Category Archives: Musings

Winter Woes from Head to Toes

As I sit, sweltering on a hot summer’s day, I’m reminded of all the troubles in winter.  It’s like a cool, refreshing breeze.  So glad it’s summertime!

In winter, from the top of my head I feel that brain freeze, which is far more fun from ice cream.

The winter brings static to my hair.  Most days my hair just flies everywhere.  Brushing only makes it worse.  Makes me wish I had shorter hair if that didn’t make me colder still.

My mind is troubled in wintertime, wondering what the weather will be. Will it change my plans?  Travel itself is far more worrisome. Black ice can be deadly, not to mention conditions that are difficult to see in. All the extra accessories needed in winter mean I must keep track of everything – hat, gloves, scarf, boots . . .

How about the glare of sun on snow?  It can be more blinding than in the summer and it hurt my eyes much more.  I may not always have my sunglasses close by.

Some want to tell me how beautiful winter is with icicles dripping from trees and rolling unbroken sheets of white snow.  I’ll admit that a newly fallen snow, on a clear night, in the moonlight has some appeal.  But those icicles can get dangerous if they decide to cut loose.  Those lovely sweeping vistas of snow don’t last very long.  There is just too much stress associated with the snow and ice to be beautiful to my eyes.

As the old joke went, I’m built upside down. In the winter my nose runs and . . .  my feet smell. Well, maybe, but we’ll get there.  So often in the wintertime, I awake with a stuffed head. The dryness of the heated air often has me blowing blood. If not, the inside of my nose is crusty and dry. Neither are pleasant.

The skin on my face (and my whole body for that matter) gets very dry in the winter.  Chapped lips, sore and cracking, are a painful but common occurrence.  Try talking or sipping water in the bitter cold and you will feel its sting.

My shoulders are often up near by ears from stress over the weather, wondering . . .  Its burdensome nature can weigh heavily on those shoulders. Even days after the storm the going still may be difficult. A simple trip to the store becomes an exercise in patience. Like the holidays, you may find grocery store shelves picked clean in the offing of a snow storm. (Even though around here it would be rare to be trapped for more than 2 days.  Some cannot live without bread and milk for two days!)  Most of us have plenty of food for a day or two. Still my shoulders remain hunched.

I don’t do it myself, but many people must get out and shovel in the winter.  A dear friend of mine loves doing it.  Cleaning windshields too, can put a strain on shoulders and upper arms. My shoulders anyway are busy carrying layers and layers of clothes, scarf, hat, etc.

Turtlenecks are my daily wear in winter. Often with a sweater over top. All the clothes are heavier and thicker, hereabouts. Those layers are important as that icy cold air makes my lungs ache as it comes in.

I eat much heavier meals in the wintertime.  A simple salad just doesn’t cut it.  I long for warming soups, cheesy dishes and other such comfort foods.  The result is to make me feel too full and sluggish. And put on weight!

Let’s not forget fingers. Dry cracked cuticles are never fun.  Every time I turn on a light switch I get zapped.  My fingers get stiff when they’re cold, and don’t move as well. Muscles in general, can ache in the winter from cold (or the aforementioned shoveling).

Not sure quite where this fits.  Maybe around the hip area.  In winter, if you’re not careful you may rub up against that nasty combination of salt and sand that collects on the car.  Our cars live in a garage, but if they are out at all in the winter time, they are likely to be caked with the stuff. Get near it, opening a door or pushing past, and you will be marked!

It is not unusual to find that mixture stuck on your shoes or boots as well.  My toes get so cold in the winter it forces me to wear more socks, which could, in fact, make my feet smell.

Number 1 Mansion Drive ~

I remember it well.  I was probably not more than 13 or 14 when my parents announced we were going to sell the house and move.  This was not a happy thought for me.  I loved where we lived. Our house was surrounded by a large yard and woods.  My best friend lived next door!  My room was perfect just the way it was. I was totally against this move.

One day, I was home sick from school and my parents said we were going to look at a house.  I felt horrible and was in no mood to go house shopping with them.  I don’t know if they didn’t want to leave me at home in my condition, or whether this was a ploy. I stretched out in the back seat, in silence, and wallowed in my anger as we drove.

When we arrived at 1 Mansion Drive, I had to admit that was a pretty cool address.  There were lots of trees around the house, I liked that.  For some reason, there was no Real Estate agent to let us in.  So we had to peer into the windows.  The sunken living  room intrigued me.  I wanted to see more!  The kitchen had a big brick oven that fascinated me.  My father was elated by the greenhouse sticking out of a window.  The yard was small, but as we walked around the back, I saw a gigantic hill behind the house.  It could be fun to explore. The house was a two-story. Not as long as our rancher, so at first glance it looked smaller.  But as I walked around the perimeter I figured that it might be a lot bigger.  Maybe this moving thing was not such a bad idea.

I don’t know what became of that visit.  Not consulted on the adult qualifications, up to and including the price of the house, I wasn’t told.  But I have to say that it changed my feeling forever about what could be had when one moved.

Many years later, I was driving in the area where this house was.  I had a vague idea where it was.  If I remembered correctly, it was this side of Route 3, and possibly off Route 252.  It could be . . . there it was!  I whisked past it at the speed of the road.  The trees had grown bigger and the road was just a break in the trees.  I couldn’t see a thing.  I wondered if that hill was now covered with condos or a strip mall.

How vivid that early memory was to me as it all came rushing back.  That house, number one Mansion Drive, remains with me today.  And how it opened me to the idea of moving.

Our Mother Earth

Because of my recent fascination with Professor Brian Cox, the British Physicist, I have been watching more shows about the Earth and our place in the Universe. I have seen what must be real photographs of our planet from out in space. My God, she is a beautiful green blue planet, with wispy clouds draped delicately around our atmosphere! We are truly blessed to be here.

According to Professor Cox the third planet from the sun has come to sustain life through a truly amazing confluence of just the right distance from the sun and the ballast of our gravity and friendly moon keeping us in place. With just the right amount of heat at our core and plenty of fresh, flowing water of life, and that we rotate around the sun in just the right amount of time. Everything aligned perfectly for our planet, in the solar system in which we live, of the Milky Way Galaxy located in a remote corner of this vast Universe.

It is our home. Perhaps someday there will be life on one of the other planets in our system, when just the right factors are met. But that could take millions of years. Maybe we will be able to soar to the outer reaches of the Universe we can now view thanks to high tech telescopes. But the Universe is large. For now, we are here on this spectacular Earth!

As spring unfolds, I’m reminded of the resilience of our planet. After the harsh winter we’ve had here, it lifts my heart to see the bits of green popping up outside. Soon it will fill in and most of the devastation will be hidden. There is a small stretch of road near where I live. It is lined with magnificent weeping willows. They are tall and wild and therefore apt to cause trouble with the cars that whisk by. Maybe they grew tired of trimming, I don’t know what the reasoning was, but one year the township cut them in half. For an entire year they stood, unbalanced and gaping. But, eventually, they all grew back. Maybe not as full as they once were, but strong, nonetheless.

We need to be better stewards of our home. She must be treated with honor and respect for all she gives us. Our well being is so connected to her, truly we must appreciate all the wonders of our Mother Earth.

Eating Like a Jew

I grew up a product of a mixed marriage. My mother was Roman Catholic, schooled by nuns and my father was of Jewish decent. As was the custom at that time, the children were raised in their mother’s religion. Not only did that fit with custom, but my father was deeply un-religious. He gave a nod to the Baha’i religion and would claim to be a follower of Zeus now and again, but mostly he believed in being a good man. His grandfather was a Talmud scholar. No doubt there was a lot of religion in that generation and in the next one perhaps it was forgotten or rebelled against.

In our home, the children went to church with my mother every week, attended Sunday School and completed the sacraments and rituals like good Catholics. My father’s family lived closest to us, but we never participated in any of their rituals or Holidays. I don’t know if that was the Jews thinking the “goys” or gentiles weren’t interested or whether my mother had a hand in it. Most Sundays though, after church and Sunday School, we would all climb into the Rambler station wagon and go for Sunday brunch with the Jewish side of the family. I came to know my relatives through their food.

I remember those brunches fondly. Not enjoying school on Sunday, I was eager to get out. I could never trace exactly what it was, but the school where we had our religious training always seemed to smell of mold or something stuffy. At my Aunt’s house, the air was brimming with the scent of warming bread. We had whitefish and lox, cream cheese on bagels and rye bread. I loved the twisted Challah bread and oh, the liver knishes! Though I wasn’t fond of gefilte fish growing up, I was enticed by its strong aroma.

My father often took us to dinner at Hymie’s Delicatessen. I loved their jam-packed corned beef sandwiches, with a cream soda, please. After eating we would stand in line, waiting for our order of breads. I can still recall the briny scent of the pickles in barrels. And the sound of the bread slicer as the warm rye bread went through it. We would all look longingly at the goodies in the cases. Each one of us would get to pick our favorite bagel. I liked sesame (and still do!) At the cash register, if I was good, I’d get a molasses pop.

Jewish food also came from our Christian kitchen. My mother was a good cook and had learned some of the recipes to please my father. She often made kugel and kasha with bow ties or potato latkes.

There are certain rules that are to be followed in preparing Jewish foods. Perhaps those techniques enhance the flavors. I don’t know what it is. But I love the food! For a religion that regularly fasts, I think they have a deep passion for food.

I loved my Jewish relatives and enjoyed eating their food, but felt I missed a lot by not being included in the traditions. Lately, my neighbor who is Jewish and raising her son in the religion, will include us at her Seders. Evidently, it’s part of the tradition to invite others to share in the stories and the food. I am so grateful she’s done this. It’s given me an opportunity to learn about this beautiful religion.

Passover means order. During the Seder we move through each ordered step, reading stories, singing songs and sampling food. Each tale tells part of the story of escape from slavery. We even wore masks of the plagues! Jews have been doing this every year for so long, memories of past Passovers add to the richness of the occasion.

We have Maror or bitter herbs along with the Charoses of apples and nuts on matzoh. The herbs represent the bitter taste of slavery and the mixture symbolizes the mortar used by the slaves in building the Egyptian structures. Matzohs are the flat bread they had to eat as they hastily packed up and left Egypt, without time for rising. My neighbor told me the bread would cook on the backs of the women as they walked. An egg reflects the image of life and the “perpetuation of existence.” Redemption is illustrated through a vegetable (we used parsley), dipped into salted water of the tears shed. A lamb bone is on the Passover plate as well. Simply to honor the lamb sacrificed. The last plague being Pharoh’s edict that the first born of Israel would die. The blood of the lamb over the door made Death “pass over” their houses and kill instead the first born of Egypt.

There is a lot of wine through this. 5 cups go down easily! It is a blend of somberness and joy. In the end, everyone is feeling pretty good. The story winds down into the transformation to forgiveness, sadness for the Egyptians who died and the ultimate joy of gratitude that the Jews are free today.

It’s such a wonderful tradition! It connect us all, through a meal, to things that happened so long ago. It creates a sense of belonging for every Jew. Each year they recall what others suffered, never forgetting, never letting the story fade. And each part of the story is so elegantly illustrated in the food on the table. I’m very grateful I have been able to eat like a Jew.

I hope that we can all pass over our wounds into forgiveness and gratitude in the land of Love and Peace. Happy Passover. Chag Sameach (Joyous Festival) to all!

The Livin’ is Easy

I love Summer.  There is so much to enjoy. . .

The warm weather feels good!  Even when it’s hot. It can get muggy where I live.  I have been known, of a summer’s day, when I’ve been trapped in air-conditioning all day, to step outside just to feel the heat.  It’s like a wall you can walk through. Like I’ve dipped myself into a pool of warm water. When that air is all around, it reminds me how glorious life can be!

The blanket of trees gets more and more lush as the season wears on. How delicious to be outside in the thick, moist air of an evening in summer!  If you wait long enough and let your eyes focus, you will see the night air is dotted with lightening bugs.

The longer days do something to me.  Going out at 7 pm doesn’t take as much energy if it’s still daylight. When it stays light until 9 pm or later, I feel like so much more is possible!

Summer draws me outside to the sun and the delicate touch of the air on my skin.  It’s easy to be outside, in nature, just sitting calm and restful, soaking up beautiful scenery. There are heady scents in summer, too, like blossoms and greens, newly mowed lawns.  A barbecue off in the distance.

It is time to get away, take some time off and have fun!  Being at the beach where everyone is romping and playing.  Light and casual clothes are called for, even if you’re not on vacation.

No static electricity in summer shocks me every time I touch a light switch. Or pulls my hair in all sort of directions. I don’t have to wait forever for the water to warm up. I can turn down the air conditioning, wear fewer clothes and save some money.  I always think it’s easier to get cool, than to get warm.

In the blessed summertime I don’t have to think about: hat, gloves, scarf, coat . . .   Nor keep track of all those items.  Dress is light and simple.  Maybe just step into sandals and I’m ready to go!  My skin isn’t dry all the time, either.  Air conditioning does not dry out or bloody my nose.

You might have to contend with mosquito bites, but no fear, no worries. In the summer, you rarely need to be concerned about the forecast.  Either it rains or it doesn’t. Carry an umbrella and you’re always prepared.  Temperature?  About the same every day.  “Weather permitting” is not necessary after every plan.  When the rain storm has passed, it’s done. There aren’t any strange melting sounds.  No ice daggers will be plummeting out of the trees or off the eaves.

I don’t think the quality of silence is quite the same in the summer. There may not be much more still than a winter’s night after a snow storm.  In the summer, the air is full of sound: leaves moving, animals making their way through a wooded grove, bugs and birds speaking their own languages.

Winter can be monotonous with its gray, white and soft browns.  The summer is bursting with colors and textures. Flowerbeds are everywhere you look!  Instead of piles of snow in the grocery parking lot, you’ll find brilliant pockets in a rainbow of colors. The quality of light is different, too.  It tends more toward gray tones and the light coming into the house is soft and almost imperceptible in the wintertime. The summer shines with gold!

Sunday morning, June 16th, about 11 am, and I want to describe the light.  I have tried to capture it on film (or digi-pixels) with no luck.  I see a full spectrum with shades of green. Subtle differences from dark to light to glorious!  And that interplay can shift as you watch, the breezes moving the leaves and the sun shifting or disappearing with the cloud’s caprice.  In between, are tall, heaven-bound trunks painting a warm brown, sitting so perfectly against the green.  In some spots the browns are bathed in sunlight as if they aren’t brown at all. Whatever the sun wants to do, the trees continue to stretch, with trunks reaching up in praise.

Coming back inside, I am comforted by the hum of the air conditioner. Today is July 12th and it’s 8:37 pm. At this hour there’s still a good amount of light in the sky. Something about that makes me feel easier. Like I’ve had a good, long day and when it does, finally get dark, it will be time to come in and sit down, relax and unwind.

I remember, as a kid, wanting to stay outside as long as I could.  “Please, mom, can I stay out until it gets dark? I don’t want to go in yet!”  I wanna stay outside and smell the air and run and play and chase lightening bugs.  You know, they will land on your hand, and if you cup your other hand around, you can watch them light up without hurting them.  Of course, I always let them go.

The sun is playing amongst the trees this August afternoon.  I enjoy watching the patterns it makes on the furniture, the imprint of the leaves, dark and light, flickering from the wind.  About mid-day, when the light comes through the skylights, the ceiling fans rotations filtering it, my glass Buddha statue glows.

Some Summertime Sensations –

Floating in a swimming pool, on your back, the sun dappling through the trees into your eyes.  The feel of the water on skin as you float.

Cool breezes on wet skin.  Rather than biting like it would in the winter, it caresses.  Even if you happen to be wet.

Barefootin’.  Especially through the grass.

Warmth rising in your cheeks after being in the sun all day.  As if you were lit from inside.

The sound of ice in a glass.  How refreshing on a hot summer’s day!

Arriving at your vacation destination, hot and dusty.  Ready for a refreshing drink, a dip in the pool or a breath of air-conditioned air.

Stuck

I am treading water when I realize I am covered in something.  It makes me feel warm.  But, wait, this is sludge all around me!  I want it to be washed off right now.  It’s becoming heavy and making it hard to breathe or move.  All I can do is stand here in the sludge,  bobbing and kicking.

I am cream-colored and moist.  I am laying across a fence in a field.  I’m dripping on either side of the fence. I want to fly, but I can’t get off the fence. I am shackled to it like glue.

I am walking on air, striding higher and higher.  My head starts to feel light.  I suddenly wonder where I have taken myself.  I look down and see the height I have reach.  My stomach turns queasy. There’s no place to sit, to rest, to put my feet down.  I’m dangling in mid-air.

I am swollen and bulging. I can do longer carry my own weight.  But there is something after me and I must run, but my heavy legs won’t move.