Everything New Is Old Again

I walked the streets of my childhood last week. I didn’t intend it. I was downtown and had a destination about a mile and a half away. When you are in the City that seems a reasonable walk.

But the walk found me on those very familiar streets. Where I walked home from school, where I walked to my first job, where I walked to whatever mischief I could find. And everything is changed, busier, more modern, different. Almost all the storefronts have changed but a few of the old timers remain, relics of a more peaceful time in what used to be a neighborhood.

No matter the changes, my feet found the way so very familiar. As if nothing really had changed at all. I stood in front of the first home I remember, a small apartment on West 8th street, and I could see the businesses that were on that street. There was the drugstore on the corner where my impetuous brother gashed open his eyebrow on the square metal post out front. There was the very first Orange Julius. There was Fred Braun next door and an amazing bookstore right across the street.

These are all gone but that changed street, so much remade, was once again the place of my childhood.

Then I walked past the block where we lived next and the building is gone, it appears to be the home of new condos. But the Minetta Lane theatre and the Village Vanguard are still in evidence, still holding down the fort of the old neighborhood. The White Horse Tavern and the Stonewall are still there, and a few more.

And so as new as everything is, it is still where I grew up. Walking those streets felt as familiar as they ever were. Everything new is old again, at least in my eyes and in my feet.

Paradise Pro and Con

People who do not live in Florida tell me that I live in paradise. And in some ways it is true. The sun shines almost all the time, tropical and sub-tropical flowers bloom almost all the time; bougainvillea, oleander, bird of paradise. The scent of orange blossoms and blooming magnolia trees is intoxicating.  Sunrise and sunsets are heartbreakingly beautiful. 

I am, however, averse to the wildlife here. There are bugs the size of my hands, there are alligators in almost all bodies of water, there are snakes. There are tiny lizards that rule the world. There are a ridiculous number of different types of frogs. At certain times of the year the chorus of their voices at night is intense. 

But it is the flowers in New England where I rarely get to go in full summer that speak to me. In part their voice is the voice of memory. Tiger lilies, day lilies, hosta lillies, black eyed susans, daisies beautiful ferns, purple spikey alyssum, bleeding heart, blueberries, raspberries, peaches, cherries, the blooms of the apples to come.

I have become accustomed to sunshine and warmth. I have lived in the sun for many years, although not in the same place. I do not mind visiting the cold, walking in the snow with a frosty nose and cold feet. The weather cannot stop me from going where I want to go. Despite my willingness, I have no great desire to live in the cold and grey. I have so far found no incentive to permanently leave this almost paradise. There are others, to find or visit. We shall see.

The Moment

The twisting narrow road is lined with sea worn stone walls overwhelmed with flowers. The road is so narrow it feels unsafe as we drive on what to me is the wrong side. The island is small but this trip takes us most of the way along its beautiful length lush with greenery and adorned with spectacular homes. As we navigate the ups and downs the bluest sea is mostly to the right of our small van transport.

There are flowers everywhere, some I could name, some I could not; oleander, bougainvillea, hibiscus, jacaranda, exora, plumbago. I could spend weeks here just looking at the landscape and of course, the sea.

We took some very hard curves, what felt like switchbacks, until I lost my sense of in what direction we were headed. And then, like magic, the sea appeared on my left in a suddenly opened view of that amazing clear blue water.

I looked out the window at the blue sky, a mirror of the sea – or the other way round – at puffy cumulus and moored sailboats with their white sails furled. And what I thought was “what a fine day.” And suddenly, I was simply overwhelmed with the wonder of my life. I was amazed that I was really in this beautiful place and I started to cry with a feeling of gratitude for this amazing life. It has been a long time in the making, but it is amazing. I have been to places and done things I never thought possible. I have given and received love from absolute strangers who are strangers no more. I have shared my joy and my pain with others who understand. I am writing. I am singing.

As I looked at the sea and sky and flowers all I felt in that moment was pure gratitude. I did not summon it, it just happened. How rare to have that pure and strong a feeling, and to know what it is.

Bermuda

There is magic, on a late summer night, sitting with your toes in the sand. The stars twinkle above befriended by a perfect half moon. At my back the sound of the waves lapping the shore and before me a perfect vertical bonfire raising its glowing ember arms to the velvet sky.

We are a circle of friends, sharing our joys and sorrows, our triumphs and disasters knowing that we are loved no matter what. What feels a shame to us just gains a smile, a soft silence, a hug; until we know that it is no shame. In this moment of acceptance and serenity we can feel and acknowledge our own growth. We are no longer bound by fear and self.

And in the circle, and the night, and the ocean and the fire, we are new -just for this day, this night, this moment. There is no need to look ahead or behind. We are present. Life will always bring new joys, new sorrows, new trials and triumphs. But in this moment, we are are safe in our own skins. A group of friends sitting on a beach. The magic is we are healing, together.

Listen to the River

“Mama, Mama many worlds I’ve known since I first left home.” I was, as I often do, listening to the Grateful Dead in my car. And hearing those words sent me reeling through my past. I have heard these words a thousand times but for some reason, they had particular resonance this day.

"Mama, Mama many worlds I've known since I first left home." I was, as I often do, listening to the Grateful Dead in my car. Click To Tweet

And I have had one amazing long strange trip, to quote another song; and many worlds. It is hard to write about memory and about past life without lingering at the regrets. They are easier to stop on than the joys but with an effort, I remind myself to stop on those too.

I left home for college at the age of sixteen, it was 1969 and peace, love and protest were in the air. Along with weed, pills and mushrooms. I lived on a barely finished campus on Long Island but mostly with an artist and his entourage. His portrait of me at that age still hangs in my bedroom, a lovely reminder of the good.

I left college before I turned eighteen and traveled the country working, singing, hitchhiking, going to Dead and Jefferson Airplane concerts. From the age of sixteen until who knows when I had the wonderful fortune to see so many of my icons and my heroes, in concert in mostly small venues. Jackson Browne, James Taylor, Pete Seeger, Little Feat, Bonnie Raitt, Dexter Gordon, Betty Carter, Etta James and so many more. The music has always been the thing for me. I feel most myself in music and closest to G-d in music.

I have lived and worked and sung in California, Arizona, Ohio, Massachusetts, Florida, New York, New Jersey, New Mexico. I may have forgotten a few. And I take many memories from them all, music, food, local idiom. I have sung jazz, gospel, country, country rock, folk and now Americana (that’s what they call old hippie folk/rock these days) and traditional and original Jewish liturgical music. What a road.

I have had multiple careers. I have never been a moneymaker but I have been able to support my family. And I have had the great joy of doing both good in the world and the things I love. Of course, there were a few jobs along the way that weren’t so interesting.

I have been harassed and abused. I have been loved and amused. I have loved and I have been disappointed. I am a mother, the greatest joy of my life; and that came from doing good. I am in an entirely new and alien phase of life so there will be more to talk about.

There is so much to tell but these are my thoughts for today. Many worlds I have indeed known, and there are more to travel through.