Saturday, October 29, 2011

It’s a sMall World After All

Saturday. We have had Friday to shake off the week. The sun on a crisp autumn day inspires. I ask my host sister/daughter in this pigeon language of mine if she wants to go to Poti to the bazaar. She is sixteen so the yes is resounding.

The bazaar is Georgia’s version of the mall. It is full of fishmonger’s who shout from stalls, farmers in hawking fresh produce and any sort of made in China product one could imagine.

She is excited by the prospect. There is a flurry in the bathroom, and she steps out in the shortest skirt and the highest black boots. She has got her girl on.

We traipse down the pot-holed road, past the pig she has just brought swill to. We navigate around the ruts, puddles, and cow dung to wait for the rusty van that will escort us to Poti.

As we sit midsection-riding bumps and curves like sport there is a constant ding from her cell phone. And then a flurry of fingers in response.

As we walk through the cratered asphalt of the bazaar, her ping phone is ever present. Ding, ding, flurry flurry.

We stop in a café for a coffee and a respite. She is silent with me. She I preoccupied with the messages on her phone. She is so occupied with this far away love that she is oblivious to the coke and Pizza, which are long in arriving.

She becomes sullen. I am thinking she is bored or upset with me. We rush our stops as I can discern her hurry. In our haste I forget parcels of coffee and goods at a vendors.

At all times she is tethered to the cell phone and its pulsing’s. We board our crowded transport. Arriving in our village we pant as we rush up the hill. Her boots do not slow her gait. She quickens like the family’s cow does when nearing the gate of home.

Though I have had companion I have been without company through the day. I have that lonely that one gets in a crowded room. Our pleasure trip has become a burden for us both.

I understand though as she rushes the gate and takes the home phone to her bedroom that it is not just love that spurs her on but she is using up all her very precious cell phone minutes.

And here in this world ever so far away is one I have known and lived before.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Some Days

Life here…

If I were a whiner (which I have been) what I would gripe about is …

  • · I think I have fleas in my bed.
  • · The kitten that left them there has tape worm.
  • · The part of the house where the bedrooms are have no heat.
  • · To get to where the heat is and to the bathroom I must go outside and cross to a different part of the house
  • · It rains and rains and in the night I must get dressed to not have a rain shower enroute to the bathroom
  • · The toilet does not really flush.
  • · The toilet paper must go in a separate bin.
  • · There are soup days when for all meals there is soup, sometimes with chicken livers as the stock, most often with cabbage, but breakfast , lunch or dinner there is soup.
  • · To get to where the shops are I must travel in these minivans called marsukas (This week one hour long ride had 23 people in it. (seats 12) half were hunched over and butts were in my face and when you share common space with farmers you do not breath through your noise, but then if you breath through your mouth you can taste it.
  • · My hair color is mono chromatic out of a box and the cut is all choppy to go with my untweezed eyebrows
  • · There is cow dung and chicken dung everywhere, probably on my shoes from Nordstrom’s
  • · The TV is on most of the time, most of what is on I do not understand, except when I understand there is trouble in my homeland, and I do not know what it is.
  • · They internet is slooooooow and gets slooooooower near the end of the month.
  • · Oh and if I have any glitches with technology, it is not that folks do not speak English or I do not speak Georgian it is no one has computers here.
  • · And for sure Apple has not made it into this market and thus it is a problem that must wait.
  • · I knew I had to be cute and professional, but did not anticipate that I would have to more of the time be dressed for a chilly farm life.

And I could go on and on but then it is also true that:

  • · I can walk down the road and be spontaneously invited into a home for coffee or wine or even a meal.
  • · It does not matter that we do not speak the same language, long toasts are made.
  • · We toast men. We toast women. We toast my children. We toast friendship. Each toast must begin with a new glass of wine made from their vineyards.
  • · Unless of course there is much to toast as there was last Sunday and a man called us into his home, where we drank and toasted with 20 year old cognac, ate the honey from his hives and drank dark Turkish coffee
  • · I am a farm princess here
  • · I have not done laundry, cooked, did dishes or cleaned house since I left on August 10.
  • · That the stars guide me at night on my trips to the bathroom.
  • · This little cat who I named Mitzi sits at my feet and purr’s adoringly.
  • · While I was at a pet shop the vendor who was delivering dog food took in his car to a vet so I could get meds for the cat.
  • · That when the rains cease and the skies clear I can sees snow on the peeks of the nearby mountains.
  • · That I have never tasted sweeter fruit, more flavorful vegetables and that they can do things with their non-hybrid corn that defies taste.
  • · And then the ceaseless kisses, continue, the toothless grandmas, the students who leap up like kangaroos to kiss my cheeks.
  • · Though a grueling ride there is a soundtrack on the mini buses that just quells all
  • noise. All are patient with the crowded conditions or the cows who stop traffic to cross the road or the stupid American ( I ) who cannot even yell stop in their language.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Even though death did us part..

In response to I Do by a woman very much in love with a now gone man…still she is fused….

“Our broken hearts. I have always loved Irises. My father in law, the

Patriarch of his family always called them "dirty plants" growing

Everywhere. Beautiful metaphor for truth. There are those that support the

Messy, dirty world and all it's hard work, growth and heart break. Then

There are those that support it only in narrow rows of prescribed planning,

Frigid in it's visual perfection planted by the mortal hand of man, who

believes to be created in the image of god.” Jeri Regan

Marriage is union; mixture, merger, blend, amalgamation, union, alliance, fusion, combination or at least these are synonyms for marriage.

I Do.


Such a word. Must check it in the dictionary.

My very talented, good man of a brother who has international renown for his garden designs speaks to of a plan he will create for his next show. His theme will be marriage. He will use the Beatles song, Come Together for his musical inspiration. Irises are the symbolic flower to represent the union. He explains to me at some length how this flower has two parts but comes together to make a whole. That is his vision of marriage and what he hopes to articulate in his garden design.

It is an idea that charming, hopeful, inspired.

As he describes this dream garden I am not a good sister.

I get cranky inside. I do want to say the right things. I do want to tell him how proud I am of him. I want to uphold him in this. But oh those screaming monkeys of my mind. A bunch of toxic thoughts rush through. He is young. His marriage has not been stressed by economy or the ramming violations of assaults to trust. I am hearing of his garden, not through the eyes of beauty but through my own broken marriage. Through my own broken hopes.

Or the match girl kindling’s of hope, with loves whose kisses of promise end. I am left, again, chanting stupidly the line from the classic film Miracle on 34th Street. “Faith is believing when common sense tells you not to.”

I want to uncage my cynic on him. I want to taint his garden with those toxic imprints of my own hurt and loss.

I restrain myself. He redeems things for me when he speaks of the concept of joining together. I am thinking fifties sitcom marriage. He is thinking of how in life we partner with souls that are life giving to us and stir us to better to our best.

Now my hurt settles and I can hear him somewhat.

I think on my friend who lost her husband in the same time window my marriage went missing. I think of how we chat for hours. She a witness to my story and I to hers. This is a life giving friendship.

I was only able to leave my marriage when I was urged by very traditional Catholic women to ask the question, “ Is this relationship life giving? “

No. No, it was not. I was depleted.

In those dark post marriage days, it was only those vital alliances of love that stirred me on. It was shared purpose and mergers of heart with many carried me.

So my brother’s garden blooms in my head. I can see it. All Irises. All coming together.

This conversation took place just before I was to leave to live internationally and teach. His dreamscape garden just saplings. More so having left my homeland full heart mates I long for the verdant love of friendship.

I came to a farm village in the hills of Georgia, Europe. Filled with cows, chickens, (many shitting chickens) feral screeching cats, a pig. It smells of the cows. Shoes are mandatory to avoid animal droppings. Food matches seasons, not taste. If cooked we eat it till it is gone. We gather hazelnuts. I think for fun but come to realize it is one of the many micro economies engaged by the family for sustenance.

Children, many of them scurry about. Nieces, nephews. Their toys are what tools are not in use.

I spend an hour with the 7 year old. Her task is to use the hammer to open the hazelnuts for dinner that night. I hammer the shells. She picks them clean. These are our days. What the earth gives us we tend to.

I look at Maia’s flowers. I do not see beauty. I see neglect. I want to pull the weeds from the roses. I look at her irises. They are all yellow. They are at least four feet high. They thrive amidst the weeds, perhaps inspired by the ever-present scent of fertilizer.

I have been lonely for long. I had many motivations for coming to this far away land, but had I not felt so singular so often perhaps I would not have been so bold. Had that lover cemented me to him with more kisses, greater want I would perhaps have

Battened down the hatches of my predictable life and tended to my own struggling flowerbeds.

It is quiet here. Still I am lonely. Now these irises bemuse me as they do my brother.

This woman who host’s me, Maia, these fields and gardens are not hers. She tends to the farm of her mother in-law who at 62 years old is in Turkey as a housekeeper. She comes back every three months to renew her visa and bring gifts to the grandkids. She brings soft toilet paper all the way from Turkey.

As summer fades, all leave. The wee folks with their parents back to the city. The grandma to Turkey for the only bed that allows her sleep. She is an insomniac while in this village. Since her son’s death she cannot sleep in her own bed. Her son, Maia’s husband died in a car accident seven years ago. Mais sleeps well. I hear her snore through the walls. She is tired I think. She carries fifty pounds of hazelnuts up hills, finds the cow on her walkabout, sits in the church, and sells the candles trying to mend the heart that was stunned when her marriage mate went missing to death.

She feeds their children. I think she brings me to this her already stressed world so that I might help the son speak English. I think she wants her son to have rose gardens or work in Turkey. All hope is in his hands.

This village is like the Mythical Greek Island of women. I see few men. Only bent woman, and their parched faces and gardens.

Often I hear a sweet call through the starry night, “Maia”. Then they come, Nona or Margoli to sit and have a coffee. They slump on the table, head resting in hand. Weary, battle bruised. Each day one or more women come to Maia’s. chat. They come to her the same way they go to her at the church where she sells candles (She explains she sits there to heal her heart). They come to her the way they go to church to buy candles so their pray becomes hope and reaches to the heavens.

I think they are married. They are married to this life, this land, their church, and their narrative. And blessedly, ever so blessed in sipped cups of coffee, and the way they are in daily communion with each other.

I am not a good gardener, and I wonder often that perhaps I was not a good wife. I had those itchy feet, restless nature, and dreams bigger than a village.

But here, in this village, I understand irises and marriage.

I see these women a life giving force, to their families and to each other’s.

I have never really seen more lovely irises.

Friday, October 21, 2011

View from the room...

I am trying to write about a typical day in this land Georgia and my life here with out sounding like the 1000 page stream of consciousness book Ulysses by James Joyce. He just rambles on and on, covering twenty-four hours of Leopold Bloom’s life. I turned to writing as I had the same affinity to chatter on so and thought writing would sculpt my voice. This place and chapter I live to describe it I would have to write like Joyce. Things are so unformed here in this land. To describe a day would be like noise, noise like the tsunami rains here that belt us from the skies and then poof they stop. Or like the electricity which settles on us like and then just buzzes off again with no catalyst.

My writing all began when I was youngster. First with cranky letters to my mom when I was sent to my room for being naughty, then pleas of apology in efforts for early parole.

I was ironing this morning, on the wooden table in the sleep half of the house. There is no heat in this half of the house. The warmth of the iron and the very simple action of ironing just soothed me the way it soothed away the wrinkles. This very simple ritual gave me a gift. When I was little I begged my mom to teach me to iron and here in this far away land I am pressing my things. Doing the simple things that

Mom showed me, saying my bedtime prayers, having a cup of coffee. The phone rang and it was a volunteer from England. She like me is all sniffy and clogged from the weather, weary from these students who have never been given a protocol for behavior. We laugh about how we try to warm ourselves for sleep and all our seductress fantasies have succumbed to the ever-chilly wetness of autumn in Georgia.

During our training they made it very clear that only the gypsy folk wore mismatched clothes. This belief system seems entrenched in the psyche of Georgian woman as most wear only black. All looks very funereal here.

We speak of pressing garments and how her mother in one of her failed attempts to teach her to iron the clothes properly said, “I was a professional presser”

You see here as all places it is the simplest things that sustain us. We remember our deceased mothers and warm ourselves on memory.

These days here often have no touchstone, no reference. The young volunteers speak often of the randomness of Georgia.

It is random. Life here reminds me of the magical realism of writers like Carlos Castaneda, and Gabriella Garcia Marquez. I could never read them either. The narrative surreal. Like this land where I can never tell where dreams begin and the narrative ceased.

Many days here I wonder if I am in a dream. Am I a modern day tourist who has fallen in to Brigadoon? Are these hazy moors real?

In the last two days there has been much surrender, much wonder.

I am at some place of submission. I am at some moment of redemption.

I have poison ivy from frolicking about in a forest glen. I am relived it is not fleas or bed bugs. I go to the pharmacy, call an acquaintance. He speaks Russian, I speak nothing. (My Georgian is the most bastardized version of a language ever known to the human ear). I leave the pharmacy with a topical cream in hand with lovely little green icons of ivy on the box.

A Georgian man who likes to practice his English is having a birthday. I am his quest. Unlike most Georgians he has little family. his parents and grandparents are deceased. We eat magnificent food, Garmajos (make many toast to all life’s goodness and chapters) He is happy. I am happiest of all, as he will drive me home. No schlepping about on pungent, jarring marshuka mini vans that drag people and their goods about the land. (Very few people here have cars)

I am most blissful that he has taken me shopping to store up on water, which is too heavy for me to bring up the hill on my half-mile walk to the store. Water! We had been warned not to drink local water; as it makes many visitors ill. I feel like it is my birthday, like a metaphorical thirst in me has been quenched.

In these days the rains are ceaseless. Buckets are not a metaphor. From the heavens comes such wetness that the cows moan in complaint. I forever chilled, long for my creature comforts.

I must not complain. I watch my host Maya and all she does. (She is near forty; I am near sixty yet she is the mom.) She chastises me about no socks and urges me to eat green yucky food.

She lives these rains season after season. She adapts. She feeds the cows the corn she has shucked; she gathers the cobs to burn. I bring us bananas. She likes these. But she is hungry and all are eaten. Then she finds the bacon I have bought and tried to tuck away in the very sparse refrigerator. (It is common here to have a lock on the refrigerator. Food is valuable)

I come home from the damp school. The cats cry. Do they wail about the rain? No they smell the cooking of the bacon. Maya has found the bacon! The bacon has been fried with potatoes and onions and served to me on a platter. With the comment “Chama, Chama” (Eat. eat)

There is no lack, but in perception.

I wish I had more time to chat on the phone with this heart mate woman from England who was bold enough to say yes to new love. Yes to a new land. Yes to a new work. Yes to a new friend. In this land where there are ten ways to say yes and only one way to say no she lives the language. I want to tell her more about my mom. My mom was right. She was always right. I was too often wrong.

I was naughty like Goldilocks. Pootooy I would say to anything I was told not to do. I was like these Georgian students. Ebullient and unrestrained. I like Maya was hungry often. I would eat all the bananas and such. One time I wanted chocolates. I lied to my mom about needing school supplies. She searched her own threadbare pockets to find me a dime. She told me as she gave it to me she said, “God always provides”

Perhaps this land is not at all random. Perhaps my perceptions are stymied. Perhaps it is an adventure where I live mom’s admonishments of God’s provisions.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Debate Team

I have been crazy making me. Should I stay or go? Every time I see the sun on the ridge casting light about I want to stay. When I walk into the courtyard of school and a group of student’s rush me saying “ Mas, Mas “Teacher, Teacher” and the Goldilocks’ one kisses my check I want to stay. In 1,000 ways I want to stay. Then the interior dialogue is swayed to the must get out of here. When rains like monsoons lurch from the heavens like a sky born Tsunami leaving my bones longing for warmth. When I have not heard my native tongue for a week. Or when some creepy crawler has chewed my arm for its midnight snack.

Last weekend I had occasion to go to the wine region, a lovely lush place. I spent the weekend with a young teacher who I met upon my arrival in this land. She listened as I wept telling her of the many goodbyes one must say as a teacher. (I used to tell my students that each child had their own room in my heart and indeed this seems true.)

We spent the next day traveling to the ancient monasteries and lighting candles. Prayers and wishes to heaven.

Then in that random way that is the way all days are here I ended up drinking homemade wine at the home of a highly regarded professor of education (Gela). At some point in his career he had a sabbatical in the states. He participated in an international consortium called Project Harmony. Gela has been nominated to be in an academic anthology of great men. (For the visual of this narrative think not Mr. Chips, think Tony Soprano.) This very rugged man is our toastmaster. People do not drink in Georgia. Drinking is ceremony. Wine is poured into gold bowels. Poem is said. Ancestors are reveled. After each toast all raise their glass and say “Garmajos”

We have been imbibing the sacred wine, sitting under a canopy of grapes. The accordion comes out and singing commences. We drink to peace. We drink to love.

I ask Gela if he should like to return to the states.

He looks at me and says, simply says, “ I have a bed”

And thus I knew my answer.

I have my bed.

It is mine.

Early on in deciding whether to travel to Georgia I had to ask some tough questions of myself, I am long past the age of geographical cure. Running away from home stopped working at eight, that time those boys were following me (Or so my mom said when I she urged to get me in the car when I was trying to follow the freeway to grandmas house.) I had to ask if I was going just to get way from writing for which I am mam temperamentally ill suited.

Last week when I was so churned about the which course of action to take I got an email stating I had place thirteenth of 100 selected in a contest by Writer’s Digest. A sign I suppose. Blessedly, always, and still I love teaching. It is a sacred and high work. It stirs one to be more, give more each day. It is a vocation a call.

Writing is laborious and arduous and most often like reels of family holiday films that sit in canisters. But it is the call and so I return.

I will post the work that was noted in the anthology. It was all about loss and grief. Ah and so again there is one more farewell.

(See following post for piece selected by Writer's Digest)