samedi, mai 30, 2009


I'm learning a lot about keeping my hands open. I don't need to clutch the wheel all the time. And some things are worth abandoning, if they compromise your soul.

This song has been a real comfort to me today in the midst of some perhaps needed housecleaning. There are things I can't "fix" -- it's funny, I feel like the child of an alcoholic, but I wasn't. I think I've been successful in letting my kids know that they aren't responsible for their parent's foul ups, but I need to check. Just to be sure. God forbid they, too, should be that quick to repair what might not have been broken -- or might have already been so shaky that one swipe knocked it to the ground.

You lead me, to keep me from falling,
You carry me close to your heart
And surely, your goodness and mercy will follow me
All the way my Savior leads me...

Au 'voir, ancien regime

Over the past few months it seems as though outside events, like the nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor, and the death of John Hope Franklin, have been impelling me to grapple with questions around race, ethnicity, bigotry and victimization/victimhood.

I've thought of how different my dad's experience probably was, and how it might have shaped his views on topics like the way Israel behaved towards her neighbors and the Palestinians. A child of immigrants, Dad grew up at a time when some colleges still didn't allow Jews to teach. Even after the Holocaust of millions of Jews and others, he was probably more aware then me of persistent anti-semitism, both here in America and abroad, in places like Argentina.

Dad and I rarely talked about how Israel treated the Palestinians, because it would usually end in an argument. I adore my cousins, but I don't bring up that topic because of fear of where it could take us -- although it bothers me profoundly.

The prejudice I have confronted is much more subtle. A childhood friend from down the block. whose parents were friends of my parents, tells me that "your people killed Christ." I reflect with embarassment on the times I've heard anti-Jewish remarks in my presence and sometimes remained silent.

And then there was my grandmother Smith. Sarah Jackson Smith. The legend is that my great great uncle got the "Jackson" when he intervened in a fight to help an old Jewish man whose beard was being pulled. The young toughs invited my uncle, "Gentlmen Jackson" to join his gang. So Grandma came from stock in which you stood up for the underdog. Stood up for Jews being persecuted by Nazis, of course. But also for merchant seamen. And blacks facing prejudice. And the Japanese after Hiroshima. And the Marshall Plan to repair Europe after the Second World War.

My grandmother was a citizen of the world. And although I don't do as well at it as she did, I aspire to be one, too. Her thirst for a world in which there would be no prejudice was an inspiration to a young girl, and is honored still, even when I fall short of my own dreams. We're getting closer. What we see now is some of the death throes of those who are threatened by that vision -- and by our own instinctual tribalism. But I think that Grandmother Smith had the kind of secular faith to believe that someday that vision would triumph. And on my good days, I do, too.

jeudi, mai 28, 2009

Roadside fantasies

When you do know you are on overload? When you almost fall asleep on Route 100 more than once in a week.

I can hear my readers thinking -- well, why doesn't she get more sleep? Why doesn't she relax? Why doesn't she cut something out of her schedule?

I'd love to cut something out of my schedule, but that happens to be the second job that pays the bulk of my salary.

Even with schlepping kids to drama camp and fishing camp and DARC day camp, the summer will be slower. I am so counting the days. At least now I recall what it felt like to be a kid and have time seem to drag. Why does May have 31 days?

Enough complaining. I do appreciate those hours in which there are no looming deadlines, no board meetings to fit into my schedule, no hour-plus drives. One of the great things about being married, as I remember, was that someone was there to pick up the slack if you played out the rope and found you couldn't hang on anymore.

And I know that, compared to say, the Mexican guys who mow the lawns down on Chalfant Drive, I have it easy. But one can only live in that split consciousness for so long before the body cries for sleep, and the mind says....just a few miles before your driveway and home. And if you didn't have a kid whose bus needed to be met, you'd just pull off with the fishermen at the Lake and nap for a half an hour. So you slap yourself on the face, open your eyes as wide as you can, and drive.

lundi, mai 25, 2009

Remembering Rupert's war


Fish (fly-replete, in depth of June,
Dawdling away their wat'ry noon)
Ponder deep wisdom, dark or clear,
Each secret fishy hope or fear.
Fish say, they have their Stream and Pond;
But is there anything Beyond?
This life cannot be All, they swear,
For how unpleasant, if it were!
One may not doubt that, somehow, Good
Shall come of Water and of Mud;
And, sure, the reverent eye must see
A Purpose in Liquidity.
We darkly know, by Faith we cry,
The future is not Wholly Dry.
Mud unto mud! -- - Death eddies near -- -
Not here the appointed End, not here!
But somewhere, beyond Space and Time.
Is wetter water, slimier slime!
And there (they trust) there swimmeth One
Who swam ere rivers were begun,
Immense, of fishy form and mind,
Squamous, omnipotent, and kind;
And under that Almighty Fin,
The littlest fish may enter in.
Oh! never fly conceals a hook,
Fish say, in the Eternal Brook,
But more than mundane weeds are there,
And mud, celestially fair;
Fat caterpillars drift around,
And Paradisal grubs are found;
Unfading moths, immortal flies,
And the worm that never dies.
And in that Heaven of all their wish,
There shall be no more land, say fish.

Rupert Brooke

Memorial Day was a bit of a jumble this year. Although I want to honor the dead, I don't neccesarily want to honor the men and women who decided we should "fix" our differences by sending young people off to fight and die, or come home having left half of themself in some dusty village.

So when I sat down at the computer, or more truthfully, when I sat in a car with a pad in my lap on the way to the town monument where I was to give a benediction, I was conflicted. The pastor of the church where I serve as interim shares praying duties at the VFW service with the Catholic priest.

Perhaps it's because our churches are nearby. Possibly we're the only ones who would do it, or maybe it's because we Catholics and Anglicans look like the older folks think clergy should look (except in my case).

But everyone was lovely. The VFW head was very sweet. The Catholic priest was a cool guy. The town itself seemed to stop and pay respect, with folks crowding the streets and then coming to our parish for lunch.

The only part I really hated was the gun salutes. After the rifles echo had silenced, the children raced towards the veterans and marines, who gave them the empty casings. Nearby, the two monuments to the Rockdale "boys" stood impassively, a witness to lives lost long ago, whose memory still lurks in the minds of the elderly veterans who continue to keep the vigil candles lit.

At lunch I spoke to a British gentlmen who spoke of the quieter way in which Britain remembers its dead, like the poet Rupert Brooke. We lost many young men and some young women in WWI. They lost, oh, pretty much an entire generation, fed into the mincing machines in the bloody fields of France.