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
Image result for rose windows gothic
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.

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.

Perspective

My last post was on New Year’s Day, a symbolic day of fresh starts and hope. I wrote about fractals and taking one step at a time as I looked forward to marching into the new year with energy and focus. On my first day at PT,  I graduated from my knee bike to using a walker. My ankle swelled a bit and I went into worry mode. Then we had the almost WWIII incident. Anger and fear became my state of mind. Next an impending ice storm was predicted in my area. I’m very self reliant when both ankles are working but I wondered how I  would  bring in wood if the power went out.  The weather report proved to be false. But then this weekend a new storm, Jacob, was touted as  devastating with more snow and high winds. I prepared again for a power outage; solar lantern handy, homemade apple scones ready to be eaten in the dark, bathtub filled for flushing, and my gas camp stove ready for morning coffee.  Jacob ended up  being a whimper.

My ankle is now doing great, so far no WWIII, and  two storms proved to be weaker than expected. But something happened to me in those 18 days.  My perspective changed.  It was assaulted by a creature that slithered like a snake from across the road, traveled across the snow covered asphalt and invaded my house by burrowing underground into my basement and up into my home office. It was high speed internet allowing me to stream. I now have access to all the news and every viewpoint that youtube has to offer. But in my hunger for political, wartime, and electrical outage updates, I lost myself.  My brain underwent some rewiring as I desperately tried to figure out what was happening in the world. And as a result, I stopped wanting to write.

 

For the last 18 days, the world went on without me, things were not in my control but instead of calling up my strength, I surrendered to what turned out to be the information propaganda offered to me at $44.99 a month, no contract needed. As I sloshed through it, a lot of of it changed and became untrue. It was very intense stuff offered from many viewpoints. There was so much going on that many times my screen was split in two. Sometimes six heads in little boxes would chatter on the news screen to punch their network points even harder into my head. As I looked deeper for the truth on obscure youtube sites, I found many things did not add up or were lies. I guess it didn’t matter because like the weather what was once solid fact became something else as the days went on. This faulty information was seductive, in my emotional state I had an unstoppable hunger to cure the anxiety that was being fed by the unknown and uncontrollable future.

What are we doing to ourselves? The ancient philosophers pondered, “What is truth?” In their old fashion way, I think they had it a lot easier. Presently we are being manipulated with all sorts of technology. With rapid fire images in commercials and ads, we are convinced to buy and consume things we don’t need and can’t afford. And by working on our fears, those in the information business have made us angry, hateful, and frantic. Our petty jabs and arguments are dividing us. The things that concern us all in this country (infrastructure, healthcare, cost of prescription drugs, education, environmental challenges, etc.,etc.) are being ignored and nothing is getting done. Unfortunately, we share a common destiny and will eventually have to face the consequences of our inability to work together.

I getting myself back, reducing my digital information intake, looking closely at reality, silently reflecting, and writing again. There is a force out there that is strong and ugly. I’m going to do my best to keep it out of my mind.

Copyright 2020 @theautonomoustraveler.com All rights reserved.

Israel-A Kibbutz (not what I expected)

I’m from Upstate New York, way up state near the Canadian border. During my life in a rural area dotted with orchards and dairy farms, I never got to know many Jewish people. Somewhere, somehow I had heard the word “kibbutz”, maybe on TV, maybe in school. I grew up in a kind of diversity vacuum, where a Mayberry and “Leave it to Beaver” existence were the standard norm. Perceptions were clearly defined and rigidly maintained.

In my mind, a kibbutz was a farm where people came to work and plant trees. I don’t know where the idea of the trees came from but I had a very strong image of them. I knew that the kibbutz was unique to Israel and I deduced it must be must be warm there because I think I had seen pictures of everyone dressed the same in shorts

As I sat on the tour bus in November anticipating my stay at a kibbutz , my know-it-all teacher mentality kicked in and I wondered how I would react to the very vivid “reality” in my mind. Would I have to wear shorts? Feed some chickens? Plant a tree?

The concept and the necessity of The Kibbutz was started in 1903 as Russian Jewish immigrants flooded into Israel. They were communes meant to be an ideal utopia where people shared work, money, and childcare in order to create a better life for all. In its earlier history the Kibbutz members could own no private property or possessions. The concepts of social equality and gender equality started back then are still intact today.

What a surprise I had when we arrived at the kibbutz and it was a resort hotel.

The economy of the original kibbutz systems were built around farming but have now advanced to manufacturing and the hospitality industry. Some businesses are privatized and workers are salaried. Others have members work as their obligation to the kibbutz as a whole.

One of the daycare facilities on the kibbutz
A kibbutz air raid shelter frequently used during missile attacks

My visit was an eye opening and enjoyable experience that cautioned me to rely less on my preconceived perceptions.

Copyright 2020@ The Autonomous Traveler.com All rights reserved.

Israel-Maybe Life is Like Broccoli

Picture Courtesy of wiseGEEK.com

I haven’t written in days, I have been putting off trying to explain the dilemma of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I have both Jewish and Muslim friends and acquaintances now. I want to learn about the world and its people but I want to stay neutral. The conflict in Israel is not about religion but rather about territory. It is about two separate factions wanting their land of origin back. It involves centuries of history, interference from other countries, politics, anger, and unsuccessful compromises.

Picture courtesy of WPBS.com

My country is divided. This, too, has been caused by centuries of history, interference from other countries, politics, anger, and an inability to compromise.

The world situation and the constant bad news is starting to affect me as it affects all of us. I’ve been waking up each morning feeling very crabby. I’ve been wanting to stop this since it comes with a lot of negative thoughts. My memory is sharp enough to replay all the scenes of stupid things I’ve said and the awful mistakes I’ve made in life and there are many.

But this morning I got an idea. A long time ago at an outdoor art festival, I learned about a thing called fractals. A young artist had made a design that repeated the same pattern in different sizes to make one big piece of art. He explained that fractals are everywhere in nature, for example, a grain of sand is a fractal of a once very large boulder.

Image result for fractals broccoli
Picture courtesy of inverse.com




Picture courtesy of SFU.com

This is clearly illustrated in the pictures above. Each part of whole thing is made of smaller parts that are miniatures of itself.

Maybe life is like the broccoli in the picture. I’ve decided to break down my life so I can be a better part of the whole. I will never be able to totally understand or change the whole world but I can appreciate one person at a time. I can listen to human stories and enjoy the uniqueness of each one. And in the process of customizing each individual encounter, I hope to find that it is okay to stand up for myself when needed, changing the things I can and accepting the things I can’t. I can acknowledge my flaws and imperfections and learn from them. Calming my busy mind, I can let go of the past and remain unanxious about the future. Reducing things into manageable steps, I can take one day at a time and make the most of every moment.

Today is January 1, 2020, the beginning of a new year and a new decade. Tomorrow I start PT for my broken ankle and I will learn to walk again, one step at a time.

I’m writing again on my blog. Some of my entries are better than others. I make errors, sometimes I find them when I reread and sometimes I don’t. There are people who won’t ever read my blog and there are some people who don’t like what I say or how I say it. But I love to write. I will keep writing, one post, one word at a time

Happy New Year! May each of us, in our own way, find peace.

Copyright@2020 The Autonomous Traveler All rights reserved.

Israel-Finding Meaning in Hard Times

If I hadn’t had my accident in Israel, I would have never met the Muslim man who directed me to a deeper understanding of Judaism.

I met him in Syracuse, New York and because of my injuries he knew I had gone to Israel. I sensed that he was a traveler, too, and asked where he was from. He replied, “Persia”. I knew he meant Iran and I quickly told him what I believed to put him at ease. I told him that I traveled to learn about all religions, that I believed in inclusion and in the fact that we all share a common destiny. I asked him about his faith and he told me he was Muslim.

It turns out that the my new acquaintance was also on a quest to understand and showed me that he had downloaded the audio version of The World’s Religions by Huston Smith. That evening I ordered a copy of this book and when it arrived I immediately read the chapter on Judaism.

Picture courtesy of Syracuse University

The Jewish people have endured a long history of exile, discrimination, persecution, and even extermination. But through it all, as Huston Smith points out, the underlying power of Jewish survival has been its people’s search for meaning. Meaning found in God, history, morality, justice and most of of all suffering.

After my visit to Auschwitz, the Nazi death camp in Poland, I read Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl, who was a prisoner at that death camp. I thought of him while I have been recovering.

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

He has became a widely quoted existential author stating that life has no purpose and it is our responsibility to create purpose for ourselves. Every moment and experience, good or bad, helps us define that meaning.

He offered us a formula-

In my travels in Israel, I found cultural power. I found a country of problem solvers strengthen by a tradition of never giving up. I found myself inspired by this. I chose to find meaning in my mishap. The whole experience has given me a deeper understanding of the Jewish spirit and since I have been home has given me the opportunity and time to reflect even further. But the greatest gift has been a renewed confidence that allows me to declare, “Bring it on world! I’m going to be okay.”

“Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear almost any ‘how’.” Viktor Frankl

Copyright 2019@ The Autonomous Traveler All rights reserved.