Sunday, November 11, 2007

magic mountain

we are entering the final month of adamah and winter is closing in.

the other night, a friend and i went on a night-time hiking adventure. loaded down with blankets, candles, hot ginger tea, warm applesauce, chocolate, and a little herb, we hiked up to the beebe hill spot of future adamah fields. its an amazing spot, a serene field looking down on a horizon-full of mountains. we hiked up in the dark and found a place under a huge old tree. the hug of mountains around us was barely visible beneath the stars, despite the darkness of the new moon. we set up our little camp and said a bunch of prayers and blessings of thanks for the spot and life and beauty and wonder. then we set personal intentions for the herb, including specific requests.

tucked into our little spot, cuddled against the cold we blasted each other wide open, sharing deeply about inner monsters and dark spots by the light of flickering candles. and when it was time to go, we warded of the chill by sprinting across the wide mountain field towards home.

pure magic.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

swallowed

this morning ilana and i canned 17 jars of delicious chunky applesauce, hopefully i'll be around this winter to enjoy some of it.

i'm drowning in the tidal wave of a daily 6am-9pm schedule. exhausted from constant negotiations with folks that i'm not sure really give a shit about me and worn out from constant lack of sleep and exercise.

somehow in the middle of the undertow a brother appeared from nowhere today, randomly traveling through for a day and a night. felt so good to drop into immediate intimacy and recognition, a friendly soul on the same path, weightless and effortless with pokeberry fingers.

and thank god for meditation, keeping me solidly grounded in the swamp of emotions inhabiting my lower gut, keeping the tears flowing. averaging 2-3 good cries a day now, a new experience for me. i guess my rope has gotten shorter.

winter's here and the cold is both exhilarating and debilitating. i keep thinking that this must be the bottom.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

today's sweet moments

this morning i meditated in the woods amidst the gentle patter of falling yellow leaves. working on being gentle with myself despite unrealized cravings, remembering the value and beauty of friendship and self-generated love.

the mild autumn continues with balmy evenings and sunny days...balancing at the mid-point of this adventure as the season turns gently towards winter.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

red letter day

today was too good not to blog about.

this morning's lev was a patchwork of songs, readings, chants an amalgam that felt organic and meaningful--i love the feeling of collective creation. after breakfast and meditating, i went on a fun quest to the old-timey hardware store in canaan for more canning supplies, then to a rich iowa neighbor's apple orchard. perched precariously, splayed out and reaching, i tossed giant apples down to jordan. 3 big boxes, ready for a massive batch of applesauce on thursday...

it was finally warm and blue enough to eat lunch outside and miriam brought out the giant hobart bowl of brownie batter from the kitchen.

after lunch meditation and then spray painting funky metal shelves for the squasharium/coolside/new cool storage space...enjoying the somewhat mysterious resolution of an odd interpersonal abrasion and tunes from naf's i-pod.

our afternoon limud started out with a relay race sorting objects (pillow, beetle, music) according to whether they are borei (created from nothing) or yetzirah (created from something). caught a bit of teva's bizzare and hilarious evening skit, mainly involving an outrageous cheech impression ( i guess the kids wouldn't know), then a brief pause at hillside for wine, apples,kraut and to pick up the dairy bucket. milking the goats is a joy of course. followed by a moonlit bike adventure back to the apple-neighbors to rescue my hat, riding home crunching an apple and gazing at jupiter's brilliant orb.

does it get any sweeter?

Monday, October 15, 2007

magical morning

biking through the early morning dawn to yoga class this morning felt magical, even though the class still kinda kicks my ass. i stayed in the yurt afterward to meditate and about halfway into my hour, i heard the door open softly, and casey from teva tiptoed over to ask if it'd be ok to play music--turned out that teva's morning community time was a dance/stretch/be party.

i stayed sitting as folks trickled in slowly, moving and stretching to gorgeous guitar arrangements of jewish melodies. the music picked up and as the bodies swirled slowly around me i could feel my internal balance shifting subtly and whirling in new patterns. those folks just exude love and openness and it felt amazing to meditate in their midst. towards the end i let my body rise and boogy to the music, then returned to my cushion for the last 10 minutes.

the weather is palpably turning now; folks are nesting, baking, and snuggling. i've put up a giant patchwork dividing curtain in my room and creating a cozy nest of nurturance for my winter hibernation. lots of rough inter-personal stuff is up with small community inevitability, and i'm doing my best to feel it fully and remind myself to keep engaging. its overwhelming sometimes but also deeply satisfying.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

the falls

friday afternoon i was psyched about cooking up lots of sadeh vegis (garlic, onions, squash...and my first stab at wild rice!) for a big ole' shabbat dinner, but halfway through the afternoon i burned out on the social tension. my half of the bedroom i share had digressed into a disorganized, spiritually draining and irredemable mess. then jordon came to my rescue and we biked to the falls (of falls village). its a beautiful ride, on little country roads dappled with golden light shining through the tunnel of turning leaves. i vented some on the way, just getting shit off my chest. but when we got there, we entered a different, sacred space. sitting at the top of giant slabs or rock that curve gently down to to the tumbling falls, our souls unhinged and dissolved into the rocks and air. it was like resting in the hand of god, held gently in a giant love. we talked more, about our deapest fears and insecurities, about the shapes we saw in the clouds and our favorite parts of the waterfall (this calm pool, that bubbling spray)...and about how much we loved each other. it is so satisfying and empowering to feel such a strong and deep love and connection in a completely non-sexual way. when we finally dragged ourselves away and swooped down the hill towards home, i felt deeply healed.

the theme of this week is lonliness in a crowd. what i've noticed is that the times i feel most happy, open, and connected are in prayer, while playing music and when connecting deeply and authentically with another person. often they're not that different from each other.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

on the outs

i don't want to mis-represent my life here by only writing when things are good...and boy have i been feeling wretched since returning to this crazy life on the jewish commune! i got walloped by a wicked combination of pms, transition blues, claustrophobia, touch deprivation, lack of sex, and over-programming that have left me reeling. it feels good to just let myself feel bad, so i'm doing my best to steal time wherever i can to be alone and down. or just to be.

i made a batch of applesauce this afternoon, from apples we picked this morning at a freedman board member's organic orchard (!). i bake one of the grotesquely bulbous blue squash, too, and a pumpkin shaped squash. its satisfying and good to remember how much i love processing food. the weather was grey and rainy, a good day for cooking and wallowing. i'm trying to remind myself to keep feeling empowered to create the life i want for myself here, and not get sucked in to the pre-programmed schedule.

there's a pig roast at a local CSA this saturday, and a cider pressing party at a local raw dairy on sunday--it'll be good to chill with some new and local peeps.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

last night on the farm

its nighttime, way too late to be awake but i'm sucking every last drop of my time here.

the wedding was pretty sweet--everyone amassed at ZK (the dining hall) and garlanded themselves with ivy crowns, then processed through the woods to the Yanceyville Christian church. their ceremony was pretty short and sweet, a few readings and a few songs and it was over. i was impressed by their choice to sing a song after saying the vows (instead of kissing right away)--it built on and grounded the energy in a really beautiful way. and robert's vows to gwen and jonah (thea's kids from a previous relationship) were so sweet and touching (that was when i teared up). thea had a beautiful cream and gold medieval dress with giant sleeves and a gold sash, bright flowers in her hair and bouquet. robert a had cream pirate shirt and brown leather pants.

still, i was surprised that they stuck with the classic "death do us part" language. as always, it stirred up feelings about how i'd want to create/conduct such a ceremony for myself. definitely outside in a beautiful place, with lots of ritual aspects, intentions, and community involvement. i'd want to have music be a big part, too.

the reception/dinner/dancing was sweet and pleasant, all on the lawn of kaweah. we played music for awhile and people really appreciated it. its such a rush to play amplified in a quiet setting, like hurling myself into the laps of all these people; satisfies my inner leo. the food was excellent, particularly the stuffed portabellas and home-made truffles. the evening melted into a bonfire and brief chaotic contra dance, compost cafe singalong, sauna, and general mellow chilling. its really nice to reconfirm that this is a home i can feel safe and comfortable coming back to whenever i want. and i'm ready to return to my amazing life in connecticut, hopefully doing a better job at steering clear of the mental drama....

Thursday, October 4, 2007

a day in old skin

its so interesting being back here at Twin Oaks; its similar to my new life in lots of ways but also fundamentally different. i'm really enjoying being in private space--at Isabella Freedman its sort of generally open to the public at all times. and even in the house, its still not really OURS. here there's such a deep and solid sense of privacy and (collective) ownership. it feels good to slip so easily into myself here, revisiting the person i've been for the past 4 years. and its nice to feel really OFF, i've kind of been steadily on for the past month. i'm enjoying having a room to myself and the quiet and lack of cars.

but i'm also aware of the deal-breaker differences. the whole ethic around work really gets me down. it just feels so bottomless--there's never a break. i love the spiritual underpinning and strong sense of purpose at IF. we're building this beautiful (if temporary) community, continuously steeping in a sense of purpose and gratitude with specific times set aside for just enjoying and appreciating the life we're creating.

looking at my IF life objectively and from a distance, i can feel my relationship to judaism shifting. its becoming less all or nothing and more gently integrated, less rigid and more infused with my general outlook on life (at least for now).

we had a band planning session in the morning; we're pulling together a southern tour for late february. our theoretical itinerary is floyd VA, birmingham AL, tuscaloosa (for a film festival, our anchor gig), New Orleans, then back through birmingham, asheville NC and greensboro NC. seems like a good time, and it'll be good to have (yet another) final hurrah.

an X-BF gets here tomorrow, i'm a bit nervous as its gone badly the past few times. i enjoy his company at first, but then there's his eternal romantic fantasy of us.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

from home to home

this morning i somehow roused myself at 5:30 AM for a sleepy but satisfying morning meditation. we had lev at the sadeh with the tevaniks; it was a beautiful misty morning, the air wet with the promise of rain. when we got down there, folks were holding torahs, drumming and forming a circle. someone started melody, it drifted around the circle, died down, morphed...eventually it turned into mayyim and we danced in a circle, calling out for water and stamping the ground with our feet. this was our version of the hashana raba ritual, a sukkot rain-prayer. someone brought some willow branches into the middle and we spread out over the sadeh, beating the ground for rain. eventually we regathered and folks began singing prayers. (this sounds so cheezy but its actually a pretty accurate description....)

then i rushed home like a mad-woman to finish preparing for my journey south, and hit the road shortly after 9. destination: DC suburb, meeting up with the rest of the band for a simchas torah gig (will the holidays every end??). its our third simchas torah at this conservative synangogue, so it was interesting to notice the ways that i felt different in this space. most notably i felt much more comfortable and solid in my relationship to judaism: at ease and glad to participate when it felt good and made sense, with no weird pressure when i felt like stepping out. and it felt awesome to be reunited with the band again and this piece of my identity. now we're back at twin oaks, and its bizzare to feel this place again after leaving and putting down roots elsewhere. i like being here and knowing that my home is elsewhere.

Monday, October 1, 2007

red yurt ramblers

an exciting morning! we had an ashtanga yoga session for lev, it felt great to really get into the body straight off. and we finally switched chores so i got to come back and have breakfast at the house and hang out for a bit (i was doing the morning watering before). its one of my favorite parts of this life, and living with folks: randomly hanging out over a meal, being goofy and relaxed.

and, i talked to the executive director for Isabella Freedman about the contra-dance; he was totally supportive and said i could have the money i need to pay the caller. what a rush! the full band is guitar, mando, fiddle, autoharp and african drum--tonight was our first rehearsal. i was definitely feeling trepidatiouys today and the last few days, having no idea how much work we'd have ahead of us or how we'd sound. i should have known that bringing together such awesome, deep, wonderful people could only result in awesome, deep, wonderful music; it totally rocked my world! casey is solid and funky on the mando, riffin on chords and rockin the melodies. jonathon is steady and soothing on the drum, just like his personality and energy. josh jams out on the guitar. eilan is still a bit timid on the auto-harp...and also still very closed to me; this makes me sad but hopefully it'll shift with time. the auto harp adds a very sweet sound though. the band's sound is full, rich, and vibrant. i'm still flying a bit from our rehearsal, and at the way its all coming together so beautifully.

i had kind of a break down in our evening limmud, just feeling sad and alone. like i'm always grasping and i just want someone to hold me and love me. it felt good to cry and naf hung out with me a bit, that helped. .. it feels good to be in touch with it. and of course it is balanced with periods of feeling solid and connected.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

down on the way up

sky's finally released from the 10 day meditation pit of silence--just in time. i spent the morning erranding in a cloud of resigned gloom. it felt good to just let myself feel bad. kinda. and it felt good to rip melon vines out of the ground and hoe the cabbage, pouring my frustrations into the work. i skipped out on our afternoon learning session (palestine/israel for 6th graders) and came back to the house for supper. we've got hella leftovers from the weekend, so i heated up a big mush of squash and collards, roasted onions and nuts and sat outside with the remnants of a bottle of wine watching the sunset and talking to sky. it was nice to be able to relate my internal struggles to someone who knows them inside and out. and its nice to just sit in the struggle, not trying to fix it but just watching it. my voice sounds very deep today.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

communitas vomitus

today was the last day of sukkah-fest, and it ended with a pretty good dance party next to the lake. it felt so good to get down and into my body. unfortunately it ended by getting sucked into a tunnel of despairing doom as a result of my continued obsessive tendencies in relationships. it seems like i'm always craving more, being dissatisfied and fixating. its tiring, especially in community. jordon challenged me to try and stay engaged with the obsessive desire pattern, and its a big challenge and i'm not sure i'm up for it...but i'm going to keep trying.

i smoked pot today for the first time in a few weeks, which both helped and hindered my clearness and g roundedness. josh and i got cracking on the contra-dance music; its interesting to explain this stuff, and realize how much knowledge i've unconsciously accrued in the past few years. as always, it was truly delightful and nourishing to hang out with him. when i thanked him for being a good friend, he thanked me for challenging him to be one. that was a new and very sweet compliment.

there was an ultimate game in the middle of the afternoon and it was a delicious day, sunny and warm with a little breezy and brilliantly blue sky accentuating the turning leaves. it really is paradise here, unutterably idyllic on days like this. if only i had no emotions it'd be perfect....

Friday, September 28, 2007

overflowing

today is grey and mellow, and i'm recovering a bit from the massive energy output of yesterday and last night. and i'm feeling a bit heart-sore about aviva, a fellow adamahnik, zee is (gender neutral prounouns) solid and phenomenal in this pretty inexplicable way. being around zee makes me feel safe and alive....and i'm constantly finding myself wanting more: more connection, more energy back etc. this doesn't feel good and i need to shift...

aviva, miriam and i spent the entire day in the kitchen yesterday, cooking madly for the evening's invited hordes. it was definately the biggest cooking project i've ever taken on, but we plugged away all day and lots of folks came by to help. the oven stayed on from 9 am til nearly 8pm, baking squash, tofu, pumpkins, challah, zucchini bread, and roasting garlic, potatoes and onions--all from the sadeh. we churned out so much food that our long table was laden by the evening--all of that plus greens, peppers, tomatoes, hummous, watermelon, apples, quinoa, glazed carrots...it was a truly bottomless bounty. it felt really good to be so supported, and to take on way more than i thought i could do and somehow pull it off.

i had a little rest of the end of the day so that when people started arriving, i was feeling pretty mellow. and they poured in! we started with 35 people crammed in our cozy, beautifully decorated sukkah and about 25 more outside. there were pumpkins and squash and corn hanging from the patchwork julia-sewn walls, little drawings, dim light and cushions. it felt like a lounge of love crammed with amazing people. shamu asked aviva and i to lead the kiddush, a daunting task that i've never done but it felt good to speak my gratitude of this bounty through set and ancient words.

i was totally overwhelmed by it all that i started crying before i could begin the kiddush....and the evening unfolded into mellow conversation, delicious wholesome food, sweet hugs and songs---true bliss.

its deeply satisfying to create safe and nurturing communal spaces for people to enter into, and, i can feel my center pulling outward when i'm receiving so much gratitude from folks. it makes it hard to stay centered and grounded in myself instead of my deeds.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

conneticut commune

This morning for lev (avodat lev=service of the heart, our daily group spiritual practice 6-7AM), josh took us up to a piece of property that may become the new adamah. it was dark when we started, and when we got to the top, a field nestled between woods and a skyline of mist covered berkshires, we all drifted apart to feel the morning light seep in. it felt so good to be held, contained by this space where we each had enough room for ourselves; this is so rarely the case. we were together but on our own, and it felt very healing. i can feel the group energy building into claustrophobia and fear based withdrawl: who are these people, anyway? can i trust them to hold me in my messy complexity? how can i understand this experience when i have no space to process?

its hot today, 82, feels like 85, and humid! in the sadeh (field) i had a brief virginia flash back. abby, one of the farm apprenctices, is hurting b/c of relationship difficulties. its a big theme here, many folks are looking for or struggling in a relationship. i'm reminded again that in relationship what you can bring to it is just as important as who you are.

i'm definately feeling lots of sadness, longing for deep, intimate connection (not necessarily romantic/sexual, which certainly brings its own set of challenges, esp. in a small community). i resolved this morning to sit in my inner spaciousness and give from that place, since it seems like we all need a little extra loving right now.

pad thai for lunch so i'm off.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

summer countdown

its hot again! yesterday we piled all the kids and some grownups into our 15 passenger van and drove to the mountains for a swimming hole adventure in the Shenandoah. it was so nice to get off the farm and into some nice, cool water! we stopped at the farm stand on the way (virginia ham, holloway's corn and rat cheese) for some fresh local peaches. lately my diet has been consisting of fresh corn, watermelon, cucumbers, and peaches. sky and i are going to a local you-pick blueberry place tonight, so i'll be diversifying to include blueberry pancakes and smoothies...

we (ez, sky and i) played music for awhile last night, in anticipation of the Communities Conference contra dance we'll be putting on in a couple of weeks. Ezra is all about the jazz standards these days, so we put together some "interesting" new sets.

today i'm buckling down, sorting through all of my stuff and (hopefully) getting rid of/sending home most of it. i don't like having my room overtaken by crap, so i'm gonna try andget it all done today so i can have my room back. count-down mode is taking over as my departure looms ever closer...

Monday, July 30, 2007

cool harvest

well, the belly dance hafla was quite an event! i'll try and post some photos soon. a bunch of awesome musicians came out; they set up middle eastern-style and rugs and cushions on the floor. there were a bunch of drums, and Crow who was playing oud, fiddle, guitar and a drone-box thing. i played fiddle for a while, Crow asked me to tune down a whole step since everything is in the key of C! it was so hypnotic playing that way, it felt really good. an afternoon of music interspersed with bread-baking and meditation.

but.......there was distant thunder by late afternoon, and when i finally got down to the barn at 7pm for the evening milking, the storm was starting to blow by. treating sick cow and 3 very rambunctious calves meant that the darkness and storm were closing in at herding time. it was exciting and a bit alarming to be hooking up electric fences while lightening flashed in the sky! i biked home just as it started raining.

now its monday lunchtime, we just finished a 4 hour, all harvest garden shift. giant, gorgeous rainbow chard, okra, squash, zucchini, eggplant, way too much corn, and roma tomatoes for salsa. it feels really good in all the usual cheezy sorts of ways to be doing lots of gardening, but sometimes i wish i could relax a little bit more on garden shifts. i always worry that i'm not working hard or well enough.

10 more buckets of apples appeared in the kitchen yesterday, so its good that the applesauce train is chugging on! today is thankfully grey and cool, but the rest of the week is supposed to be in the scorching 90's.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

summer sunday

sunday noon and i'm listening to "a prairie home companion" in my boyfriend sky's room. i grew up on this radio show and it has deep nostalgic resonance for me. sky and i are always arguing about the relative merits of national(istic, as he calls it) public radio. despite their increasing level of corporate sellout advertising and somewhat conservative news reporting slant, i'm a fan. npr news, not to mention the other great programming--this american life, wait, wait don't tell me (the npr news quiz show), and of course, a prairie home companion are like familiar old friends to me. listening to these shows makes me feel more connected to the larger cultural movement that i consider myself a part of--liberal/radical, artsy, and silly. living at twin oaks can certainly feel isolating sometimes and its been a real blessing to have several good npr stations here, as well as work that can fit around or include radio-listening.

speaking of work, i've got to finish dealing with the jars of applesauce we canned last night. the applesauce shift it turned out to be quite a production! apple bits covering everything, lots of steam burns, and about 30 beautiful of jars of (admittedly a bit runny) sorghum-sweetened applesauce. we got rid of 5 big buckets of apples, but there's about 13 still waiting in our walk-in fridge. we're going to do another round tomorrow night, cooking up the apples in our big tilting skillet, then running them through our very ghetto electronic apple-saucer.

this afternoon, a couple of folks are hosting a belly dance hafla, drummers and belly dancers jamming out on the grassy lawn. i'll probably drop in and play along a bit on the fiddle. after that i've got the evening milking shift, which will be a bit of a circus as we've now got 3 new baby calves that need to be hand fed--and they are some wild and vigorous babies!

Saturday, July 28, 2007

in transition

greetings.......

its been a long while since i've posted. i'm now starting my last month here at twin oaks, the 85 person income sharing commune where i've lived for the past 5-ish years.
and, i just turned 28!

big changes all around.

this morning, i got to sleep in until 7:30 AM, and then read my book for awhile (an L.M. Montgomery novel. she's the author of anne of green gables, and has a bunch of other exulting, lyrical books about passionate and impetuous young women growing up on PEI). then i cooked lunch for the community which mainly involved reheating lots of leftovers (lentil loaf, bulgar pilaf, cheesy green beans). During lunch the dairy crew met; this has been my most consistent work area during my time here. we named the new calves--this years theme is "trees", so we ended up with loblolly and devilfur.

its a hot and hazy day, though the weather's been blessedly cool of late. even today there's a tiny breeze every now and again. the watermelons have started pouring in from the garden, and our kitchen is full of tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, beans, and tiny sour apples. i've got a date with sky (my partner) tonight, and we're going to have a go at cooking up a big batch of applesauce to can for the winter.

summer is succulent.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

catching up

ok, just to play catch up a bit.........after returning from israel, i spent a week and half in nyc staying at uncle harry's. it was a pretty rough transition, coming away from great community and intense landscape to being on my own in nyc. i got very immersed in posting all the photos from the trip (photobucket.com/karmakas). sky came and visited, we spent a few days together at harry's and downtown at tegan and arrow's (nyc raver/bio-deisal kids who are twin oaks satellites
). it was great and hard. good to see him and hard to figure out where to go from here.

the day he left, i travelled up to connecticut for a weeklong "internship"at a jewish retreat center called Isabella Freedman. they have a passover retreat for older folks, 12 of us came to help supplement the year round staff in the kitchen and dining room.

from phillie

greetings from philadelphia. i'm spending the weekend visiting my friend michael, a lawyer-turned baker who is part of the extended Elat Chayyim family. he's got on underground (in all senses) organic bakery going in the basement of his co-op house here in west philly. he makes hand-milled, organic sourdough breads, runs bread making workshops, sends out weekly emails to his customers and hosts a bread-blog. its a pretty cool mission, building community through bread baking. west philly feels good, friendly, relaxed and very community oriented.

before coming here, i was in nyc soaking up the jew vibe. thursday night i hung out at a weekly jew party for religious jews on the edge, yiddish speakers, israeli's, and anyone else who feels like showing up. its called chulent, jewish stew, and folks come and hang out, talk, eat, smoke cigarettes and pot and play music all night and into the wee hours of the morning. friday i went to some very hippied out renewal services on the upper west side. the chairs were all in a circle, with the rabbi mixed in with everyone else. there was a woman in the back, doing yoga barefoot. i felt right at home, singing, dancing, and getting into that awesome state of religous/spiritual ecstacy. after, i went over to someone's house for shabbat dinner potluck, turned out they were connected with isabella freedman. most of the kids there taught at teva, a jewish enironmental education program for kids. a very laid back atmosphere with delicious food and nice folks.

Monday, April 2, 2007

ulpan trip

here' a tiny blurb about the last ulpan trip, february 28th

after the desert, i returned to Jerusalem to join the ulpan for one final tiul (trip). we met at yad v'shem , the holocaust memorial museum. all of Mt. Herzl is a remembrance to the holocaust, and the architecture of the museum itself is amazing, basically a suspended triangle that looks out over jerusalem. the museum is a long hallway with rooms on either side so that you sort of snake your way through, deeper and deeper into the horror. at the first end, there was video of pre-holocaust jews, celebrating, dancing, etc. i was very moved by seeing cross-gender dancing (a bunch of young women and men in a big circle, dancing to tunes that the VB's play!) from the early 20th century--the gender separation for dancing among religious people is pretty intense.

needless to say, the whole experience was totally overwhelming. the replica of a train car and the mini model of the body-burning set up were most striking to me. but room after room contained countless heartwrenching stories and many small objects that had been recovered or found.

for now i'm going to move on, there's more to say but its all a bit overwhelming.

from the museum, we went into the old city of jerusalem for a quick bite before entering the tunnels to go underneath the western wall. descending below street level, we walked through tunnels of ancient rock, covered up by later construction. clear windows below our feet showed through to more down below. it was pretty stunning.

Kibbutz Tzora

March 5

so--thanks to valerie, i got in touch with sol etzioni, the secretary of the international communes desk. Sol is a sweet old man who lives at kibbutz tzora. as she predicted, he was absolutely thrilled to be able to play host to a real live twin oaker, and pulled out the red carpet for me. between him and gideon (another member of tsora who did a viz period at TO), i got an incredibly extensive tour of the kibbutz. everywhere we went, he introduced me with immense pleasure and pride as "kassia, from the american kibbutz!"

the kibbutz was started by habonim (jewish zionist socialist youth movement) folks from south africa and Australia. its not religious, i found it very interesting that sol appreciated habonim for providing a way to be Jewish without being religious. there are about 300 members at tzora, and a couple hundred other folks living there. they've even built housing for people's parents, since many people wanted their parents nearby as they get older. recently, the kibbutz gave money for everyone to build a little expansion on their apartment, so there's massive construction going on everywhere.

tzora is between jersualem and tel aviv, near the town of bet shemesh. the views are beautiful of course, its in a little valley at the foot of some hills and mountains. the kibbutz went through their decentralization process a few years back, going the way of most of the other kibbutzim towards privatization. the dining hall now only makes lunch for the kibbutz, and it was a pretty sparse crowd. the facility is used mainly for cooking for other nearby establishments.

tzora has tons of businesses, now mostly privatized. there's a silk screening factory, a furniture factory, a go cart factory ("erasing the stigma of wheel chairs!"), a little zoo, a small grocery, a hair salon, a winery, a pub (open friday nights), and a dyalisis center. some of those have been around for awhile, others are recent ventures of current kibbutzniks. there's also a high school there that serves the whole area, mainly other kibbutzim.

the bureaucratic structure hasn't changed much, there are many committees of course, and there's a rotating "secretary", basically the job of planners except its only one person!! it sounds like people have a pretty similar attitude towards the position too, any little thing to complain about goes to the secretary, and then if nothing happens, more complaining ensues.

sol set up a little event in the evening, meeting with some of the kibbutz teens to chat. that was really great, it was a small group and they were all bright, interesting kids. they asked questions about TO, and i asked them about growing up at tzora. they all had very positive experiences there, and even agreed that if tzora hadn't undergone the privatizing changes, they would have liked to move back there after they finished with the military and school.

we also talked about some of the differences between the kibbutzim and TO. the biggest one in my eyes is the ideology. they were setting up these communities in order to hold the land. many were strategically placed near borders in order to hold that border and defend the country. another big difference is the kibbutz approach to kids. sol was shocked to hear that some folks at twin oaks would rather there weren’t' kids, or that the numbers be kept low. as he said, there kids are their best crop--they have amazing child programs and its just heaven for kids, there's so much to see and do. There were some sililarities too--as we walked by the piles of old computers, defunct ovens etc. in the yard of the kids’ houses, he explained about their special method of using this stuff educationally.

stay tuned (hopefully) for the holocaust museum and the western wall tunnels. and of course the madness of purim! suffice to say, when i came to israel, i never guessed i'd be standing on stage in a golem costume next to a similarlly outfitted kabbalistic rabbi.
i'll be here in tsfat for the next 3 weeks, house and pet sitting and reading harry potter.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

City and Desert





February 25

i just returned to civilization (aka Jerusalem) after 3 days in the desert. its been quite a week--last sunday my phone got crunched, and then i spent a delightful 24 hours with ezra's fantastic sister gia. she and her family are living in an artist village called ein hod, just south of Haifa on the Mediterranean coast. It was started by Dadaists 50 years ago, and you have to be an artist to be a member ( anyone can rent a house there). Its is very cute, there's interesting sculpture all around and a beautiful view of the sea. Gia totally pampered me. We ate decadent and delicious food, picked through flea market leftovers in the rain, drove through the gorgeous carmel mountains and walked on the beach. And of course gabbed our heads off non-stop!

from ein hod, i took the train to tel aviv and stayed in a hostel next to the sea, enjoying the luxury of doing my laundry, checking my email, and taking hot showers, all in the same place!!! I also frequented a lovely vegan diner, sat on the beach for hours, and got a new cell phone.

after a brief stop in Jerusalem (dahlia's house has become my home base), I traveled south on Thursday to mitzpah ramon, a small city in northern tip of the negev desert. it borders a giant canyon, called makhtesh ramon (for some reason, its translated as a crater, but its definitely concave). i stayed at the “desert eco-lodge”, a place just outside of town with little straw bale huts overlooking the canyon. It was utterly serene and silent, i think the quietest place i've ever been. the desert is very intense b/c the landscape is very beautiful and also very very still--nothing moves or appears to be living. i was so happy to move into my little straw bale hut, my first little home since the ulpan. there was little food to be found, especially on Shabbat, so Friday morning i bought some dried fruit and nuts, bread and hummus and chocolate, and lived off of that for the next few days. the "desert eco-lodge" where i stayed was right next to the desert sculpture garden, giant stoic rock sculptures that blended into the landscape. i took several hikes, trudging through the silent desert feeling tiny and insignificant, and spent the evenings reading in my little hut. the last night, i went to bed at 8 30, (having finished my book).

the desert was very intense and very beautiful, and i have to say that by the end of that intense solitude, i was starting to lose my mind a bit. (there were some other folks staying there, but the longest conversation that i had the whole time was maybe 3 minutes). All in all, I’m starting to feel worn down (and/or malnourished?). Travel on the weekends is always quite crazy; at least half of the bus passengers are soldiers, generally with their giant guns. you pretty much have to shove your way onto the bus in order to ensure a seat. there's no order of course, and the bus driver just lets the bus fill up to capacity, including standing room in the aisles. The solitary travel life is starting to wear on me and loneliness is moving in…..

Tzfat, take one




February 19

Well, this trip has been an exercise in extremes (i think i've been sort of omitting the extreme challenges when writing these messages, but i have to say that this trip has presented me with some of the biggest challenges I’ve ever faced). the latest adventure is that a bus ran over my cell phone as i was about to leave tzfat, crushing with it tons of contact info and my one easy reliable way of connecting and planning etc....in the pouring rain, i attempted not to freak out as i realized i didn't have contact info for ezra's sister, who was going to pick me up in haifa, my next stop. but all is well now, and this post really needs to be about the amazing, magical, mystical experiences i had in zfat last week.

Sunday I made my way to this 3000 year old city, perched on top of israel's 3rd highest mountain peak. The landscape it is breathtakingly gorgeous, mountains and valleys on all sides. On a clear day you can see to the Kinneret (Gallilee). there is a sort of main street where you can drive, but most of the city is winding cobblestone, alleys and very old stone buildings with very few cars. it looks out over a stunning valley and mountains to the west (amazing sunsets!). I stayed at Ascent, the Chabad run hostel at the top of the hill (chabad is a branch of chassidism that loves to recruit non-observant jews into the fold). They run a school there too, and give a10 shekel rebate for each class on Judaism attended.

pretty much upon arrival, bizarre, serendipitous and wonderful things started happening. i had one contact in town, a friend of a friend who taught at elat chayyim (the Jewish spiritual retreat center in upstate ny). he is a kabalistic artist and his wife teaches yoga.

That night in class (hey, 10 shekels is 10 shekels...) i "ran into" coco, a woman i worked with 6 years ago at elat chayyim,. we hadn't seen each other in years, and both our jaws dropped to the ground. she is a sweet, warm, kind, generous, angel of a woman and it was wonderful to see her. The class itself turned out to be mildly traumatic-- taught by a 72 year old ravingly fanatical right wing torah scribe and self professed cowboy from colorado.

But afterward, coco invited me over for tea at place. She took me in and fed me brown rice and vegatables (i'd eaten only falafal all day in my attempt to economize), and we shared our stories of the past 5 years. her new friend irene was there too, a 55 year old orthodox raised--long time atheist jewishly questioning woman. we talked about our relationships to judaism and our life paths and journeys until nearly midnight. the next morning, i went to miryam's yoga class. it was at the center for healthy living, and it turned out that i'd emailed with the guy that runs the center from his home. he invited me to join their band for their purim schpeil in early march.

when i returned to ascent, another rabbi that i didn't know asked if i was going to take his class that night. i was starting to feel a bit claustrophobic, but his open, direct gaze and kind face were hard to refuse. also, i'd heard good things about him (he started Ascent and is the director). I decided to give it a shot.

we started around 9pm, and Rabbi Leider launched into an obscure kabbalistic text about the 5 spiritual levels of visiting the grave of a tzaddik (righteous/holy man). then, to give the context for this teaching, he started to give a "brief" over view and history of kabbalah (mystical judaism). i was in heaven. this man is brilliant, learned, kind, funny, inquisitive, and very sensitive. he challenged us with good questions, (the class was just me and another jewishly questioning american woman in her mid 20s), and was very aware of our level of engagement. he drew from a full range of texts and spoke with passion and deep understanding. the hours flew by and somehow it was suddenly midnight, and my head was aching from paying such intense and close attention for so long. sensing our interest and despite his obviously insanely busy schedule, he offered to find a bit of time the next day to continue learning the text with us (the history and overview and various fascinating tangents, questions, and stories had inevitably sucked up most of the time so that we had barely gotten into the actual text that he had wanted to study). The second class was just as satisfying as the first.

that night i went to yoga class again, and stayed after for the first rehearsal of "the golems", the purim band. we played songs like "i shot mashiach (messiah)" (to the tune of i shot the sheriff), and "we're jammin/" (as in, Just As Much Moshiach, like we are all just as much moshiach.). the plot of the play is hilarious, there's an american idol-esque contest to decide who should be the next moshiach. in between classes, i wandered through tsfat's enchanting old city and artist quarter, visiting synagogues and getting lost.

zfat felt familiar and easy, and immediately comfortable. i had tapped into this really warm and wonderful community of (mostly american) hippies, artists, musicians, and kabbalists who were welcoming and generous. they reminded me alot of my parents' friends. everything just flowed easily, and before i knew it, someone had offered me to house/pet sit in their giant, beautiful home for three weeks in march. although i took a few days to really think about and weigh the decision, it felt pretty easy and organic to say yes.

tsfat has this crazy energy that everyone is always commenting on, where things just happen in this amazing flow. also, the spiritual energy there is very intense and quite palpable. its very compelling to me, and i feel very drawn to being there in the future sometime, in some way. for now though, i'm happy with three weeks in this beautiful wood paneled house with a giant bathtub, massage chair, and lemon tree out back.

Rosh Pina and Food




Today we walked around Rosh Pina, a 125 year old village settled by a group of romanians about 10 min. from the kibbutz. Many of the buildings remain from that time and/or are restored, the roads are cobblestone and it has a very old feeling to it. in the surrounding hills, you can see burnt trees hit by ketusha rockets in the (most recent) lebanon war. (ok, and of course its stunningly beautiful!).


staying with yifat's family was fun and it was nice to be fed within an inch of my life after the relative undernourishment of the previous week (i've been living on falafel and persimmons), and they were very kind and generous to me. sara (the mamale) spent the entire day saturday cooking up a giant feast for dinner!! we had: quiche, pizza (from scratch), fried eggplant, potatoes w/onion, rice, tuna salad, vegatable stir fry, and some more things i'm forgetting. and home made cream puffs for desert! it was all amazingly delicious.

sara said she'd like to visit twin oaks on her trip to the us this summer, and she even gave me her "let's go israel" book, which was huge relief now that i'm travelling on my own. by sunday, however, i felt a bit over-mameled (not to mention fat) and ready to strike out on my own. now i'm in the mystical kabbalistic city of tsfat……..more to come!

Kfar Hanasi

February 13

on Friday, i braved a packed bus up to the north to stay with a friend of a friend at kibbutz kfar hanasi. the kibbutz is near the town of Rosh Pina, in the Galilee area. the whole north is really beautiful and the kibbutz is on a hill overlooking the Golan heights, the Jordan river, and snowcapped mt. hermon, the highest peak in Israel. Needless to say, it was breathtakingly gorgeous.


kfar hanasi was started over 50 years ago by mostly british and other english speaking folks involved in habonim, the Zionist socialist youth movement. they have the usual kibbutz type industries; a large factory that makes metal fittings, some agriculture and chickens, other stuff that I’m not remembering. there are about 600 people living there now, 300 are members and the others are renting or in the army etc. the mother of my new friend had been there for a long time (30 years?), she teaches Hebrew and Yiddish and came there originally b/c she was very interested in socialism.


over the years, kfar hanasi, like the majority of kibbutzim, has had financial difficulties and as a result has become almost entirely decentralized. the dining hall used to serve 3 meals a day, now it does maybe one. most radically, income is no longer egalitarian: when you get your wages (either from working on the kibbutz or increasingly common, off the kibbutz), the money goes through the kibbutz first and a graduated percentage (like income tax) is taken off to pay for basic upkeep and services. the rest you keep! even kibbutz jobs are compensated differently now, you make a lot more if you're a manager than if you're cleaning toilets. my twin oakian ears were quite shocked to hear this!

i asked sara (the mamale) what this meant for kfar hanasi's status as a kibbutz, in the eyes of the Israeli government. she said that in the last year or so, the gov't has invented a new category of kibbutz, the "new" kibbutz. there are 270 kibbutzim all together, and about two thirds belong to this new, totally decentralized category of kibbutz. The other third are either rich enough to provide for the middle aged desires of their members or are still struggling through the (at times painful and arduous) process of decentralizing. the "new kibbutzim" basically function as progressive, communally minded villages with some shared resources.

friday night, sarah’s kids took me to the local pub (its on the kibbutz, open friday nights only). apparently its usually a quiet social setting, people chatting, drinking beer etc. mostly from the kibbutz. but that night it was PACKED with young folks in the army who were staying at various kibbutzim in the area. it was quite a scene.

Jerusalem




February 13

after leaving kibbutz beerot yithak, i spent a very refreshingly secular weekend in jerusalem with my friend dahlia and her husband menny. they are very sweet, hippy, secular folks (dahlia and I met at elat chayyim, the Jewish retreat center in 2001).

dahlia is 7 months pregnant! and works for a social service agency studying poverty in israel, menny is a sweet and dorky math grad student at hebrew u, he's very musically inclined and has a stuffed turtle named tsavvy (tsav is Hebrew for turtle). we spent the weekend cooking yummy food and hanging out with the near continuous stream of friends who stopped. it was nice to chill and play music, sing, talk, read, and just kick back....in a pleasant and relaxing environment. And, it was nice to see a side of Israeli culture that i could relate to more directly.

after the weekend i spent several relatively uneventful days back in tel aviv with gershon. i saw his klezmer band play again, this time a more formal show in the performance space at a bar. it definitely felt a bit weird, this music is so essentially jewish but it had the feel of some far away culture, like we were watching Australian aboriginal music or something. on Tuesday I met up with the ulpan again for a guided tour of the Diaspora museum. the message that I took away loud and clear was that the jews have been persecuted constantly and consistently over the years, and we all have a duty to help build the land of Israel. yee haw. i did enjoy having more in-depth discussions about the history, though I was left with a strong desire to understand Jewish history in the context of all other groups of people that have been persecuted over the years...

afterward we went to this GIANT mall downtown, and were set loose with the task of compiling a list of reasons why this mall was a jewish mall. (!!)

i left my ulpan friends after that and spent the rest of the week back in Jerusalem, mostly wandering around in the old city getting lost in the maze of alleys and winding little streets. its stunningly beautiful and nearly impossible to navigate, so wandering and getting lost is pretty much unavoidable. there’s a huge Arab shook (open market) in the middle, very hectic w/ folk selling everything from baklava to scarves to whole pigs. i managed to get lost in the arab quarter, and kept accidentally wandering into people's private home areas. one guy finally invited me in for coffee. his wife and new baby were inside watching a bizarre Jordanian "sitcom"/drama show, which was fascinating—it featured fully religious garb etc. but was also very dramatic. we had a hard time communicating between my horrible Hebrew and total lack of Arabic...but they gave me coffee and offered me cigarettes, makeup, and read hair dye (?!) . we sort of "chatted" for a while, the baby was absolutely adorable and I got to hold him for a while. The couple was very sweet and invited me back anytime.

i also went on the rooftop of one of the hostels, and its was quite spectacular to look out over the whole city and hear the Muslim call to prayer echoing from all sides, drinking sweet mint tea from the shook.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

off to jerusalem

getting ready to blast outa this popsicle stand............today was my last day, and it was totally hectic. forget about the calm transition/ending. pure israeli style i guess.

i'm all packed and ready to go, my roommates (and half the ulpan) are gone tonight so its pretty quiet. the transitions are always the hardest part, so hopefully this will go smoothly.

tomorrow i go to stay with dahlia and her partner for the weekend. i haven't seen her or been in touch for about 5 years. we worked together at elat chayyim, the jewish renewal spiritual retreat center my first post-college summer. now she's married and pregnant. i guess that's what happens.......

kibbutz update





i've now been here at kibbutz be'erot yitzhak for about a week and a half, and the time is flying by! its a very rigorous schedule, i wake up at 6am to meditate (self-inflicted), and then have hebrew class from 7 30-11am. lunch is at 11 30, and then i work in the dish room until 3pm (kind of like a 3 hour k shift), meditate again and then do homework, evening activities, etc. its exhausting at times, but i'm enjoying the intensity and also enjoying have a little niche and friends around.

i'm learning more about the "olim chadashim" or new immigrants, ie those of our group who have made aliya and moved to israel. many are of them are young, moderately but not extremely religious people. they've come for lots of reasons, but my general sense is that they come because israel is a fun and interesting place with folks from all over the world, and lots of jews. the majority are only moderately religous, and come from families that are pretty secular. there also many russians who move here, basically because life here is so much better than in russia. i've heard that at this point, there are so many russians that you can pretty much live here and get by only speaking russian. lots of them have friends and family that have already come, making it an easy transition. most of them have little to no prior exposure to judaism, and they adopt varying levels of religiousity once they are here.

there's also the fact that when you make aliyah, the state of israel gives you tons of benefits--these include: a free ulpan (5 month course of hebrew study), free housing for a year, unemployment $$, and other kinds of support. of course, you have to prove that you're jewish. for converts, they only accept orthodox conversion. there are also folks who come because they want to be in the army, (one guy actually told me that he wanted to be in the army so he could kill terrorists). there are a handful of folks who are in the army that live here in the kibbutz. a

army service is required of everyone, 3 years if you're an israeli, 2 if you're an immigrant. religious girls can choose to do national service instead, which is like 2 years of social service work, like working in an orphanage or on an ulpan. when you're in the army, they will pay for you to live cheaply somewhere, or they'll pay for you to live on a kibbutz, which has obvious benefits (community, meals, etc). there are all kinds of jobs in the army, and some of them seem interesting and even compelling.

as i spend more time on the kibbutz, some of the more disturbing aspects are starting to come out, for instance, all of the elder care and field work is done by Thai immigrants. apparently this is common practice in israel, particularly for the elder care. also, the environmental standards are somewhat dismaying. there's no food or mulch composting at all, despite the fact that they have a giant chicken house for the sandwhich business as well as pumpkin and sunflower fields. there's tons of waste, food, water, etc. and little awareness around it.

i've heard that all kibbutzim are privatizing, but the religous kibbutzim are doing it more slowly and this one even more slowly then the rest. still, its quite privatized to my twin oakian eyes. people come by the kitchen on friday afternoon to pick up their shabbos food (the cooks are outsourced, too, none of them are kibbutzniks) and most people celebrate shabbos in their house with their family. people now pay for electricity and laundry, which didn't use to be true. the kids program is still strong, but kids live with their families now and spend only their days in the kids program.

still, it has a familiar communal feel although most kibbutzniks are decidedly unfriendly there are definately some very sweet folks around. i'm enjoying my ulpan experience--its nice to have a rythm and schedule to my days, and of course i'm totally psyched to be back in school and have homework every day. my american roommate insisted on having the palestine/israel political conversation with me, so that was interesting and intense. as far as that goes, i find myself flinching with some frequency at jokes and comments that people make about arabs, but i've also been pleasantly surprised at the couple of in-depth conversations i've had with some more thoughtful and informed folks.

my sense from what people say is that most israelis think that there should be a palestinian state, so that's comforting. i'm not hiding the fact that my dad is iranian, and that certainly gets some interesting reactions. and yes harry, it was morris and not i who turned red when we met. poor morris, it took him three tries to get his plastic apron tied on right in the kitchen (first tied all up in front, then in back like a cape. finally, the cooks took pity on him and get him straightened out).

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

count down to FREEDOM!






hello my electronic friends,

tomorrow is my last day on the kibbutz, and i'm pretty psyched about it. its been a great jumping off point for this journey, but the other night i went into telaviv (to "practice" with gershon), and it was such a relief to be on my own without pesky parental figures constantly telling me what to do and nagging me about how i did it all wrong. and, its a little bit sad, leaving my first little nest here in israel.

today we had a tiul (trip) to jerusalem. i got to see alot of the country side, which was very beautiful. we also saw spectacular stalagmites/stalagtites in a cave near jersulam. hopefully i'll figure out how to post photos soon..........the active ones were so lucscious and sensual, i'm excited to make sketches from the photos. the most active wall is called the honey wall, and it is sweet and delicious.

in the afternoon, we met up with a bunch of other ulpanim from all over the country for a fancy lunch, open mike, and then a dance party! i got to hack with some dorkyhipster guys from kibbuts yavneh (they asked i was french), i was so grateful for my twin oaks hack-training cuz i could actually hold my own yee haw.
and the dance party was so so great--it felt so good to just cut loose and dance hard, fully express. and one of the hackboys asked me for my number, even after i told him he was way to young (19) and that i have a boyfriend. it was sweet though, and above all it felt really good to be grounded in my self and self expression. i even played a little song in the open mic--

playing music and dancing are the 2 things that make me feel most alive and most ME.

aright, i gotta meditate cuz i missed my afternoon sitting..............

Friday, January 26, 2007

finally levelling out

just a quick pre-shabbat post to say, that things are finally clearing up and levelling out, thank g-d.

its hard, i haven't had my heart broken since i was 14 years old, but its good. i think its a good pain.

and it feels right if hard.

shabbat shalom

Thursday, January 25, 2007

trauma and drama

tuesday night gersh came here to play a concert for the ulpan, and it was all i could do to keep from throwing him on the bed the second he arrived. it felt so good to be seen and loved again, to have that instant wordless understanding. and playing music together is so intense and erotic...

i feel torn in half.

i'm afraid though, of what i'm doing to sky and more what i'm doing to G. why does it feel so compelling and important to me to connect with him? it is deeply painful, this whole process.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

roller coaster

the roller coaster continues and today i am down down down in the dumps.

yesterday we were supposed to go to jerusalem, but it fell through/was too complicated. there was lots of entertainment around here though as drama abounded between the psycho bougie frenchie and psycho ukrainian hairdresser, ( i guess its boy related), then frenchie had a panic/asthma attack later in the night. its all kind of amusing.

today, i'm exhausted and in pain, physical and emotional. i feel totally alone--the girl i feel closest to here is morally opposed to polyamory/poly families, which makes me feel so warm and open. gershon has abandoned me again, and my stomach hurts from eating weird/bad food. i'm tired. i'm lonely. i'm sad.

such is life.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

so, nu...

sunday today, and things are feeling more balanced. or at least, i am feeling more balanced. there's a lot to say about shabbat and my feelings about judaism here on the kibbutz, etc, also a lively political debate re: the palestine israeli conflict but i'll save those for the mass email.

on the emotional side, things are feeling a bit more stable. sky and i talked last night, here's a snippet from his last email...
I've been having a hard time lately and I've been putting it on you, 
but it's just me. It's interesting to notice how easy it is to blame you,
the community, etc. as causing me to feel bad. Looking at it,
I see that I feel bad because of my own fears and insecurities.

I need to start making some serious shifts in my life. I'm sure there
are things I could be doing differently that would support me to shift
out of that negative self-msging and be more active and engaged in
life. So, I'm going to do a better job of taking responsibility for myself,
and feel free to call me on it if you notice me doing otherwise.
so that feels good-(what a good guy, eh? definately a keeper)

i still don't really understand what's going on with gershon (g, would you care to enlighten me?), although it seems that we are going to play a concert here on tuesday night. i feel pretty drained in that department, and not up for more intense ups and downs. hopefully it can just be mellow and good. its a bit scary and sad, too, because although i've met some really sweet people here on the ulpan, i miss the intimacy of a deep soul connection, and have been looking forward to seeing Gersh again for that reason. oh well.

this post is feeling a bit glum, perhaps because its a cold and rainy day. but class is great (i'm a total brown-nosing suck up), and i got out of kitchen duty today in proper israeli style. (when it was time to report to work, i just marched up to the main dishwasher lady and said, i want to work with you. then i stood their and refused to take no for an answer).

i met a very sweet x-uplanista last night, from eugene oregon. he's the first army guy i've met whose totally unthrilled about it. we had good philosophical/spiritual conversations, standing outside and watching the lightening. my brain was doing its normal thing of working hard to make it all mean something in the romantic/sexual realm. that pattern is like a tick with the super hard exoskeleton, so that when you try to squish it and it just won't die.

at work i thought about/remembered dancing with sky and nearly creamed my shorts. i am a nun.

Friday, January 19, 2007

struggling

wow. i think i've been starting alot of my posts that way....but its these intense ups and downs! today i had an intensely sucky experience on my kitchen work shift--basically, the 4 head cooks are total assholes and will randomly be mean to whomever they want. and of course, they won't let me do anything because i'm a girl, and also yell at me for not doing anything (grr!!). i did my best to yell back, but its tough to keep a prickly exterior for 4 hours straight (with no break), and half the time i was fighting back tears of anger and frustration. so many barriers to communication--language and culture being the two biggest.

it doesn't help that sky is feeling hurt and wants to cut off contact with me again; he's done this twice before when i was off travelling and it became too painful to hear about my sexual exploits (not that he wasn't having them too). mainly i'm just feeling emotionally exhausted from all the ups and downs and back and forths in all aspects of my life. today i thought, it wouldn't be the end of the world if sky dumped me. though i don't want him to of course. but, i don't feel like getting worked up and attached, i'm just tired.

shabbat starts in a couple of hours, the buchbuts (my morroccan saviours) apparently called esther (the head of the ulpan) to invite me over for shabbat. she told them that i couldn't go this week b/c we'll be all together here.

tomorrow night i've been assigned to the 3 hour post-shabbat dish duty--my goodness, it would be easy to sink into a deep morass of self-pity and moping! the truth is that my roommate miryam was on the last ulpan and is a great support person, and some weird sadistic part of me feels up to the challenge of this stupid kitchen job. everyone keeps telling me, you can't take it personally, there just mean assholes to everyone, its not special to you. its something i really struggle with, and of course it was so hard and miserable because i was totally taking everything personally. i just don't know how to be in that kind of environment in a healthy way--putting up a prickly wall or just breaking down and being a mush are both unappealing options. i guess the trick is to let it in and out the other side, like tong lin. just take in all their negativity and release it immediately without touching anything inside. somehow i have a feeling that its easier said then done. but maybe (!??!) it will be a good practice for me.

in the meantime, no work (or travel or music playing or internet or telephone) for 24 hours. if you're reading this, please send me some kind and supportive thoughts, i think i'm going to need them.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

kibbutzing along



(this is from yesterday)
day 4 on the kibbutz, and i'm finally starting to feel a bit settled. i've also finally found some answers to my many questions about this kibbutz, here's what i've learned so far.

Kibbutz Beerot Yitzhak is about 50 years old, it is religous, which means that it is shomer shabbat, observant of shabbat, also men must cover their head and women can't wear tank tops. it also means that the family is the basic unit. there's probably more but i'm not sure what...its pretty laid back as far as religiosity. the main industries are packaging sandwhiches (like for selling in gas stations or at large, catered events), milk and dairy products (which are also for kibbutz consumption) and coating pipes with some kind of metallic coat. there's also a spice factory and a grocery store here that they used to own. as you probably already know, this kibbutz like most others is moving more and more towards greater privatization, hence the selling off of businesses. there are folks who resist this and folks who are pushing for it, but as esther (ulpan manager) said, its ultimately inevitable.

30 percent of the kibbutzniks work outside, and 70 percent work on the kibbutz, in one of the industries (or domestic stuff, i think). there's a daily "quota", everyone works at least 6.5 hours/day. on shabbat, no one works. hours are 7 30am -4pm generally, but managers, etc often work much more then this. there is no compensation for overtime. everyone gets a budget from the kibbutz for things like clothes, food, travel, personal needs etc. larger expenses like medical and dental are covered by the kibbutz. folks eat breakfast and lunch together in the main dining hall, dinner they eat in their houses. i think the only food production is the dairy. also, apparently it is quite difficult to join--you must be deemed a very good fit by the kibbutz members, which is difficult to do.

i also found out more about the ulpan, basically they are programs run through many kibbutzim but also in cities, a 5 month course of intensive hebrew study. if you make aliya (if you are jewish and move to israel), you are guaranteed 1 free ulpan, to help with "absorption" as they call it (they don't like to say assimilation). so, many of my fellow ulpanistas have recently made aliya. which is another whole fascinating topic--the demographic of the ulpanistas. i feel like i'm in sociologist/anthropologist heaven here--everyone has a different, fascinating story of how they got here and what they are doing here. the standard first question is, did you make aliyah? if the answer is no, then this means that you are a tourist. that's me of course.

i want to interject a brief note about the kibbutz/ulpan relationship--for you oakers, its very much like the member/visitor relationship. some kibbutzniks are warm and open and friendly, and some are rude and closed off and don't want outsiders on the kibbutz. sound familiar?

i've been pretty much interrogating everyone i meet that made aliyah, asking them why and how they came to decide this. the most interesting to me is a guy from south africa who will do the ulpan for 1 month, and then join the israeli army. he hasn't made aliya, he just wants to join the army for a couple of years and then return to S. africa. we also have 2 brazilians, a swede, a bellarussian, siberian, ukrainian, a canadian, several virginians, 2 frenchies... and morris from long island. morris is about the dorkiest person i've ever met--when i met him, he turned bright red and looked like he was going to pee his pants with excitement. endearing. morris is from long island, of course.

all together we are about 25. so far, the kibbutz feels very cold and regimented. luckily, a friend put me in touch with his moroccan/jewish family who randomly happen to live in a tiny villiage that is a 2 minute walk through the neighboring fields. i walked over there yesterday, and just asked around til i found the house. it was such a beautiful experience. the mother welcomed me in with open arms (oh! you are girlfriend of my little doodle!!) and forced me to eat a giant plate of absolutely delcious food--very welcome after the oily and mass produced kibbutz fare. she is a gourmet cook and was in the middle of making guava jam and donughts for a neighbor. her son was there too, as well as the father and an adorable little neice. it was such a welcome experience after the cold impersonality of the kibburtz. they were warm and open and welcoming, and very real and sincere, too. the son had me in stiches with tales of all the hijinks they used to pull on the kibbutz as kids- sneaking in to swim in the pool at night, letting all the chickens out, driving the tractor around........they sent me off with a giant bag of homemade gourmet cookies, a jar of guava jam, and invited me back anytime. tomorrow we start regular class/work schedule. apparantly its very fast paced, but i feel ready to jump in.

flowing

wow, lots of stuff stirring. i can feel the flow kicking in and carrying me along. today was the first day of class, i LOVE being back in school, even in this little way. we have 3 hours of class in the morning, then a half hour for lunch. i worked in the kitchen in the afternoon, also trying hard to use my hebrew as much as possible.

i feel very excited about all of the possibilities opening up, but mostly just the relief of touching back into the deep inner knowing that i can just let go and let the tide of life take me.

gersh and i are starting to plan the piroski world tour 2007, i'm so glad to be back in touch with him and continuously amazed at the way our friendship continues to deepen and open outward. i forgot that he reads this blog, after reading the last entry about our time together, he wrote to me "I red [sic] your blog and understood many things much better after reading
the pure description of your feelings and thoughts, not affected by any
circumstences in the same time."

i also got a beautiful email from a budding friend (can you say that? the friendship is budding, anyway. and she is like a rose bud...) at twin oaks, i'm excited to be having all of these lovely correspondances.

sky and i talked this afternoon, our first real conversation since i arrived here. i totally dominated the conversation, high on the adrenalin from the first day of work and class, and just the good vibes from feeling settled and connected. he did talk a bit about about the weird family dynamic (his co-parents and their feelings about me). its a pretty annoying situation, he pretty much summed it up by saying that they don't regard me as peers. here, so far away from it all, it feels petty and meaningless. i hope i'm able to integrate the intense growth that i feel happening here when i return to the states.

Monday, January 15, 2007

the dirt

well, the last two posts were versions of messages from my mass email list, with the emotional turmoil neatly ommitted.

so here's the undercurrent of intensity that's going down:

basically, this gershon thing is utter madness. but also awesome. pretty inexplicable, really. we met at klez kanada, and saw each other again at klez kamp...hung out alot and there was a little spark which became an all consuming blowtorch of love, for him.  i've been sorta on the fence,  we had a nice connection at klez kamp, and i
 wasn't sure what would happen when i came here, until

the night before leaving for israel, sky and i made the huge, unprecedented decision to be...........MONOGOMOUS while i'm in israel! yes, the poly king and ms. fear of closed relationships, voluntarily attaching the chains...no seriously, it was actually inspired by an amazing conversation that i had with my sister that same night, and it feels totally good and right and amazing.  i love sky so much, and am really excited about being with him in a way that 
i haven't felt about anyone (for this long, anyway--the two week flame is my specialty).  so it feels great
to limit myself out of this desire for a big deep commitment.

and, for gershon, its total torture. i think the crux of it is that russian passion and emotions burn deeply and intensely, and seem to be all consuming. so, basically we've been kind of fighting the whole time. me fighting to get him to LET GO, and him fighting to hold on to his pain.

last night was madness, i had a phone date with sky, and then gersh came home, and after sulking for a few minutes, he told me to tell sky that i was fine, and to get off the phone. which left me feeling utterly unraged and powerless. we ended up having kind of an ugly fight, and then about 2 hours of talking and processing, perhaps the most intense of my life. this is after 2 days filled with emotional ups and downs and processing, and about 5 hours of sleep. at the end, he asked if we could cuddle platonically just to help get to a good place. i agreed, and it was nice, and then we went to sleep (at 1 30) in our respective bed/couch.

great.

until, 7am, me still half asleep, he crawls into bed (couch)with me! after going over and over and over all of this shit so many times. so then, (after i meditated) we had another huge fight, its just so hard and ugly.

and it sucks, because i really do like him--he's funny and kind and generous, and appreciative...........and CRAZY!!!!!!!!!!! i can't figure out how to create a friendship.  maybe i need
to just give up and go away for awhile...

its good that we are apart now, i'l be here for 3 weeks.  and i don't know what will happen--more importantly, i'm feeling pretty stuck around how to approach this relationship. its f'n exhausting! somtimes it feels worth it and sometimes i'm just sick to death of explaining the same sh@t over and over.

any advice/insight would be much appreciated.......posted here or directly to karmakas@yahoo.com.

i miss sky.

kibbutz arrival




amazingly, i last wrote a mere 24 hours ago. somehow, i feel like i've already lived through lifetimes here.

yesterday (!) was a fun day, it felt great to finally be out on my own in the city, getting lost and figuring things out. The university of tel aviv has a large, beautiful campus, lots of green and trees, with the city scape in the background. The diaspora museum is 3 floors, with tons of interesting exhibits about all aspects of jewish life (community, family, study, etc), and the whole 3rd floor is dedicated to the various exodusus (exodi?). unfortunately i got there only an hour before closing, so i plan on returning when i'm back in tel aviv, with a note book and sketch pad. i promise a fuller report........

after that, i took the bus back to Jaffa--in my attempt to find old Jaffo, i managed to get myself completely lost, and ended up just wandering around neighborhoods for a good while, which was quite fun. people kept telling me to turn right, but the streets were all windy so i just meandered around. eventually, some people sent me in the right direction and i found my way back to the old section, it so magical and beautiful there! there's one giant castle-like building that used to be a lebanese synagogue and now is a museum and art shops, i wandered in the alleys and nooks for awhile, taking pictures. when it was time to go back, i got lost again! i think this is going to be a major theme.

This morning, i got up early, packed up my stuff, and took 2 busses to a religous kibbutz, beerot yitzhak north of tel aviv. when i arrived, it became clear what a huge exception they are making for me--the program is 5 months and $2000, its crazy to come only for 3 weeks. but, thanks to the gershon connection, they are just going to ignore all the beaurocracy and let me do it (!!). i feel pretty lucky.

so far, its a bit intimidating but also amazing to finally be on a kibbutz! i have so many questions and curiosities. The ulpan is a 5 month program of work and study that happens here, it seems to be fairly separate from the rest of the kibbutz. i'm staying in a little hut like cabin with 2 other girls that i haven't met yet, one french and one american. apparently there are 3 others from virginia, oh goody. there will be 25-39 of us altogether. most are russian.

after lunch i managed to get completely lost again, but it was so fascinating, just wandering around on my own! there seems to be some industry, also i came across giant fields of some crop and a cattle area (!). mostly its like a giant neighborhood, little sidewalks connecting the houses together. 400 people live here, 80 families. the houses are mostly stucco, very cute with lawn furniture and ornaments made from leftover industrial materials. there are a few kid houses/schools (like i said, many many unanswered questions), a big group dining hall and the ulpan section, offices and little cabins. beyond the borders there are mountains--its like a little villiage oasis, very green and pretty and it smells like chickens.

i'm very excited to be here after spending the last three years describing my home as a "secular kibbutz". it totally warmed my heart to see the cute old people in the dining room--there seem to be lots of young folks here too.

the schedule is going to be quite rigorous--4 hours of work in the morning, 4 hours of class in the afternoon. and i'm not entirely clear about the religious observance requirements...

arrival and madness

greetings from the holy land!

i arrived friday here afternoon, severly jet lagged and still recovering from the rude reclamation of my toothpaste by the fascist german customs
agents (i'd been awake for too many hours, and yes i cried in the bathroom for 5 minutes while enjoying my final fennel-licous dental moment).

an hour after my arrival here in tel aviv, gershon (russian/israeli friend from klez kanada, religious jew from a West Bank settlement, klezmer bassist and violinist, and all around crazy guy) dragged me to a chabad (religious jewish organization) shabbat dinner at the university--i was still having to remind myself what country i was in and prop my eye lids open, but it was fun and crazed and festive--the rabbi was getting drunk on cheap vodka and pouring shots for everyone (gershon sniffed his cup, and said to me "i don't drink fuel"), there was lots of singing and table pounding and food and general merryment.

Saturday, we walked to the (mediterranean) sea and went swimming in our underwear (despite the cool, breezy tempurature), then went back to chabad for shabbos lunch and more vodka-induced merriment. gershon had a dramatic emotional breakdown which included telling me that i couldn't stay with him, but thankfully that has now passed.

after shabbos ended, we took a bus to Jaffa (pronounced YA-fo), a very old city in the south that is now part of tel aviv. its about 3000 years old and is mentioned in the bible, very beautiful with castle-like buildings, winding alleys and tons of weird, wirey cats meandering around. afterward, we walked about a million miles to a bar back in the city where gershon's band, Oy Division, was playing...(traditional klez with accordian, bass, violin and clarinet). unfortunately i accidentally drank some caffinated tea when we went to a friends house to get blankets, so i was up until about 2 am...

This morning, gershon woke me up by sitting on me at 7am, but then we had the best breakfast ever--scary instant coffee, avacado on bagels, grapes and bananas. delicious!

then we started putting together a set for our new band, "in the russian style," which will be coming to a kibbutz/moshav near YOU sometime soon. the name has a funny story which probably won't translate over email, so i'll save you the grief...save to say that it is cause for much hilarity. (sidenote: according to gersh, russian is the only language in which you can conduct in depth analytical conversations about literature, politics, art, etc., using only curses).

also i found out today that tomorrow i'll go to a religious kibbutz in the center of israel for an ulpan, hebrew study and working on the kibbutz. the course is 5 months long, but i'll stay for 3 weeks. gershon lived on this kibbutz for 4 years, and the people that run it love him and anything he touches, so apparently the $2000 fee will be greatly reduced!?!? it's all happening very fast, but everyone concerned has repeatedly assured me that all will be fine, so i'm doing my best to take them at their word and go with the flow.

today gershon left for philharmonic choir rehearsal, so it is my day to explore the city on my own before leaving tomorrow. i'm writing this email from tel aviv university, after, i'll go visit the jewish diaspora museum (also here on campus, and apparently home to a music library with a giant collection of klezmer music), then take a bus to jaffa to explore some more. tonight, we'll have more band practice, and presumably sleep at some point (that seems to figure in last...).

Monday, January 8, 2007

down in NYC

well, i still haven't written about klez kamp and new years at TO, but for now i'm just going to write about today. I'm in NYC now, staying with and working for my uncle, and preparing to leave the country on Thursday (!). It's been feeling pretty hard being apart from Sky (my partner). we've recently solidified our partnership and this is the longest that we'll have been apart (3 month). its definately weird to finally feel like i found the person that i want to BE with, at least for a good long while, and then immediately leave for international travels.

That said, i'm definately looking forward to being in Israel. I've always loved spending time outside the US, and i really enjoy immersing myself in a different culture. I've been studying a bit of hebrew, the language is beautiful and i love the feel of it in my mouth. i feel ready for a good adventure and a totally new experience.

my time here in ny is being pretty mellow--taking care of logistical things, hanging out with my uncle and cousin, sleeping in......the other day i tried my hand at busking on the subway, inside of the moving car; it was very interesting and gratifying. doing it that way, you're really right in people's space, so i tried hard to be sensitive. on the whole, folks were very appreciative and generous. (it was my most lucrative busking experience yet). generally feeling calm and sad, emotionally tired and emptying out in preparation for what's to come.

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Meditation Course

Things have gotten busy so I haven’t posted in a while. I’m going to try and catch up in small spurts. Right after my last posting, my partner Sky Blue and I (yes, that’s his given birth name) drove the trusty band van up to Boston. We spent the night at a co-op there, two houses with a large garage and a garden/lot in Jamaica Plain. The main house was totally amazing and beautiful—3 floors, each with a kitchen, bathroom and bedrooms. The place was full of amazing art work, interesting reading material, and very sweet folks. It was super late by the time we got there but our host still cooked us up some spaghetti and a few of us sat around chatting late into the night about music versus speech as a form of communication, the importance of urban communities and the state of the world.

Tuesday morning we drove to Shelburne Falls, MA to begin a 10 day meditation course taught be Master Goenka, a Burmese businessman who has started Vipassana meditation centers all over the US and the world (dhamma.org). I was definitely feeling nervous and resistant, and it didn’t help when they commandeered my violin upon arrival and sent me back to the car to deposit any books, paper, pens, or pencils. I’ve sat long, silent meditation courses before, but this was my first time at this more rigid center. Despite my resistance and fears, that evening, I resolved to submit to this new and different technique and give it a full and fair chance.

The basic technique is to sit and pay attention to the breath as it goes in and out of your nose, then after developing concentration for 3 and half days, the instruction shifts to doing scan of the body, feeling any sensations that arise on each body part and noticing the sensations with equinimity. Sounds simple enough, but try doing this for 10 days straight….It was quite a challenge. But, I’ve been practicing some form of Vipassana meditation for nearly 3 years now, and I felt ready for the challenge. The intensity and simplicity of the technique allowed me to go much deeper into the silence, into myself, and into the sheer physicality of my being than in my previous experiences. I had a number of breakthroughs around things that I’ve struggled with, and I also found it very satisfying to use my mind to explore my body in this way. I even came to some large life conclusions/decisions, namely:

--When I’m done traveling and exploring, I want to move to a medium sized city on the west coast, live in a coop house and go to massage school.

and

--I want to keep being involved with Sky in a big way

Some of the deeper physical/emotional work that happened was around my relationship to my sexuality, which has been a point of growth and struggle for many years. This time it was around the ways that I still rely on my sexuality, (namely being attractive to men and sleeping with them) as a self-esteem booster. I began realizing that this manifests itself in a lot of the small and subtle in which I interact with men, even those I’m just meeting casually for the first time. I came away with some resolve to shift this, and work towards interacting with all people from a stronger and more independent, self-loving place.

So much intense emotional work, of course I was totally antsy to talk and reconnect with Sky after those 10 days! We finally got to see each other on the 10th day, though we were still prohibited from touching. It was very intense, we were both quite giddy and nervous after all that time quieting our energy. Of course, we ended up having the Big Relationship Processing conversation right away (I couldn’t wait a moment longer), but it was pretty quick and painless. Sky has been very interested in moving to the West Coast, as well, and we also about what it meant to be more committed primary partners. It felt so good to be with him and talk with him after 10 days of one sided conversations in my head.

more to come soon...........!