Madam Secretary Reflects on International Relations and Happy Happenstance

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The Ring of Kerry. My photo.

WELL, MY FRIENDS, IT’S MARCH, and I’m sure we all agree that Old Man Winter has way, way overstayed his welcome.

I thought I would be serving tea at a place in the city. Instead, I’m working in our office so my dad can make up for lost time in the fields, and my current occupation doesn’t involve traveling to anywhere except the post office. (It’s like doing laundry: you sort through the junk mail, code the invoices, file the vouchers, try to decipher heavy Asian accents on the phone, empty the waste baskets and get everything tidied away for a little while, and then you start over again.)

I’ve always said that administration is not my thing.

The joke is on me, as usual.

Anyway, I’m bored, and thinking of tea and travel makes me nostalgic, so I’m going to ramble about foreign countries and things that are none of my business.

I’m not a politician–just a farmer’s daughter. But Ireland and Israel are like strangers who keep crossing my path and bumping into each other, and I feel like they should be friends.

I had the joy of spending Christmas 2014 in Ireland with my sister’s husband’s family. Dublin looked like a bloom of glowing plankton from the sky, the night we flew in. I woke up at three o’clock the first morning and didn’t know where I was until I tuned into an Irish radio station. Billy Joel was singing “Just The Way You Are,” and that song has had a special place in my heart ever since. Continue reading “Madam Secretary Reflects on International Relations and Happy Happenstance”

Nasal Ecstasy

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Us, 25 years ago… We were almost struck by a rogue bolt of lightning one day on the hill in the background.

IF MY SOUL HAD A SMELL it would smell like mint. We drank it and played in it, waist-deep, when we were little. Its vibrant, heady fragrance has infused my whole life. 

The ancient Romans personified it as “Menthe,” the water nymph loved by Pluto, god of the underworld. Pluto’s queen became jealous and trampled fair Menthe, turning her into a humble plant. But Pluto decreed that the more mint was bruised the sweeter it would smell. (I can vouch for that last part.)

Mint is a popular herb in the Middle East, where it’s used in salads, roasts, and many other dishes. I was delighted to find bulging sacks of fresh spearmint at a market in Jerusalem. I crushed some of the leaves between my hands and the aroma immediately took me back to the verdant fields of home. Continue reading “Nasal Ecstasy”

A Letter To The Man In Orange: Uncensored

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My photo.

DEAREST UNCLE BUD,

How are you? Had any visitors lately? How’s your new prosthetic working?

Yes, the trip was ok and everyone’s fine.

Flying with El Al afforded fifteen solid hours to get pre-acclimated to Israeli bluntness and the rich sound of spoken Hebrew. The gate at Los Angeles International Airport is very remote and hard to find (just like the Israeli embassy in San Fransisco is located in an unmarked building and, once inside, deliberately disorienting). The jet was roomy and clean, the staff professional, the food tasty. Most of the passengers were Jewish, and so there was a lot of camaraderie and sarcastic humor going on. There was also a lot of seat-shuffling, because some of them didn’t want to sit with members of the opposite sex.

The sophisticated young lady banker to my left chatted with me in a refreshingly candid way and shared her things as though we were old friends. The elderly lady to my right overflowed her seat like a big pillow and doted on me with shocking warmth. “We need people like you,” she sighed, patting my leg. A helpful lady in the row ahead taught me some fun Hebrew phrases (“Is my accent cute?”). She had a dark complexion and her traditional turban made her look like a Gypsy fortune-teller. “Be very careful,” she warned me, almost as if she were gazing into a crystal ball, “Stay away from crowded places.”

My best adolescent friend was a Gypsy girl from Romania. Do you remember her from when you were at our house, the last time you escaped? Her adopted grandparents were quite the globetrotters, if you recall, and I used to like to sit on a camel saddle at their house. So now I’m traveling and everyone looks like a Gypsy to me. Maybe one day I’ll see a Gypsy staring back at me from the mirror… Continue reading “A Letter To The Man In Orange: Uncensored”

Chief Cornerstone & The Thirteenth Apostle

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HE WAS CROSSING KING DAVID STREET, in Jerusalem, near the hip vicinity of Mamilla Mall. I noticed his distinctly Native American features and limber stride even before I saw the long hair dangling down his back, swinging behind him like a pendulum as he disappeared into a sweaty throng of pedestrians.

His head was high. There was a bounce in his step. No slumped shoulders and shuffling feet. No empty whisky bottle. No shame. No defeat. No Johnny Cash singing honky tonk…

Jerusalem is a colorful place. It isn’t Disney Land, it isn’t Paris, but it really is like the naval of the world. Here you might find a Baptist church led by an Assemblies of God pastor meeting on Saturday instead of Sunday, and I walk around humming It’s A Small World, because the world really does seem to shrink when you are here, surrounded by Jews, Arabs, Armenians, Druze, African refugees, foreign dignitaries, and tourists speaking almost every language under the sun…

Still, outside of the military, it’s unusual to see an American Indian so far from America.

He’s a long way from homeI marveled.

But so am IContinue reading “Chief Cornerstone & The Thirteenth Apostle”