Saturday, January 10, 2015

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Gleaming gone.

When my son was very, very small, there was a book we used to read to him.  This book told the story of a mother and her a little boy who walked to a beach, across the dunes to the resting of the waves.  

They looked for starfish; they had a picnic of sandwiches and pink lemonade.

Lying on their blanket, they had a nap.

 At the end of that afternoon they walked home.   And on the way, the book said, they saw the sun low in the sky, gleaming, a huge orange ball.

Then it was gone.

When we read this story the first time, he looked up and said “Gleaming Gone”.  

He became very upset.  "Gleaming gone, gleaming gone!", he cried.    
Yet, he wanted to read that book over and over.     He named the book "gleaming gone".

Gleaming gone. 

When I think of that book (yep, no longer have it, lost in house fire), I keep thinking 'gleaming gone, gleaming gone' a mantra in my head, rhythmic, haunting.

I have a lump in my throat.

Gleaming gone.

...a singsong reminder that things which burn brightly -- we who burn brightly -- have faded, are fading and will fade.

I am the morning at the beach. 
I am the breeze and the sand and the dunes.
I am the afternoon and the picnic.

I am the pink lemonade.

I am the blanket. 
I am the sand.

I am the nap.
(I need a nap.)

And on the way home,  I am the huge orange ball.

I am the huge orange ball, gleaming.

I pass my days, I work, I live.
I grow.
I help, I cook, I nourish.
I grow.
I rest.

At the end of my day...I walk home.
The sun is a huge orange ball.
I am gleaming.

And then gleaming.

Like the finest performance -- a stage of colors and lights and song...the curtain must close.
The gleaming is gone.

But it is not gone forever.
The following day there will be another breeze...another lunch...

More pink lemonade.

And the sun a huge orange ball.

The cycle repeats over again, over and over.

I have a lump in my throat because of the sweetness.
Because of the innocence.

I have a lump in my throat because of the beauty.
Because of the idea that our lives are gleaming...they are shining.
They are sparkling.

Because of how one day there is sun -- and one day it hides.
And it returns -- how it shines.

I have a lump in my throat because it always, always, rises again.

I am moved because of the way that a day passes, a life passes...filled with color and breeze and huge orange balls and dunes -- ups and downs and tides that rise and fall...
and rise again.

The days build like sand in a bucket.
Little bits of stone, one at a time...

nothing at all but sand beneath our feet, we hardly notice the days.

But over time, the bucket is full.
Full of beauty and parties and heartbreak and fevers and rainstorms.

And umbrellas.

Then it is time to return home.

And gleaming -- gone.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Singers at Siesta

It was on the first day at the park when we saw him playing the guitar, sitting between statues. 
He had put his empty red canvas case on the ground -- so as to collect euros.

 His voice was lovely and although we were walking, we stopped and sat.

When he sang – and when he sang – we were moved.  
Such a low and sweet and quiet tone.
We listened to one song and then another...and another.  
 Beautiful, really.

I sent her over with a coin and to ask him if it was his own music – her language was so much better – and he answered the name of another songwriter but alas, I have forgotten it.

All at once three policemen approached.  They seemed to ask ‘do you have a permit?’ – he seemed to produce one.   They said ‘you cannot perform here and now.’
They said ‘people are resting here in the park’.
‘It is, after all, time for siesta.’

It was 16.00.

It is time for siesta, they said.
   People in the park are sleeping.

I looked around and saw children hiding in the hedge maze.
No one was sleeping.

The beautiful and low and pleasing which wakes us…is worth the disturbance.    Totally worth it.

And now it is Sunday.  Coming up from the metro, we see him on the landing, singing his sweet song.    He nods at us, smiling, recognizing the strangers:


We had walked all over the city.   We had gone from Metro stop to stop...walking calles to avenidas and back again.   Like a mad rush to see the city, to feel that city, we didn't want to miss a thing.

It is one thing to hurry about and see everything and yet another to feel it all.

It is one thing to see a plaza full of tourists...quite another to sit and taste the olive oil, eyes closed to focus on the flavor, face turned towards the sun in a distant sky.

Let's go to there again, she said to me.   Let's go and have a siesta.

It is that time of day.

And so we went -- to Parque de Oriente.
We have returned!   

We sat in a different place that time: between two statues.
This time I rested.
My eyes are closing.   
She is reading to me from the bible – her homework.

There are families walking by us – returning from church.   Many pregnant women, babies in strollers.   Very young women, actually, wear flowers in their hair, as adornment.   They actually wear church clothes and they actually cool themselves with hand fans.

Of course he was the place where we saw him first.

But this time we could not hear his smooth song as clearly.   His voice is trumped by the soprano on the other side of the maze, singing Mozart on a platform to a gathering...but with a microphone.

She sings Moon River – in Spanish.  "two drifters, off to see the world, it's such a lovely world..."

My companion is now reciting the story of Noah…and I am listening.   Between the guitarist and the soprano and the reading….I am strangely moved.

I am crying.

“it is such a lovely world to see…”  es un mundo tan hermoso a la vista…

She rolls into Somewhere over the Rainbow.  algĂșn lugar sobre el arco iris…

Just then Noah sends out the dove.   It returns.  He sends out another, it returns.  The third goes out and finds a branch upon which to rest.  

When it does not return then Noah knows that it is time.   
Time for them all to rest.

Time for siesta.
Time for the rainbow.

I am thinking of the arias across the park and the olive oil (I can't seem to get enough!) and how I keep being scolded for saying grazie instead of gracias.

God tells him “look up at the heavens and count the stars – if indeed you can count them – so shall your offspring be”.

And now she begins Stranger in Paradise…

Take my hand,
I'm a stranger in Paradise
All lost in a wonderland
A stranger in paradise
If I stand starry eyed,
That's a danger in Paradise
Mortals who stand beside
Angels like us.

Is it redundant to write a Parque as Paradise?

 The soprano begins Love Story.  
And indeed, I think, looking around me, it is.
It is such a lovely world to see…

We are about to stand up – she is reading that Sarah is laughing.

I am laughing as well.   The songs seem to be narratives for our day, chosen just for us.

Waking us to the beauty all around – and inside.

And we are about to stand up, about to walk away.
I take out two euros to give to the young man, on our third occasion to see him.

...because people come back into our lives, again and again.
they just do.

And just, just as we are walking away…the soprano begins Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah

We laugh and sing along.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Chaos, Kindness & The Flood of Garlic.

To write this, I wrote it five times -- and then a sixth.  It was still a mess.    

I printed it out and with my green pen I scratched out everything.   

Well, almost everything -- so I could start again.

I haven’t been able to think straight – too much on my mind.  I needed a little something.   

Then I woke this morning thinking of garlic.

If you use a little garlic it is amazing.  It adds that special something to everything you eat.  It is almost magical the way it transforms a dish.    

For some, garlic is their favorite thing.    Like water, they can't live without it.  It gives our food – depth.  It makes things interesting.  

But too much – indigestible.   It keeps vampires, friends and even lovers at a distance.
(although, I read once that it’s okay if you both have it….)

If you use too much garlic it masks the flavors of everything else.  It tastes like chaos.    Your senses became flooded – they are only aware of the garlic.

I haven’t been able to write because my brain is flooded.   I have a lot of worries – like my father and his mother before him, I am a worrier.  

There, I said it. 

You will probably tell me that I am irrational -- 

-- but it is my birthright.

I could make a list.  
In no particular order…
my broken pipe 
my patients.
the coming winter.
The Middle East
School shootings.
I have a bathtub in my doorway.  Don’t ask.
I worry that my house will not be organized.
That my house will not be clean.
That I won’t have time and energy to do it all.
  That I will forget my Italian
  That I will forget Hebrew.
That I will forget what I just said.

That I will forget what I just said.
Er...that I will forget what I just said.

  That I will use too much garlic.

   Strangely, I am not worried about the upcoming election.
   But I worry that I am eating too much salt -- too much sugar.
   I worry about gluten.

   I worry that I will say something to offend someone.

   Yes, it seems that I am very self-involved.   In fact, I worry that I am too self-involved.

   But I do worry about hunger.
   I worry about homelessness.   

I worry that I am worrying too much.  
Sometimes it is all – too much.    

I used to be a super straight thinker.   Now, it’s all a mess.

I am too much garlic.   Chaos.
I need whiskey.

There was another time when everything became a bit too much.    

God told Noah – build an ark.    Something big is coming.    A flood – a Mabul – is coming.
Mabul – chaos, confusion, cataclysm.  Deluge.  

Way Back when God created the world, everything was in chaos.
When it was time to start to make a world, God made a list –   

(God was awesome at creating --  lists.)
one:    separate order from chaos.
two:    separate dark from light.
three:  more garlic.

Now, Chaos is returning.  
Winter is coming.

Back In the time of Noah,  God gave blessings freely. 

Blessings come down from heaven – in the same way that water is a blessing because it rains down from heaven. 
Oh how the blessings flowed!:    kosher dill pickles, pesto, hummus, moussaka, baba ganoush, chicken with 40 cloves of...garlic.)    
The blessings gave life depth.  Made life good.

But people took advantage.   They became selfish.  They gorged themselves.

They became violent – fighting over the pastrami.

And they didn’t even bother brushing their teeth.   

God was horrified at their behavior.
You like my blessings?  You like my garlic?  You like depth?
Sure, I’ll give you depth.   Go ahead and drown in it.

When it began, it was too much,    Flooding, chaos, confusion. 
The very same thing which had nourished us was now killing us.

Like the dish of an overambitious cook, everything was too much.
The world was drowning. 
It was as though God took out a big green pen and scratched out everything -- well, almost everything – to start again.

Chaos,  Noah.   There will be Chaos.    

And before those fragrant cloves begin to fall from the sky,   
Come into the ark.  Bring the animals, bring your family.

Bring Tums.

Build me this ark,  Noah, this teyva – this boat, this box.

It will be,  God says,  almost magical in the way it will transform you.  It will protect you.   I will protect you.   I will give you a taste of The World To Come.  

I will give you whiskey.

You will see how a lamb will be safe from a lion…
Where there will be no predators.
Where even people will not prey on each other -- for a corned beef sandwich –

Or even if only for the pickle.  

When there is chaos, when there is deluge, when there is too much worry, when things fall apart, when it is all much too much and when you are drowning -- it can house your souls and keep you safe.

When the world falls apart I will keep you safe.  
I will keep you safe.

Chaos and flood are not just about marinara sauce.
   It feels like chaos and flood when the waves of trouble in your life are rising – when you lose your job, your health, your safety and your home.

Grace, shelter, the ark are about saving us from the storm that will always come – no matter who you are and your place in life.

There is too much out there.   
There is too much to taste.  
Too much to stomach,
There is too much to feel.   

Man, we are under water.

Our senses are flooded.   Our hearts are flooded.   
We have too much to think about.
Too much to do.   

Too much to feel.
Too much worry.   
I could make a list!

You know what I need?   
I need an ark. 
I need a place which can shield me from the chaos.   
I need protection from confusion.   

I need protection from myself.

I need a place where I can begin again. 
  I need a place where I can think straight.
I need a place where I can be with my family.

Where no one fights over the food.

Into every life a little rain will fall.    
Most of the time a lot more than a little rain.

And sometimes a lot more than a little garlic. 
Sometimes there will be heartburn.

Sometimes there will be fire.   
There will always be illness & there will always be death.   

But it is ok – not to be ok.

We will need shelter.
We will need alka-seltzer. 
We will need an ark.  
We may need the Divine….
We will need a little whiskey.   

We may also need a green pen to scratch things out and start again.

We will need kindness.

And we will need each other.

(as delivered at Temple Beth El in Madison, Wisconsin on Friday, October 24, 2014)