Monday, December 20, 2010

Year End 2010

Well my friends. It's the end of 2010. I've been home for just about six months and I see I've not filled in for you what it's been like being back. It's hard to describe re-entry. At first all seemed utterly easy: hearth and home were as if I'd not left (except that Peter had redone our bedroom ceiling and walls - that was a treat!), the neighborhood looked the same,everyone speaksks English. It was the Fourth of July weekend when we landed and so we were ushered into a celebration of America, guests, fireworks, parades. I hurried off to Esalen for a board meeting. I flew to Chicago with mymom and sisters to celebrate birthdays and shop. I took the hedge back from months of overgrowth. And we went to our cabin in Maine for relaxation, kayaking and music-making.

Then I began to notice a gap, a vacuum, a space. From time to time I forgot where things were here -- streets, friends' homes, grocery stores. I watched the sidewalks for huge cracks and the curbs for deep dropoffs like our streets in Amman. Bread costs too much and there's nothing coming piping hot out of an oven, steaming, flat smothered in oil and zaatar. Cucumbers are large and bland. Stuffed rolled grape leaves are expensive.
Hommos here thinks it's Israeli.

I find that understanding all the words around me can be disturbingly banal.

Half and half in my coffee is padding out the lean I'd acquired in Jordan. No access to Petra jars my soul. No views of the great Hercules atop Amman's Citadel saddens my eyes. There is no Hashem restaurant a cab ride away for fabulous falafel and onions, clamor and tea. Beirut, Damascus, Bethlehem and Cairo aren't just a few hours away. I miss last year's world.

Most of the great lessons I learned last year were about living. Too many deadlines deaden. Drink sweet tea seated. Watch the sunset. Talk with friends using both ears. Time is shorter. And longer. And there's nothing you can do about it anyway.

So I've not rushed back into the fray. My last speaking event in Amman was the world premiere of my 1989 film shot in Jordan for NJN, "Classical Caravan," at the home of US Deputy Chief of Mission Lawrence Mandel. Beginning September here I spoke in the fall at Illinois College, Colorado State, the Air Force Academy, Colorado College, Maplewood and South Orange Middle Schools. Representing my family I presented the 2010 M.T. Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award to Helen Thomas. But there's been no big project consuming my time. No overlapping deadlines to fret about. I am able to attempt long form writing and produce shorter pieces for air or Op-Ed pages.

I've been a busy board member at Esalen, The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey and Masar Ibrahim el Khalil, promoting, raising money, encouraging people to participate in seminars, come see the plays, and walk. Maestro Istvan Jaray returned me to the principal flute chair in the Livingston Symphony Orchestra and there's great music for me to perfect. Muffins are becoming my specialty bake item -- especially made with leftover cranberry relishes from Thanksgiving Dinner. I just finished reading Isabel Allende's Island Beneath the Sea and I expect I'll go ahead and read everything else she's written. And do, in some way, what she does. This is a process of reinvention: what's my next phase?

Sit, drink tea, and figure it out.

I love watching Janna mature at Wellesley College. She's an activist in environmental affairs and justice. Passionate and logical in her arguments. Katie's marching band season was successful. She was named best "high woodwind" for her flute-playing. And she lucky duck, is going to Jordan for Christmas and the New Year. She's charged with bringing back zaatar and Ajloun olive oil.

Marriage is working out fine lo! these 25 years later with ten months apart. I didn't know how comfortably I'd fall back into sharing authority with the other adult or how I'd readjust to balancing independence with partnership. It's better than I could have imagined. We're both eager to dust the physical contours of our home, clear out stuff, rearrange, polish. We listen to records. I'm watching (American) football -- we are Patriots fans -- and enjoying it for the first time in my life. I'm not feeling pent up even if the view is not Herculean. I look out the window of my office on the third floor of our home and remember watching my daughters walk up that street when they were eight, nine, ten ... now seventeen years old. And there's only a year and a half left for me as a mom with a child at home. After that there's plenty of time, insha Allah, to roll out the next phase.
Merry Christmas, Happy New Year. May joy and success be abundant in 2011.