Confessions of a Covid Captive

I haven’t written in a while because how could I write when I didn’t know who I was? How do any of us live when what we thought was normal suddenly disappears, when routine and certainty is gone? How do we understand anything when our reality is so different and our thoughts and feelings have been jarred and muddled?

I’m a control freak, an “all-the-ducks-in-row” creature. I guess it is the survival tactic I acquired during my chaotic childhood. There was alcoholism in my family. I’m also a news junkie, I watched sick people filling the halls of the Wuhan hospitals and ordered my first masks from Amazon on January 26.

I’m in my 13th week of this thing called “the new normal”. I am getting out more with my masks, hand sanitizer and social distancing. I can write now because I can see myself again. But my image is still a bit blurry around the edges. Sometimes the lost feeling comes back and I have to hold still and stop the uneasy vibrations inside me. But there is hope and the beginnings of wholeness

My points of reference, the present and the future are unstable because of the pandemic but something strange has taken the place of these two life markers. I’m going back to past things that brought me joy. It’s like I’m a tourist leisurely walking through an art gallery seeing pictures of a long ago me who is smiling and doing rewarding things. I’m rich in time now and like a wealthy patron, I take the imagines off the wall and they become a part of me once again.

I started with baking. I used to do it all the time but lost the skill. I feared the chemistry, the failure and the waste. But I’m baking again.

I’m exploring my woods like I used to. Going off the usual trails, I have found new treasures in new places that I’ve never noticed during my decades here.

For many years, I knew I should cut down the small trees and bushes in the understory so I could see through the wood more easily. That goal is being achieved and, as I do, I have been gathering and burning deadfall from winters long forgotten.

I built my firepit last year in hopes of sitting by a fire with coffee and books. I never got around to it but now I have. I have gone back to reading fiction, enjoying the beautiful words of skilled writers. I usually read only nonfiction. But I’ve moved away from my habit of cutting away at information from these books by picking at the table of contents. Alway feeling short on time, I rushed through pertinent chapters without really appreciating all that the authors wanted to teach me.

It’s been a long time since I’ve sat still by my big picture window, in silence just to be. Now I’m being rewarded.

Image may contain: plant, tree, outdoor and nature
Image may contain: bird, outdoor and nature

I used to have a huge vegetable garden. This spring I have planted again, just a few things. I’m having fun staging ridiculous things around my young sprouts to scare away my hungry wildlife. It’s working.

Lately, I’ve returned to two old hobbies I used to love, sewing and painting.

And my biggest return to the past is the fact that I’m wearing my long uncut hair in a ponytail, something I haven’t done since elementary school. This amazes me.

For the longest time during the pandemic, I was frozen. I spent hours watching the news and youtube videos about the virus trying to understand it, control it. I was so uncomfortable with this strange catastrophic event, disorientated in the present and totally clueless and scared about the future. There was no choice but to go back to the things in the past that had brought me happiness. I know many of my readers and friends are doing the same. I tell everyone I’m fortunate to talk with to stay safe and healthy. Now, I add another wish, for them to be happy. We have the time now to explore, notice nature, plant seeds, and create beautiful new things. We need to draw from what is around us and within us. This is our new normal but we can make it work.

Copyright 2020 @theautonomoustraveler.com All rights reserved.

Trilliums for Beth J

Dear Beth,

We have a tradition since you moved away. Every spring, I post pictures for you of the trilliums that bloom in my woods. I have the white ones and one very large red that you really like. They appear every year at the far corner of my property by the beaver pond. I thought I wouldn’t be able to keep my promise this year. You see, I broke my ankle in the Golan Heights in Israel near the Lebanon and Syria borders. No, I was not chased by spies or knocked over by a stray missile. I slipped on a rock and my rear end landed on my foot. I see my doctor on May 26 but he gave me instructions not to walk on uneven ground until then. I was afraid I would have to break my promise to you. But I’m stubborn and I don’t give up. The woods is all around me. There had to be trilliums closer.

I went up to my storage room and found my Vasque hiking boots that I had purchased at the Eastern Mountain Store in Lake Placid about 25 years ago. I reasoned that they would give my ankle support. The boots renewed memories of a long ago chapter in my life. They are leather, waterproof and had been carefully fitted to prevent “toe jam” (hiking term for toes sliding to the front of the boot on steep declines). I conquered eight of the Adirondack High Peaks in those boots and got my picture in The ADK 49’s Newsletter by being a member of the first all woman volunteer trail maintenance group.

For this adventure, I washed the laces and gave the leather a new coat of polish. I sprayed myself down with Deep Woods Off and put my camera and phone (I’m at that age where back up is important) in my fanny pack and hiked into my woods.

I was on a treasure hunt, a special mission to find something that was prized by you and me. I focused like I never focus before. I passed some of my beautiful rocks, they are granite, huge, and ancient.

I wondered if this is where my fox lived.

I took note of the dead tree sculptures.

Captivated, I was startled by what I incorrectly thought to be an owl in a tree branch rather close to my head.

I walked up to the big outcropping that my kids had so long ago named “dancing rock”.

I marvelled at the stand of hemlocks where the deer bedded during the winter and ate from the low hanging branches.

I paid my respects to a special tree. I used to bring my second class to my woods for a field trip and a nature scavenger hunt. In its youth, the tree had taught my students a vivid lesson with it roots clutched around a rock, a sure sign of perseverance and hope.

Beth, I decided to be a true explorer and go to some the parts of my woods I had never gone to before. My eyes scanned the ground searching for green or any color that contrasted with the dead brown leaves. I was rewarded but no trilliums.

I found patches of green that I stubbornly tried to wish into trilliums but I had done my research and they they didn’t have the right characteristics.

The word trillium contains the prefix “tri” that means three, three petals and three leaves. One of my Canadian nature books told the story of James Burns Spencer who after WWI wanted to make the trillium the flower of Canada since it symbolized purity, The Holy Trinity, and Great Britain which consisted of three parts, England, Scotland, and Ireland. He failed but in 1937 because of the efforts of some high school students the plant became the flower of the province of Ontario, Canada.

o/ - Auto » Thread #17226668

I also learn that they appear in the time between thawing and the leafing out of deciduous trees. They are sensitive to temperature and grow in the woods because it is warmer there than in open fields. They like the the north side of sheltered areas. Away from the wind they rely on insects to pollinate them. The white trilliums attract insects to their beautiful flat landing strip flower petals. All trilliums have seeds. Ants love the nutritious green handles on the seeds and drop the rest. Birds also engage in spread with their droppings. It takes seven years for a seed to finally mature into plant with a flower. That’s why it is important to protect them by not picking them.

The red trilliums are a little different. They really like acid soil and they have a horrible smell. In fact, in some circles over the centuries they have been called “Stinking Benjamins”. They are pollinated by carrion insects, scavengers that feed on rotting remains.

Armed with these facts, I knew I wouldn’t find trilliums in the hemlocks and that also I need to look for sheltered places on the north side of things.

I spotted something green.

Beth, you can’t image how excited I was. Could it be?

Yes! I moved around carefully!

I even found a “Stinking Benjamin”!

In, fact, I found a few! And as they bloom, Beth, you will have your pictures!

Returning to my backyard, I knew my ankle was fine and I was elated. What an great experience. I guess I was still in a heightened state of awareness when I noticed something white and shiney at the base of small a tree.

I pulled at it and it came out of its place in the earth into my hand. It was a piece of quartz. And Beth, please excuse my poet’s soul, to me it seems to have the shape of a heart.

I have it next to me as I write this letter to you. It will be symbol of the beautiful day I had looking for flowers for a dear friend. To me, it will always represents my love of the woods and the gratitude I have for living in this part of the world. It expresses the bond I have with those in my community who live here, too. People who even when they move away like you have, Beth, still have The North Country in their hearts. Thank you so much, my friend.

Love, Joyce

Copyright@2020 The Autonomous Traveler All rights reserved.

Circles

I have felt fractured, broken the last few days. I was fine getting through almost five weeks of “social distancing”. I was doing my part and felt proud of myself. And then things shifted as people without masks in close proximity were protesting the Covid-19 stay-at-home policy. I felt violated and wondered if all my time alone had been wasted. And I couldn’t help feeling that as a society we were surely screwed.

In these long weeks, I’ve been listening and reading and thinking. For some reason I’ve been fascinated by circles. Excess time gives a human being a lot of opportunities to notice. This one was sent yesterday by a friend.

This one appeared in an ad on Facebook.

Votes for Women Puzzle

Here is a grouping from my bathroom.

Maybe I’m jealous of circles because they are so perfect and, as a human being, I will never ever be that. Maybe I’m drawn to them because are complete in themselves. They can be symbols that provide rich understanding for hurried minds and prompt shorthand for the unconscious.

Nicolaus Copernicus Biography: Facts and Discoveries | Space
Copernican Earth Map

The Great Seal of the US Royalty Free Vector Image
The seal of the US
What's the Peace Sign and Should I Wear It? – Jewelry Guide
Peace Symbol

Did Stonehenge Hold Up a Giant Stage? | Smart News | Smithsonian ...
Stonehenge
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Rose Window in a Church
What Does yin-yang Mean? | Pop Culture by Dictionary.com
Yin/Yang
Time

Circles appear in the natural world.

Cross section of a tree - Tree Growth and Structure

Image result for ripples in water

I think I’ve always admired the symmetry of neat circles. I’ve always been a global thinker because random ideas and loose ends have always confused me. Like a annoying little kid, I have always needed to know the “why” behind things. This has influenced my traveling style. I love to understand the interplay of a situation, the geography, history, art, politics, economics, etc. of the places I visit and how it all fits together.

Examples of Contextual, Integrated Learning and How it Benefits ...

A long time ago, I found a wholeness in the writings of author, Karen Armstrong, a former Catholic nun who wrote about her quest to understand all religions. She came to the conclusion that they all share a common doctrine, The Golden Rule.

Scaffolding International World Religion Day (University) -

These weeks in isolation have given me the time to reconnect with the hundreds of books I have collected over my many years. They are mostly nonfiction, my treasure troves of unsolved mysteries and elusive information. I came across a book on Carl Jung, an early 20th century psychologist, who coined the phrase , “collective consciousness”. He believed that we not only inherit genetic physical characteristics from our ancestors but also unconscientious patterns.

What would Carl Jung think of this moment in history? His theory of collective consciousness has become a reality as all of us face Covid-19 and the possible collapse of economic systems. We as a total world population now have one focus, one consciousness.

Yesterday one of our nation’s leader was asked what the new normal would look like. He answered by saying we need to change our vocabulary. He stated that normal as we knew it is gone, it is time to reimage what kind of society and future we now want to create and how each one of us can become a better reimaged version of ourselves.

This leader inspired me. There has been a rebirth of the old me. I’m cooking and baking once again. And I’ve started planting a garden. I have plans to really work on my backyard and up my daily exercise. Soon I will go up to my art room and paint again. I love to be alone but I’ve come to realize the priceless value of my wonderful friends. I will make more connections when this is over. In this time of slow paced quiet, I’m finding parts of myself again.

Carl Jung also wrote about “individuation”, the process of becoming one’s true self. He painted mandalas which is a practice found in many cultures over the centuries. Jung believed that they were symbols of wholeness in self. He also saw their creation as a peaceful meditation.

I have been doing them, printing them off the internet. I love them because no matter what colors or patterns I choose, they are all beautiful when I complete them.

Over these weeks, I’ve been doing the mandalas by starting in the center and working outward. Some people recommend working from the outside and moving inward. That’s what’s nice about mandalas, circles, and life, it doesn’t matter. It’s all about never giving up and striving to create something new.

Finding Strength in Our Roots

I’m lazy, a blue ribbon procrastinator. I should be writing everyday, I have the time. My writing process is strange. I get an idea, I feel its voice inside me, first hesitant and weak. Its like the old fashion coffee stove top coffee percolator my mom gave me years ago. It is a treasured object because it reminds me of her and an earlier time before Kuerigs and Starbucks cappuccinos. I take it camping for my favorite thing to do; build a campfire, have coffee and read. There is a process, put in the water to the mark that is just a faint discoloration in the metal, measure in the ground coffee into the metal basket, and finally place on the lid with its tiny glass globe. I then put it on the gas stove and wait. The water heats, travels up a tube to the coffee waiting for it in the basket. They mingle and play and soon the pale spirit of their union shows itself in the glass top. The coffee jumps as it get darker and darker, stronger and strong. Soon I smell its lovely aroma. It has evolved, it has become something wonderful and I smile.

That’s my writing process. I start unconfident, wondering if my ideas are stupid and how many people will make fun of them. But then things happen, little things that build on other things and they make chains like the green and red loops on a Christmas tree. I move toward my computer and I find I have to write, I have no choice, the need to release the words is too strong.

This post started weeks ago when I met up with my friend, Tammy. I had not seen her since she retired. Tammy who loves The Adirondacks, beautiful prose, art ,and deep thoughts. Tammy who is a fierce Mama Bear who fights for underdogs and scapegoats. She was the last friend I saw before my “social distancing.” There was an intensity in our chat as we sat in the all white newness of the little coffee shop half way between our two houses. Things were shared that we never shared before. With a pandemic slowly inching toward our backyards, there seemed to be a strong need to listen, really listen. I remember things once mentioned and not acknowledged at the school we both taught at. She had said something about relatives from Russia but I only nodded and rushed on. As I finally heard her story I was fascinated. She allowed me to borrow her faded green folder with an old fashioned spring clasp, a collection of newspaper clippings and a careful recording of her family tree and history.

Tammy’s great grandfather, Frank Leon Ronas was born in Minsk in 1878. He fled Russia by way of England and eventually made it to America where he worked in a Pennsylvania coal mine at age eleven. He headed north to Canada but settled in Northern New York, a place known for its soft cheese making and dairy farms. Frank worked on the farm of Eber Steik in Philadelphia, New York while going to school to perfect his English and assimilate into American culture. He quit school after the eighth grade to work full time on the John McNeil farm. He fell in love with Mary Etta Holkins who lived across the road. The couple married and bought their own farm. Later they inherited the Holkins farm.

The Holkins Road that I know so well , the beginning of all my journeys and the path that always welcomes me home, now has an added significance. It holds lessons of character and perseverance and a chapter in a love story. And today, in my fifth week of “social distancing” I find great comfort and feel the incredible but real strength of people who came before me.

My grandparents came to America from Poland in the early 1900’s. The men did the jobs that no one else would take in the chemical factories along the Niagara River. The women cleaned rich people’s houses.

A long time ago at my school where I taught someone asked me why I said I was Polish-American and told me I shouldn’t do it. Her comment was hurtful but I forgave her because she will never understand. Her maiden and married names are Anglo Saxon Protestant. She will never be able to image the richness of my heritage and the bravery of immigrants who left everything familiar to go out into the unknown with only faith and resilience. Facing struggles and overcoming obstacles, they created paths and inspiration for future generations.

So, right before my “social distancing”, I met Tammy at the little coffee shop with the white walls and she told me a story. Because of her, I’m hopeful. I know our ancestors are with us and they will help us get through the coming months.

Thank you so much, Tam, and I’m so sorry it took me so long to listen.

A Nearby Journey, One Country Road

Road horses

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.”   Marcel Proust

Every  weekday morning before I retired, I drove to school down the same country road. You won’t find my route in any guidebooks. It is just an ordinary rural asphalt passage through Northern New York State. But to me, it is very special.  It is the beginning of all my journeys.  It is the path that always welcomes me home.

Road red sunset
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Over the years, I have come to appreciate the things I see on this road as much as I have been thrilled by the sights I have witnessed in Paris or The Rocky Mountains or any place I have traveled.

Road my tree
Road shad
Road Barn
Road winter
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I have learned to observe and appreciate.  This practice has brought me great joy.

Road rock
Road Dew

These pictures  were all taken four miles from my home during various times of year. I invite all my readers to look and really see the interesting things just down the road. Take time to stop. You may discovery some pretty extraordinary things.

When did You First Know You were Brave?


My first recollection of fear being used to subdue my spirit was at the age of three, waiting for the “monster” to come through my bedroom window. I would not go to sleep so my mother used a powerful visual to get me to comply, an editorial cartoon of Atlas holding the earth.


Fear was a disciplinary tool of choice in my family. A traditional approach most likely passed down from generation to generation, its roots in our Polish ancestry where pessimism and violation in a country with no natural boundaries was the norm. The Moguls, the Huns, Nazis, and Communists always peering through windows and finally breaking through to conquer and dominate. The use of terror in my family was for “our own good” to keep us safe, nice, and polite. It was the antidote for too much self-esteem or an unwanted pregnancy (birth control of the mind).
How irrational my childish logic was, believing a creature holding a planet would be able to come and get me. I shivered in my bed watching a long slit of yellow-green gaping between my curtains from the street lights below. Would I see his eyeball first? Or would be just thump me with the tip of his finger? A giant sent only to me because I didn’t want to go to sleep. I pondered what a terrible child I was.


But along with this memory is another one filled with strength. In the 1950’s, many stuffed animals were equipped with plastic whiskers that scratched the faces and arms of children who loved them. I told my mom about my problem and got the “deal with it” answer I would hear so many times in the next few decades. That wasn’t good enough for me. I proceeded to violate the supreme rule of toddlerhood. I not only touched my mother’s sharp scissors but removed them from her sewing drawer. I carried them into my parents’ room, lined up all my offending animals on the bed and holding their fuzzy little heads cut off their whiskers. It was my first recollection of my personal courage and the power to direct my own life.


All through my life, step by step, I have been nurturing the gift of courage. Many of my fears are gone especially monsters at windows.

Readers, we are all brave. Many of you don’t realize that our power is always there. Please share your stories either here on my Facebook page or on my blog comment page. Tell us about the moment you knew you were brave.

Finding Joy in Small Spaces

My epiphany came on a winter day when I was feeling sorry for myself. I call those kind of days “fat slug days” because during the cold weather I slowly slither along in my sun deprived paleness lugging around extra pounds from eating too much comfort food. On that particular day, I focused on getting old and how the elderly diminish and wither as they sit home or in nursing homes with their TVs and blurring memories. Sorrow is small, I concluded. And then I thought a little more. So, if sadness is a state of contracting, then joy is expansive. Joy is the outdoors and music and art and dancing and belly laughs. Joy is big! And that is why I travel, to experience the elation of the big wide world.

Image may contain: tree, sky, plant, road, outdoor and nature

Today I’m 71 and in my twenty-fifth day of “social isolation”. The media makes it clear, over and over again, I’m in the risk category. I just spent a year saving money for an 80 day solo road trip through the American South. It isn’t going to happen. I can’t go now.

The first few days alone were a bit exciting as I prepared my nest, getting organized and doing some problem solving. I busied myself, alternating meanful chores with watching news about the virus. I thought about topics for my blog and all the projects I would do now that I had extra time.

Day three came in with a shock as President Trump stated he thought things would be up in the air until July or August. What? I knew I could do 6 weeks because I had done that while my broken ankle was mending. But anything beyond that I just couldn’t imagine. I contracted, stayed in my pajamas, and watched the terrible news all day. I knew things were bad when I gobbled down double my daily allowance of my homemade muffins. I was sad and I felt small. Writing always makes me feel better but I shrank in doubt. My nagging inner critique suddenly appeared and it shouted me down.

The next day I went immediately to my chair and the TV but luckily there was a bit of light mixed in among all the doom and gloom. An author talked about his experience with social distancing, how he lost his retirement funds in the evaporating stock market, how he couldn’t sleep with his wife anymore because she was a health worker on constant call, and how his college age son was now back home in a state of aimless depression. Then he added more gloom. He pointed out that because of the pandemic and the tremendous effect it is having on the world economy, there is a strong probability that we may never be able to go back to the way we lived before. We have to face that because of circumstances beyond our control, we needed to prepare to cross over to something entirely new. As I listened to him, I knew what he was saying was true. I held my breath hoping he would say something positive. I waited for some sort of “it is bad but” redemption.

It came in his simple words, “We have to step up!” He stated that we will all be faced with a new way of living and will be called upon to make things better by the quality of our individual ways of adapting. We can’t just sit in front of our screens, we must act. I need to act. I have so many things I can do in my isolation. I have a house to organize and drawers and closets to weed out. I can write on my blog, paint, read, learn new skills (youtube can be my school), connect with people on facebook, research local history, etc., etc., etc.

The world situation pulls on me. It wants me to become small. I can feel it as the hours pass. I don’t want to be diminished.

I’m making lists. How crafty my brain is as it makes me forget about the possibilities that excite me.

I’m working on my immune system. ( Youtube, Dr. Eric Berg-“Coronavirus Resistance-Beyond Healthy Eating”) Dr. Berg states that stress is immunosuppressive. Like the author I previously mentioned, he advises us to stay in action, to be productive. He recommends limiting news consumption, taking walks and working constantly to create our own health.

I’m going to devise a daily schedule for myself. I fluctuate between being productive and wasting a lot of time. I knew, when I taught 7 and 8 year olds, that structure and having a plan were essential. I also knew that varying activities kept attention and engagement alive. I guess this retired teacher will be using proven educational tricks on herself.

I’m back to writing. For some reason, I have to write, it keeps me smiling. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the connection I have with those of you who read my stuff. Thank you so very much.

Joy is big, it is expansive. It has nothing to do with time and space. It is about taking action, moving forward and never becoming small. Everyday in our minds, hearts, and souls it can grow bigger and bigger. We all need to keep joy alive.

Israel-The Kindness of Strangers

“Those who wander are never lost”

I never made it to Jerusalem. I honestly believe I wasn’t supposed to . I travel to learn things I don’t know, to witness things and try to understand what they mean. I went to Israel to learn about Judaism, a religion I know little about. What happened to me made that possible.

Our tour bus stopped in the Golan Heights near the Lebanon and Syria borders. I took a picture of the UN jeep and wished I had the opportunity to take pictures of the military equipment being transported along the the highway.

I climbed a little incline and this was the last picture I took before the incident.

As I came down from this little hill, I slipped on the gravel and my rear end landed on my foot. I tried to get up and and felt no support. The nice people from my tour gathered around me. Somehow I got my foot from under me and saw that my foot was at a strange right angle from the leg bone that was a large knot at the end of my shin. My guide, who was very upset asked no one in particular if if my foot was broken. The anthesialogic member from the tour group replied in the affirmation. His wife asked what level of pain I was in. I picked 3 and she replied that I was at least a 5.

I honestly felt nothing. I was embarrassed by all the attention and wanted the crowd around me to resume walking to the observation area. All my life I’ve had the ability to go into a state of numbness when needed. I’m an adult child of an alcoholic. Denial of situations and circumstances is a skill perfected by ACOAs like me. We trained ourselves to move through the awful stuff. The bad part of this is we smile through a lot of garbage. The good part is that we are very resilient.

Our tour guide called an ambulance. As the attendants lifted me up onto a gurney, I warned them that they were dealing with a woman who was not petite and cautioned them not to hurt themselves. I also asked the driver if we could stop for ice cream on the way to the hospital. Self- deprecation and humor have become my adult tools for dealing with life. They’ve became more pronounced as I grow older since I ‘m no longer the shy child I used to be.

I was rolled into the ambulance. I looked up and saw a smiling young man who said, “When I saw you I prayed you’d be American.”

What? From my prone position, as I tried to move my good foot so it wasn’t touching the injured one, I was totally confused.

“Hi.” was all I could come up with.

The attendant was glad I was American because he wanted to practice his English. I thought he spoke well and he told me he had learned much from watching American television. We ended up talking a lot and as a result I came to know about his fascinating religion.

This wonderful young man was a Druze. The Druze broke off from Islam in the 10th century and see themselves as a monotheistic religion that combines Judaism and Christianity with Islam. They strongly believe in reincarnation and accept no converts. Only individuals who achieve a specific spiritual enlightenment are able to be a part of the group and read Druze literature. They have no set ceremonies but eating pork, smoking and drinking are prohibited. 120,000 Druze live in Northern Israel. They speak Arabic but are a community distinct from other Israeli Arabs and serve their required time in the Israeli army.

Before my mishap we had driven through a Druze settlement and I was able to take this picture of a Druze woman.

The young man was kind and he told me he wanted be a doctor. I assured him be would be an excellent one.

I arrived at The Ziv Medical Center in Zefat, Israel and did the usual, met with the billing department, explained what happen, had blood work. I was then taken to a little room filled with people who turned out to be be medical students. As they stared at my broken foot, I told them I was very glad I got a pedicure before I left America or they would have been appalled by my ugly old lady toenails. They laughed. The real doctor didn’t seem amused. My leg was numbed and he proceed to twist my ankle bone back into my leg. I squeezed the young female medical student’s hand. A very heavy plaster cast was put on my leg and I was transported to x-ray. The bone wasn’t placed right. The cast was taken off, the bone repositioned once again as I squeezed the same girl’s hand, then more x-rays and success. One more trip to the little room and time for pictures.

I had to stay overnight but what a wonderful experience it was. I was sung to.

I was visited by a female rabbi. She came into my hospital room like a superhero dressed in a stylish black outfit, so powerful in her convictions. She seemed to give off an energy and almost glowed. She preached about the sanctity of marriage and I didn’t have the heart or the courage to tell her I was divorced and had no plans of ever getting married again. Strangely enchanted, I somehow knew I was supposed to put money in the yellow silk bag she carried. She said a blessing over me and I asked if I could take a picture of her. She wouldn’t allow it, saying that what she said was more important than who she was.

Michelle was sent from the tour company to watch over me and make sure I was okay. She became a friend and I will have more to tell about her in my next post. A lady entered my room and chatted. She gave me two candles for Shabbat, the Jewish weekly day of worship. One candle represents the the obligations of worship from sundown on Friday to the morning sunrise on Saturday. The other candle represented the joy and benefits of these special hours spent in God’s presence.


The candle lady and my friend, Michelle.

So much kindness. I never cried during the whole adventure until just before I left. The medical student who held my hand while I went through orthopedic torture brought me a chocolate bar and the note shown below.

The kindness of strangers is why I travel. I’ve been lucky enough to find the true spirit of human beings untainted by personal preference or prejudice. They are encounters with no time to gossip or label or judge. People reaching out to live and love in the present moment with smiles and acceptance. Our exchanges are fresh and alive without fear. This is the beautiful world.

I broke my ankle in The Golan Heights near the Lebanon/ Syrian border and never got to Jerusalem but I got exactly the journey I was suppose to have.

“We travel, some of us forever,to seek other places, other lives, other souls.”-Anais Nin

Copyright 2020 @theautonomoustraveler.com All rights reserved.

Israel-The Temple of Pan and the Dancing Goats

How so very strange to have old memories that go way back in time to rooms with high windows and desks in rows and the smell of chalk. How peculiar to conjure up visions and facts about myths and Zeus and Greek gods. How startling to suddenly find myself in the very concrete place of their essence. My guide said we were going to the Temple of Pan. As a tourist, I surrender myself to new places and new things. Pan? Pan was a drawing from an eighth grade textbook, a man with the features of a goat. He was creature who played some sort of flute and represented the wild, nature, fertility, mischief, and spring. He wasn’t real but something very vivid I had memorized for the test on mythology at the end of a chapter.

The setting was right. We walked along the edge of the water. A fitting place for a wild creature of the outdoors. It turned out to be a spring, the source of the River Jordan. I was enchanted.

We climbed.

And we came upon something huge and impressive, the remains of the Sanctuary of Pan.

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How surreal on that blue sky, amber lit day to so clearly witness what was left of 19 BC place of worship built by the Herod to honor Caesar Alexander and the Roman gods.

The cave to The Underworld

The Romans of this time worshiped many different gods, almost all with a connection to nature. Their practices were pagan and by today’s standards very crude.

I wonder, now that I am back home in supposedly a civilized modern environment , was God at The Sanctuary of Pan. I was taught during my Catholic upbringing that God is everywhere and has been since the beginning of time. If an old woman, just like me, had sat by the the spring that fed The Jordan River back then in 19BC, would God be with her or would He decide she didn’t count because she didn’t worship in the right way?

I wonder about the ancient Native Americans who said prayers of thankfulness instead petitions of want. Was God with them or did He think they were too primitive?

I wonder about my Muslim friend in India, Rashid, who told me we are are all united by the God who created us all. Is God with him or has He chosen to dismiss Rashid’s method of worship?

I wonder about my gay friends who have lovingingly married their partners. Is God with them or is He withholding His love because of their love?

I wonder about people in other political groups or countries. Is God with them or is God a political creature who takes sides?

I wonder about myself, an old lady without a religion who has done a lot of bad things and will probably do more. Is God with me or has He given up because He sees me as unworthy?

Like the old lady who sat by the source of The Jordan river before the birth of Christ, I, too, look for God.

In the stillness, I find Him. He is always here. He is with me. He chooses to be with us no matter who we are.

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