Monday, November 29, 2010

Post Thanksgiving

A strange title, "post Thanksgiving." Of course I should constantly be giving thanks, and in fact, I do. What I mean by 'Post Thanksgiving" is for the benefit of my many loyal and faithful followers who live in far away countries that do not celebrate Thanksgiving. This is my favorite American holiday, as it is (or was) mostly non commercial. and is centered around family, friends, and food. What could be better? Also, I enjoyed five days off work. Today is a new week and the end of the Thanksgiving holiday - hence post Thanksgiving.

Yesterday, a cold and rainless Sunday, a friend and I met for a walk around the Berkeley Marina. We both love this time of the year when, on clear and crisp days the views of San Francisco and the Marin Headlands are clearly delineated. It is the time of the year the burrowing owls come to rest. I love to find them in the scrub after I stop mistaking the squirrels for owls.On our way back to our cars we saw quite a large grous of what appeared to be teenagers and very young adults dressed in medieval looking costumes jousting with foam swords. I remembered how when I first came to America and lived in Oakland, I saw a group of people every Thursday night at Rockridge Bart Station. They were dressed in armor (real) had swords not covered in foam, addressed each other as Sir Galahad, or Lady so and so, and judging by the clanging sound of their weapons, appeared to be really jousting. They belong to A Society of Anachronists. This group looked similar, although their clothes were far more makeshift, and their helmets and shields were made from cardboard. They spoke normally. The foam on their weapons didn't exactly clang.This group was having fun, playing outdoors in nature.

After watching a while we moved on and saw two young women in costume sitting on rocks. We asked what this group is and they told us, AMTGARD and explained it is worldwide, and they do have rules etc. As everyone looked so very young I asked whether older people could join, and the one said: "Of course, my husband is there playing, he is 39."

Everything is relative!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Veterans Day

Yesterday morning I drove to my eye doctor (not good news), and listened to the radio. There was a report on the film HBO will air for Veterans Day on PTSD. (Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome.) Of course this phenomena is not new. A woman they interviewed had researched letters written by soldiers during America's Civil War. She then reviewed court cases in which families tried to get compensation when their breadwinner returned "changed." Apparently this was a very difficult thing to prove and there were many court cases. Someone read harrowing letters written by a soldier in the Civil War. In the first few he described how he saw some men in his camp suffer terribly - they could not sleep at night, some stopped eating, they became paranoid and had outbursts of anger. He described how some of them took their own lives. He himself wrote that war is awful, but he will not succumb to the taking of his own life.

After a few years the tone of his letters changed and it was evident to his family that he had 'succumbed' to the numbing horrors. After he returned home his sister wrote how she and her mother had to hold him down when he had fits and rages. He was no longer able to work.Apparently he went on a hunting expedition with friends from his platoon. They were aware he was a danger to himself and forbade him to accompany them. It was while he was alone in the woods that he shot himself.

A mother of a soldier from Minnesota who served in Iraq, read her son's tragic and horrifying suicide note. He drank as he wrote the note. He stated this and apparently the writing and content became progressively worse. He described how he could not stand seeing people die and that he had killed people. Now he said was the time to take his own life. After cutting out images of his face from his driver's and personal photographs because he could no longer 'face' himself he put his dog tag to his temple and shot himself through his temple.

When I first came to America 30 years ago a therapist told me I had PTSD. I laughed at him. It has taken me all these years to realise the horrors of the war that I went through in Israel in which my husband was killed. Those events shaped my future and changed my life and my relationships forever. But even now I have many moments when I think, what is wrong with me? I must be crazy, will I never get over this? It wasn't so bad. What happened to us wasn't so bad. Many wars are far far worse.

I caught snippets of another radio show yesterday in which they interviewed a young widow from Kosovo who told how she goes to the cemetery all the time because she cannot and will not, and does not ever want to forget.A young American woman described how she met her husband at the tender age of 16. It was love at first sight, and after dating for several years he proposed to her and gave her a beautiful ring. She herself went to find the perfect ring for him. She had it engraved with the date he proposed to her on the inside. He was killed in Iraq and apparently his personal affects were returned to her, but not his ring. Later one of his commanders and his wife invited her for the weekend and when she walked into the guest room she saw a box, and inside was the ring which the commander had found. She sobbed with happiness and sadness and said at least she has the memories of their perfect love.

Then a young man from Korea described being separated from his family and reuniting with his sister years later. Thankfully, I had to go to a meeting, because I was riveted to these stories, and at the same time sobbing my heart out.

War is universal. Coincidentally last night a friend from my kibbutz called me. Her brother was killed in the first Lebanese war in Israel. We both know of what the other speaks, and thinks, but we keep quiet, maybe mention it in passing, then talk of other things.

When I was last in Israel the Gaza invasion happened. A friend there said to me that it seems like every time I come there there is a war, or an uprising, or something. I noticed how, in Israel, when talking to friends our memories are indeed of wars - the debate becomes, which war, the first Lebanese War or the second? The first war of attrition or the third? The first or second Intifada? Wars are compared, the Gulf War was strange because we remained in our homes like sitting ducks, the men weren't used to this, they were used to going out to fight. Life in Israel is indeed punctuated by different wars or horrendous events, like suicide bombings and terrorist attacks. The entire nation suffers from PTSD.

At last this problem is beginning to be addressed, because we are all veterans, and all suffer the consequences of the ongoing wars, be they distant, in foreign lands, or on our own soil.There are the visibly wounded and the invisibly wounded, and there are way too many of us.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Settling In

A month already since my return, and all I have posted is one solitary little blog.Yesterday a supposed friend told me about someone he knows who blogs on a daily basis about her dog!

It may be sour grapes, but I wonder who is interested. He also added that she is newly retired! I am not.

I could keep you updated with the adventures of Max, my little piscean friend, but he would prefer to remain, for the most part anonymous. He thrived during my absence and when I returned and stumbled into my home after being sick for the entire flight back, I halfheartedly tapped on his bowl to say hi, and he fluttered and undulated and really seemed as excited to see me as I was to see him. Quite a few things thrived in my absence, Max seems to remain well and content, and an orchid I rescued from a dumpster has sprouted a branch full of buds which are in the process of opening, one after the other, displaying their magnificence. Some of my wee ones displayed new skills when I returned into their lives. Some began crawling, a few are trying out their first stumbly steps, Some, sadly, will never make any gains, other than phsyical, getting larger and heavier.

I spent a weekend in a magical home in Big Sur, enjoying the rugged beauty of the Pacific coastline, and the coastal terrain.We do live in a magnificent area, and I appreciate each moment.

Today I caught up with all the annoying and necessary things of life, like paying bills, finalizing dates and arrangements, making phone calls, laying out my crafting projects, like beadwork and knitting, and blogging about blogging.We shall see how long this spurt lasts.