Heard at the Coffee Shop

I was in line at the coffee shop on August 1st when a young woman appeared beside me who was evidently known to the store manager. 

“How’s it goin’?” asked her pal behind the counter.

“Great! Hey, did you know that I’m fasting?”

“Fasting, no.  Why on earth are you fasting?”

“Ramadan began yesterday. “And my boyfriend, he’s a Muslim. So I just thought, whydon’t I fast too and see what happens. Inside my mind, you know. Inside ME.”

Well now! I thought.  

Maybe this is how minds are opened, one person at a time, who admittedly is just sticking a toe in the great river of Islamic thought – of a new spiritual belief – but isn’t that the way we all begin swimming? By sticking a toe in?  

I overheard this conversation on August 1st and the next day  saw this picture with the women looking so lovely in their pale sherbet-colored garments.

The caption says they are  “Indonesian women, performing  the evening prayer called tarawih, the night before the holy fasting month of Ramadan begins.’” It was taken at the Istiqlal mosque in Jakarta.

Now, today, with the celebration of Eid al-Fitr, Muslims mark the end of the month-long fast of Ramadan and I was thinking: Our cities and towns all suspend school for Christian holy days, and many do the same for the Jewish High Holidays. Maybe one day we’ll do the same for Eid.

The U.S. Postal Service issued a stamp for both of the Eid holy days  ten whole years ago, under President George W. Bush, so can other kinds of official recognition be far behind?  That’s where the real strength of this country lies, remember. It lies in our ability to welcome new people, and embrace them and learn from their ways.

It’s a good reminder: whether August 31st is Eid or the anniversary of the day your father died, or the day you got sober or the day your firstborn landed in the world, every day is sacred to someone. ‘Put thy sandals from off thy feet for the place where thou art  standing is holy ground.’   That’s Yahweh to our pal Moses.

Holy ground, this earth. Holy people, us, when we try to be.


New Day

I’m up north writing this. On Friday I sat on the deck here in 60-degree warmth, basking in sunlight. Then, an hour before sunset a big wind came along and tickled the treetops till they bent over laughing. It was a day like the painted landscapes inside one of those peek-a-boo Easter eggs: beautiful.  

Then… we woke to a six-hour snowstorm. We think we know what a day will bring us, but we never do really. Example; this picture I just took with spring and winter together …. Where are those footsteps leading, forward into spring or back into winter?

Anyway, that was yesterday. I post this today at 6am, hopeful of a return to the warmth. Today at the family celebration I will wear ivory colored slacks and a pale green sweater and will hope to look a little less like the grizzly bear I resembled yesterday in my furry brown jacket.

This year I didn’t dye Easter eggs, what with our little people away in Florida. Nor did I try making the family bunny cake recipe, which is just as well since it always looks to me more like a bunny corpse, covered for decency with a white sheet of coconut. And thank God I didn’t have to go to the Mall, that industrial-strength crowd-magnet. Instead, I worked on my refinishing project and read my book and talked with David about how badly you can hurt yourself even just falling off a small step ladder if you don’t keep those quick-reacting stabilizer muscles active. We talk that way to each other for courage.

The sun is just coming up now, see how lovely? A new day for us all; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

and now, with the sun so strong already, a last coat of finish on that just-stripped table 


April First, Sun and Clouds

I felt awful last night that I seemed to be making light of the plight of the people who can’t flush their toilets with all this flooding. When I saw on the news this morning how many people have raw sewage bubbling up in their houses I felt even worse. That’s how it always is with me: I’m laughing AND I’m feeling so squeezed by empathy I can hardly breathe. It’s a weird combination.

First, here’s some more of the empathy part: in connection with the plastic bags that our trees are wearing like brooches, I mentioned a tent city outside Tijuana many of  whose ‘houses’ are made of plywood, tar paper, even cloth. In this community of  La Morita,  uncountable numbers of plastic bag bits cling to the barbed wire fencing off every vacant lot for miles around. I worked there for a week helping to build a house and the plastic bags looked like dead birds to me, their wings lifting and falling in the wind. Plumbing and electricity, phone service and trash removal: none of these exist in La Morita. The unpaved streets run in mud, and when it rains, no one gets in or out.And yet here were children in crisp uniforms walking toward the small school; adults perfectly turned out, picking their way down the rutted hills to ride the series of buses that take them to the factories.

But it is April 1st when we’re meant to laugh some. There’s nothing funny about raw sewage of course, or about having your friends pass out on you the one time you ask them to stay awake and help you mentally prepare for whatever crucifixion awaits you. But it’s also the third day of Passover and what a great thing that memorializes: Getting free after centuries of servitude. Making it out at last with that old Angel of Death sparing everyone you love….. So what’s a principle common to the three things that make this day notable? Maybe that you’ll be all right as long as you keep your spirit free, no matter what gets done to your body. This cartoon regarding that new God the computer is meant to keep that spirit up. I say stay awake to this day and to everything it offers you even IF you have to  keep feeling your backside for Kick Me signs.