining awake.)

And before I do, let me say this.You have all touched me so much this year with your attention to my words. Thank you so much.

And the best of all your wishes for you in 2014.   

December 29, 2013

Hey y'all

Just got home from a week in New Orleans, where the trees grow some mighty odd fruit.

The natives apparently dry them out in the sun...
...and then use them in graveside rituals...
Or as offerings to their gods.

Then, just an hour away from all this silliness, is 20,000 acres of this.
As always, I have wonderfully clever yet profoundly meaningful observations to share. But first, I need to go grocery shopping, vacuum up muddy paw prints, and play with my dogs. The best of all good things for the new year to you all.

December 14, 2013


The phone rings at 5 am. I then trudge into my little girls' bedrooms, manuevering my way through a minefield of opened books,wet towels,single shoes, my socks, spoons,and bowls full of some petrified mass that may or may not have once been spaghetti and I thought I told you no food in your room...

...and I search for their warm little heads buried beneath the covers. I push back their hair and whisper into their ears. The words every child longs to hear.

"No school today. Snow day."

Snow day. It means wiping the slate of Plans for Today clean and just letting the snow--and whatever else--fall all over the calendar. Now, without any kids in the house, I can experience the thrill of Snow Day without the agony of spilled hot cocoa, encrusted pancake batter, and layers and layers of wet clothes piled in a heap on the kitchen floor.

I got a Snow Day this week, the day after hitting my moody bottom in Pencilville. The Snow Day brought me this:

It brought me a glorious romp in the field with the dogs, who ran in a continuous spiral for 20 minutes, zeroing in only to get their treats. Which were snowballs. (Nobody ever accuses boxers of high level cognition, the kind that would make them realize that they could master their own treats just by looking down.)

Like the best snow days of all, the snow on this Snow Day was good-packing. Does anyone else remember this all important criterion? Good packing. It means the pickings will be ripe for a most excellent snowball fight, a great snow man, or a double-wide snow fort--in fact, I remember one fourth grade recess where the entire class worked on one snowball until all 30 of us could no longer push it forward.

Yes, in Michigan in the 1960s, unlike Pennsylvania in the 2000s, we went to school when it snowed. (We also had 30 kids in the class and apparently managed to learn how to read and write anyway.) We had recess on the playground, not in front of a video. Great recess in fact, because girls got to wear pants, if only under skirts and dresses. We were allowed to throw snowballs at each other, always mindful of The Boy Who Got Hit in the Eye by a Snowball and Went Blind (a close relative, no doubt, of The Girl Who Looked at the Sun During an Eclipse and Went Blind).

Oh, damn, I am just sentences short of lapsing into an angry post about what is wrong with childhood today. So I will stop here and say what I came to say: I love Snow Days.

December 9, 2013

A Week of Two Cloths

Several years ago, I borrowed a pattern called African Huts and created a baby quilt for the shop that showcased a funny fabric of Kaffe's called "Pencils." I called it "Pencilville" and was so excited when it made its way into Quilt Magazine.
Not sure where the hypen came from...or the young boy, who I am sure would really be turning those crayons into aliens and mobilizing them into an attack on the wall. (Ok, blatant stereotype but,hey,I had only girl children and their little boy pals always seemed to be animating inanimate objects with superpowers and launching them against various my face.)

This week, I made a new Pencilville because so many of the original fabrics have been discontinued. My design wall blossomed with brightness and simplicity as Pencilville, Too came to life.
But handling those confetti pinks and daffodil yellows really strained my heart. Its enough to say that the Big Black Dog of maternal doom and gloom is once again trying to climb into my lap. I am having to make adjustments to what it means to be the mother of my forever wayward Thing Two. My struggles feel anything but simple or bright.

They feel like this:
This is my Sad Cloth, which I started several years ago when my discovery of Spirit Cloth coincided with Thing Two thudding into the darkness.
 The quote is an excerpt from a poem called "Kindness" by Naomi Shahib Nye:
Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.

I am not in the red heat that dominates this cloth, but more in its shades of umber.
I am going to work on Sad Cloth for awhile. I used to feel frantic in the face of sadness. But cloth (and some extra years, I presume) steadies me, makes me able to just sit with the Black Dog until he goes back into his house. This week, then, is about two cloths. One for babies, who need something to clutch when the world of Becoming becomes just too much...and another for moms.

Who feel the same.

November 27, 2013

The Tale of E 20

This post is not about making stuff or about Jewish text. It is not about my dogs. It is a story about appliances. And why they are not your friends.

I hit the "start" button on the dishwasher last night, to make room for the dishes and utensils that are the dirty little secret of holidays. (Here, that will be the confluence of Thanksgiving AND Chanukah. Himself offered to cook for the next one...a very generous offer since that will be,and I kid you not, 70,000 years from now.)  The racks were crammed full, since I wanted to make sure I could run it at the last possible minute, thereby ensuring ample parking for all the detritus of cooking, dining, and drinking. Especially drinking.

So you probably already know where this is going. Or rather, not going.

Because instead of the rush of water in its bowels, the dishwasher gave forth the sound of one hand clapping. And the display started blinking.

 "E 20!" "E 20!" "E 20!"  If it had audio, I am sure we would hear a siren and Scotty screaming, "I've giv'n her all she's got,Captain, an' I canna give her no more."

What does E 20 mean? It means I have to find the instruction manual, that sacred text containing Secret Meanings of Thy Error Codes. Come on, why do they have to use codes, anyway? In case Enemy Combatants take over the kitchens of America and we want to make sure they can never ever clean the ovens? My secret decoder instruction manual has six illustrated pages on how to arrange juice glasses vs goblets (in each of three languages) and another two pages warning me not to allow small children to take up residence in the lower racks...but it hath not a word about E 20.

I lasso Himself away from Ebay and enlist his input. To his credit, he makes only a few idle remarks about wives who refuse to rinse dishes before loading them into the machine that rinses dishes. So together, we Google. And we discover many pages of people asking what the E 20 error code mean. One thing leads to another and we wind up on You Tube, watching a video on E20 that was vaguely reminiscent of the film strips we watched in science class on the making of igneous rocks.

Well, I'll be. "E 20" means "something is wrong with the drain. Or the pump.  Try removing the drainboard, cleaning the filter, returning the drainboard, removing the jets, cleaning the jets, and returning the jets.  At which point you will find out you will need to call a repair person."  Yeah, they're right, there's no way all that would fit on the display.

I do all this and am successful: I learn I need to call for repair. I decide first to call the manufacturer, who makes me read off tiny numbers engraved in the side of the door and has me push a series of buttons while holding other buttons while cradling the phone under my jaw. Together, we are successful: I need to call for repair.

She is happy to help with that. I give her my zip code, she gives me appliance repairers in cities four hours from here. We try again and get two more companies.  She is happy to contact them for me, assuring me that she should be able to have someone at my door sometime early next week.I spew and sputter, but she's immoveable. I pepper my vocabulary with words like "unacceptable" and even threaten to, gasp, blog about them. She encourages me to spend my time how ever I would like.

In the morning, Himself wakes me with an offer to go out for Thanksgiving if the dishwasher remains in E-20tude. Tempting, but I have already offered to dogsit for J's dog and don't want to go out in case Billy and Clutch eat him when we're not looking and I would have to look up at my friend of 25 years and say, "what dog?" I counter with a request that he wash his breakfast dish before he leaves but his forehead flashes an E 20 sign.

I get up, call the first appliance repair on the list. They are happy to come next Tuesday. I work Tuesdays. That's ok, they will call first. But I won't be here because I work on Tuesdays. Well, that's the only day they are in my area. Ok, what time do I need to be here?  Its a secret. They will call on Tuesday morning to reveal the time. But I won't be here on Tuesday morning because I work. That's ok, they will call first.

Now, the E 20 sign on MY forehead starts flashing and we agree to something, I am not sure what. I dial the other repair service and am utterly shocked when she says, "can we come out today between 4 and 6 pm?"

I feel slightly disappointed that the story will be coming to an end. It would have been fun to roll my eyes in martyrdom and tell my as yet unborn (I hope) grandchildren about the time I had to wash all the Thanksgiving dishes by hand. And here's the real truth: I actually don't mind washing dishes.  I put on my the audiobook de jour (this week it is Wolf Hall, a brilliant tale about Henry VIII read by one man and his 5,000 voices) and just wash...rinse...wash...rinse. Peaceful and present. My dad, even at age 86,  is Dishwasher Extraordinaire and I was beginning to look forward to sharing that time with him.

So maybe I won't tell anybody that the dishwasher is fixed. That, of course, is assuming 1) Mr. Repair Guy actually shows;  2)the machine is fixable; 3)the manufacturer still makes the part;  and 4) he has the part in the truck. If you've been around appliances long enough, you know that the confluence of these things is about as common as Thanksgiving and Chanukah colliding.

Nearly 24 hours into the saga, I learned the true meaning of E 20: "Wash everything in the dishwasher by hand before repair guy gets here. It will only take 10 minutes."

And it did. 

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

November 21, 2013

Glimpse of the Divine Outside

I am working on Gridlock up in my studio and stitching my Glimpses of the Divine cloth while sitting in my chair in the living room, where I remind myself of Edith Bunker.

I took Glimpses for a walk into the yard today since it is the only good light around at 4'ish. This is a corner created as Part Two of what I extorted out of Himself to get me to stay here in the shadow of the Evil Neighbor (who was just sentenced to 10 years in prison so I wasn't completely crazy).
It has a stone table that would be a perfect altar for sacrificing virgins (definitely a shortage of those around here). The chairs are made from old fishing boats, imported from somewhere in Micronesia by Elizabeth Gilbert, who owns a store not too far from here when she is not Eating, Praying, or Loving.
 Himself threw the paint on...couldn't you just frame the close up?

Speaking of close ups, I took some detailed photos of the cloth while it was waiting outside for a virgin. I already tucked tiny pieces of hand-dyed golden cotton in the interstitial spaces and basted them in. The process felt free and unencumbered and I am happy with how they look. In close ups, they too seem like little paintings.

Add caption
But I rushed into stitching around some of them and I am not happy at all. Yeah, the close ups are cute...

 ...But I just can't seem to make the mark that expresses the feeling inside of me. I struggle with this over and over again, the inability to get the topstitching to talk. I am spoiled: because I can make words just dance off the ends of my fingertips, I expect to do the same with a needle and thread. Or perhaps because I wrote professionally for so many years, I am familiar with the process and tolerant of its hills and valleys?  Or perhaps I can hide behind the fact that the "delete" key does not leave a trail, the way the black marker in the picture just above does?

Anyway, I have signed myself for a class next June called, funny enough, Human Marks.It is taught by Canadian fiber artist Dorothy Caldwell in a small art retreat setting run by another formidable fiber artist, Nancy Crow. I am already looking forward to a day's drive to rural Ohio and settling in for a week with a small group of what Anne of Green Gables calls "kindred spirits." Nancy hires a chef to cook lunch and dinner and you stay in local inns or hotels.

I probably would drive to the Yukon if I could get two meals a day served to me. Speaking of serving meals, Clutch is not pleased with all these photoshoots and blogging so I am outta here.

November 14, 2013

Everything Comes Together

This is a quilt I made several years ago for our bed, from Liza's pattern called "Gridlock."The fabric is printed by Marcia Deerse (take a look at her work at
Gridlock looked really great for the two days it was on our bed and it was fun to wake up to all the different color stories going on from block to block. Then, daughter (Thing One) decided it would look great on HER bed and Gridlock moved to Chicago.

I love this pattern and decided to do Gridlock Two, with a strong chain anchoring it to the bedpost because there are three more Things that amble by. But I guess the two years that I've been a groupie at Jude Hill's Spirit Cloth have really changed me. I didn't want to buy any fabric.  And I didn't want a quilt that looked like it came from a book.

But I wanted Gridlock.

So I started Gridlock Two, with two rules.First, I want this quilt to feel like ME, not a quilt book. Me, I am blue denim, brown cowboy boots, and red silk.  So that was my palette.  Second, I could use only fabric that comes from my shelves that I absolutely love...each piece has to be something that I have because I felt in love with it for its own self (see rule 1).

Then, as I started to assemble the blocks on the design wall, my eye caught the four or so pieces of cloth I have created by hand, my spirit cloths. You can flip back through my blog to find them. They never really found a good home and were just hanging out on my design wall. Well, look at that, all four are the same palette: blue, red, ivory. Isn't that just amazing? When I walk into an ice cream store, I will always get the same flavor (vanilla or banana). When I stitch from my heart, the same colors emerge...

Anyway, without the slightest Worship at the Altar of But I Can't Cut Up My Work, I sliced these babies down to the requisite 12 1/2 x 12 1/2 square and now they have a home! Talk about feeling like me.

So here's where I am so far, with many of the pieces not sewn together yet. And blocks may move around or get bounced once I get all 64 (sigh) done. 

 Here's an equally bad pic:

 It is really fun, everything I ever collected just because I loved it is all fitting together.  Like the old sugar bags:
Everything has a history:

I have the pocket to Himself's fat jeans and am going to use that for a center in one of the non-grid blocks. And in that pocket, I am going to stitch down the handkerchief I stole out of my dad's top dresser drawer when I moved away from Detroit. I've got some other mementos that will no doubt make their way into the blocks.

And on a totally unrelated note, here's some advice from Dr. John, who was on the soundtrack from the second season of Treme that I blasted while sewing today. (A good beat turns all the back and forth between iron and cutting table and design wall into a great Second Line  strut.) In that creaky ole voice, he sings this: "life is a near-death experience."

I'm trying my best to tie that into the rest of the post, like I usually do, but I'm stumped. I just liked it and its my blog. So there.

November 7, 2013

Free to Good Home

For the past few years, I've had an increasingly vexing itch. No, not that one.This one started as a vague, but disruptive sensation that wanted my psychic attention as much as my bad case of poison ivy wanted my fingernails.  When it finally formed words, it was this: "go deeper."

Gee, thanks for clearing THAT up, Psyche.

But magically, the understanding did emerge, and it came from my time hanging around Jude Hill and the posse at Spirit Cloth. There I have experienced the deep satisfaction of marrying just a needle, two strands of embroidery floss, and a basket full of fabric scraps.  And the process of material simplification has also clarified my understanding of how I want to spend my time.

I want to go deeper in what I love to do. Not wider. I need to grab the most important strands of  my interests and loves and follow them down to their foundations, instead of collecting little bits of lint from across the top of everything. So I will continue this:
Taking the Hebrew letters I learned as a child, deepening them into a language I learned how to speak as as a college student, deepening the fluency of the past several years into study of its more ancient forms, so that I can now go deep into studying the texts of my faith in the language in which they were written.

And this:
Taking the book I bought in college for a course that required me to sit under a pricker bush for hours, swatting mosquitoes while pretending I could actually see the brown beak on the brown bird on that brown leaf in that brown tree...but that eventually deepened into a study of the critters that happily come to our feeders and now promises to deepen into all the birds in my world.

And I'm still in for this:
The pursuit I started last spring. Looking up each weed in my yard and on my dogwalks and learning its name.Now, this one doesn't really get very deep. Short term memory being a short term commodity these days, I find myself looking up the same damn yellow flower every week. But every once in a while, I get to move on to a white bloom and that's always a thrill. 

Finally, to round out the category of learning what is around me, I plan on starting to fulfill a lifelong dream to really learn more constellations than Orion and the bears. And finally, because it only involves two pencils and some paper and I can do it my pajamas with a glass of wine, I plan on using some cold winter days to go through this:

Ok, we're almost getting to the free offer segment of this post. Because what I am cutting from the menu of me is this:
I got very interested in all the energetic eco-dying over at Spirit Cloth. I really excited myself by getting these books and I became virtually orgasmic by scoring three very cool old metal pots at the flea market. I scrounged around the yard, assembled a table from old flagstone and logs from a tree felled by Sandy the Storm, laid out the cool pots on the cool table, got the soy mordant and got the black beans...and created something that smells like farts and looks even worse.

Yes, I could ecodye if I invested some time reading, experimenting, taking notes...but that would take away from translating Hebrew, trying to figure out if that really is a cowbird in the pin oak, and reciting the list of yellow flowers yet again.  That would be wider, not deeper.

All of which is my way of inviting you to email me if you'd like me to send you these two books, at no cost to you. India Flint's book is the bible...the other seems to be more applicable to wool skeins rather than fabric but probably couldn't hurt.

But I get to keep the cool pots on the cool table.


October 27, 2013

At the Intersection of Divine and Cloth

For years, I have been trying to create an image of my very well-defined sense of the divine. I've used colored pencils, pastels, sticks with acrylics, sticks with oil and the net result is always the same.

I discover yet again that I cannot draw.

But folks over at Spirit Cloth say everyone can draw and so I ran out and bought two art pencils and a copy of Betty Edwards' Drawing on the Right Side of Your Brain. I am sure that when I actually get beyond page 2 and remember where I put those pencils, my hands may start to express what I see.  But until then, well, I just close my eyes and get lost in the vision.

I believe that our day-to-day world is like a blanket...a colorful cloth of the ordinary and perhaps even the extraordinary stuff that entails being alive. And every once in a while, there's something shining in a little tear at the seams. A shimmer of godliness that we touch, only here and there. When you knit an intimate moment with a friend...when you hear a longlost voice on the phone and you had just dreamed about that person the previous night...when your garden makes beefsteak tomatoes or a bunch of titanium gives you back what your arthritic knee took away.

What you touch when you feel grateful.

Anyway, that's what...wait, did someone say "cloth?" "Colorful cloth?"  Like this?
individual blocks on the design wall

I spent the summer sewing all my woven blocks together, with no real big picture in mind other than I just wanted to weaven them all together. They were originally random events, these weavings, and so putting them together guessed it...holes scattered between all the blocks. 

But I still didn't think of what must already be obvious to you. But this month, I got well on my way into my class in the Jewish mystical text written by my new boyfriend, The Rebbe of Ger. He echoes the Hassidic principle that the material world was formed by an implosion that scattered sparks of the divine throughout the world. It is our job to retrieve these sparks, to bring them together again. And when we do an act of kindness, of charity, of just acting righteously, well,we feel the light of the spark we just picked up.

See why I love this guy? Better yet, see why I love quilting?
blocks woven together, with little sparks filling in the holes
Betty Edwards, eat your heart out.

A Bedtime Story for Grace

Note: I promised Grace a story or two about our hiking trip to Israel. Here is one.
This is an Israeli goat named Jacob.We met him at an organic farm called Yarok Oz ("Green Goat"), where his girlfriends make goat cheese for sale and where tired hikers or other travellers can sleep in cozy geodesic domes, modelled here by my lovely assistant E.
Probably because the noonday sun interfered with our judgment, we decided to tack on a side trip to Yarok Oz, thereby expanding our 10-mile day (which just that morning had already been expanded by an episode of getting seriously lost looking for a trail marker that turned out to be under a rock). Ok, it was another few miles, but who could resist their organic goat cheese?

No one.

Which is why there was none left by the time we got there.

The owners graciously revived us with water and shade (the true currency of desert hospitality).  And a young Israeli volunteer swinging some mighty dreadlocks and his German girlfriend took us on yet another side hike to see some pretty cool antiquities.

This young Israeli and German couple brings me to the story from our trip that I really want to share. I just didn't have the right pictures to go with it and figured Grace would get hooked by any story that starts with a goat.

The story is about the two German women who were hiking The Jesus Trail when we did. (The trail is self-guided, but the outfitters book everyone into the same guesthouses, where you dine together. And the 12 of us frequently walked together, particularly in those moments when maintaining independence seemed far less important than, say, finding someone who could figure out where the hell the trail went.)

Helga is 72 and lives on a little island between Germany and Denmark. Her friend Adelhaid is 74 and lives in what used to be East Germany. These ladies could hike the bejesus (insert groan here) out of almost any one of us. Helga spoke perfect English, because she escaped East Germany with her family when she was a young girl. She left behind her little friend Adelhaid, who spoke only German,thanks to the black hole of her Communist schooling.  When the Wall came down, the friendship between the little girls grew up.

I have never been to Germany but shared with Helga that my mom had fun travelling through Germany in the 1970s using just her Yiddish.  The next day, she saddled up to me on a winding trail through a eucalyptus forest.

"Can I ask you something, Julie?" she asked. "Was it very hard for your mother and your father to go to Germany?"


Now, my parents were not like some in their immediate postwar generation of American Jews, where the very word "German" turned a heart into stone. They never bought a Mercedes or a BMW, but that was because they were definitely Fords in their lack of materialism. Still, there was a stiffness in their shoulders, a flare in their otherwise gentle unspoken fury that I bet every one of my demographic (spoiled white Jewish baby boomer female raised in the "Wonder Years" suburbs) can recognize. 

A fury that we, the next generation, understand, but try to extinguish in ourselves and especially in our children.

A fury that I desperately wanted to hide from this beautiful woman with crinkly pink smile lines around her clear blue eyes. But, hey, if you are going to tell the truth anywhere on this planet, it ought to be on the Jesus Trail. And so I did.

"Yes, it was. They enjoyed so much, but there was, there was Dachau."

Helga nodded.  I didn't want to add that there was also time after time where they scanned elderly faces around them and asked themselves the Unaskable. Behavior no one is proud of but that no one of that generation can easily avoid.  Then, she told me about going through the U.S. Holocaust Museum with her college-age son, who was studying in Wash DC. He signed the guest book at the end with words that made Helga well up even as she relayed them to me.

"I am so ashamed to be German."

Through her tears, she shared the agony of witnessing her child's agony. Three generations later. "And yet," she met me eye for eye, "the German people, we were guilty."

Helga? Who remembers meals with no food for the first five years of her life? Adelhaid?  Who had Helga translate stories about American GIs dropping food packages into her sector from the air? There's so much to be said about holocausts and guilt and innocence and fury and forgiveness. Especially in Israel, a country born from the ravages, a country torn by its own injustices. But right then and there, on a eucalyptus trail overlooking an olive farm,there didn't seem to be much else to say but this: 

"No, " I said. "The Nazis were guilty."

And we squeezed hands.

Which brings me back to the Dreadlocked Israeli Boy, who is moving to Germany with his Girl of Long Blonde Braids, to start an organic farm together.

Now, Grace, turn out the light and go to sleep. 

October 10, 2013

Me and the Hassidic Rabbi of Ger

"The human being is called a 'walker,' having to go from one step to another. For habit makes things reflexive and this hides the inner light...Whoever stands still is not renewed..."

                                                                        Hassidic teaching, circa 1902

That's from Rabbi Yehudah Leib Alter of Ger, a Polish rebbe who died in 1905. And, yep, that's what was in the Hebrew pages I had to decode for my text class the day after I returned home from hiking with E in Israel.

The hike was definitely about renewal. First, in hiking 10 to 12 miles daily over four days, I remembered with every muscle how trekking has fed my soul since I was a youngster in wilderness camp. Don't you think that which we love in childhood is that which our most authentic self loves? For me, its vanilla ice cream, pine forests, dogs, and the sound of my boots crunching on the trail.

So it was the happiest of reunions to find each other again. [Insert commercial for orthopedic surgeon and artificial knee prosthesis here.]

But it was also about the freshest of new experiences. The Greatest Hits.
Traversing cliff ridges gripping wires and descending via six inch metal rungs... walking alone in a banana grove to suck some shade while belting out the Chiquita Banana song at the top of my lungs...munching on fallen grapefruit in a citrus grove...falling asleep to the fireworks and gunfire that are how Arab villagers celebrate weddings, in a hostel made from the ruins of an Ottoman palace...Scanning every rock,bush and tree for that damned orange and white trail marker...touching the stone of the nook that held the Torah in the ruins of a second century synagogue. Fresh pomegrantes. Even fresher pita.

And our fellow hikers...well, those gentle souls from Australia, Denmark, Germany and the southern US will get their own post soon.

Jesus played no part in my choice to hike The Jesus Trail, but its geography will forever alter how I feel about what I read in the bible. Because this is geography you can feel. Even at its end, the Israeli summer is about sun that can eat you alive. When you feel a journey like this:

You truly understand the magic of this.
How a well was what a Food and Gas Ahead sign is on the long stretch of highway after midnight. How shade, just simple shade, could be the cornerstone of hospitality.

Our journey started in the ancient market in Nazareth and ended on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee. I wished then--and feel it even more now--that I could have kept on going. To walk from point to point as determined by where there is water, listening to the crunch of my boots on the stones and clay shards of an ancient landscape.

But my life is also about Himself, who blew through 36 barbequed chicken thighs and then defrosted a banana bread instead of a turkey meatloaf for his supper (which apparently didn't cause any real change in his dinner plans, except that he didn't have to search for the ketchup).He only likes to hike if there is no other way to get to an intriguing destination.

So I find myself torn between Himself and the Rabbi Yehudah Leib Alter of Ger. He wrote the quote at the beginning of this post. And here's how he ended it:

"The angels above can stand. But the person has to keep walking." 

Things could get serious between us.