Archive for the ‘The Purple Side’Category

Hello Again

Well hello there, it has been a long time since I have been here or done anything with this space. I appreciate the many of you who asked in this space’s absence about it, it is a strange thing for me to do and one I am never entirely sure I understand…do these words reach anyone, dose anyone care about my ramblings and observations (beyond my father of course). The space at times has seemed irreplaceable – during the RAVOLUTION – and at other times like I had little to say or share. But in this time many have asked about this little project and expressed missing it; and I must say that has meant a great deal to me even if I might have given a flippant response know that it was heard and appreciated.

It has been a strange almost year with what feels like so little of note and yet I know so much has happened. It has seemed like a time of small shifts and changes that I think at some point might amount to more then I ever expect. As with any year or any life it has been filled with many wonderful things and just as many things that have been hard and sad. I have traveled for work to San Diego, Charleston, and so many other cities. I visited friends in Pennsylvania, on The Farm, in Ashland, and on the magical island of Lopez in the San Juan Islands off of WA State.

I have had to grow stronger and find that I may be the only one who will stand up for myself. But I have also found I am strong enough to do this.

We marked the 5-year anniversary of my mother’s death, and it seems such a surreal thing to have made it this long. And in the last of the losses I had to suffer in the wake of her sudden death I had to let go of my mother’s house, a house that in her life had always been promised to me. I had to let go of thinking people would do the right thing and accept that circumstances were as they are and accept the reality hard as it may be.

I have lost relationships I thought would always be in my life. And after many years I have reestablished other relationships. I have lost friends and found deeper friendships with others. I have had happy and unexpected reunions.

I have sat in the emergency room with friends and found myself too far away when other people I love needed me in dark moments. I have thought of them all-ways wherever they might have been and wished I could comfort them.

I have watched dreams disappear over night and cried only to find them again in a different way the next morning.

I have found myself more accepted and myself more accepting. I have had to find peace in the unpeaceful.

It has been a year that I would say was like many others and yet like any day or year or person they are each unique in the gifts they take and the ones they give.

I have not been sure if this space would come back, or how. I have cooked and baked (perhaps too much) and taken pictures in case I started this venture again. And somewhere secretly I think I never gave up I just needed to rest. I needed to hibernate and in the silence again I will say thank you to all of you who didn’t let me forget that both me as a person and this space as my writing is meaningful and important to you.

I am back (at least for now) and here we go again. Promises of recipes (cookies, and my favorite easy couscous) oh and a trip to Iceland in a few weeks to try and see the Northern Lights and take a soak in the Blue Lagoon.

For now a most heartfelt thank you,

Ra

27

10 2014

The Giving List – 2013 Edition

I am just back from the most incredible and wonderful trip with my sister to Jamaica! More photos, stories, and adventures to follow shortly, but first things first and the annual giving list. This year I heard about an incredible idea that I wanted to be sure to share today (Tuesday December 3, 2013) as it is the second #Giving Tuesday. The idea for #Giving Tuesday is that “We have a day for giving thanks. We have two for getting deals. This year help create #GivingTuesday. A new day for giving back..” quote taken from #GivingTuesday website.

Love,

Ramona

MARTIN DE PORRES HOUSE OF HOSPITALITY:

All-ways closest in my heart. I was raised in the shadow of these soup pots and surrounded by this community my entire life.

“Martin’s, as it is affectionately known, is a free restaurant, serving breakfast and lunch during the week and brunch on Sundays. Our mission is to serve in the spirit of compassion, understanding and love.”

Note: Quote taken from Martin de Porres Website. See link for more information. martindeporres.org

NEW HOPE CAMBODIA :

The light for this incredible place still shines so brightly in my memory and in my conscience every day. One of the most remarkable and inspiring places I have experienced.

Set in Mondul 3, Siem Reap, one of the poorest slum areas in Cambodia. A broken community of army families, karoke/sex workers and displaced men women and children.

New Hope Cambodia’s mission is to restore hope, dignity, and promise to these once proud and prosperous people.”

Note: Quote taken from New Hope Cambodia Website. See link for more information. http://www.newhopecambodia.com/

BUILD A SCHOOL IN BURMA :

Build A School In Burma is continuing to shine in my mind as the work expands and as I hope some day to make it there and participate with this group.

“Build A School in Burma’s mission is to build schools in underserved areas of Burma (Myanmar) to educate children and give them a chance for a better future. Build a School in Burma built [their] first school during 2011 in Nan Ouw village, Shan State and recently completed a second school in partnership with the Karen Women Action Group at Inn Ta Lu village.”

Note: Quote taken from Build A School In Burma Website. See link for more information. http://www.buildaschoolinburma.com

ACUMEN FUND:

I have been volunteering this past year with the local NYC chapter of  ny+acumen. After many of my travels I have struggled with the complications I have seen and have not been able to put them aside once home. I have wanted to do more and have seen how in so many places strict charity work was failing, Acumen Fund is a revolutionary idea that sees local problems being solved by local leaders and philanthropists. I have been introduced to so many other incredible organizations and people and have continued my global conversations through this opportunity and I am excited to continue working with them.

“Acumen: it’s the radical idea of creating hope in a cynical
world. Changing the way the world tackles poverty and
 building a world based on dignity.”

Note: Quote taken from Acumen Fund Website. See link for more information. http://acumen.org

ARS NOVA:

At times we can find no greater source of light than we see reflected to us in Art. Art compels, it transcends, it challenges, and elevates us. For artists there is no greater source of light, inspiration, or support than from Ars Nova. Ars Nova is dedicated to developing creative souls and is giving a home to some of the most extraordinary new generation of artists and their work.

“Ars Nova is committed to developing and producing theater, comedy and music artists in the early stages of their professional career.  Our unique development programs are designed to support outside-the-box thinking and encourage innovative, genre-bending work.  By providing a safe environment where risk-taking and collaboration are paramount, Ars Nova gives voice to a new generation of artists and audiences, pushing the boundaries of live entertainment by nurturing creative ideas into smart, surprising new work.”

Note: Quote taken from Ars Nova Website. See link for more information. arsnovanyc.com

CHIPS :

Taking the idea “think global act local” to heart I have also been volunteering this year in my own backyard and neighborhood working at the soup kitchen CHIPS.

“Founded in1971, CHiPS serves hot, nutritious meals to our guests in a caring and respectful environment. We also house homeless young mothers and their infants.”

Note: Quote taken from CHIPS Website. See link for more information. http://chipsonline.org

KANGU:

One of the organizations I was introduced to this year and the first thing I thought of was my mother and that I will from now on always donate here on mother’s day in her honor.

Kangu Mamas have access to safe birth services from trained professionals in clean, well-lit settings. These services, offered before, during and after delivery, have been proven to save women’s and babies lives.”

Note: Quote taken from Kangu Website. See link for more information. https://www.kangu.org/

 

03

12 2013

Happy Birthday Pops

In the preface to the 2004 edition of DREAMS FOR MY FATHER Barack Obama ends by paying the most exquisite tribute to his mother “… She had spent the previous ten years doing what she loved. ..She gathered friends from high and low…I think sometimes that had I known she would not survive her illness I might have written a different book – less a meditation on the absent parent, more a celebration of the one who was the single constant in my life…” The first time I read the book I wept when I read this at the palpable love, respect, and loss of his mother; my mother loved these lines and was the one who called my attention to them. Since her death these lines have taken on a different tone for me.

I spend a lot of time and attention expressing the sudden and enormous loss of my mother, but now when I come across these lines it reminds me how much my father has also contributed to the person I am, and how often both in her life and death he has happily allowed my mother’s light to outshine his own. But my father has lived an admirable life, even if he is not one to call notice to it.

My father was the oldest of four boys; he went to the seminary at the age of 12 and spent over 8 years studying to become a Jesuit priest. He was a conscientious objector to the Vietnam War. He lived with communities in Detroit, Las Vegas, and San Francisco. He moved to Derry Northern Ireland less then a month after Bloody Sunday and worked with the first Catholic/Protestant joined youth group. He spent time in a Northern Ireland prison (ok not much time).

My father was the constant, the stable, and the dependable in my childhood. My mother raised millions of dollars for homeless, she hosted Mother Teresa, and the Dalai Lama, she was written about in the news paper and for a scattering of years could be heard on local news and radio tirelessly standing up for the city’s forgotten. My father, Zelda, Annie, and a slew of extended family were the people at home with me. My father held 2 jobs my entire life; he worked with the elderly, refugees, an Episcopal Church, and Last Gasp.

My father put me first in as many times as I can remember. He would drive me to rehearsals; he helped me learn lines when I didn’t know how to read. When I went to high school knowing how much drama meant to me he worked out an arrangement with my tutor so that I could come to her house in the evenings and still be in school plays. He would pick me up in his second and third hand Datsuns and drive me to my tutors, and he would wait in the car reading the newspaper twice a week while I studied.

He let my mother be the larger than life presence she was and continues in many ways to be while giving me a quieter support. He withheld his anxiety and trepidation about me going into a career in the arts, and never asked if I had a back up plan, but I knew it was hard for him to sit with his own fears of what this might mean for me.  He believed in me just as much as my mother but he also gave me the very real tools and support  (shipping all of my stuff coast to coast) that my mother never could grasp.

He is a storyteller; after his brother died of cancer he read stories once a week to terminally ill children. He brought me with him and introduced me to Elizabeth whose appetite and appreciation for life (and pancakes with bacon for dinner) are still unparalleled. He loved the arts; he introduced me to Swan Lake and To Kill A Mockingbird. He brought me to see Jean Cocteau’s BELLE ET LA BEAT when I was six. Years later when I asked him if he had any idea the way that opened my mind he merely said “I couldn’t find a babysitter and I figured you knew the story already”. Of all of the musicals he would schlep me to CAROUSEL was always his favorite, when I asked him why he said, “Too often fathers are lost characters, absent or underappreciated, but Billy sings of a fatherly love.”

I find so often in my loss and missing of my mother that I do not pay proper attention or tribute to my other parent. So this year on his birthday I thought I would say Thank You Pops and I Love You.

Love,

Ra

25

07 2013

A Springtime Visit With My Sister

My sister was here for a week. It was a wonderful 8 days of togetherness. We joked that we walked and ate, and walked and ate more, but really the highlight as Astrid would say was just the company we kept with one another.

It was perfect spring time here in New York, and the perfect time to have a leisurely week of reconnecting in person with one of the most important people in my life. We strolled through the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and marveled at nature’s spectacular show of color. I made my sister pose and take pictures and we giggled with silliness.

We walked across the Brooklyn Bridge, down Canal Street, and up through the Lower East Side. When I first moved to New York my mother took me down to this part of town and recalled stories of her mother taking her out as a child on these very same streets; it was the only time in my life that my mother ever talked about her mother in a tender or loving way. I have a soft spot for this part of town which always felt like a place for generations of mother’s and daughters in my family. We went into The Pickle Guys and inhaled deeply the garlicky briny smell that always makes me think of a long line of family who came before me. We had lunch at Katz’s.


We saw friends of mine and friends of my sisters. We took naps. We talked and laughed and cried. We made our mom’s famous chocolate mousse and it tasted so much like her. We shared the void that has chasmed in each of our lives since her death. We told stories and laughed and sometimes wept with how much we miss those days that seem to exist in an alternate universe one before September 13, 2009. Bari, Matthew, Asher, and their new family addition Rory had a pre-Birthday dinner complete with candles and cake.


Our plans for this visit all started over 4 months ago when we learned that Cheryl Strayed was speaking at the Woodstock Writers Festival on my birthday; I sent a half serious who wants to join me e-mail. Well my sister wasted no time and that day said I do, had flight options a few days later, and then had taken off of work. With my friend Gina we drove up to Woodstock and spent a weekend out of the city and completely out of our minds with excitement. We walked along streams, stopped into small stores, laughed a whole lot more, ate of course. To me it seemed our mom was both everywhere that weekend and no where, as it often seems she is, just out of reach but on this weekend in a nice way. The crystals and purple and pictures of Janis Joplin reminded me of her but didn’t yell out. The time together felt more like a new relationship for my sister and I one in which only we exist. My mother and sister used to visit me every summer and after she died it seemed so hard to be with my sister like a tripod that suddenly lost one of its legs. This trip felt like the perfect balance to me of a two legged toddler just learning to stand on its own, not needing anyone else for support but our mother ever there with her arms outstretched  encouraging us on.

Oh and yes Cheryl Strayed said the most amazing things and graced us with a birthday photo.


To my nugget, my sister, I love you so much, more and more with each passing day and year. Thank you for an amazing visit.

Love,
Ra

26

04 2013

Love All-ways

Happy day of the heart, if you like to say Happy Valentine’s Day. I have always been lucky in love, not romantically speaking, but at least as far as my family was concerned. There has always been an abundance of love in my life. This year my sister sent me one of the best Valentine’s Day cards and for the past few weeks I have been thinking of what up until now has stood out in my memory as the best Valentine’s gift of my life. The two seem to mirror each other in a way and it seems fitting, as they would each involve my parents who are at the very epicenter of my love.

Up until this year, the best Valentine’s Day gift of my life came when I was a very young girl from my father. It was when I was probably 3 or 4 and when we still had no car in our family. We were poor; we took the bus, walked, and rode bikes a lot. It didn’t stop my parents or any of the extended family from loving me an awful lot. This particular Valentine’s Day my father was working downtown with refugees from Southeast Asia or the elderly and disenfranchised; it all seems to meld into one pot in my memory. My father called my mom and me and said a gift was on its way. Out we went to wait for a mysterious delivery; I wore silver high heels and most likely a party dress (that was back in the days when I refused to wear pants of any kind). I remember happily hopping up and down our steps; singing or humming to myself, anticipation and the joy it brings simmering in my stomach and heart. We waited, we sat, time passed and then a lone yellow taxi drove down our street. We never took taxis in those days, they were too pricey and something I noticed only in my periphery. But then the lone taxi with no one in the back seat slowed down in front of us and then came to a stop. The driver rolled down his window and shouted out “are one of you Ramona or Barbara?” “Yes, yes, yes,” I yelled, “that’s me!” A driver who in my memory could have been a longshoreman labored to get out of the taxi and walked around to open the back door. There in the empty back seat was a boxed up cake with a note that said “Happy Valentine’s Day! I Love You, Pops”. My father had sent us a cake in a taxi; he paid money we never spent on ourselves to send a cake to my mom and me. I felt my heart rise right out of me that day and float like a helium balloon into the sky. The cake I don’t remember much but the taxi and what it symbolized to a young child made an indelible mark.

I have remembered this memory every year in February, I have always held it up as the very example of love, never has it been met in equal parts until this year. Just a few days ago my sister sent me a card, a simple note on stationary but inside was a drawing of a purple heart and a handmade card from a long time ago. My sister is going through some of my mother’s belongings and she came across a valentine my mother gave me 30 odd years ago, perhaps the same year as the cake or the year after. My mother kept it in a box all this time and my sister found it last month and sent it to me just the other day. Somehow a lifetime later and in my mother’s absence a purple water color kept pristine all of these years did the same thing to me as the cake in the back of a taxi, it made my heart balloon open and soar up to the sky.

So whatever you do this Valentine’s Day (or if you choose to do nothing at all) I hope you remember there is a big purple heart for you out there. There is love in our lives every day. It may not look how we imagine it but it is there and sometimes it’s drawn in water color and kept in a box until just the time you need it most.

Love,

Ra

14

02 2013

What is your Destiny?

When I was two and three years old my mother and I had this ritual of sorts, at least to her. Each morning she would look across the table and stare intently into my sky blue eyes, and would inquire with all seriousness,

“Ra, what is your destiny?”

On most mornings I would look back into her green eyes with equal love and bewilderment at what she was saying and I would answer,

“Cheerios.”

She would get more earnest and look even deeper into my eyes and say,

“No really, what is your destiny? This is big.”

I would think and then reply again a little less sure,

“Cheerios. Cheerios.”

This would go back and forth a few times and then she would grow tired of what she viewed as a game to me—her young sprite, and she would say,

“This is important Ra, you have to think about this. You have to consciously consider it every day, what is your destiny? You can’t forget it even if you don’t know what it is, you have to seek it and ask yourself about it.”

I could always tell she was serious here but didn’t know about what. All I could say was,

“What is destiny? I want cheerios for breakfast.”

I have thought so many times of the question of my destiny since those days with breakfast cereal. I wish it were easier to discover. I wish it were written in my clothes the way my name had been before going on camping trips with Eddy Shine Summer Camp. I wish thirty years later I wasn’t still asking myself that same question every morning with just as an uncertain answer as Cheerios. I wish I could ask my mother how I discover the answer, where I look, what practice to follow, what questions other than this one to ask.

08

01 2013

The Giving List – 2012 Edition

We celebrated all of the holidays when I was growing up. Giant Hanukkah parties where my mother fried so many latkes she inevitably set off the smoke alarm. My father would round up all of the kids to play a version of Dreidel with him as the gelt manager making sure everyone ended up with some candy even if it landed on Nun. Every Christmas morning our house expanded to twenty to thirty for breakfast.  And no holiday season was complete without my favorite party of the year—BB&C at Last Gasp! Just ask me about the year I met Jerry Garcia there. We celebrated every holiday not with an overabundance of gifts but with an overabundance of people. And at the center of this season came the Pagan nucleus – Solstice. Because that was what we were always celebrating; whether it was around fried potatoes, early morning cookies dunked in coffee, or Beer and Burritos; what it was always about in our family was the return of light.

I can use the return of light this year in my life, not just this winter and in the darkest days but after this entire year. It has been a hard year for me, a dark year, a year of uncertainty and  unhappiness much of the time. A year I very much had to experience in some ways but have struggled with so much. I have needed the return of light this year more than ever. I have needed the hope of advent and the flickering of menorahs. I have needed the stories of miracles and the belief they exist somewhere and can perhaps in a small way exist for me. I have needed to believe in the transformation as the light wanes with the knowledge and the belief that it will come back again.

I haven’t tasted my mother’s latkes in probably ten years, but I still love them once a year on any of the 8 nights. I still light the menorah we bought together at the tenement museum. I still go to midnight mass and sing the carols feeling the very hope emanate from my diaphragm. I still miss the Beer and Burrito party at Last Gasp every year that I can’t be there. But I have found the older I get the center of this season has changed for me to that of light and its return to our each and every day. It is the solstice that brings me the most peace and the fact that no matter what holiday or custom I practice, it all comes back to believing in a rhythm, a cycle, an ebb and flow, in the doubt being eclipsed by a very faint sliver of light.

This year the candles and lights that have shone the brightest for me are in the list below; organizations and groups that have reminded me that in winter, fall, summer, and spring, there is so much in the world that brings light into our lives.

I wish you all a season of light and to all of the glorious groups below a check of my appreciation is in the mail and thank you from the bottom of my heart for all that you do.

Love,

Ra

MARTIN DE PORRES HOUSE OF HOSPITALITY

All-ways closest in my heart. I was raised in the shadow of these soup pots and surrounded by this community my entire life.

“Martin’s, as it is affectionately known, is a free restaurant, serving breakfast and lunch during the week and brunch on Sundays. Our mission is to serve in the spirit of compassion, understanding and love.”

Note: Quote taken from Martin de Porres Website. See link for more information. martindeporres.org

NEW HOPE CAMBODIA

The light for this incredible place still shines so brightly in my memory and in my conscience every day. One of the most remarkable and inspiring places I have experienced.

“Set in Mondul 3, Siem Reap, one of the poorest slum areas in Cambodia. A broken community of army families, karoke/sex workers and displaced men women and children.

New Hope Cambodia’s mission is to restore hope, dignity, and promise to these once proud and prosperous people.”

Note: Quote taken from New Hope Cambodia Website. See link for more information. http://www.newhopecambodia.com/

BUILD A SCHOOL IN BURMA

Build A School In Burma is continuing to shine in my mind as the work expands and as I hope some day to make it there and participate with this group.

“Build A School in Burma’s mission is to build schools in underserved areas of Burma (Myanmar) to educate children and give them a chance for a better future. Build a School in Burma built [their] first school during 2011 in Nan Ouw village, Shan State and recently completed a second school in partnership with the Karen Women Action Group at Inn Ta Lu village.”

Note: Quote taken from Build A School In Burma Website. See link for more information. http://www.buildaschoolinburma.com/#!

BLOSSOM BUS

After being jointly saddened and completely inspired by the young Malala Yousafzai and her courage and commitment to education I heard of Blossom Bus. Education may be along with food and water one of the most vital and important things in life, and young girls and women receiving education has been at the center of my mind for years the very spark that can light a change in our world. Blossom Bus is making education possible for girls in rural Indian Muslim communities.

“The Blossom Bus bridges the chasm between parents’ legitimate concerns for their daughters’ safety and a girl’s right to education. By providing pioneering families with a bus and a parent chaperone to safely deliver their daughters to secondary school.”

Note: Quote taken from Lotus Outreach International Website. See link below for information and scroll down for short film.

http://lotusoutreach.org/blossom-bus/

ARS NOVA

At times we can find no greater source of light than we see reflected to us in Art. Art compels, it transcends, it challenges, and elevates us. For an artist there is no greater source of light, inspiration, or support than from Ars Nova. Ars Nova is dedicated to developing creative souls and is giving a home to some of the most extraordinary new generation of artists and their work.

“Ars Nova is committed to developing and producing theater, comedy and music artists in the early stages of their professional career.  Our unique development programs are designed to support outside-the-box thinking and encourage innovative, genre-bending work.  By providing a safe environment where risk-taking and collaboration are paramount, Ars Nova gives voice to a new generation of artists and audiences, pushing the boundaries of live entertainment by nurturing creative ideas into smart, surprising new work.”

Note: Quote taken from Ars Nova Website. See link for more information. arsnovanyc.com

THE DOUGY CENTER

Grief may be the darkest shadow of life. The Dougy Center is committed to helping families and young people through the most difficult of times and experiences. It is a safe place to feel what can be so much more than any young person should ever have to experience.

“The Dougy Center provides support in a safe place where children, teens, young adults, and their families grieving a death can share their experiences.

We provide support and training locally, nationally and internationally to individuals and organizations seeking to assist children in grief.”

Note: Quote taken from The Dougy Center Website. See link for more information.

http://www.dougy.org/about-us/mission-history/

22

12 2012

My Sister Has Been Published

My sister is a great writer; truth be told she is the writer in our family; the one who always expressed her emotions, her dreams, and spent her time writing poetry, memories, and some very interesting stories as a child. It is with such excitement that I share that she has been published on the website HelloGrief.org.

She has been working and editing this piece for the last few weeks and it is so thrilling to see the finished product. The piece is heartfelt and thoughtful; it is full of the emotions, the memories, and the hope of the last few years. I couldn’t be happier or prouder of her.

Annnnd as the absolute bonus, we have both so enjoyed this website and know our mom would have LOVED it! Somewhere on a bench surrounded by purple flowers my mother is saying, “my daughter got published on a website called HelloGrief! MY DAUGHTER GOT PUBLISHED ON A WEBSITE CALLED HELLOGRIEF!! This is too fucking cool kid, too cool.”

Big love and read the fabulous article by the immensely talented Camila Martin The Fine Line Between Hope And Panic

12

12 2012

Back Out Into The World

It has been such a long time since I have left a note here. The summer has rushed by; it has sped at a rate I could hardly imagine. For me it was filled with work, more work than I ever should have agreed to do, and on many instances ever thought I would manage, but here I am. The summer is drawing to a close; I must say I am not sorry. I love the autumn, I love cool breezes at night that force me to close my windows, I love the feeling of change in the air and the relief it seems to bring me.

And in my life the end of summer is also bringing the end of work, I have finished three big jobs that overlapped, intermingled, and kept my time full the past four months. My work brought me to Atlanta for two weeks where I was able to spend some additional time with dear friends. It brought me out west for a quick time, where once again I practiced holding life in two hands, working all day and spending evenings with family and friends. And finally my work brought me to Philadelphia. I am exhausted just remembering everything I have done in recent weeks.

But for now life is slowing down and I am starting to look outward again. Life is becoming that which I want it to be and not which I find it must be. It has been hard for me returning from the RAvolution, I have wanted to be back out there in the world – returning to Cambodia, or going to see schools being built in Burma, pausing over tea with Astrid who is expecting her second child any day in Germany. But there is the reality of life, the reality that I have to work to make money for such adventures. But the time has come and all of the months of work in a few days will turn into the reward, the other side of the coin for me that which I have been working for – another trip!!

The seed was planted so many months ago; in the cold heart of winter when I was freshly back in my life in New York, and finding a routine so hard. A job I had planned on was postponed to the summer, yes it was one of the many, and I found myself back in New York with no work. I was sad (ok depressed), I was disappointed to find my life not how I imagined or desired it in the least. I found myself back in a place when all I wanted was to see the wider world. In those moments I found a website for a Yoga retreat that was happening what felt like half a lifetime and world away, in the fall in Marrakech. You might remember I called it my fantasy trip of the moment. And that was how it felt, a mere dream or fantasy.

But that seed and that dream grew within me during those dark, cold months. One day on a walk home from yoga class I called my dad and said I really want to do this but I was so scared – with no current work could I afford to commit to a trip like this in the future. Under my umbrella with the dark gray clouds and a light rain above me, my father said something that was so unlike him. My father is where I get all of my responsible nature; it was my father who held down two jobs my entire life to put me through school and taught me to work hard. On this particular day as I expressed my longing for this far off goal, my father very squarely and completely out of character for him said something simple to me, “Ra, whose advice are you asking for—mine or your moms?” It seemed silly at that moment but as I replied my umbrella fell and I could feel the answer come to me as the light ran fell on my head. “I guess my mom’s.” And my dad asked, “Well what would she say?” I didn’t have to wait to answer, “She would say go for it.” And there was my answer. I ran home and with no idea what lay between that February day and the next seven months, I signed up for a trip to Morocco on the spot!

And so here I am all those weeks and months later, getting ready to depart on the trip. It just so happened a few weeks after this exchange that one of my oldest and dearest friends sent me a note that she would be in Europe a few weeks before I had to be in Morocco and would I like to join her and her friends. I couldn’t join for the entire trip (darn that work above) but I could meet them on their last stop and what would become my first – Barcelona. I will spend 3 days with them and then a week traveling the Costa Brava and jumping into South Western France for a few nights before heading to the land of spices, souks, and exotic dream scapes.

Saying yes to my friend felt real and right, it would somehow put me back in Spain on the three year anniversary of my mother’s death. Indeed it was another part of Spain from where I got that late night call but it will be the same country. It feels oddly like coming full circle. I have not been back to Spain since then. Until now I haven’t even been able to draw myself to look at the photos I took that one day I had in Madrid before I heard of my mother’s passing. It feels odd three years later. Somehow this landmark always loomed for me, so many books and articles on grief talk of the first three years but not of the lifetime that lies beyond them. Somehow it felt as though I need only survive these three years and the pain would wash away and only now days before this trip and this marker and I realize no amount of time, no distance in space, and no change in life will ever eliminate the loss.

I am so excited to be going on this trip. I am so excited to be once again seeing the world through new eyes of a first time visitor. I am so happy to taste the exotic flavors and smell the spices (hello life list!). I am excited to hear the adhan (call to prayer) ring through the early morning air.I am even excited to be reconnected with some squat toilets, amazing how one can change!

I bring you all with me on this magic carpet ride into this exciting world. I will of course be leaving messages of my adventures and when I return will be filling this space with the images I see. I know I will have stories. And as I have been preparing I have returned to one of my favorite books THE LITTLE PRINCE. I look forward to seeing what Antoine de Saint-Exupery called “…the loveliest and saddest landscape in the world…” I plan to “…wait for a time exactly under [a] star…” and as I look at each of the stars imagining the worlds they hold, the friends, and limitless potential I will think of all of you.

Love,
Ra

Pictures 1, 2, & 4 – Madrid Spain September 2009

Picture 3 – My Mom

11

09 2012

Ashland For A Weekend With My Sister

“Is solace anywhere more comforting than in the arms of a sister?”

― Alice Walker

I have been thinking a lot about siblings lately, of the time and distance we share in the lives of some of those we hold our longest ties with. There have been a myriad of stories recently in my life from friends and their siblings– of weddings approaching, changes in life structure, moves, adjustments to how we relate. I had always been fascinated with siblings growing up and I always envied my friends with siblings before I had a sister of my own. When I was 6 or 7 I asked Santa for a sister once, I seemed to think one might appear one day if I just asked and somehow it did. I have vivid memories of the day my sister was born, the call that came and said it was a girl, the speedy drive across town, and the feeling of 8 pounds of new born weight in my arms the first time I held her less than 30 min old. One of my favorite photos is in black and white of me holding my swaddled sister and my mother looking over my shoulder and into my arms.

These thoughts about siblings which have been swimming in my mind for the past few weeks seem to carry through and meet at a fascinating point last weekend as I went to Oregon to visit my sister. I couldn’t run away from work, no matter how hard I tried, believe me—I tried! It followed me up the coast and found its way between my plans despite my determination to leave it behind. We made adjustments to my e-mails and phone calls and I found for a weekend what I found on the day I held my sister for the first time. There are those people who come into our lives and instantly make us feel as though we have come home, in their presence it is as if we have slipped into the comforting structure where we are at once our selves.  It had been a year since I had seen my sister, and yet by her side it felt like we were young girls again on our annual weekend getaway where we captured our mother’s undivided attention for a few short days.

We met up in Ashland at my godmother Annie’s house. We did nothing grand or spectacular but it felt like the most perfect way to spend time. Truth be told the weekend reflected some favorite pastimes and a few sprinklings of other activities throughout. We had fantastic meals starting with my sister’s first burrito from El Metate in almost 2 years. We proved that even at a rest stop along I-5 between Eugene and Grants Pass a burrito that is a day old, but coveted for years could be fantastic!

We had fresh baked goods in the morning with Annie, Mary and their sweet dog Yakut. We went to Morning Glory for brunch, not to be missed if you are in Ashland. We had a belated birthday dinner at Smithfields and I couldn’t get over my sister’s growing spirit of adventure when she ordered Pork Belly for the first time and loved it!

Between meals we strolled the streets of Ashland, poked our heads into shops, bought more cards than I will be able to send (but I do love these cards). We went to Jacksonville and browsed more shops along its pioneer looking streets.

We drove go-karts under gray skies and a faint rainbow, and played miniature golf.

We took drives along scenic roads, we strolled through nature along hills, and in honor of our mother we even paused on a bench in the sunshine amid the Jewish section of a cemetery.

We talked, we laughed. We spent time with new friends and with family.

But above all as Alice Walker said, we found solace once again in each other’s embrace. My sister’s smile will always now mean more than it once did, in her face I see more than just the realization of a dream for a sibling, but now I also see the closest approximation to the link with my mother.

Love,

Ra (aka Fillet)

11

05 2012