Archive for September, 2011

No mistakes

‘nuf said.


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The Necklace

Emblematic of my personal journey, the way I wear a necklace might seem strange to some. It’s just jewelry, right? Someone gives it to you or you buy it, and if it matches what you’re wearing, you put it on. But for me, every new era dawning in my own little corner of the universe has come with a new ornament to accent the time I am living in.

Jewelry can serve to adorn or shackle the person who is wearing it; one filigree necklace from Israel was given to me by my best friend from my youth. In a symbolic way, the night I lost that necklace represents the passage from my old life and family ties to the new independence I was seeking.

I wore a necklace for years as a child that has three charms on it: a locket (bought at Claire’s in Northbrook Court because I had to have a locket), a Jewish star belonging to my mother as a child, and a gold initial “S” from my parents. These three symbols (who else loves the number three?) are three generations linked on a chain and served to bond three worlds in a continuos loop.

Another special necklace I wore was given to my mother by my father at the beginning of their courtship; wearing this necklace instantly puts me in a honeymoon state of mind. Un-jades me.

At a recent flea market, wandering with a new friend who feels like he could pull a sandwich from my past from out of his back pocket, I slipped away for some solo bargain scouting.

Eavesdropping, I just happened on an exchange between two realized beings in the middle of the morning, I idly fumbled through a pile of Chinese ornaments carved of jade and other stones on the table nearby so I could gadfly. A green jade Tara stood out on a long strand of black beads from the others.

I found a way to enter into the conversation, which gave me new insight. After speaking at length to the seller, a meditation teacher and someone full of joy, I knew I had found my newest token; the representation to adorn my neck as I embrace the winds blowing through all my recent changes.

A female bodhisattva, the green Tara is a manifestation of the commitment to being a feminine being of compassion. Tara vowed to return through all of her lifetimes as a woman, manifesting compassion to save all sentient beings.
What could be more appropriate for me as I gather up the strength to leave my home and the relationship I was trying to uphold, than a tangible reminder of feminine compassion, fashioned in jade. Don’t get jaded–let your heart continue to seep out into the world.


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My kid is dropping knowledge on me…it’s supposed be the other way around.

Tonight we’re walking home and he says, “Mom, superheroes are all about peace because they fight villains and protect people, bringing peace. That’s why superheroes are really good.

Who is it that lives within this child so burning with truth and occupied with thoughts of war and peace at almost six years old. Really? What is it that drives him to question and probe the very depths of all he encounters? I am so honored to be his mother.


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Ryushin Sensei had the good sense to see it upon first contact. Commenting on it later, he referred to the history I wear as my cloak of pride, my most firmly fixed attachment to the idea of “me”, and his vision pierced the wool. It’s something you carry, nearly imperceptible, like the way your shoulder slopes on one side. Oh, dharma holder, you saw the weight of the chip I carry. The silenced voices of generations that live inside me, the haunted feeling of persecution I’ve lived with as intimately as my own breath.

Forgive me for my boldness, for what I am about to say could be misunderstood (just as so many before me). When I say I carry the burden and responsibility of my Jewish heritage through this life, I have memories of childhood that some people may not relate to. I always perceived myself as an outsider, the “other”, vilified, feared, reviled. I had my grandparents, Holocaust survivors, every Sunday with lox, bagels, and reminders of our all too recent history. “I never thought I would live to see another generation of Jews,” my grandfather would say each week, “you are my naches. My treasures. My dividends.” (aside from us grandkids, the stock market was the source of a lot of his affections).

All of this only served to create more weight on that tiny crumb on my shoulder, growing steadily to become the chip I still stoop under the weight of. To the point that I identified exclusively with other maligned minorities. Most notably, black history resonated with what I already understood from the weekly debriefings with the aging survivors that surrounded me with whispers of their painful past. I was fascinated by the echoes that haunted our two cultures. I delved into the Harlem Renaissance and the history of the Underground Railroad as if it were written in the Talmud, as if there were no difference that could be as strong as the sameness what our two cultures had in common. Poets like Langston Hughes, Claude McKay, music from the era of slavery that borrowed from the Israelites, the stories of Harriet Tubman and Moshe Dayan were intertwined. My face looked like Anne Frank, but my soul was as black as Zora Neale Hurston. I wondered, as a child, why I wasn’t black–I felt like I wore my differences like a skin that others would and should notice.

The music that I play at my Jewish holidays? Reggae, such as “By the river of Babylon,” (the Melodians), “Survivor” (Bob Marley), among other songs that have the qualities of freedom and liberty for oppressed people. So in explaining my kinship with the plight of the downtrodden, o often find myself quoting Peter Tosh, Odetta, or the straight up gospel from the African American cannon.

It all makes perfect sense to me. In my mind these things are linked solidly, the relationship forged in affinity and clear as glass. For others, perhaps it’s not all that simple. Take my son, for example. Upon his interest in Captain America, he began voraciously studying the history behind the comic’s origins and started asking questions about “world war”. He also has an awareness about black history in America. Somehow I thought I could easily help him by comparing the Holocaust of WWII to the persecution of African Americans. Using reggae and my own circular logic as my main thrusts, I launched into my long held, possibly unique views of persecution. And holding forth for quit a while on the subject, I truly thought he caught the lesson.

Until he asked a black man if he planned to kill all the Jews.

Yes, I think my tangental visualization of connect the dots of history formed a picture for Diego that didn’t match up to the one I carry within me, causing me to rush in and try to clarify the matter. Luckily, the man in question is both a real man, who also happens to be a real friend, who not only understood my own slant on things but was also able to laugh at the innocence of his fears.

I understand the weight of the chip on the shoulder of those who are maligned and destroyed. How can you move forward with power and purpose, with manifest destiny, with confidence and grace, when you’ve endured and experienced such extreme violence and hatred against your own humanity?

“Love is in need of love today. Don’t delay send yours in right away.”–god (Aka Stevie Wonder).


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Using Leaves, Not Film, as Photographs – DesignTAXI.com.

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Dear Sensei

I was thinking about what I meant to say, not what I said. I somehow falter each time I face your piercing gaze in the quiet hum of supposed emptiness, more full of nothing than something ever was. I said something like, all religions are saying the same thing. What I meant to say was I think that all religions, in their purest form, lead to the same place. This still may seem muddled; let me clarify my statement based upon several sources that were culled from the latest issue of the Mountain Record. One was an excerpt from a novel by Karen Armstrong called the Case for God, and the other was an excerpt from the Path of No-Self: Life at the Center, by Bernadette Roberts. In the Case for God, Armstrong relates Socratic thought to Buddhist teachings. In the Path of No-Self, Roberts reflects on her time spent as a nun and her spiritual awakening. I also have a book of quotes that are from hundreds of different sources and backgrounds, from Rumi to St. John of the Cross, that have nurtured this kernel in me that believes almost fiercely that no matter what the cut of the cloak, they are all there to both obscure and illuminate the truth that is readily available to us all, universal truth that is eternal by design.

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That’s called putting the kibosh on something that’s gone a bit awry. Wild and untamed, really. The child that listens to no one and does everything according to his own schedule has been upped. The last straw–they’ve been fast and thick lately–came when instead of putting a smile on my face, my boy brought me to tears at breakfast.

So thanks to the help of a good friend, I finally saw something clearly. I mean, unbearably clear. Now this here friend has recently been picking up my thoughts and speaking them aloud, while I dream my thoughts out loud. But despite being dreamy, prone to fits of laughter and a complete and uncontrolled fan of tasting my freedom and happiness, something I feel so serious about is actually enjoying the fleeting moments of my life, as a repayment to those lives before me so denied freedoms in so many ways. It’s almost as if because my ancestors suffered I feel a need to simply pursue my own ultimate cause for existence and my destiny is simply to find my happiness along the route I take, choosing at each turn the way that will enrich my life and bring to it more joy. So how does a small child suddenly grab the reins and think he gets to call the shots? I do love him dearly, but he’s not yet six and I’m almost 40 so I think we know who should be holding the leather here. Somehow the whole situation cut a hole in me, sitting there battling the strong power struggle being acted out over sitting quietly and well behaved at a restaurant. So in a moment of clarity I knew what I must now do. The one who needs to feel the ache of that hole is not me, and there is one way (or many) to change up the situation so that the tables are turned. It’s not something I relish, but like other things that are constantly shifting in my life as well as any, we have to learn to love each moment and bring grace to our actions. I feel the need to stop throwing wood on the fire, as a wise teacher once told me, but I would love to feel the warmth of it’s flames dying into embers. So while not withholding my love from my son, I have to measure it out and bestow it upon worthy deeds, actions, words, and even thoughts! My son will learn to become a kind and gentle soul, and grow up to be a real mensch of a man. It’s the only thing that makes sense. He has a loving heart and enough energy to light up the city (>as if there are no other cities, em>as if you know what city I mean).

I love wild and untamed things, but there is a place for being controlled and using your freedom to help people with no harm and no disruption. I want Diego, (I read one definition that said the meaning of his name was wild and untamed) to shine and grow, but there are tight lines to be drawn around him to protect him from becoming less of who he truly is.

(a debt of gratitude to said friend who is constantly being reciprocated in all forms of loving kindness shining down, I assure you).

As always,



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