Written on March 7, 2018, by the Mediterranean Sea in Netanya, Israel.

Breathe in

Breathe out

We are like a bottle thrown into the sea.  Pushed down by the wind.  Tossed around and around and around until we are dizzy and disoriented.  We bob back up, and are pushed under again and again and again.

We sink down and down to the bottom of the sea, and join the shipwrecks strewn around.

We flop onto a deserted beach for awhile and inspected and rejected by a hermit crab looking for a new house.  Then pulled out to sea again to continue an endless journey to nowhere in particular.

Breathe in

Breathe out

Namaste

Written overlooking the Mediterranean Sea in Netanya, Israel on March 6, 2018

Breathe in

Breathe out

It is a partly blue, partly cloudy, partly gray, partly sunny day looking over the Mediterranean Sea.

It has taken me a few days to get back here again, but the missing of the Mediterranean Sea pulled me unrelentingly to it.  I can hear it calling to me.

I am beginning to feel the coming of my leaving on March 27.  And I guess in most ways I’m ready to go home to the ocean on the other side of the world.  But … but … but my special spot by the sea I can walk to in truly 10 minutes; the knowing that is probably never going to happen again — ah, it tugs at me so hard.

Not that I wouldn’t be ready to die today, here in my Jewish homeland by the sea within the whimsical ceramic creature by the sea that lets me feel so cozily curled within it.  It has been worth all the trouble, all the planning, all the money, it took to unite us.

And yes, I’ll miss the Ethiopians, the school where I tutor, the concentration of my students who want to be tutored — but, after I’m gone, I’ll only be a fleeting memory amongst them.

I guess it’s clear there’s really no future for me to live in Israel now without more money than I have.  My time in Israel hasn’t given me a new direction at my age and financial situation.  If I were younger…if I were richer — would it matter?  I see around me a variety of personal plights that money can’t fix.

The sky in front of me has god-like sunlit rays breaking through it that add grayish shadows on pathways to the sky — to space — to infinity.

In some ways, I do have as many choices of paths to take.  I am not so old, not yet penniless, not all that unhealthy to make choices for myself.

The big, dark gray blob in the sky is trying to gobble up the heat of the sun.  The birds see it too, and are talking to each other about the picture in the sky.

The things that are going right on this 3 month jaunt are going very right.  What didn’t go right – the billing mix-up with Airbnb – was very unpleasant, but didn’t actually end up costing me more money.

How am I different going back to my Laguna Woods Village near Laguna Beach after my happy hours by Lagoon Beach on the Mediterranean side of the world?

I don’t think I can answer this now.  Perhaps it will eventually be clearer.  My time here isn’t up yet, and neither is my time to curl inside the ceramic dragon’s tail — thankfully.  No goodbyes are necessary quite yet.

Breathe in

Breathe out

Namaste

 

Written by the Mediterranean Sea on 3/3/2018

Breathe in

Breathe out

I breathe in.  I breathe out.  And then the warmth of the sun.  The kiss of the wind.  And I fall into a sleep.

My mind is free to wander where it will.  It hears the sea ask me if I am a better mother to me than my hypercritical mother was.  “My Mother, Myself” was once a popular book that said you would see more and more of your mother in yourself long after she was dead.

And, in many ways, I have.  I chose an independent life over 35 years ago.  Since then, I have been totally responsible for mothering only myself.  In Israel, I have become even more aware of how much I am in charge of taking care of myself, both physically and emotionally.  It isn’t easy.

Sometimes I’m very aware of getting more and more tired of taking care of myself – particularly as getting old gets harder and more complex.  But, I am all too aware that I chose to be fully in charge of me.  If I’m not taking care of myself, no one is.

I have only myself to take care of.  All the others in my life are dead.  But I sometimes feel I am spoiling the “me” I have to take care of.  And this is where the fear and vulnerability comes in that makes me an insecure, “Can I do it?  Should I do it?” mother to myself.

I loved being loved.  I really did.  My teenage sweetheart turned into a loving husband.  But eventually I wanted a lifestyle he didn’t want, and I gave up being loved for my freedom to do what I wanted, to live where I wanted.  It was a reasonable deal — give up something to gain something.  I couldn’t have had both.

And I did quite a good job setting out on my own becoming who I was capable of becoming.  But I gave up being loved and taken care of.  Actions have consequences even many years later.  And putting my trust more solely in myself has led me to think of doctors as consultants, friends as companions instead of caregivers, and the world as a rather more dangerous place for me to be an old person.

But, I don’t want to be an overly spoiled child, or an overly critical mother of myself.   And that means I must fear less for myself, and worry less about myself.

Mothering and loving are two of the hardest jobs — even of ourselves.

Breathe in

Breathe out

Namaste

Written next to the Mediterranean Sea in Netanya, Israel, on 2/27/18.

 

Breathe in.

Breathe out.

Ah, the Mediterranean is riled up today.  The sun is shining, the waves are roiling, and I breathe in through the sounds it breathes into me.  Then, I breathe it out back into the world.

I come here for peace.  I come here for beauty.  I come here for inspiration.  I come here for hope.  I come here for wisdom.  I come here to figure out the rest of my life.

I only have 27 days left to sit by my Mediterranean guru.  And then I go back to another home that is close to, but not so very close to, another sea.  It is here, by my Mediterranean guru, that I hope to bring back wisdom and peace to direct me forward.

Options, options.  Good options.  Good sounding options.  Smart options.  Bad decision options.  They are all still possible.  At 74, I still have some relative youth, relative smarts, relative eyesight, relative wealth, left for what’s left of my however many years before I die.

I haven’t had the “aha” moment for my future yet.  But I know I will continue to have old age physical and mental challenges to face.  With the wisdom of my Mediterranean guru, I will hopefully not crumble, or lose interest or energy in fighting on for my mental and physical health.

But I don’t like the words, “fighting on.”  I prefer to learn how to live with any lack of health, lack of wealth, lack of energy, and these myriad stupid ways I keep injuring myself.  In fact, it’s mental control I seek.  Worry and fear are easy to come by and hard to get rid of.  I hope you can help me banish worry and fear from my mind.  They are the killers that destroy the good that coexists with the bad in life.  What can the sea teach me about the rhythm of life and death?  About how to keep going?

I wonder what my life would have been like had I stayed in Israel for the rest of my life instead of leaving after 6 years.  I would have been able to keep my rights to a little room in a building for immigrants that cost only a small pittance every month.  It would have given me a moderate financial security for my lifetime, including old age.  It was a lot to give up, and it made me once again a newcomer to today’s Israel.

What was possible then is impossible for me now in modern Israel with its strong economy and prices higher than southern California.  I do not regret the paths I chose in my life, but financial security wasn’t something I thought much about until recent times.

Dear Mediterranean guru, can I learn from you how to see the micro better than the macro around me?

Breathe in.

Breathe out.

Namaste

 

 

 

Breathe in…..Breathe out……..

Laying curled into the ceramic slightly serpentine snake along the sea cliff, I allow my mind to enter free fall.  It’s the sound of the waves, the caress of the sun in in the wind, the incredible blue of the sea, and the smell of the water imagined since I lost my sense of smell some years back.

No longer does it seem a big deal that I pulled a muscle and it still hurts to walk.  My cares about what my future might hold diminish.  My search for some way to survive longer financially slows down.  I relax.  The sea is much wiser than I.  I just lay here quietly pondering its wisdom.

Breathe in…..Breathe out……..

Breathe in…..Breathe out……..

Namaste

Written while sitting by the sea in Netanya, Israel, on February 24, 2018.

Breathe in…..Breathe out……..

By the sea, my mind calms.   My brain rests.  And I fall asleep.  I want to think great thoughts, but I think of nothing.  I’m in a physical space, not a mental space.  I don’t have to see. I don’t have to speak.  I am the closest I can be to a state of simply being.

I wanted to come by the sea to figure out things — me, the world, my future.  But I sink into a state of being that simply “is.”  Time stops.  Thinking stops.  Worrying stops.  All I know is that I need to be near water – somewhere.

Perhaps this is the high point, the best point — but can it only take place in my imagination?  Or can I let it seep into my bones?  Or imprint it upon my mind?  Or enter it as a loop inside my mind?

I have felt a dip this week – mentally and physically.  The hip muscle I strained is simply a reminder that such things will keep happening until I die.  That’s just the way it goes with aging.

I can’t figure out now whether I will return to Israel again as a visitor, or to live.  I can’t figure out today how I can survive on the money I have left.  I can’t determine if I will be homeless, or go blind with the disease in my right eye, or become a pathetic bag lady, or even if I’ll keep my mind.

My time here is almost two thirds over.  Absolutely, without a doubt, it was worth coming.

I can regret I didn’t get to see my old friend, Bryna, before she unexpectedly died, to really talk, to pin down just why she cared so much about my coming back to Israel 30 years later.  But then, perhaps I wouldn’t have been here for her memorial service and seen how much she had turned her sad life into a happy, fulfilling one in Israel.

I don’t have the money, the physical strength, or the desire to travel within Israel.  But that’s okay because I have been in a kind of heaven by the sea just a 10 minute walk away.  Which is good because my hip and knee aren’t so strong now.

I would like a bright idea to strike me as I sit here — to answer all my questions.  But that most likely won’t happen.

It is Purim next week.  A happy holiday.  A children’s holiday.  And a Jewish holiday celebrated in the whole country.  It’s been a long time since I was in a country where the whole country celebrates a Jewish holiday.

From the Facebook groups I’ve joined  – Keep Olim in Israel and Keep Olim 50+ in Israel – I have read a lot of the good and the bad of living here.  I waited in a line for 4 hours to renew my passport for another 10 years.  I am just as Israeli as I was when I lived here for 6 years in the 1980s, but renewed, and biometrically to boot.

Thoughts have flown through on how to manage to come back again for at least 3 months, but I definitely need to take with me this place by the sea!

Breathe in…..Breathe out……..

Namaste

 

 

 

I was an American immigrant in Israel from 1983 to 1989.  I left Israel, but Israel never completely left me.  When I lived there,  I was in my energetic 40’s.  Now I am in my “Whatever will happen next?” years.  It’s time for me to update my relationship to Israel.

I started thinking slowly about what confluence of events would make a visit possible.  Being practical about needing to rent out my home to hopefully have enough money to travel, I selected the winter months to entice  snowbirds to come to southern California.  Winter months in Israel can be cool and rainy, but not drastically so.  And Israel’s summers are too hot for me.

The renting rules in our retirement community now have a 90 day minimum.  Three months sounded like a reasonable amount of time.  Next, I thought specifically about where to go and what to do with my time there.  Not having been there for about 30 years, I wanted to do something useful and interesting.  But I had looked into volunteering in Israel some years back, and discovered seniors were considered too old for certain volunteer jobs.

I had been in Israel during the secret airlifts of thousands of Ethiopian Jews in 1984 and had been a housemother in a boarding school to newly arrived Ethiopian Jewish teen boys.  It wasn’t easy, but it was exciting and extremely challenging to be a part of their early integration into Israel.

But I knew from newspaper articles a friend has sent me over the years that the Ethiopian Jews have had a rough time living in Israel.  I wanted to get to know the Ethiopian Jewish kids of today, 30 years later.  So, I’ll be heading for Netanya which has an Ethiopian community called Hefzibah.  They need volunteer English teachers, and that’s something I can do where age won’t be a problem.

So, then I had January, February, and March as my time to go, found renters that were looking forward to being close to their relative in my retirement village, and had a volunteer job lined up.  Next, where to live?  Thus began my very long, tiring uphill climb to learn technology that will accompany me on my trip.  I am not new to independent travel, but I am very new to today’s technology required to do so.  The old traveler’s checks that took me around the world so many years are, well, obsolete.  I already miss them.

And thus began my roller coaster ride of learning today’s requirements and pitfalls for registering with Airbnb, using ATM machines, debit cards, credit cards, online banking, and what’s required to protect all of them from being hacked and stolen.  Whew!  Wish me luck.

Finally, there are now only a few weeks left before I get on the plane for my 14 hour journey.  Although it was very hard to do, the house is mostly ready for the renters.  I am taking three notebooks that attempt to keep all the technology instructions I’ll need for the trip. And, keeping a promise I made to myself not to take too much luggage, I have only a carry-on that I’ll check into baggage, and a light backpack.  Oh, and a walking stick just in case my weak knee needs help getting around.

 

If you had not died of AIDS two weeks before your 35th birthday, you would be turning 50 years old today.  Regardless, I have brought you with me to the sea and beach to, if not celebrate, be together in a timeless, peaceful place accompanied by the music of the waves.

Although you never came to this exact spot, you were my water baby from 18 months old when I took you to swimming lessons.  Swimming together became a bond between us wherever we found water.

My favorite writing bench looks out today on a sea scene of muted oneness.  The sky is not bright blue as it often is.  A light blue-grey blends the sea with the sky and the clouds into a monochrome painting of moody beauty.  The cloudy sky does not totally obscure sparkles in the sea from where the sun peeks out.

I wish I had known you better.  But our choices — you to live with your dad, and mine to follow my wanderlust around the world — separated us geographically.  Your refusal in your grown-up years to have contact precluded a relationship.

But you did re-connect to me when your HIV became AIDS.  In those days, that meant a death sentence that few could outrun.  Your occasional phone calls and one visit during those two years gave me a thread of a relationship to hang onto.

I learned more about you after you died and I was finally able to go to your Castro Street apartment in San Francisco.  I knew from our phone conversations that you loved living in that community and environment you felt totally connected to.  I could see your artistic qualities in the very deliberate way you arranged unusual vignettes in your rooms.  Most of all, I appreciated the most recent years of letters I had never stopped sending you through your father.  The open envelopes finally answered my question – “Had you read them?”

As the crows, sea gulls, and pelicans fly into my view, I remember you best as that honey-colored, handsome little boy I had first met as a curious toddler.  You were as playful as the birds I see gliding to and fro, up and down, in the air currents.

There is a lot about us that is painfully sad, and will always remain so, but there had also been joy and happiness in the 10 years we lived together when I had been a stay-at-home mom.  Perhaps the best memories are from our summers discovering Puget Sound, camping all over the U.S., and our travels to faraway places like Kenya.

There is a pastel spreading an orangey background behind some of the clouds while the sun stays higher up.  There is a fog bank on the horizon, perhaps waiting to move closer in to Laguna Beach.  Light and color are two extreme joys to our eyes.  I value it more than ever since my eyesight is failing.  I want to lock every view in so my brain can recall it even when my eyes won’t be able to see it.

I’m 74 now — far from that mother you mostly remember.  I was not your only mother.  I wonder if the birth mother neither of us knew remembers today is your 50th birthday. What does she imagine about the son she gave up at birth?  I’m glad she doesn’t know you are dead.

There were 8 years after you died that I couldn’t write to you, or about you.  And then, I could.  The words flowed out of me almost every evening for one year.  It turned that year into one of my happiest years.  Not only were we talking through writing, but I was able to tell you things I had never told you before.  Raised by a pessimistic mother, I was more than a little pessimistic.  But that year of writing “Out of Step:  A Diary To My Dead Son” was the most optimistic year of my life.

And now the sun has broken through the clouds and laid a sparkling path across the sea from the sun that reaches all the way to the beach below me.  Could I just hop, run, skip my way across the ocean and reach you?

Happy Birthday, my dear son.  You are not motherless, and I am not childless.

Love,

Mom

 

Not so many years ago, Mark Zuckerberg figured out how to use a computer to help college kids choose dates.   Seeing potential, he quit college to expand his creation into Facebook of social media fame.  People, mostly young , flocked to Facebook in record numbers.   And now, social media has literally changed the whole wide world.

And Zuckerberg looked upon what he created — and hesitated.  As a commencement speaker at Harvard this spring, he tried a little too hard to convince his audience of all the good, all the wonder, all the lofty goals that Facebook might enhance in just about every little corner of the world.  He used the magic of world-wide connectivity to entice people to meet, greet, and be good to one another.

Like all things that have changed the world — trade routes, electricity, industrialization, cars — there were unintended consequences, the other side of the coin, the good and the bad.  Perhaps social media is scarier than all those earlier miracles because humans are not only good.  They are also mean, vindictive, murderous, and take delight in having an instant audience of millions to watch what they do.

Zuckerberg most likely never imagined anyone using Facebook to video a live murder, a rape, a massacre. When he really looked outside the cocoon of Silicon Valley, he realized that, even if he did not encourage malice and hate,  he could no longer be complacent about having changed the world in unknown ways.

He has since hired many more employees assigned to finding terrible posts that need to be taken down immediately.  He has said he will develop Facebook technology that will find terrorists and foil their plots instead of giving them publicity.  Going “viral” is no longer always a good thing.

The ugly truth that Zuckerberg now sees is that connectivity has different meanings and motives in our complex human society.  Sometimes familiarity does indeed breed contempt.

Good luck, Mark Zuckerberg.  Those who change the world have a heavy burden to carry.

Can you hear the sound of the violins this Holocaust Remembrance Day?  It is another kind of miracle that these once loved violins are traveling to the capable hands of musicians who love them and play them for audiences .

Hitler liked the idea of live musicians to greet the new arrivals at concentration camps like Auschwitz.  The newly arrived prisoners were briefly heartened and comforted by the beauty of the music.  The melodies mixed strangely with the black ashes coming from the smokestacks.  The musicians who played were sometimes able to live a bit longer than those who had no musical talent.

The Jewish culture had a long history of loving violin music.  Violins could happily accompany weddings, cry at funerals, and run the gamut of just about any emotion.  Practically speaking given the unrelenting history of Jews and persecution, violins were small enough to run away with.

Most of the musicians themselves died in the Holocaust, but amazingly some of the violins themselves that had survived found their way to an Israeli violin maker and his son.  They lovingly and painstakingly nursed the battered and tattered pieces of these violins until they literally came back to life.  Because no two violins feel exactly alike, the sensitivity of talented violinists who have touched these precious violins can feel a kinship to the owners who once loved and nurtured them, and then died so terribly.

Although Hitler tried his best, the Jewish culture has survived.  Israel has become a stunning example of a vibrant Jewish country.  And the Jewish violins that survived the ravages of war and hate are playing again.  Their music is sweet.

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