Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Fall with Friends

Pumpkin patch along CA Highway 1

That's a lot of pumpkins, but we're not in Kansas anymore, we're outside of Santa Cruz, where they grow them big and plentiful. My friend Sally had her eye on this Cinderella and came away with a wheelbarrow of produce under $20. 

Sally is my oldest friend from Louisville, where our parents were friends before we were born, in another world of friendly sidewalks and running home from playing hard when you heard your name being called. We spent Passovers and Thanksgivings together for most of our childhood, and then traveled on "The Road Trip" across country in the seventies, from Louisville to Redwood City, after I dropped out of college and she'd graduated in three-years. She stayed on in California; I returned fifteen years later. Here's Sally today, as bright and buoyant as her name:

Sally in her garden

I was visiting for the weekend, and on Sunday, Sally and her husband Beem took me to "three-mile," a secluded beach along CA Highway 1 outside of Santa Cruz; Beem's been surfing there on a regular basis for 15 years, just him and the friendly sea lions, seals, mama and baby sea otters, and other stray mammals (surfers).

 Heading to three-mile through brussel sprout fields

Three-mile beach

Living in L.A. makes one (or I should say, me...) forget that there's an ocean in California, one that's easily accessible if you take the time to see it: the beauty on this day was unsurpassable, the sensual, warm air, blue sky, mediterranean-like sea. The sea lions were chillin' while Beem took on some gentle waves, and Sally and I hung on the beach.

It doesn't matter how long Sally and I've been apart, we pick up where we last left off. And isn't that the case with old friends? You don't miss a beat. You fall into that same effortless rhythm—being with someone who's known you as a child, seen you through all your blunders and dead-end runs, witnessed the unspeakable of your family history, and yet, seen you emerge, chrysalis like, on the other end. There's nothing like an old friend.


Then there are friends who know little about your childhood but like you anyway. 

On this trip I drove halfway up the coast, to Monterey, with Carla and Julie, friends for....does 10-15 years count for newer, old friends? We stopped on the way to eat at Artisan, a sustainable, local, eatery in Paso Robles.

 Julie and Carla tasting a flight of wines at Artisan.

My husband avoids places with one name. I should have known. At Artisan the atmosphere was cold, the service poor and the servings stingy, but what really pissed us off was they didn't include a biscotti with the espresso. What the heck?? Isn't that de-rigueur at a one-word restaurant? That evening, when we got to Carmel we ate at the incredible Casanova (highly recommend, even though it goes against Tom's theory) and were pleased to see that extra bit of pleasure with our coffee.

The next day I said good-bye and headed north, while my friends remained to have another day along the California coast.

Looking out over Monterey Bay towards Santa Cruz.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A light among us

A Light Among Us

I don't know this young boy's name, but he was at Rabbi Singer's services on Saturday; he's holding the Havdalah candle to conclude Yom Kippur, the day of repentance. 

For me, this picture captures what Rabbi Singer was trying to impart to us earlier in the dayHe talked about the honesty of youth, how young people see clearly without pretensions; they speak the truth and Truth transforms. That's what I see in this beautiful boy.

In the afternoon, the rabbi held a discussion group; we got on the subject of war and peace—and in extension, fear; how we can't tackle peace without first tackling the war within us. Each person must start inwardly to find peace; only from that position of inward clarity, Rabbi Singer insisted, can we begin to take on a wider agenda. 

That's why young people are so important to this movement, he feels; it's what he found in Israel (i.e. in the tent cities in Tel Aviv); it's what's happening in NYC on Wall Street and in Los Angeles around City Hall. Young people occupying streets and parks aren't angry or confrontational. They're discussing the problems we as Americans face; they're telling it like it is. They're speaking the truth.

I long for peace of course, but when I can't sleep, when I yell at the guy honking behind me, or treat my students with condescension, I'm aswirl with mixed-up emotions. Lately I've been having strange dreams—I'm carrying a little baby, but have no place to lay it down; I witness a killing and the dead man splits in two; a black figure twirls and twirls like the tigers in Little Black Sambo, or a black widow spider, but I can't stop the twirling. I'm anything but peaceful.

I walked this morning in Heidelberg Park after a restless night; I found myself afraid to go through the densest part of the canyon, where the path winds through brush so thick only coyotes can walk. I have never felt afraid before walking down there; why was I suddenly afraid? I started thinking about my fear—what could possibly attack me?—it was irrational, without merit. I made myself walk on, taking the path through the thickest trees, looking around, keeping my eyes open.

I noticed how peaceful everything was: butterflies hovering, squirrels chasing, birds hopping on the ground. I thought about Rabbi Singer's message, how fear drives us to protect ourselves, to build walls, to see blindly; it's what drives us to war. 

When I climbed out of the park, I looked down into the canyon where I had just emerged; all was quiet on the western front. I felt the warmth of the sun, I saw the distance mountains, I heard a tree full of chirping birds; I walked home.


Happy Birthday, Mekko, I can't believe you're 24!