Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Healing Waters

The waves, relentless in their cycle, wash the rocks in Maine while I watch each repetition. One wave carries foam, spindrift, and spends it on a barnacle encrusted rock. Spray, a geyser of white, engulfs a lobster trap hiding the red and yellow bands. Sounds echo.

Ninety-Seven percent of the Earth's water is found in the ocean as salt water.

The lachrymal or watery layer of my eye contains salts. My tears taste salty.


To swim underwater
To hold your breath until that feat robs you of another second without air

To slowly enter the frigid Maine waters inch by inch
To let go of a rope hovering three feet over Lake George and drop into the water...

To immerse yourself in a watercolor painting — trying to replicate water flowing over rocks and grasses—

I wet the heavyweight paper and apply color washes. The water has its way. One tributary runs down the paper finding its own path.

The Missouri River is a tributary of the Mississippi River, yet it is two hundred miles longer. I've always wanted to go to Itasca, Minnesota where the Mississippi begins. Beginnings—promises of possibilities.

Imagine traveling down the Nile? Begin at the beginning and keep at it for approximately 4,000 miles. or wend your way down the Amazon, 3,980 miles through South America.

Pedro Teixeira traveled down the Amazon in 1637 – 38

28 April 2004
“ Two Americans have made history by completing one of the last great adventures of the modern age -- the first complete descent of the Nile river from its source as the Blue Nile in Ethiopia to the shores of Alexandria where it spills into the Mediterranean Sea. Pasquale Scaturro of Colorado and Gordon Brown of California reached the mouth of the Nile on April 28, 114 days after launching their epic …journey.”


Dabs of water or full immersion? Once upon a time, isn't that the way stories begin, I was baptized with dabs of water. Later, the story continues, I returned to different waters.

I joined the group of women who entered a swimming pool, our Mikveh, and said the traditional prayers. Immersed in the water I said the few Hebrew words I knew.


I am replenished by the sound of water moving slowly against the lip of a lake or water carving calligraphy on the sand as it retreats to the ocean.

When I hiked down to Crater Lake, the deepest lake in the United States at 1932 feet, I embraced the clarity of the water and the piercing blue color.


Eyes, a reservoir of tears, saved or spent over the years: on a sad movie, a mud slide taking innocent lives, newspaper stories of errant decisions resulting in horrific outcomes, political oppressions, religious brutality, the path of history and the salty tears reserved for the personal.

For my daughter

May the waters of healing,
flow through your body.

From Rabbi Milgram’s prayer for healing

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Things You Save...

"The things that you save—you save them, I suppose, so that when you're old, you can fondle and caress them and feel the breeze of nostalgia brushing your face. "
The Indian Clerk David Leavitt

Inclement weather lends itself to nostalgia. Yesterday I dusted bookshelves, pictures and what some people call knickknacks —stopping often to recall the circumstances and history of several pieces.

A mauve glass vase, hand blown, pinched in the middle, with a heft that belies its size came from an artist's studio in Shelburne, Massachusetts. I bought it for several dollars because the artist, Maria, gave up. "I can’t," she said, "support myself." Her asking price for all the work in her studio—"priced to sell"

"The contours and curves of this vase," I said,
"captivate me. I can lose myself in the glass."
"I made it," she laughed, “with you in mind."

A wood horse on the Flying Horse Carousel, the oldest merry-go-round in the U.S.A., stares beyond his wood frame. Three of us, all teachers at the same school, unaware at the time of the circuitous years ahead, went to Martha's Vineyard for the day. I liked the spirit of those wood horses—first carved in 1876 in New York City.

Years later I went to the New England Carousel Museum where hand carved horses went to be repaired, gilded and put on display.

A glass box is filled with postcards, cards from friends who traveled all over the world. One friend managed to write pages of words on a postcard by diminishing the size of her handwriting and necessitating my use of a magnifying glass.

No one sent a card that relied on a witty saying and few words from the correspondent. We all still loved the written word in longhand.

Shells fill a bottle and the bottle underwent a metamorphosis into a lamp.

A carved seagull—bought in the town of Perce on the Gaspe Peninsula –balances on a flat rock. She misses the sea air, the thermals, and the sea smell. I miss the replenishing ocean, the waves, and the assurance of the tides. The sounds of the ocean surround me, enter me and cleanse me. The repetition of sounds remind me of life’s rhythm even when that rhythm stutters.

Two photos of faces—one, a profile jutting out of a tree stares at Walden Pond, the other created out of geological rock layers on the Grand Canyon’s Bright Angel Path.

I've walked around Walden Pond in early spring when the ice is a thin glaze receding from the shore, in spring when greens move beyond an artist’s palette, in summer when early morning swimmers cross the pond, in winter when the snow covers my boots.

I've hiked down Bright Angel Path, moved over to let the mules pass, watched a hummingbird hover on a branch, spread my fingers on the canyon walls and encompassed eons between my thumb and pinky.

And I recall the prayer –“Blessed are You... who makes the works of creation”

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


Tizita means memory tinged with regret
Abraham Verghese

Tizita 1

My Bronx neighborhood

halfway between the elevated train on Jerome Avenue and the Grand Concourse, home to blue-collar and white-collar first generation children of immigrants

included a Junior High School, Minnie's Grocery, a meat market, a Chinese laundry, a drugstore, and Mo's Candy Store.

An orphanage —just beyond my immediate roaming ground —sent age appropriate girls to an elementary school on the other side of the Grand Concourse. When I was in the fifth grade my mother was ill and I lived with my Aunt Dottie, Uncle Murray and Cousin Bobby for several months. I attended that elementary school.

Mary, with her institutional bowl haircut and ill-fitting clothes, joined our class in November. Prior to her entrance the teacher said, "One of the children from the orphanage will join the class."

Yvonne ruled a clique of girls in the class.

Maybe the idea of being an orphan frightened us—
Maybe the haircut and the too often washed clothes, maybe the way Mary held back, maybe the way she spoke —hesitant and flat—made her Yvonne’s target.

One afternoon Yvonne and her clique surrounded Mary with their presence and questions.

"Why are you in the orphanage? Doesn't anyone care about you? "

I didn't belong to the clique but I and several others wandered over to see what was happening. We heard Mary say that her mother's favorite sister was coming in a few weeks to pick her up. Yvonne, with a carefully balanced attack worthy of a nascent Machiavelli, dove into that comment with the agility of a fencer.

She aided Mary in spinning a tale of an aunt who lived in a country estate, of promises of horseback lessons and her own piano. As the story spun out of control Yvonne bided her time until she said, "Why do you tell so many lies?"

By that time the toothpick edifice of stories tumbled and Mary began crying.

By the time I went over to Mary the clique had dispersed. "I'm sorry," I said.

The sorry, too late and too tepid, didn't do much.

Tizita 2

Getting a job at a summer camp as a Junior counselor teaching arts and crafts meant money, getting out of the city for eight weeks and a vacation. I taught crafts to girls whose parents could afford the steep cost of a private camp

I played scrabble with three other counselors and became friendly with Doris. When her parents came to visit, her father drove down the dirt road in a battered car complete with rust holes.

Camp ended and Doris invited me to her house. I took the subway and then walked to her building on Park Avenue in Manhattan. A carpeted elevator took me up to the tenth floor — a maid opened the door to the family apartment.

"Don't just stand there, come in."

I walked into a large room—the marbled entranceway. I thought that our Bronx apartment, with a few adjustments, fit into that room.

Doris and I didn't have a lot to talk about. She told me about her private school and the planned class trip to Greece. I told her of my art classes.

The cook prepared a lunch—served on China with sterling silver flatware and glasses that rang when clinked.

I never did invite Doris to the Bronx— I felt that she wouldn't be comfortable in a three-room apartment with layers of paint on the walls.

Tizita 3

The memories not written down, the ones we all carry with us, layered like strips of paper mache...

The memories we regret, the ones we want to alter refuse to allow that possibility...

Some memories have crevasses where people drown or people seek forgiveness.

Some memories are simply shadows