Friday, December 25, 2009

act of

December 22
After Ulpan cranky from school trauma
“It’s an act of freedom”, she tells me simply.  The woman with the Charlie Chips cans.   To shed your past….is an act of freedom.  To release the parts that causes pain and restriction. To allow the spirit to live big.  To allow the body to breathe freely. For the spirit to wash in and out with the breath. To clean the body you must be able to breath. A shallow breath clogs the body. A wheezing breath is the spirit squeezing through the gook to get out. Constriction from external refusal leaves the body weary; without enough oxygen. When expression can flow freely in and out of the body it cleanses with every breath.  With every stuffed impulse, the body retains the fruit and it molds. Too much mold makes the body more weary. A sneeze, a new Italian Ulpan friend told me yesterday, is when you’re are trying to find your way. I sneeze a lot. Maybe it’s the spirit forcing it’s way out.  I’ve been sneezing and searching with vigorous symmetry.  Michael just called. Free expression. 

our feet sometimes take us

Somewhere in the 3rd week of October
I don’t know how it happens that our feet sometimes take us just where we need to be. I was exhausted and sick and feeling more like I wanted to be under giant fluffy covers than to step into the street and the ein sof of all things here. But my feet moved, so my body had to agree. I’ve been wandering for so long that my feet are still roaming like legs off a bicycle that still feel like they are peddling. So off we went with my legs to a place navigated by who knows what and carried out by my feet.  I left the complication of unpacking and figuring of just arrived belongings from and  I wandered as I have many times through Neve Tzedek and up towards the park on Shlush Street and was pulled straight down the stairs of a nostalgically comforting antiquey place partially undergound in the stone walls of yesterday. I was in that mood where you’re too tired to talk to anyone and you think maybe if walk with your eyes closed noone will see you. So dreamily I rolled to the back of the store not really looking at anything and there in the corner was a giant Charlie Chips can! A Charlie Chips potato chips can…. the ones that were to delivered to my house at 724 Kentwood Street Phila, PA 19116 when I was a kid. They were the best chips ever and this big soft guy we called Charlie came every week in a truck and delivered eggs, I think, and Charlie Chips potato chips.  For a moment I questioned where I was. Or how old I was. Then I blinked my eyes in that silly am I dreaming way and looked again. But there it still was in a nostalgically comforting old stone place on Shlush Street in Israel. A Charlie Chips can with Mountville, PA 17554 written on it. I carried it to the front of the store to the distinctly Israeli woman and she said strongly, Yea, I lived in Philly for 25 years. 25 I think. In one moment my worlds merged. She knew Philly, she is Israel, she knows the Jewish community of Philly and the ish of the suburbs and the struggle of the Diaspora Jew and the intensity of the Israeli Jew and the burden of both. She knows where I grew up, why I belong here and all about the Charlie Chips can. She is the only person I know who can follow the lace of all the parts of my life and my soul’s journey to here. She has four of her own kids, one at 43 and one at 45. So as we sat among the pieces of various periods of American and world history we merged my world. We brought the wandered fragments here. Dayenu…and that would have been enough.  But then my eyes wandered as my feet did and they fell onto a giant framed poster of a little boy face to face with lying down camel intently feeding it a peanut. Above them were the words: Sunday Magazine of the Philadelphia Press...August 27, 1905. I was smitten. Both with the boy and the camel. It’s a Herbert Paus Normal Rockwell looking poster. Remember, I just came out of 3 months in the desert with the camels!
I could barely pull myself away, but managed to say goodbye to all of them with her invitation to come visit me more. And Dayenu, that would have been enough.
On Friday I went to back over to say hello and to visit the boy and the camel but I arrived after she closed. Shabbat sends everyone to dinner and rest early here. So I peered in the window to visit with the poster as old friends and it was gone. I searched around as much as I could through the window and couldn’t see it, but I felt for sure that it was for me.  Did someone buy it?? It couldn’t be. It couldn’t be that someone would interfere with my life like that.  So I decided not to panic and went home knowing that the boy and the camel were with me.
I returned a few days later and woman who know my life said she had something for me. Dayenu. She pulled out the giant poster of the boy and the camel and said it must be mine. Dayenu, that would have been enough.   But…Sometime after we talked it had randomly fallen off the wall and shattered. Nothing ever falls from her walls.  With the glass shattered and some scars from the fall on its face, she could not sell it. It was mine. 

a letter to a here I sit....

October 15, 2009
A letter to a friend,
 Ok, so, here I sit in a little cute apartment in Neve Tzedek with my dog trying to get treats out of her kong and mounds of boxes with a likeness to my life before.  I wonder what it is like to be person who is not so emotional? I feel so much.  It's strange and at the same time completely normal. Of course all things worked out for the best. I went to the beach sat for while with the sea and wrote down everything I wanted in an apt. The pickins have been very very slim. Not much to look at in my range in Neve Tzedek. So I set out to make something materialize. I had tried to call the guy who offered to make me an apt out of part of his house many times previously, but my phone for some reason lost his number and couldn't access it. So after the beach I walked to his house with this feeling always that he was going to be involved somehow and I tried one more time to get my phone to cooperate and with the hope that perhaps all things are possible I pushed the button for his name and his number appeared. Strange.  I called and asked for magic and he said he had an apt for me. I met him that night talked him down and the night before ulpan started I moved into the the compound of an old Yemenite family. It's right on the edge of Neve Tzedek right off the circle between the David Intercontinental and the shuk. It's amazing. It's quirky cute with lot's of windows and a merpesset. Ground floor big kitchen with lots of cabinets and a whole family looking after me. The old matriarch lives here with various family members in different apts all interconnected around a courtyard. I think I'm the first non family member in 80 years. 
Succot was amazing surrounded by succot hanging from balconies, on the corner of streets, parking lots, and sidewalks.  Simchat Torah was blinding with all the dancing and singing and succot all around. It was impossible to resist the happiness of torahs (torot?) dancing around all corners with singing people under them.  I was just here cleaning and waiting for my new toilet. The first night I slept here I couldn't use the toilet. 
So here I sit, with all my stuff, a bit blank. I think I'm afraid to unpack all the old pains and patterns. My furniture is unbubbled and the boxes are piled. To have my grandmothers chair and my great grandmothers cedar chest here in Israel is something even i don't have words for. I'm so glad to have brought my life with me...although at the moment I'm not sure how to integrate it all. It's a bit sad and lonely. I feel the weight of all the years of packing and unpacking and moving and schlepping and searching on my own. I almost can't feel the excitement now. Still here I am alone. But not at all. I live alone, but not for a moment after I walk outside. I'm in the pocket of old and new. I can feel all that has changed in me....and also the pull of the old pulling me back as old habits and hurts don't let go easily. I am so much my newer and truer self, with the stepping back and forth that happens as you gradually go from more time new and less time old. For some reason as it all sheds off, it's really as if I can feel the pain of all the years of my life passing out of me. I'm waiting for the moment I feel free. Perhaps when glasses and books have founds their places and the sandals are back in the sand again. I'm tired. 
I just waked over to the Carmel market and got hangers and toilet paper and somehow I'd forgotten how exciting it is there. Now I'm buying ear sticks not just cucumbers.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Every time I have time to write I step outside and something happens.

Here life keeps a hefty pace....I walked out to the sea in a relatively moody mood to join the brooding Mediterranean and in trying to take my own picture with the stormy sea I encountered a cheerful 7 language speaking chap born in one of the old USSR countries who's been living in Vienna for 21 years. He had on a cold weather funny woolen hat with his ears covered and a pom pom only worn by people from cold places and he asked in his nostagically Russian accent to join me for the walk. He's been here a short time and is looking for friendly opportunity. He was carrying around Clementines all day looking for the right moment to eat them. So we chatted about language and Israel and being Jewish here and instead of being moody with the sea, we shared Clementines. It's hard to be in a bad mood here.  We went on or way and time with the windy sea spray made me laugh instead of introspect.

Last night Geora, my friend from the kibbutz stopped by. He was born here but grew up all his life in South Africa. He lit candles for the first time last night with me on my grandparents old menorah in my little apartment with candles from the shuk. Then went searching for sufganyot winding around the little streets here, where all the jelly doughnuts were eaten already, and onto the tumult of Allenby Street. We almost missed the wonderful site at the tattoo parlor.... as we reglanced past the rows of pictures of body parts pierced and tattoed, yes, we saw a flurry of joyful Black Hat religious Jews inside the tattoo parlor sharing Sufganyot and the joy of Chanukah with the tattoo folks. Everyones seems happy enough to partake.  It's everywhere here...

I woke up this morning and thought maybe I would have one sufganyah for each day of Chanukah. That's a lot of dough for me. So I figured I would just see what came to me and I went out for a walk....and right into Emanuel, my 5 foot 4 Hebrew speaking friendly plumber neighbor from across the street.  He was carrying freshly made levivot, doughnuts without the jelly or the hole.  And before I left the gate I had a steaming hot doughnut in my mouth. It all comes to you here....

Yesterday I went to acupuncture again. After the slush of water last time I was eager to see what this time would offer. I was on the table trying to figure out the immense pull of force that was merging my limbs into the table as the needles again pumped flow into my life force. I'm beginning finally to feel better... related to my birthday.  I've felt the movement of energy before in acupuncture, but never like this. It was so strong and mostly in my limbs, it really gave me wonder.  Like the ride at the amusement park where it spins so fast you stick to the wall with your whole body off the floor and just the pull of cytrificle force kneading you into wall. The pull of force was so strong I felt that my energy was somehow reorganizing to reverse direction from left to right.... to right to left. Like the way the language here is from right to left and the sea in on the west. And then from outside the window came this blasting Chanukah very Jewish ethnic sounding music..... bursting from some source right outside. It sang to me for quite sometime until the irony and humor of old DNA music being pumped into my needle points was fully appreciated. I think it's the only time I laughed while being needled.

Chanukah has brought itself to me every night so far for 5 nights. On the way back from the shuk found myself behind some of the family from this house.  I'm invited....Tonight Doda Sara, the 85 year old wonder of a tiny Yemite woman who owns this house had her whole mishpacha here for Chanukah and her birthday.  More levivot and sufganyot and the prayers for Chanukah and her grandkids playing Chanukah songs on their recorders and all the family singing old Yemenite songs.

Every time I walk outside.....

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Is the world here just for each of us?

Shlush, שלוש, the voracious flow of rain water down a one way street during a storm that is the metaphor for being in the flow of life.  It's the flow I knew was here in Israel for me, but with the remnants of struggle habits from all my life, it's been hard to step into the flow here this is time. Flow is the millions of connective moments between people here that creates a current that is vital and quick.  It's what makes things happen here....  you have to be ready to step in, because the current will take you.

Yesterday I went for acupuncture  in the alternative medicine part of  the local Kupat Cholim health service. I've been sick for the entire 2 months that I have been in Tel Aviv.  As I settle here the unwinding and untangling going on in my body is wearing me out.   The years of life sloughing off are uncovering layers of dusty missed dreams and sad times, and as they escape their years of confinement in my body they are releasing a good bit of toxic memory.  I could feel the heaviness of my fatigue lingering above me as I merged into the table with the needles doing their best to jump start my weary life force. My fatigue was lifted above me a bit like a blob of thickness on me, and with the needles I felt it begin to move. I could feel the movement of energy again in the stuck places in me, those hanging on for survival as I no longer need them. When I left the clinic I had a lift in energy I haven't felt for 2 months.... and I walked into a downpour of rain so voracious it felt as if the needles unblocked the blocks not just within me.  I walked out of Florentin under my pink flowery umbrella and crossed Yafo Street onto Shlush and into Neve Tzedek.

Shlush in the wonderful little street that guides you out of the whirl of people and merchandise of Yafo Street into the secret of my neighborhood. It is also down hill. The torrent of rain was gushing with so much gusto it made a river out of Shush all the way to the bottom. I walked in the middle of the street with my feet underwater and wondered if the flow of water was just for me, to reassure me that that vitality and cleansing was again flowing through me.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

While I wonder they ask....

While I wonder what's inside the building where the music is mingling with the playful sound of children's movement, he stands on the pillar and looks in the open window. While I wonder where to go to change my address in the big mess of lines, three people ask and go. While I wonder what's in or how to or where to or why, people here just ask. No hesitation. No apparent smidgen of caution that there will be anything other than a response. And that's what happens here. People answer you. They give directions, they give advise, and they give information. Freely. You don't have to choose your words carefully or wait for the just the right moment or space and person. Here people are not afraid to talk to each other. Maybe there is irony is that.

For me the flow of exchange in Tel Aviv is almost mesmerizing. It a complete unraveling of the buttoned up New England distance. Every time I go outside with Hollow someone asks me about her boots.... they don't wonder, they ask me.  There is an ease in connection here that is really different and wonderful.  The smallness and intensity makes it natural and vital.  Here the space and connections between people is so close two big guys stood up in from of me at an Israeli league basketball game. One had a wedgy and I thought, Oh, pick that out of your butt..  and the other gut picked his own butt. One has, the other pulls. Maybe you had to be here to feel the humor, but to me it was as if the one guys butt to my thought to the other guy's hand was one smidgen. Here the Israeli league basketball game is like going to a high school game, but the guys are big and the game is real.

Bodies are out, hearts are open, families are apparent and expression of life is so palpable here it beats right into you.
I've been touched more, hugged more, thrown on the back of scooters, fed, checked on, invited in and kissed more in 2 months than in all my years in New England. And my immune system is reeling from it. I've been sick for 2 months. Is it the bugs, the water, the tiring revolution of my life...or it is just getting accustomed to being with, really with other people?

It's small here, but deep.

My ulpan class is amazing. It's right in the middle of Tel Aviv and there are people from France, Germany, Bulgaria, Australia, Korea, Brazil, England, New York, California, Tailand, Italy...really in my little Hebrew makes for much fun! Jews, boyfriends of Jews, girlfriends of Jews, people here on work, people here for work, an amazing combination of people eager to learn, bumbling through a new and crazy language and unable to express their normal personality in the small beginner language of aleph plus Hebrew....and it makes for good fun in the classroom....

Some funny endearing plays with learning the language.....

In English, for laughter we  say, "Ha, ha, ha..."  In Hebrew they say "Cha Cha Cha..."

We learned the word for "to ride" and were giving examples...a bicycle, horse,  a camel, an elephant..and elephant? It doesn't come from my mind, but right, she's from Tailand....

and we say "to be on cloud 9"... in Hebrew they say "On the clouds", in Bulgaria they say "cloud 9", in France and Germany they say "Cloud 7."  Who knew.

In Hebrew they have very distinct words for moment to moment joyful happiness and happiness as a state of being, and everyone uses the distinction

We say "Pay Attention", here they their phrase includes the word for heart. Here they pay attention with their hearts.

When you want to ask someone something the phrase includes the word for face to face.

The entire verb structure is built around the relationship between you and yourself or you and others....

and there is no verb for "is". There is "was" and "will be" but no "is".... because only G-d can "is, was, and will be."

Everything here flips your perspective.... even before and after pictures go the other way... because the language goes from right to left....

With each moment I am feeling more like myself, I think as I was meant to be.... but still I am shedding off the many awkward lives along the way...and the ways my body and mind adapted and maladapted to feeling out of sorts. I love it here. And it for sure, will strip you down to your core...