Thursday, September 30, 2010

Remembering Myself

As I read these papers about A Clockwork Orange, I am trying to remember if I ever were as innocent as some of these students. I don't think so. I was pretty tough, and a hardened reader, in any case. If I hadn't met up with circumstances in person, and I met up with a lot of hard stuff at a very early age because of where I lived and the kind of family I was born into, I'd come upon them in novels and other works of art.
I wasn't shocked or even surprised by much. I don't remember resisting anything I was exposed to in college, though much was new. I was hungry for it. It was the first time I ever got what I needed in school, which had always before been a source of frustration for me.
With some of these students, I feel as if they are 11 rather than 18 or 20. They are so sheltered and so afraid of seeing anything that challenges their previous assumptions. A student told me today that he thought he was going to find Foucault more shocking than Kubrick!
But quite a few, again, are not afraid to engage. The students were again at the edge of their seats as I summed up Foucault's arguments in the chapter I asked them to read. They asked a lot of questions, and eagerly attacked the study questions about the chapter with their groups. It does turn a lot of what we assume upside down.
One student, a brilliant but arrogant guy, demanded that I come up with a list of critical theorists he should read. I will have to work at that for him, and bring him some books from home.
Though I am glad that I didn't have to teach the student who initially refused to watch Kubrick's film another curriculum, her performance on the paper (very poor) and her apparent response to Foucault may make her drop the class now. It is too bad. Perhaps the gap was too great to leap in one short semester.

Bursting Clouds

Every day, it has gotten more and more humid out there, and I've been waiting for the inevitable thunderstorms, rare for here, but expected when the weather is as hot and humid as it has been the last 5 days or so. Last night, when I was driving to yoga class in Laguna, I ran into a very very brief cloudburst--about 5 minutes or less. I felt like that character in the comic strip Andy Capp who used to walk around with a thundercloud over his head, raining only on him. There were few cars on the road, so it felt like my own private rainstorm.
In my bag, on the seat beside me, papers waited for me to get to them. More waited at home. This morning I started in on them. More today.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


These days I am feeling the loss of my parents more and more. It is like the warmth that remains on a chair after someone has lately stood up and gone away. For a while, that residual heat remains, the person's odor and aura remains in the air, but after a while, it dissipates. The seat becomes cold, and the aura disappears. The room is now empty, full of echoes. My parents have been gone since June; can it be that I am really only feeling it now???
Maybe this feeling comes so suddenly because of the dinner I fixed yesterday. My mom had only a few meals that she fixed on a regular rotation--roast beef, salmon croquettes, fried flounder and french fries, meat balls/meat loaf, pea soup or chicken soup. Yesterday I scored some flounder, which is very rare for around here. Generally, the local stuff that passes for flounder is gelatinous and disgusting, but this was wild caught Canadian flounder, fresh, not frozen, and it was only $3.99, so although flounder is not my favorite fish, I snapped it up. Flounder was the only kind of fish my mother fixed. It is firm fish, white, without small bones, but without much inherent flavor. It makes excellent fried fish, for all of these reasons. My mother always used matzo meal to roll it in, soaking it first in beaten egg. I did that, adding a spice mix to the meal, and using egg white instead of a whole egg, and fried up the fish.
When I bit into it, I was suddenly transported, a la Proust, to my childhood, sitting there and eating a piece of fried fish as my mother clattered dishes in the kitchen, and Lassie, my black cocker spaniel, pushed her silky head into my leg, begging for a morsel of fish. Amazing. Oh, and the fish was good, but needed salt.

Story of my life

I haven't gotten any more drawings from my cousin for the yoga book, and still have not been able to sort out the full book of poems. Somehow, I can't see its shape. Any effort to impose order on the lot seems artificial, imposed from above, rather than growing out of the lot of them. Perhaps it's because I wrote them over so many years it's rather like tracing an outline of myself, and that can't be done because like the lines on my palm, they stop and start, discontinuous and fragmentary. Of course, one wants to make them look seamless, and there's the art in all this. It's beyond the individual poem, but I don't know how to make that happen. Perhaps after the first time, it will be easier, and anyway, the poems will come in more continuous lots, closer to each other in time, and thus reflecting a particular incarnation of myself.
I stopped writing for such a long time that the person I was when I wrote some of these poems has been history for some time. I don't want to scrap them, and in any case, my most recent poems are too few to make a full book. And I don't want to wait another year or five to make a book. It is time now that the folder is full to bursting, and in any case, I have left out most of the earliest and weakest. There is probably lots more winnowing to be done, and for that I need other eyes.
It's so ironic that now, when I am engaged in this process, so many poetry jobs have been surfacing, more every day--in places as various as UVA, Antioch LA, Eastern North Carolina, Tufts... so many places, but it's rather pointless for me to apply without the books.
I can put in applications anyway, just for the heck of it, but why? Perhaps it is just as well.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

How Hot Will It Be?

I cannot tell by looking outside whether it will be hot today. It looks grey, which suggests the marine layer may shield us from the heat. I don't see the trees blowing in a breeze, so no Santa Ana. Maybe I will freeze today, in my skirt and sandals. We'll see. I'll take a jacket just in case. Yesterday the temperatures reached record levels--109 and up. In L.A., I hear, it was 112. It felt like Palm Springs out there, but no time to sit in the jacuzzi and contemplate the mountains, where no snow was.
I guess global warming has come home to roost.

Monday, September 27, 2010


This week I will start teaching pieces from Foucault's Discipline and Punish. Though it is perfect for my purposes, illuminating things we had discussed and will discuss relating to punishment and criminality. I worried over whether I should try to teach it, considering how slow the going I found it myself. But I decided, with the encouragement of my peers, some of whom had already taught it to community college students, to give it a try. So I dissected it to the 9th degree, got a graphic explanation of the work (a sort of Foucault for dummies), and will launch into the unknown later this week. Meanwhile, in my usual seat-of-the-pants way, I am teaching myself at the same time I teach the students.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Santa Ana Winds

When the inside of my nose feels like the Sahara, I know it must be a Santa Ana wind. This is the right time of year for it, fire season proper, though all year is fire season now, it seems.
Right now it's about 100 degrees out there, easily, the sun like an anvil on the top of my head. I was actually GLAD to come back into the house to grade papers!! There's a good thing.


Yesterday, in the midst of paper grading, when I could least afford the time, I had to go use my ticket at the SCR. Next week wouldn't have been any better; the finals of these drafts will come in. So it was now or never.
In spite of the pile waiting for me when I returned home last night, I am so glad I went. This was most assuredly the best day of theater I have had at SCR.
Misalliance is a play by George Bernard Shaw, and if I hadn't already known the scope of the man's intellect, it would have revealed that to me. It's a brilliant piece of theater in which what could have been merely talking heads representing various segments of society and ideological views (the pragmatic aristocrat; the nouveau riche enterpreneur who aspires to be an artist; the socialist; the philistine," the "new woman") all take on flesh and become real and convincing people on the stage. Brilliant lines of all stripes fly in every direction, each one something one could ponder for a while all on its own. It's kind of like watching the Marx Brothers in action. So many good lines get by you that you get the impression of incredible complexity and density, and yet it never deflates the light-as-air comic tone. Quite a feat.
In this production, the casting was absolutely pitch perfect. The ingenue is so lovely in her pink confection of a gown that it becomes hilarious to see her be so human, in her desire to poke holes in the image of innocence and respectability that she so patently embodies. The underwear czar, ruled by his vigorous appetites, contradicts himself so fully that he is entirely convincing. The crybaby heir is gloriously over the top.
I don't know if there are still tickets left, but if there are, and you're in the neighborhood, you should go see this show, while you still can. I for one plan to read GBS's plays again. I'd forgotten just how good they could be.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Saturday's Agenda

Today I have a lot planned. I have tickets for a play at South Coast Repertory Theater. They were originally for last week, but I had to change them because of the holiday. That happens every year. Normally, I would say there is no way that I can go to a play smack in the middle of the day when I have this much to do. But I will go, and work in the times in between, after yoga and before the play.
In a few minutes, I will go off to yoga class, and then I will go hang around somewhere and grade papers and prepare for next week's class. I managed to get one set of papers, which I am sure will be the more difficult of the two, completely marked up and recorded, and even stayed up late till I could barely see again doing samples to discuss in class on Monday.
This morning, before breakfast, I graded three papers from the other set; 14 more to go. Not everyone gave me a paper. I will let those students deal with that as they may. But already I have unearthed a flagrant plagiarism, and called the student on it by email. I was remarking to Richard that it gets tough being the judge and jury so many times per day.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Smack in the Middle

I'm in the middle of the drafts, almost done with one set, and then there are 20-odd (very odd) drafts from the other too. After all the talking and talking, the samples and the lectures, the notes scrawled on papers, too many still don't get it. I have to remember that comparatively, this is still only the beginning, and not lose hope. A good percentage ARE getting it, catching on, and improving. That will continue to happen.

Revised Poem

I have clipped and pruned Harvest some, and will post it below in the original spot where the poem was.

Thursday, September 23, 2010


When I was about 12 years old, I went to the school psychologist and told her I felt constantly overwhelmed. The psychologist seemed to have no idea what I was talking about, while even I today, without the benefit of formal psychological training, would recognize the complaint as probable evidence of anxiety and most likely ADHD. Though I've been to lots of different therapists since that time, and take medication, as well as doing yoga, and all of these things have helped a lot, I occasionally am overcome by the feeling, irrationally, it seems to me, that I am being buried alive in the minutia of everyday life.
This is particularly so when a draft is due. Though I only teach two classes and now no longer have the responsibility of caring for my parents, I don't feel any different about this than I did when I really did have an impossible load of things to do. I still feel that I am not going to be able to get my work done, that I have taken on too much, that I cannot do as much as everyone else can. It seems that every time I turn around, there are conflicting commitments. But I refuse to give up my yoga. Without it, I would be lost. Even if it means I have to sacrifice many other things, that has to stay in my life. It will help me in the long run.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Fruits of a sleepless morning

This morning, rather than stomach pains or a yowling Whistler, a poem shook me awake, at about 4 AM, inspired by Reb's (and Robert Frost's) musings on apple picking.

in memory of my father, Mish Kellman

Once the fields and lots of Irvine
shone with star-bright blossoms,
the sweet air heavy with twilight
heralding the trees’ full load.
And like some sort of moth
I would be drawn to stand out
in the silent grove, dizzy with perfume,
and gaze up into dark green depths
where secrets swelled. I'd peek
into the petticoats of leaves and reach
a hand to palm the nascent fruit,
mindful of proprietary farmers and their dogs.

In a month, as in a nebula light years away,
galaxies are born in bursts of brightness
no one can see, the perfect planetary globes
of lemons, grapefruits, oranges would light
our moonless evenings, smooth-skinned and bright—
the Meyer lemon, rounder than the ordinary kind;
squat mandarin; pink grapefruit,
blushing in the half light of the leaves
among the twisting rows of guardian eucalyptus.

But now, the air has lost its savor.
On nights like these, only
knot-hard stars will ripen
where the trees once stood.
No wonder that I haunt the farmer’s
markets Friday afternoons, taking in
the glistening peppers, pendulous tomatoes
like grandees, pebbled avocados,
that even I, a stranger to the soil,
now long to plant a seed.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Another Hallaluyah Moment

Today, my Tues/Thurs class did its thing again of sitting at the edge of its seat and making germane comments that put everything in a larger context, revealing the shape of the class I had intended all along has been communicated to them. You may remember that I put off having peer review so I could back up and discuss the secondary sources and the difference between exposition and argument and why they were being asked to write this paper anyhow. And it all apparently got through today, as it clearly didn't yesterday, to the MW group. While the other group got something out of the discussion, this group is now following, avidly, and raring to go on to Foucault and the next paper. They are ready, many of them anyhow, for the challenge. This is not to say that lurking at the back of the room there are not silent souls who are sinking rapidly beneath the waves of the semester. That is clear from their homework, or lack thereof. There was one guy, for example, who from the very first day, was so clearly not prepared for this class that I was tempted to tell him to go to some other college and take Writing 1 or its equivalent over again, not for credit, so he would be ready for the next class. Since I know I cannot do that, I warned him he would need extra help to do well in the class, and to sign up for Wr. 180 and possibly a reading class. He signed up for 180, and told me he never asks anyone for help, but just sits there and does his homework. I guess you cannot help someone who doesn't get what you are trying to say. I am pretty direct with him, because I need to be, though I worry about his feelings. If I tiptoe around the issue, he doesn't hear me.

Feeling a Bit Better

I made a big pot of wonton soup yesterday, with scratch chicken soup and frozen wontons. It was soothing, and I got to eat the boiled chicken and vegetables (sweet potatoes) out of the soup, just plain, the way I like them. Despite stomach pains and wakefulness, I managed to keep it all down. Consequently, I feel stronger today. I am going to the doctor anyway before class.
This is an almost yogaclassless week for me, the way it worked out. Because I can't go to morning class, evening class is the only way to go. When I have other things to do, like Torah class today (we're discussing Ecclesiastes, actually), I have to skip yoga. Tomorrow I'm taking the Writing Lab for Kurt in the evening, since he covered Rosh Ha Shanah for me. Thursday, Friday, Saturday are it for me. There is no Iyengar class on Monday except the morning one, so no yoga yesterday. I didn't feel well anyway, and I know how Bob feels about that. He practically waves garlic and a crucifix at anyone who comes to class the least bit sick.
I will be glad to be finished this paper and on to the next one, though it presents major challenges. It is an in class definition argument using Foucault's concept of the Panopticon. It perfectly fits our theme of crime and punishment, so I hope students catch on quickly. I also found a nifty comic book style explanation of Foucault's book Discipline and Punish, from which these excerpts are taken, and provided it for them. In any case, I left only a couple of weeks to do this, then on to the research paper for the rest of the semester.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Not Checking In

I apologize for not writing the last few days. I have had some sort of stomach bug and have not been able to eat a proper meal without dire results since Thursday night. Of course, that was dandy for Saturday's fast, though not for the lovely repast I ate when I broke the fast at a friend's place, enjoying the company of her haverah and her sweet, insistent dog.
In addition, I have been rewriting that article for the parent anthology. It required extensive work, and I am not yet finished it. I know, after all, that I am unused to writing lengthy narrative, and I have in Kay Marner a good editor who knows how to prompt me to tell the full story. There are no short cuts in this business, and if I really want to learn to tell stories, I have to pay my dues, as I did with poetry, by writing some half-baked pieces and some duds and working things out bit by bit.
My Tues/Thurs class was originally to have turned in their drafts on Tuesday, but their thesis statements, those who managed to do them, were so woefully inadequate that I decided to back up and teach and marathon class Tuesday. I hope I have the energy to speak with the students individually. It's hard to run without fuel.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Yom Kippur

Today is Yom Kippur. I will soon go over to synagogue for the marathon day of meditation and reflection I annually enjoy/endure. I love singing, and being with my community, but I get pretty hungry and thirsty, like everyone else.
This year is different because I don't feel so well. It seems, ironically, that I have a bit of a stomach bug. It's just as well I'm not eating. I have no fever, runny nose, or any other symptoms, so I think it's okay that I go. I'll refrain from hugging and kissing people though.
Last night was interesting because the rabbi made his sermon up of the stories of personal growth and reflection that many of us sent him. My story was in there too, anonymously, from the piece I wrote, "Growing Up Me," about cleaning out my parents' house in Philadelphia.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Not Such A Hot Thursday

Yesterday I was feeling peaked. I went into class, my stomach in an uproar, to see how the students had done with the assignment to develop a thesis and plan for the paper we have been working on since the semester started. Unfortunately, I found that the majority of the students had not done the assignment, and that none seemed to understand why I had been asking them to read secondary sources, even though I explained it to them early and often, that this was a class in writing research papers, and that the first paper was intended to get them used to using sources in their papers. They kept asking whether they had to use the sources, and it appeared that none (just about) had read them. They thought it was just busy work.
So it is pointless having the drafts come in on Tuesday. They will be awful, and a drag to read. I have decided to delay the draft one class day, and will teach a whirlwind, marathon class about using and integrating sources next Tuesday. The good thing is that I can tell the other class on Monday all that I'm teaching these guys Tuesday, and perhaps they will be ready to turn in their drafts on Weds. Perhaps not, but I'll give it a try.

Thursday, September 16, 2010


Last night I had an interesting but odd dream. I was walking through the living room, my living room, but at the same time not mine, as happens often in dreams, and I stepped on something hard with my bare foot. I looked down and saw it was a gold ring, and soon I saw that there were rings scattered here and there, buried in the pile of the rug, some with precious gemstones, all beautiful, in different sizes. Some were playful renditions of odd looking cartoonish characters, perhaps from Sesame Street, like a child's toy ring, but in pure gold and gemstones, some were just lovely dainty gold jewelry, filigreed and with fanciful gold leaves and flowers. I gave them to various people, and still more turned up.
Maybe it is about poems. I have been thinking about writing a new series, though I am not sure I can pull it off, about a t.v. show, Medical Mysteries. I would have to strike a balance between interest in the interesting rare diseases for their own sake and for their orotund names and the suffering those people undergo.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Missed the Opportunity

This afternoon I was planning to go to a reading at Chapman College, the place where I would like to teach a workshop. I had sent poems from the yoga series to the director of the MFA program there, and he said to contact the person heading up the poetry reading series, but she, as you will perhaps recall, said if I didn't have a book, they weren't interested, and recommended open mics at the local coffee house.
I wanted to go to the first in their series anyhow, to get to know people and to hear the reader, who won the Pulitzer for her first book of poems. But I had a set of papers (short ones) from my Tues/Thurs class, and even though not many of the students turned them in, it took too long to get through the ones I had, particularly since I discovered that I have a genius in the class, and I couldn't go to the reading. Every once in a while, a person like this crops up.
This guy is so polished and sophisticated, but he doesn't come to class much. He is probably bored. I don't know why he isn't in an honors section of the class. I wrote him a note and told him that if a particular assignment seemed pointless to him (except for papers), he can speak to me and I'll try to devise an alternative just for him. It's a pleasure to work with a student this bright, after all.


Having choices is a good thing. I am thankful for being in a position when I actually have them! I've never been much good at choosing though; it makes me anxious. Still, it's a good thing, and good exercise. Maybe I'll become accustomed to it.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Confused Again

Recently my email box has been filled with advertisements for creative writing jobs all over the country. It is the first time I have seen so many in a very long time. With two manuscripts of poems waiting to be finished and sent out and published, I am thinking that I would love to apply for some of those jobs, but at the same time, I am about to commit to a home here.
Realistically, I don't have much of a prayer to get such jobs. I don't have a book yet, and it is likely to be some time before I do. Once I have a book, I will have already bought a house here. It will be more difficult to drop everything and leave.
I cannot stand staying here in this apartment any longer, and it doesn't make sense to me to move to another rental place, paying two months security deposit that we will be unlikely to get back (I don't think we have ever gotten them back in the past).
Since I have no crystal ball and do not know when I am likely to publish those books and how they will be received and whether there will be jobs advertised at that time, I don't know what to do.
Getting a writing job here isn't likely. There are few places (2) I can reach easily, since I don't drive on freeways. And there haven't been advertised positions ever. Chapman won't even give me a part-time job, I've tried, and never gotten an interview. They'd be unlikely to hire me for a writing job if they had one, and UCI? Impossible. One would have to have quite a reputation to get a job there in the writing program.
So what to do? Gotta commit to something. And I probably will make Richard feel worse about Floyd if I up and take a job somewhere random. Of course the places I am looking at have yoga and synagogues of the kind I am interested in, but it will make things more difficult to explain to his parents.
I'll stop counting chickens though.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Star of the Show?

Today I had a very special and interesting experience. I finally got to read my yoga poems to students of yoga during an emotional stability workshop at Denise's house. Afterwards, and in between too, they told me how much the poems added to their experience, and how they were sure others would like to see and own the book. Of course, there is no book yet, but I felt really good because this is what I hoped for all along, this and the pleasure of having Mr. Iyengar receive a copy. I am not sure when that will happen, or if it ever will, since it is not so easy to get books of poetry published, but I'm hoping this bodes well for the effort. I'm looking forward to Nina finishing the illustrations, so I can get this well and truly on the road.


Last night a merry crew, R and M, Liz, and I, went to Santa Ana's Great Art Theater to see a theatrical production of The Pirates of Penzance by Cal State Fullerton's theater department. It was a tiny theater, intimate and informal, that showcased the energy and talents of the cast, who entertained us before the show with bad pirate jokes and feats of balloon sword-making that prepared us admirably for the classic silliness of Gilbert and Sullivan's show, with its excellent lyrics, beloved of many a wordfiend like myself.
Though the vocal skills of some of the major characters, notably the woman who played Mabel, the love-interest of the main character, Frederick, were not top-notch, most of the performers performed ably, particularly the Major General, who is has been a member of the official company that performs Gilbert and Sullivan shows, according to the program. His rendition of "Modern Major General" was masterful, double quick, but with clear and excellent diction.
For the pittance we spent for the tickets, we could not have spent a better Saturday evening, and I am so glad I went. I recommend the company's shows to you. They will be moving soon to a nearby location. The next show will be Bell Book and Candle. I hope to be there!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Second Thoughts

I almost forgot it was Sept. 11th, until I read Lou's post about momentous events in American history, and how they become part of our personal histories as well. However, when I think back to that day in 2001, the impressions are as fresh as ever. As usual, I got up and put on the radio. I just caught the end of a report on NPR about one of the towers, and I said to myself that my hearing must have gotten worse again. What I thought I heard could not have been true.
I am among those few Americans who did not turn on the T.V. at that point, to watch the clip that would be repeated and repeated, compulsively for what seemed like days and weeks: the planes crashing into the towers, the towers imploding, falling in slow motion like those hotels in Atlantic City under the wrecking ball I had once watched, standing on the beach with a sadness for my own lost years as well as for the impending changes that would ensue when the casinos were built as they eventually were. This was a different kind of shock and sadness, the feeling that we were vulnerable in ways I could not have believed or even imagined an hour before. The people fleeing from the towers, leaping from the windows, standing pointing up in awe near the site were all feeling exactly as I was, as everyone in the country did, sighing a collective sigh of disbelief.

Busy Busy

This time every year, I feel a sense of urgency. The first paper should be coming in fairly soon, or perhaps, sometimes, it is already upon me. At the same time, as a member of the choir, I must spend whole days singing and evenings practicing, leaving much less time than usual for grading papers and preparing classes.
Logically speaking, I should feel much less urgency than in the past 5 years, since my parents no longer need to be tended to. I can deal with my personal responsibilities every day, and need not drop everything and rush over to their house to take them to the doctors, the department store, or the farmer's market. But most of the time, I do not feel this difference. It seems I have settled back into my own life as if I had never left it, had never been called upon to live three lives at once.
In fact, in the past couple of days, I feel exhausted. Yesterday,as I rushed through the last of the study questions for the MW class, I could barely see, so tired were my faculties. Perhaps I am catching whatever bug seems to be going around at the moment. I have not been able to go to yoga most days this week, though I did practice every day but yesterday at home, and that might have something to do with it as well. The fact that I felt better after Bob's class this morning suggests that theory may be true.
This coming week, I hope I can go to more yoga, get more rest, relax a bit before Friday night, the coming of the spiritually demanding holiday of Yom Kippur.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Too Much Celebration

The New Year Celebration (and singing) go on today, with the choir's yearly luncheon following services this afternoon. I am pooped, and all I want to do is work on my classes for the upcoming weeks, but I will make it through today.
I will post a couple of photos Liz took for my cousin Nina, so she could complete the illustrations for the yoga chapbook. We just couldn't find photos elsewhere of these postures with the props.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

A New Place

I was just thinking last night as I listened to the Rabbi do his sermon, a first person look at the book of Genesis through the eyes of the major players and some of the minor ones, that in order for great psychic and spiritual change to take place, particularly in the Bible, it is necessary to uproot yourself in some basic way, to get thee hence to a new and unknown place, and begin again.
I don't know if this is true for the rest of you, but I always notice themes in my own life, constellations of events that fall together and seem to make pointed comments of various kinds. Whether these are invented or discovered, they are meaningful to me. Lately, with the news that my friends will be moving elsewhere and the word that a beloved choir member whose fanatical attention to musical detail has led us to sublime harmonies is being transferred to Oklahoma City for his job. If he leaves it, he may never get another, and he will lose his retirement and pension, which is about 3 years away.
These things dovetail with the feeling that I have had that with the death of my parents, I must change my life in significant ways. The change is slow in coming, though I am making an effort to be kind and nurturing to my students, more so than in the past, reaching out to people who I believe I can help in significant ways with concern and confidence building attention. This is new for me, and I hope will be fruitful.
And of course, I plan to move this year. I hope that this move will be connected with a successful effort to fight back the impulse to pile and to hoard things in the cupboard, the filing cabinet, and on the dining room table. I plan to have a table where people can actually meet to share a meal. I plan to have a home I can invite people to without embarrassment and undue explanation. I hope that I am successful in that.
In some sense, such a change will take me from a place of comfort, and so it should be. I will only be able to grow in important ways that way.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Birthday of the World

This evening is the eve of the New Year. We will sing, and we are sounding pretty good, or at least were last night at practice. I hope this is an auspicious beginning to a new year, but I have my doubts, when I see the worsening financial conditions, the massive unemployment, touching almost all sectors of the population, from old to young, the proposed burnings of the Koran, the heightened tension. It scares me and makes me feel resigned to what will follow. I don't know where to start in fighting all of this.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Party Like It's the End of the World

This weekend I didn't think about work too much. I let go and relaxed, partied, pretended I didn't have a responsibility in the world. It felt good, but it left me feeling vaguely as if I had left the iron plugged into the wall or something that would catch up to me soon. Truthfully, I had the assignment for class pretty squared away, but more holidays are coming up, and I will be occupied, so I could have, I suppose, been working toward those days when I will not be able to work. But I enjoyed being the grasshopper this time instead of the constant ant.
I learned that my good friends, M and R, will be leaving this state, and moving far away. I will miss them. It struck me how much, when they told me of their immanent departure. But I don't blame them. If it had not been for Jeremy and my need for a particular kind of yoga and a particular kind of synagogue and a place to work, we would have been leaving for VA too.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Busy Weekend

Last I went to another event at the synagogue. It was a reading of the play My Name is Asher Lev (originally a novel by Chaim Potok). The play (and novel) concern an Orthodox Jewish young man who is an artistic prodigy, a painter. The problem is, this is not something the Orthodox community particularly understands or appreciates since the Torah is wary of representations of living beings, particularly if they are "not respectful"--i.e.: nude, critical of authority figures, etc. So much of artistic tradition is off-limits for them. But this kid cannot squelch his artistic ability and urges, so this causes a rift with his family and culture.
The play brings up a lot of interesting things about the clash between individual/collective culture and religious/secular traditions. The acting was really wonderful, especially given that there were only 3 actors on the stage, who did not change costumes, and all except for the man who played Asher Lev, they had to create the impression of several characters by dint of changing their voices, postures, etc.
If I had not been so tired from the previous night's service (the interfaith dinner with the members of the Pacific Institute), I would have stayed and sung in the Selichot service, which started at 10:45 PM.
This morning I went on to Denise's yoga class, which is always fun, and to a Labor Day Sale at Steinmart!!! Big bargains!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Last Night at the Synagogue

One of the things that most alienated me from my family (cousins and other immediate relatives) was their racism. The way they accepted without question stereotypes of arabs and black people in particular appalled me and made me turn with revulsion from them. It was less about the immorality of dismissing entire groups of people than my knowledge that this was an attitude shared by the majority of my community that made my stomach turn. I knew the consequences of these attitudes were things I would have to live with.
Israeli Jews and Arabs largely hold these attitudes toward each other, and a percentage of my cousins and an aunt and uncle are Israelis. Look at what this attitude has done, spreading beyond the immediate region of the Middle East to the entire world, putting millions in jeopardy. And the thing that these people cannot for the life of them see is that it is this attitude, the ability to assume that an entire community, religion, race of people is less than human, not like us, bestial that has made the cold extermination of them possible.
Last night, I did something with my community to counter these attitudes when we hosted members of the Turkish mosque (though they don't call themselves a mosque, but the Pacific Institute), who brought enormous amounts of food to our synagogue to celebrate iftar, the evening break-fast meal during Ramadan, with us.
It was a vegetarian meal, so that the problem of kosher food would not be broached. All vegetables and dairy foods, as long as they are not mixed with meat, are okay to bring to synagogue.
We watched them pray on mats spread out in our sanctuary, then we ate and chatted together, and went back to seats in the sanctuary for shabbat service and a talk by a member of the Institute about the nature and purpose of Ramadan. It was amazing how the language of that holiday echoed in so many ways, almost to the word, the prayers and rationale behind Rosh Ha Shanah, the Jewish New Year, and Yom Kippur, the day of repentance.They said in fact that there is a special day in the Moslem calendar when God was supposed to have given the Koran to his people. It is not marked with a specific day, but it comes in the last days of Ramadan, we were told. During those last days, for this reason, the people must be particularly vigilant to keep their minds pure and their actions holy.
The members of the Turkish community told us how meaningful this joining of our two communities for the evening was for them, how it heightened their experience of their own holiest season, to recognize that our faith and theirs were really united on so many points. It did the same for us.
I knew though that the majority of our community was either skeptical about this, and had not come to this evening's celebration, or downright hostile to it.
And this was unfortunately probably the case for them as well.
It saddens me to think what these people, clutching onto their hatred, will in all probability do to the world, bringing the death and destruction of millions into the foreseeable future.

Thursday, September 2, 2010


Today's class went really well. The Tues/Thurs section is very sharp, very vocal, and asks many great questions. They have pushed me to show my hand about the relationship of this assignment to the research projects they will do starting with the third paper. Generally, students are simply immersed in the demands of the first assignment, and do not see the shape of the coastline they are approaching until it is upon them. This group sees it. They are thinking. They are ready, it seems, to run with it.
I am not sure whether this material is something that they are eager to grapple with, and are innately interested in, or if there is something about the film that has sparked their interest, but it is definitely working for many of the students in that class. I don't know about the Mon/Weds group, but this one is doing well, so far.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

More Seasonal Turning

It is Jewish New Year, the season of Tshuvah, turning, a better way to say "repentance." The secular New Year gets from the Jewish tradition the habit of making resolutions, vows to one's self to change or reform in various ways, go on a diet, work out regularly, be a better person. The Jewish New Year is supposed to provide this sort of function as well, giving people a chance to apologize for all the screw ups they racked up over the year, or two ask for apologizes from those who injured them.
The change of the season reminds us to make these changes in ourselves. And today, when I was driving back from Laguna, where I attended a much-needed yoga class, I reminded myself to buy New Year cards, to contact people I hadn't written or spoken to for a while, to let people know that I do think about them.

Autumn Day

It is one of those very mellow and rich late summer days that show the season to be a harbinger of fall more than the remnants of summer. Though the temperature is still high and, deceptively, flowers continue to bloom, with bees continuing to visit them, something in the air has definitely turned.
When I first came out here, I marveled that there were no seasons in this part of the world. I had to learn to see, smell, and feel those subtle turnings of season. It's true, the flaming reds and yellows of a temperate fall were not present, but the dryness and slightly more humid heat, the smell of the air, the unfortunate burning on the hillsides that sometimes erupted were all something apart from the experience of high summer.
If I ever do move back to a temperate climate, which is entirely possible, at some point, it will be a shock for me at first.