Miracles & Wonder

I stood in the middle of the happy chaos that is Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok just looking around. And I thought: is this real? Did I really do this? By myself? Am I really in Southeast Asia? And yes I was. The wonder of it was just that. Although the place itself revealed many wonders throughout my trip (more on that another time), the miracle was that I had actually done it.

So I dragged my suitcase around until I found the area, thanks to some good instructions, where most tour operators waited for their charges. This, of course with a slightly travel addled brain – roughly 25 hours of travel. Fortunately at this point my suitcase was lighter than it would later be. After three walks up and back the outside sidewalk of the terminal I found an official looking person and said “Bamboo?” (The name of my tour company.) And I was directed to the correct corral where I met a driver and was bused off to the hotel.

The details of hotel and food and group are for another discussion. What matters here is courage. I find that if I think too much, I will not take a risk. I heard about this tour company, looked them up, saw this tour and immediately sent a deposit. Why? You might ask. Not sure, just that it sounded amazing and like something I had never done, would never do. So this trip became my post retirement gift/adventure.

After a ridiculously long time of taking care of other people both personally and professionally, I did not know if I would have the courage to follow through with this plan. But I made a commitment to myself and by God I was going to follow through and just not think too much.

The funny thing is, just after returning home I was offered an opportunity for another trip, life altering in a very different way. And because of this adventure, I said yes without thinking for even a moment. Something I never would have done in a previous phase of life.

The payoff, for not thinking too much, was a life altering trip. A journey of body and spirit that was entirely unexpected in many ways. I was the oldest in my group by a decade or so but mostly found myself “keeping up”. I roomed with a stranger and spent nights in a bunkhouse in the jungle with a group of strangers. I was blessed by Buddhist monks and prayed in their temples. I was of service in many ways and was served up gratitude and smiles all along the way.

In the mountains outside of Changmai they grow wildflowers for commercial purposes, acres and acres of them, and they grow strawberries. Because the strawberries are allowed to ripen fully in the sun on the vine they are almost unbelievably sweet. Something we rarely experience in this country where everything is picked early, stored in cold and shipped long distances. I purchased there a box of natural, pure, unsweetened dried strawberries. They are in my refrigerator still and every so often I take one, close my eyes, and savor the taste of courage.

Really, We Are All The Same

 

Nitzavim – You stand this day, all of you, before the Eternal your G-d.  And it means everyone, from the lowliest to the highest and all those in between.  I love this, it makes everyone equal, it makes all of us the same, at least within the house of Israel.

As always, there is a two edged sword, a little threat with the promise.  Even as Moses tells the people that G-d will not forsake them, he does tell them there will be punishment if they are idolatrous.  There can never just be a promise, but that is another story.

As we are nearing the end of the story, as the generations are looking to the promised land, as the people have become a people, this leveling happens.  Community is a process, in this case forged over many trials, travels and tribulations. Today as well, community building is a process, a labor of love and work.  And in that work, we become equal. Although teams have leaders, good teams work on a level playing field no matter the assigned or adopted task of each team member.

In our current world we have forgotten what team is.  We have forgotten what community building means, from the lowliest to the highest, it takes us all.  Someone needs to adopt, or volunteer, for every task no matter what it is.  In this way society works and all the jobs are accomplished, the rewards are reaped by everyone in some proportional way.  We seek these days to eliminate those that would do the tasks we do not wish to do but have no plan as to how those tasks will be done. Nor do we wish to pay for those tasks in a way commensurate with the necessity for the work.

So to, in families. That community needs to be built as well. All the tasks need to be accomplished and some agreement needs to be reached as to who will accomplish them and how they will be accomplished.  Respect, trust, equality, fairness, love, sympathy, empathy and faith.  All are necessary to the task of building community.

So in Nitzavim we are told we are all equal, and in standing equal we will all be rewarded. The reward of course is figurative for us, we won’t all be entering the promised land. The reward is the community, the respect, trust, equality, fairness, love, sympathy, empathy and faith.  And as we approach, in mere days, these most holy of days in the Jewish calendar, we indeed stand equal before G-d and one another . There is still time to correct what needs correcting and return to those values of community building. And one more, most important of all, forgiveness.

Expiration Dates ~ It’s a Mystery

 

Something I think is one of the great mysteries of life, and there are many, is how does water have an expiration date. What is it the producers of bottled water aren’t telling us?  Are they adding something that goes bad? Do the plastic bottles start emitting toxins after a specified period of time?

I have been warned but nevertheless have drunk tap/well/town pump water from Mexico to the Greek islands to rural upstate New York and have never suffered any toxic effects.  And I cannot honestly say that I have a particularly stout digestive system. But I have shared water bottles with dogs and cups of water with my cats. I have broken one of the cardinal rules of the new age and refilled  disposable water bottles.

There is a whole other issue surrounding expiration dates and that is the “sell by” date or “best by” date.  There are those that subscribe to the idea that once that date comes around, boom! Use or dispose.  Then there are those that say well, that is just a “sell by” and doesn’t mean that you can’t use the item ad infinitum. I have no idea which is true but the quqestion is for another day

So, I repeat, how can this life giving substance, found all over the planet for millenia have an expiration date? Perhaps we should give up the bottled water habit for this and many other reasons, not to mention the number of plastic bottles in landfills, along with plastic grocery sacks and disposable diapers. But as usual, I digress.

And while our government is dismantling decades of environmental protection  rules and regulations, we must still do our part. If everyone recycled their trash, there wouldn’t be much.  It is like voting, everyone has a little part of the whole.  So take your reusable bags to the grocery store, don’t leave them in the car – get some extra steps in and go back for them. Buy a filter for your tap water and get a good refillable “cold” bottle to take your water to work, gym, wherever. Recycle everything your town or county will take. And remember, the only important expiration date I am aware of for water is the one humans are creating on our ultimate supply.

Solo ~ Just Means Singing Alone

In the last few years I have done a lot of traveling alone. Now when it is during the week and I have a briefcase, people just look at me as another business traveler. And since I don’t really go anywhere interesting, I generally sit at a table with a book to eat my dinner.  When I travel for myself, everything is different.

First, no briefcase. Second, dressed as my true self – generally funkier than my 50 or so year work armor. Yes, I said armor, I have worn suits, or at least dress pants and tops for most of my adult life.  Except when I first began and judges did not allow female attorneys to wear pants in court. As I spent more and more time in and out of jails, with clients, it became necessary to be sure my armor was pants in case of a lockdown. I also thought of professional garb, and heels, as armor as I chose to be a gladiator in a man’s world.  Figure it out.

Anyway third, I don’t need receipts. Fourth, I sit at the bar.  Dressing as myself and sitting at the bar are ways of making myself more open to opportunities, to life.  They are ways of becoming more vulnerable.  But what is funny about all this is that people are always astounded that I, a woman of a certain age, silver hair and all, am traveling alone.

I am currently on my second weekend trip the impetus for which was simply an art exhibition I wanted to see. The first to Oklahoma City where I had a most splendid adventure and now to Asheville where I will do the same. Why are people surprised? I have no idea but I have fun with it and people often buy me coffee or dessert or whatever in their amazement of my solo-ness. Strange.

It gives me great pleasure to just do the things that please me, art, music, food.  Today I surprised a busker by singing harmony to his not so talented melody as I went by.  Today I had a long talk with a homeless man about feet on a bench on a quaint street.  Today I had latte and a warm fresh croissant in a lovely bakery in mid morning with my book.  Today I visited a wonderful bookstore and my favorite chocolate shop. Tonight I will go hear bluegrass for dinner.  What a wonderful day.  Would it be nice to share it with a like minded partner, sure. But solo is just fine with me. Be amazed.