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“Keep blossoming.” That is what a friend said to me the other day when we said good bye. With so much gratitude, I can indeed say that this summer has felt like a summer of personal blossoming. After one of the hardest and darkest winters of my life, where I fully surrendered to shadow work, it seems that I am now in a period of relative ease, where things are flowing and falling into place in such a way that I am humbled and can’t help but feel that there are forces bigger than me working in my favor. That is not to say that there aren’t still hard days and moments, and times when I doubt myself and feel scared or alone, but overall when people have asked how I am I can honestly say I am great. Possibly better then I have ever been.

It’s hard for me to capture in words the gratitude, joy and richness of being alive that I have felt this summer but I want to at least share some of the more tangible highlights. First of all, I moved back to Ithaca in April and I truly felt like I had returned to my spiritual and physical home. It felt so good to finally move to a place with the intention of putting down roots. To finally be someplace and not be tied to an academic calendar, a job, a relationship or really any external structure, perceived or real. I moved back purely because I wanted to and with my only intention being to create my life here. And to create it how I wanted, by my own rules, and on my own schedule. And, with the commitment to honor and listen to my highest self, whom I trust to be in accordance with the highest good of all, it seems that the world has opened its doors to me.

When I first arrived in Ithaca my intentions and goals were humble: They were simply to preserve spaciousness in my life and just stay present and centered in each moment in this place that I was so looking forward to returning to. I was grateful to be welcomed back into the ecovillage here, to a living situation I was familiar and comfortable with, and took back my old job as a substitute grocery stocker at the local food coop. Spring was just beginning and with it it seemed people, including myself, were  emerging from their winter nests. I was so happy to be back! And I welcomed the familiarity of the ecovillage and the amazing local food coop, greenstar, both of which I missed so much while I was away! But I wasn’t quite sure what to tell people when they asked what I had been up to the last year and what I was doing now, and so I found myself telling them what felt like a convoluted story about my timber framing apprenticeship and other past building adventures and then glossing over the dark winter months with most. But the truth was I felt like I was back at square one in terms of “what I was doing with my life.” I had no idea if I ever was going to build again, I had basically let go of my dream of building “our” home for me and some partner that I no longer had, and I had discovered the hard way that things rarely go according to plan anyway. But, I was okay with being back at square one. If anything I welcomed it, for after a year of deaths of relationships, dreams, and ideas of who I thought I was and could be, square one felt like a pretty good place to be. By accepting this I felt like I at least was not at square zero. It felt like I had already been thrown into the fires of hell, been stripped of any and all protective ware,  and had finally been spit out at the other end, raw and vulnerable, but grateful for the soothing waters of the womb of emptiness. I was in no rush to rebuild any false pretenses of “me” and was quite content to just live simply for a while.

So when a new friend John asked me soon after I arrived if I wanted to help him restore an old barn I responded with reserved curiosity. Did I want to give the building world another try? Was I ready for that? I honestly wasn’t sure. But John’s gentle, generous, and humble yet confident nature somehow reassured me enough to give it a go. The barn project was slow to get started and ended up not coming through, but in the meantime John invited me to help him just for a day at another project at Cayuga Pure Organics. One day sounded low risk enough and so I agreed. I was nervous and unsure of myself, but I guess I did ok as at the end of the day when I said, “I hope I didn’t slow you down too much,” he laughed and responded, “Are you kidding me?” I smiled and felt something open within me. I could see he was genuinely grateful for my help, and despite my feeling like I had fumbled my way through the day, he seemed to have complete confidence in my abilities. And so an amazing work partnership was born, and I will be forever grateful to this sweet and humble seasoned builder who has taken me under his wing. That day at cayuga pure organics became the first of many that I worked out there, helping them rebuild from a massive fire last spring that burned down their whole processing plant. And as John and I built together I felt my confidence in myself and gratitude for him growing. Not once did I ever feel like I had to prove myself to him, and he always welcomed questions and input. And it seemed like all our values and working styles aligned and complimented each other too!

As my work life transitioned from mostly working at greenstar to mostly building I also enjoyed a blossoming social life. As a single woman I enjoyed the autonomy of my weekends and evenings, going on spontaneous adventures that would start at the saturday farmers market, and nurturing sweet new friendships. I got to experience my first ever Grassroots music festival, which was a blast, and also finally went to my first Ithaca Dance Camp. The Ithaca Dances of universal peace circle, which hosts the ithaca dance camp, has always held a special place in my heart and to immerse myself for four days in these dances of love and peace was nothing short of blissful.

At a certain point I realized I was no longer just getting my feet on the ground here in Ithaca but had landed. I felt settled in my home, had planted two garden beds full of vegetables that were beginning to give back in their abundance, and felt surrounding by wonderful budding friendships and community, and had somehow found myself to be in a position where building had become my main source of income! And I was enjoying it all. Funny how it only happened when I finally stopped trying so hard. And of course, now that things were mostly in order I had the mental and emotional space to start to consider what were my long term plans? What did I want to actually do?

It was just as I was beginning to mull this question over when Maria had an open house for the  Hammerstone school,  her carpentry for women school that is on its way to building it’s second tiny house on wheels. The first tiny house was on display for the open house and as I sat inside chatting with the owner, Liz, and her friends and family a seed was planted. I had read about tiny houses and seen pictures of them but had never been inside one. Suddenly I realized, “this is within my reach and I could totally live like this!”

As many of you know, the dream of building my own home is one I have had for quite some time now. It has evolved in shape and form and even undergone its own deaths and rebirths. Because of this I was wary to share this new idea, and protected it as a little sacred seed whose roots were still fragile. Initially I just allowed myself to be intrigued, thinking perhaps next spring, after a year of working and living in Ithaca, this will be what I set out to do. Besides, I thought, I needed to save up more money if I were to do this. But the wheels began turning. A tiny house on wheels would solve the problem if me not owning land and not knowing who, in the long term, I would be happy sharing land with. A tiny house on wheels would allow me to build and be pretty much exempt from building codes and permits. John and I were now working on framing up a 20′ by 32′ house for a couple and I realized a tiny house on wheels was about a 3rd of the size of this house and that with the support and encouragement of someone like John I had the ability to do it. But money did still feel like the daunting factor. Materials costs for these tiny houses generally seems to be in the $20,000 to $30,000 range. For me that is a lot of money, more then I have ever personally had.

But then a few things happened that together convinced me I could do this and I could start now. So now I need to back track a little. Through the winter and continuing into the present I have been doing some deep inner work with the guidance of some very gifted healers who I am forever indebted and grateful to. Through this work I have developed a language and a framework that has become integral to by worldview. Core to this is the belief that we are all creators. That each and everyone one of us is fully responsible for our own experience in this world, down to the family and situation we choose to be born into, the life we choose to create, and even the pain, loss, and heartache we experience. This belief comes from a belief that everything, including what we experience as solid matter such as our bodies, the warm rock I am sitting on, the smoothie I am drinking, and even money, is really just energy. Vibrational energy. At this point, if you are starting to think I am crazy I guess I want to offer that even physics has shown that matter is really just made up of wave particles. I am not a physicist and will not pretend to be, but I just say this to say to those more science oriented people (which I am one of) that this is not totally out of the realm of logical explanation.  So given the belief that we are all creators, fully responsible for our own experience here are three questions I now continually ask myself  as I navigate my experience in this world: Why did I create this? Do I want to create differently? And how can I create differently?

To give some real life perspective to these questions, I want to say that these were not always easy questions for me to ask. For me on my journey, this meant asking the painful questions of, “Why did Stephen choose to die?” “Why did I need to experience loosing the first love of my life at age 21 to a heroine overdose?” and “Why, over three years after this traumatic life event, did I feel more lost, alone, and in despair than ever before?”

And yet, it was the surrendering to this utter despair that finally allowed me to take a really hard look at myself and ask these questions. And not to blame myself (I had done enough of that), but to understand and see with compassion and clarity why I had needed to create this and then to make peace with all that had come to be. And then to begin to shift things and ask how I do I want to create now.

With these questions guiding me as I continue to work to connect in more with my highest self I have witnessed my ability to create manifest outwardly as I begin within. And so when my car got hit on the side of the road and was declared a total loss my first question was why did I choose to create this way? Well, it turned out I was much happier living without a car. My car had become a headache of repairs and maintenance and I felt better not contributing so much to the fossil fuel economy. And biking, walking at hitch hiking my way through the glorious Ithaca summer turned out to be a beautiful exercise in slowing down, trusting, and asking for help when I needed it, leaning into the wonders of a community willing to share and support one another. And, I suddenly had $4000 of insurance money in my pocket.

Living simply I also found I was actually able to save additional money, despite only bringing in a modest income, and although I didn’t have anywhere near $20,000 upfront to pay for a tiny house I began to trust that the resources would  come to support the manifestation of this dream. I remembered learning in one of my building courses about the “time – money – quality” triangle and how it was best to choose two of these three that were most important to you when taking on a project. I realized I wanted to build my self a high quality home and that if I started now, even though I didn’t have the money up front I did have the time. My current living situation is wonderful and affordable and my current work situation is one where I basically create my own work schedule. So really, now was the perfect time to start.

And so the tiny house adventure began. Within a week of getting clear within and telling John that I wanted to do this I began to see things manifest outwardly. Our friend Amy approached John and said she really wanted us to build her a tiny home too and so we decided we would build both hers and mine on John’s land and that she may end up fronting some of the material costs in exchange for my labor. The first step and test of my decision to do this was buying our trailers.  I began to look and research and it seemed the general consensus was the trailer was not the place to skimp, and a new trailer was the way to go. The cost savings of used trailers were tempting ($300 vs. almost $4000) but as I sat with the decision I knew I wanted the new trailer, and the only reason I would go for the used trailer was fear of not having enough money. Fear of not having enough is no way to cultivate abundance and so I worked on releasing that fear, seeing this is a gift to myself and others, and trusting that the world would support me. Then in one whirlwind of a day Amy, John, and I drove out to Locke, New York where a guy named Steve Lamphier makes custom trailers, and we put half the money down for two trailers, designed specifically to support a tiny house, and will pay the rest when we go and pick them up in about two weeks. In the meantime we have now received 8 double pane, good condition windows, donated completely free of charge from friends and community members, one window in exchange for 4 hours garden work, and I took advantage of a Lowes sale to special order my four loft windows which needed to be a very specific size to fit the space limitations. I bought a beautiful front door at the Ithaca reuse center and we put in an order for kiln dried pine tongue and groove flooring from Collins Saw Mill, which will be ready in about a week. And Alternatives Bank is going to help finance some of this as a small business model with a $2000 grant.  In the meantime we continue to search for windows!

Indeed as I practice envisioning my dreams and trusting, I feel myself surrounded by love and and support. Some have asked “When will it be done?” and “Do you have a plan?” Well, yes, I have a rough plan. But I also know that it will change and evolve. And I have to say I have no idea when it will be done. I have chosen to focus on quality and need to keep costs reasonable, not to mention that taking the time to reuse and salvage materials feels good to me and in line with my values. The process by which this house is built feels just as important as the outcome and it is a process that I want to be organic and not restricted by time. As one person reflected back to me recently, I am approaching this project from the artist side me and see this as me creating my own sacred sanctuary. A place I can call my own. And just as when I start a painting I usually have an idea but no detailed plan, and as it is hard to predict how long a painting will take or when it is actually completed, this tiny home will be done when it feels done, and not before. And there is a vision for it but only a minimalist plan.

And so my dream has experienced another rebirth and I expect this blog to begin to also shift focus to document and support this tiny house project. I hope you can see that really this is much more then just a tiny house project for me. It is a continuation of my journey of coming into my own, setting up my life intentionally in a way that gives me freedom and autonomy, and living simply and in line with my values. It is a practice of trusting and manifesting dreams in a way that supports and inspires others to do the same.

So I end this lengthy post with gratitude and a prayer that I caught at the Ithaca Dance Camp. And the simple drawing I made as a vision board that is tacked above my desk in my current tiny bedroom.

“I Surrender all that does not serve me. I rise to meet my true self. I accept my humanity. And I greet my divinity”

"I surrender all that does not serve me. I rise to meet my true self. I accept my humanity. I greet my divinity."

“I surrender all that does not serve me. I rise to meet my true self. I accept my humanity. I greet my divinity.”

My simple vision

My simple vision

Red Sky

Four years ago today I found out that you left this world. With you I danced my first dance of love. And an epic dance it was. Last night I felt your presence as I danced under the full moon. That day four years ago, it seemed like such a final blow; Your fiery red light snuffed from this world at the tender age of 21. But little did I realize the journey had just begun. For you and I, we share a soul contract, its purpose still being fulfilled. Thank you for all you taught me and continue to teach me each day. Thank you even for the lessons hard learned, for there the deepest wisdom lies. Thank you for being the catalyst for much of whom I am today. Perhaps next time you’ll stay longer. But for now may your soul rest in that place of universal love and peace. You’ve been a guardian angel. And I know you always will be. I remember you today, as I do every day. But today I share it with the world because your light is one to be remembered. Stephen Noble Holland, through me and through others your spirit lives on. I love you and always will.

Tonight's sunset out on Cayuga S.H.A.R.E. farm, where I spent the day surrounded by good people and close to the land.

Tonight’s sunset out on Cayuga S.H.A.R.E. farm, where I spent the day surrounded by good people, close to the land.

Springtime Odes

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Fingers tingle from nettles prickle

I look for my reflection

In the last light of dusk

And what do I see?

I see clouds, I see sky

I see flashes of light

And storms a brew.

The tick tock of the hand of a clock

Pointing towards?

 

Tadpoles,

Like sperm they swim

Determined to give birth to the next

Their movement is not random

Yet like birds they scatter

From one central point it seems they pulse

They come and they go

Beating to the rythm of the earth

 

I speak to them

And to the nettles whose sting cleanses me

And to the peas struggling to grow upwards in my garden

I speak to them in sing-song tones

Of my mother tongue.

 

Yes, my Mother’s tongue

The one from the far East

From the only people who have ever experienced

The destructive Might…

Of the Nuclear Bomb.

 

This is the language that comes

When I speak to the Earth.

Speculate, you may, on why that is

But it is.

 

From the warmth of my covers and the soft pillow of my bed

I watch.

I watch the Moon wax and wane as it makes its nightly traverse across the sky

I watch the mouselike critter

With fur that hides any ears to be seen

Plunge its nose blissfully

Into the sweet sunburst of a spring dandelion.

And I listen to the lullaby of a chorus of many.

And sometimes

When sleep fails to call

I sit up alert

For the flashes of spring thundershowers

Or for the sound of the midnight howl

Of the coyotes on an almost moonless night

 

Did you know that the blueberry flower tastes almost as good as the blueberry?

Well it does.

But don’t eat too many

Because remember;

Flowers are the goddesses of Spring

That birth our Fall Abundance

 

A day at Edible Acres

It is early spring, which at Edible Acres means Sean is getting ready for for his first plant sale tomorrow.

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Plants getting potted up in Sean’s homemade potting mix in preparation for sale.

For me and some other volunteers this means we got to go and spend the day among his awesome demonstration gardens, getting out hands in the soil, and picking his brain about all his amazing plant knowledge while helping him pot things up and learning a bunch about the plants we are getting ready for sale.

And it was the perfect day for such a task, with the weather being cool (probably mid 50’s) and mostly overcast with a few light sprinkles of rain. This weather is great as it is still pleasant to work outside but the plants stay moist and experience less stress as the soil they are being taken out of and the air and the soil they are being put into all are around the same temperature.

Here is a little about five of the plants plants and one mushroom that we worked with today. Most of this knowledge is what I learned from sean over the course of the day and am now refining and adding to from a little bit of online research (linked to throughout). I took home a plant or two of each of these five so I will try and let you know what I think of them as I actually get to experience their wonders first hand.

Sea kale (Crambe maritima):

 

Sea kale is an ancient perennial plant that resembles kale and is making a comeback as a favorite of permaculture enthusiasts. Permaculturists always love perennials because they require less work and generally support more stable and resilient ecosystems. Although Sea kale looks like kale it is actually not even in the same family. But its roots, leaves, and flowers are edible and it grows really easily in just about any soil. And it propagates really easily too! So what we did today was dig up some of Sean’s sea kale plants which had significant tuber like roots underground. Then we just broke the tubers up into pieces and planted them into sean’s potting mix making sure to keep their orientation correct, meaning the more tapered end of the root points down in the soil.

Walking onion (Allium proliferum):

A walking onion bulb cluster

So onions are great. But usually you have to dig them up out of the ground to harvest them, which can be a fair amount of effort, and then you have to replant them the next year from seed, which usually means buying seed, which costs money. But what if you had an onion that behaved more like garlic? Where you break apart your 1 head of garlic and plant, lets say 5 cloves from that head, and then the next year you get 5 heads of garlic. Welcome to the walking onion. This onion does just that; it creates new onions in a cluster around itself, growing every year if you leave them, or allowing you to dig them up, harvest some, and split apart the others and replant them to get more clusters of onions! Amazing!

But, that is really just the beginning of the wonders of this onion. What I described is one way to harvest onions from this plant. But there is a second way that doesn’t even require any digging at all! These onions have a top set that are like mini onions or shallots. These topsets will begin to form in spring and can be harvested pretty much at any point from when they are small and probably pretty mild to when they reach maturity in late summer. If you get them at the right time I hear you don’t even have to peel them! The topsets are smaller then your typical onion, ranging from 1/4″ to about an 1″ but I at least am excited to try substituting them into my cooking where I woulf normally used a regular onion. When the top sets get heavy enough they will cause the stalk to bend over to the ground and if conditions are right they will root, forming another root cluster, hence the name walking onions!

Top sets: are like mini onions! You can harvest these and use them like onions or shallots and you don’t even have to dig up the plant!

I am excited to see the single walking onion I took home hopefully multiply into many for years to come.

Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum):

 

A wonderfully smelling herb, anise hyssop is great to make tea out of or to sprinkle into salads or put on top of deserts. Medicinally, it is often used to soothe respiratory ailments such as a cough and as a digestive aid. It is in the mint family and so can be used in many of the same ways you would use mint. It also has wonderful purple flowers that the bees love!

Sorrel:

common sorrel (Rumex acetosa)

This sorrel is another delicious perennial that is super easy to grow. I have a red veined sorrel variety planted the garden at my parents which I love, especially when the leaves are young. I anticipate that this common sorrel will be a little more tender and perhaps less strong in taste, if also a little less striking in appearance. It has a tart leaves that are great sprinkled in salads and a quick google search brings up some yummy sounding sorrel soup recipes. I am excited to try that when I have enough of it!

June bearing Strawberry:

This nice mystery cultivar that bears fruit in June (hence the name) seems to be quite vigorous and have great flavor, according to Sean. Sean found these in Ithaca and rescued them after someone carelessly mowed right over them and they have been thriving in his garden ever since. I planted a whole bunch in a little contained stone terrace outside my home here and am excited to have a vigorous strawberry patch to nibble from in just a few months! 

Stropharia rugosoannulata (wine cap mushroom)

So, the last thing I got from Sean is not actually a plant. It was some mushroom inoculated cardboard. And as some of you know I have a soft spot for mushrooms. This one is what we call the wine cap mushroom- a mushroom I have never tasted and certainly never cultivated before, so I am super excited to see if I can!

Apparently the stropharia, wine cap mushroom, is an excellent companion in the garden as it likes complex environments and will not effect the plants in any negative way. In fact, it will help enrich the soil, speeding the composting process and helping break down any woody matter. It also feeds off of bacteria that may otherwise become undesirable runoff or contaminants, so some people have successfully used this mushroom as a bio filter to reduce numbers of such things as fecal coliform from cow manure runoff. Plus it is considered a choice edible by many!

Sean has a great video on his youtube channel showing how to take a little bit of incoulum and grow it into a lot. He also has a video showing how he has really scaled up his stropharium production and now includes this inoculum in his potting mix! So if you buy some plants from him you might just get luck and end up with a few wine caps popping up as well. I followed his video and took the maybe 4″x8″ piece of cardboard he gave me covered with white mycelium and sprinkled it through a large pot in which I layered cardboard, compost, some wood chips and straw. Hopefully in less than a month that garden pot will be full of mycelium and then I can make an even bigger batch and also try putting some directly into my garden so I can get flushes of wine caps around my sea kale and walking onions!

So there is some of what I learned from a day out at Edible Acres in Trumansberg, NY!

 

 

 

Joy

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Acrylic and Sand on Canvas

Another painting inspires by the caves in the north of Israel.

I took a full day tour with Green Olive Tours into the west bank, to Bethlehem and Ramallah. It was an very informative experience- I would highly recommend it. I’ve done my best to caption these photos in order to help share my experience with others. I checked dates and stories using wikipedia (so please read keeping the “non academic” nature of the source in mind). Also, please understand this is just my experience based mostly on the information and perspective given to me by one amazing palestinian tour guide. Of course the situation is complex and layered so please take this as only one perspective. I hope though that it might inspire respectful discussions and spark people’s curiosity to do their own research and find other perspectives and come to their own informed conclusions.

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Just across the Bethlehem  checkpoint on the Palestinian side. All these taxis are waiting to show tourists around and take workers back home when they arrive back from a days work in Israel.

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Many Palestinians go into Israel to work and so at this checkpoint the lines start forming at 2 or 3am as they know it could take as long as 3 hours to get across the checkpoint.

Palestinians with clean records are allowed one 3 day visiting visa a year into Israel. On this 3 day visa they can look for work and if they succeed in finding work then then can apply for a 6 month work visa. If they do not find work they will have to wait another year to go back into Israel.

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The parking lot where palestinians have left their car for the day to walk across the checkpoint and work in Israel. This checkpoint is only for pedestrians.

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“The Nakba” is The Catastrophe, which is what many palestinians call May 15th, 1948, the day of Israeli Independence and the palestinian exodus.

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The barrier wall (aka the security wall, the apartheid wall, the fence…)

the first sections of the wall were constructed as early as 1994 but the move to make a continuous wall really began in about 2001.

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the palestinian side of the wall is covered in graffiti.

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These stories are part of what is called the “wall museum.” each one tells a short true story as told by palestinian women.

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They are worth reading…

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and they go on for what must have been miles.

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Here is a house on the palestinian side that is not allowed to open its windows on the second floor because of its proximity to the wall.

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Leila Khaled is a palestinian woman who is a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). Who took part in two hijackings. In her first hijacking in 1969 no civilians were hurt and her stated aim was to fly over Haifa, so she could see her birthplace which she could not visit. Her second attempted hijacking was part of a coordinated effort by the PLFP to hijack multiple planes. This hijacking was stopped. Although she was carrying two hand grenades she says she was under strict instruction to not hurt any civilians. After this second hijacking she was briefly imprisoned but then released as part of a prisoner exchange. It is believed that she is still alive.

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More graffiti…

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More stories…

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The Banksy shop.

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More stories…

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Some in our group taking an opportunity to leave their mark on the wall.

 

 

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A UN car driving through Palestine. Many of the Palestinians feel the UN has been largely ineffective and has given minimal aid to them

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Entrance to one of the refugee camps that has been in existence since 1948. The residents in these camps are people and their descendants who left their homes in places within what is now Israel during the war following Israeli Independence and have since been refused the right the right to return.

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Since the camp has been in existence for over 60 years it does not fit the idea many of us have of a refugee camp; there are no tents. People have built permanent structures. But they have been forced to build up and up for lack of room as their numbers grow with their children and the next generation.

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graffiti within the refugee camp: the dove is holding the “key” which symbolizes the key of return- many palestinians have held on to the key of their homes which they abandoned as a symbol that one day they will still return.

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A school within the refugee camp

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and in the courtyard right outside the school we see this graffiti.

 

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and this graffiti. 

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Now to Bethlehem and the Church of the Nativity…

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Here is the entrance to the church of the Nativity.

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A telling map that shows Palestine (in green) as it has shrunk over the years. In the last map the green is zone A; the area actually under palestinian military and civil control. All the rest (zones B and C) is actually under Israeli military and civil control. Jewish settlers are building particularly in zone C and through their building are slowly isolating palestinian communities making travel even within the West bank increasingly difficult.

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Inside the church of Nativity.

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people coming up from the cave where it is said Jesus was born.

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Although it is hard to see in the photo there are bullet marks on the stones in this courtyard which is within the Church of Nativity.

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Lunch just outside the Church of the Nativity

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Walking around the old city of Bethlehem. Our guide said these streets used to be full of shops and tourists but now tourists come in on buses and are dropped off right at the church of the nativity and then they generally leave. As a result most of the shops have gone out of business and some would say that the old city of Bethlehem has become a ghost town.

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More streets in the old city of Bethlehem with shops closed on both sides.

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The Palestinian currency that was used until 1948. Our guide pointed out that things were written in Hebrew, Arabic, ad English, symbolic of the fact that Palestine was an integrated state.  In contrast, the current currency, the Shekel. shows a pictures of Israel where there is no Palestine.

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Driving from Bethlehem to Ramallah, the de facto capitol of the west bank. This drive used to be a short 15 minute drive but due to the detours made by the wall and the settlements it now takes almost an hour and a half to drive from one to the other through the west bank.

 

 

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On top of all the Palestinian homes are often as many as 15 metal and black plastic water tanks. This is because Israel control the water in the west bank and in summer months they often only turn on the water one a month. So the palestinians fill these tanks when they have water and then use it carefully hoping that the water will be turned on again before they run out.

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Another Banksy.

 

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A Jewish Settlement in the distance.

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The wall that snakes through east Jerusalem. Over the wall on the left is Jerusalem, close enough to see but in accessible to most Palestinians.

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A jewish Settlement surrounded by a fence.

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A field of olive trees that was cut down in Zone C supposedly in preparation for the building of a jewish settlement.

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Bedouin encampments. Note that although these look somewhat like shanty towns to us westerners most bedouins living like this are doing so by choice. They are a people who prefer to live mostly outdoors.

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Our guide told us a story of once when some palestinians partnered with bedouins to build them more permanent structures. The bedouins were very excited but when the palestinians returned a year or two later they found that they were using their structures to house the animals. The Bedouins said they could not live inside in such structures.

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The sign as you enter into Ramallah, which is in zone A, so fully under Palestinian control.

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Arafat’s tomb. Arafat was well liked and is considered a hero by most palestinians.

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The bustling city of Ramallah.

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A Starbucks knock off.

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I had the best shwarma in Ramallah and it was only 12 shekels! In Israel it would have been at least 20 shekels.

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wonderful markets and people who are eager for you to try there goods.

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notice the two minarets which belong to mosques. They had speakers on them to broadcast the call to prayer.

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And now we head towards the Ramallah checkpoint to exit the West Bank and go back to Jerusalem. Immediately the traffic begins…

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Some kids are throwing rocks at the IDF (israeli defense force) and the IDF is throwing tear canisters back. The gas/smoke you see is the tear gas. People coming across the checkpoint were holding their shirts over their nose and mouth and rubbing their eyes.

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The palestinians coming back across covering their faces to protect themselves from the tear gas.

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IDF standing guard

 

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And here we walk through the checkpoint, where we go through turn stiles and metal detectors and put our bags through an xray machine. Once inside this area is it forbidden to take photos… Good bye west bank!

At risk of saying things that might get me into hot water I am going to share a little more of my own perspective as I have been digesting all this: My experience in Israel is that most Israeli’s do not know much about what the conditions are like in Palestine. I can’t help but feel the government of Israel is doing a pretty good job covering up the reality and using fear and propaganda (like the sign warning people not to go into Ramallah) to keep Israelis and the rest of the world from seeing what is going on. Every Israeli I talked to had only gone into the occupied territories during their army service, if at all, and of course they were in uniform then and likely experienced the brunt of the anger and resentment of Palestinians in the form of rocks being thrown, etc. But what would you do after years of soldiers throwing tear gas and arresting and sometimes killing your sons and brothers? As I told one of my Israeli friends about my experience in the west bank she said she felt humbled as she realized injustices were going on “in her backyard” and she was barely aware of it and not doing anything to stop it. She said it made her feel compassion for how Germany and the world allowed the holocaust happen… Is history repeating itself with the victims now becoming the perpetrators? Of course there are differences but there are also many similarities. It is certainly something to think about.

At the same time I can understand the mentality of much of Israel: Their day to day reality is much different then ours in the States. To give you a sense here are some things that happened in just the short month I was there: 50 missiles were launched from Gaza strip into Israel. They were all successfully neutralized but it still happened. A ship with over 500 missiles and weapons coming mostly from Iran was intercepted while trying to make its way to the Gaza strip. There was an attempted kidnapping of a soldier, which is apparently almost a monthly occurrence. And some soldiers went to investigate a child playing with a suspicious looking package along the security fence and it blew up. The mother of the family I was staying with witnessed a bus blow up during the second intifada (second wave of suicide bombings, which occurred in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s) right after she had dropped her son off at his military base. Every week she drove him to and from his base for fear of his bus being blown up. The soldiers currently in the army remember being in middle school and high school and their parents not allowing them on buses and telling them they had to be home by sundown and couldn’t hang out in public areas for fear of suicide bombings. So all this trauma is still very recent history and I believe helps keep the fear in place that has allowed for the current situation to continue.

But there are stories of hope and people doing good work. And I want to also share that because of me telling my Israeli friend about my experience she said she might take a tour of the west bank, like I did, and invite her kids to go with her. (yes Israeli’s can go. My tour guide has had a few Israeli’s on his tours and says he is always happy to have them, and they have never had a problem. It seems the law forbidding Israeli’s to enter into Zone A is not enforced, but the signs are used to try and deter it. The only thing is that they must enter and exit through checkpoints in zones B or C rather then zone A). And she said if her kids were still school age she would enroll them in one of the few integrated arab-israeli schools in places like Neve Shalom. Small steps towards peace. She also told me about a group she knew of where arab and israeli’s who have lost loved ones to the conflict come together to support each other in their grief, share their stories of loss and work together to find ways to build peace. Another thing she told me about was a group of older adults who have made a conscious commitment to serve as role models of how to be an ethical soldier when they go each year to do their 1 month reserve army service. Many of these people specifically ask to be stationed at checkpoints, where palestinians are often mistreated and much of the abuse of power occurs.

It is a complex but important situation and perhaps the best the world can do is stay informed and do our best to serve as watchdogs to try and prevent human rights violations. If you want to learn more a few documentaries I was told about are Five Broken Cameras, which is on instant play on netflix right now and Arna’s children. Five broken cameras was a great movie I thought, and I haven’t seen Arna’s children yet but it sounds like another fascinating movie.

Hope this post was informative!

4:12am

4:12am

I awake. Was it the rustle of the wind through the trees that awoke me? Or the chatter of the birds? Perhaps the first rays of dawn shining through the window?

“No. It is still dark outside,” say the twinkle of the stars.

“Go outside,” a voice whispers firmly in my ear.

I slide my feet into my sandals. Still in my pajamas, I grab a sweater and quietly open the door, careful not to awaken my roommates. Oh wait, there is only one. The other seems to have not returned from the festivities of the previous night.

All is quiet in the lit courtyard. Not a soul in sight. Not even the early risers. It is that hour of the day when one is not sure whether to call it morning or night. I walk down the stairs, through the courtyard, and across the grass, to the tall Eucalyptus trees that line the shore of the Galilee. There I slip off my sandals. Cool grass on my naked feet. I step carefully in the darkness. The wind seems to whip the water into a frothy white. It seems a storm is near. And yet, I feel invited.

I climb carefully into the womb that is a knot in the Mother Eucalyptus. There I barely fit, feet drawn close, knees to my chest. And there, in that safe embrace, protected from the wind, in the cover of darkness the tears come. Released from the night before, they bless my cheeks. I let them flow, my body sighing into the Earth Mother’s embrace. And soon the tears are replaced by a profound peace. And I rest.

I watch the white caps settle and the wind soften. The clouds clear revealing the same stars my ancestors saw. And now the sky begins to lighten, hinting at the sun to come.

I shift my body, looking to stretch my feet. And a tickle begins. In the predawn light my eyes do not see. But my hands brush away the tickles. And my mind connects.

“Ants! Have they been crawling on me all along?”

I jump nimbly down, and brush some more. But somehow it seems that it was only in my shifting that I had disturbed these little creatures. And soon I laugh at my momentary panic.

“Who am I not to trust that Earth Mother was taking care of me and would allow no real harm to come?”

I walk along the grass and find myself at the playground slide. Here I lie again. And here I stay until the last star fades and the birds begin to sing and the sun rises. Until the first early risers walk out to greet the day.

And gently I reenter the human world. Eyes of others notice me and look inquisitively. Perhaps my pajamas betray that I have been here a while. Or perhaps they wonder what caused such peace in the features of my tear stained face.

As my mind awakens I wonder about the Ants. And so I return to the Mother Eucalyptus. Something tells me, approach from the other side. The South side, rather than the North. And so I do. And as I reach my womb I see my little companions, like disciplined soldiers they march from the South. I follow their line, which weaves around the edge of her sacred womb. And so I see how I curled up safely inside, guarded by her little warriors. But when I stirred, indicating readiness to leave, that had been when I had disrupted their valiant march.

Ahhh, how Mother cares for her kin.

I give thanks to my little warriors, and thanks to the tree, and to the wind and the water and the sun. And the stars and the moon that have since faded. And to the cool damp ground beneath. And with care I step over the Ant procession. And with Awe in my eyes and Peace in my heart I return to the warmth of my bed.

Know, this was no dream.

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Inspired by the caves on the Mediterranean coast of Israel near Lebanon.

Inspired by the caves on the Mediterranean coast of Israel near Lebanon.

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