A Travelogue of the Interior

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From the Rabbi: My Favorite Biking Experience

My favorite biking experience took place in Bossano del Grappa, Italia in 2008.

Altopiano_di_Asiago

Altopiano di Asiago

Each morning scores of Italians would fly by and we would hear the hum of the gears. We did five rides of varying degrees of climbs. The most spectacular was a 50 mile ride with about 3500 ft. elevation to the wondrous town of Asiago. At the end of each day I would withdraw by myself for some quiet time by the river just below our little family run hotel. There is simply no better way to vacation for me than to exercise through Italian scenery and reflect by the river’s edge. But the sweetest moment came on the last day when I borrowed the hotel bike and headed off in my flip flops, pedaling to find some flowers for our host. Not finding the flower store, I stopped to partake of some gelati when…

“A Wave of Beauty”

While biking up river seeking fiori…to no avail
a gelati bar binds me to a group of lively old menPICT0061
who just descended the Forza climb
each one dapper draped in red and white
take their repose at the bar
but just before they cross the threshold
a young beauty makes her way up the hill
on an old bicycle oblivious to the all bravado
she catches their eyes and seizes their hearts
with more emotion than they can constrain,
until one relieves the strain and shouts, “Belleeeesimaaa!”

Laughter roars as they make their way into the bar,
but one lingers long enough to see her face once again,
she turns, smiles and yes, even waves.
That insignificant gesture sends shock waves
through his beleaguered bones
and infuses the old man with such vitality
a warrior’s cry thunders from his lungs
summoning all his friends, who pour out into the street
to hear him recount the story
with wild hands waving as only Italians can do,
they surround him in their huddle of gregarious congratulations.
It was as if he had won the lottery, or had won her hand in marriage.

What is it that captures a man’s eye?
in its purest form it is not lust
but elegant beauty,
young, graceful and innocent
that makes us boys again
Flowers failing search
even across the ponte
one closed store after another
sends me home empty handed
until the old italian stallions
bike past me
and I, for a few moments,
trail behind
drafting their sleek peloton
as if one of them.


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Romantical Moments

We arrived in London two days ago and were treated to an absolutely glorious day — blue skis, warm sun, a light breeze off the Thames.

After dinner we decided to catch the last ride of the night on the London Eye.bigben_night

As we strolled along the pedestrian walkway that stretches over the river about halfway between the Waterloo and Westminster Bridges, this was our view — Big Ben and the Parliament buildings aglow, their lights mirrored in the river below.

As you might imagine, people had stopped up and down the footbridge to take in the view, and quite a few were sharing the moment with a lover. Hands held, kisses shared. Quite romantic.

Julia — ever the observant one — said to me, “Mom, there are a lot of romantical moments going on right now!”

I replied, “Well, Joey, this is quite a romantic spot don’t you think? In fact, maybe Daddy and I will have a romantical moment too!”

At which point, Julia wrinkled up her nine-year old nose, tried very hard to suppress a wry little grin, and squealed “OH NO!” and ran off down the bridge in search of her sister.

The lady doth protest too much, methinks.

 


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Abigail: A Sketch

I have long been captivated by the biblical character, Abigail.abigail2-1

You can read her story in 1 Samuel 25.  As a writer, I sometimes obsessively try to put blood and breath in these characters, particularly the women who, frankly, we tend to read rather two-dimensionally and usually through the frame of Western freedoms and virtues. Case and point, you’d be shocked at how many extra-biblical narratives about Abigail wonder why she would marry such a man as Nabal. One grows weary trying to explain that women choosing whom to marry and anyone marrying for love is a strictly modern phenomenon.

In this fictional piece, I try to imagine what Abigail might have been like. The text says she is “intelligent and beautiful” and married to a man who’s name is given as “Fool” so we are also likely dealing with a few archetypal elements here in addition to an historical narrative. Here I play, respectfully, with who she might have been and how her character might have shaped the choices she made and the ways God intervened in her circumstances.  I would love to hear how you read Abigail!

Abigail
(a sketch)

Bartered by men like a prized cow, sold in marriage to a rich man offering a price my father could not refuse. Blessed with beauty and intelligence, they say. Ha! They are all fools, for it is a double curse. Had I been ugly, Nabal would not have wanted me. Had I been stupid, I would not have understood the price I would pay for his lust. What a magnificent waste.

So here I am, wealthy beyond measure, executor of Nabal’s vast estate, responsible for the well-being of these men, women and children who are beholden to my husband for their bread and for their bed. Fool that he is, without me here they would surely die, or worse. Fool that he is, he doesn’t care for anything but his purse. His servants are indistinguishable from his goats and his wife no more – or less – valuable than his prized sheep. Would that he could shear me and get a handsome price for my hide, but that of course would deprive him of, shall we say, other pleasures.

Don’t pity me. I am not unique. My sisters have always known the punishment for having been born a woman – our life is not our own. If not Nabal, then some other man to own me. Indeed, I am one of the lucky ones, with a husband who demands only my body on occasion, and otherwise leaves me free to do as I please. It is funny, really, that Nabal doesn’t realize what goes on here, under his own nose. Poor, stupid Nabal married me of all women, impressed with my beauty but oblivious to my capability.

Don’t look at me like that. I see it in your eyes. You feel sorry for me. Don’t. You don’t understand me at all. Why shouldn’t I be married to Nabal? You waste my time and yours on sentiment and romance. Would I have been happier married to a good man, a kind man, however unable he was to match me in passion, intellect and competence? You are mistaken if you think the answer is yes. The only marriage I’d find remotely interesting is a union of equals, but we all know this is not how a man chooses a wife. Of course, a good man may choose a virtuous wife. Or a woman he hopes will bear him many sons. Maybe he’ll choose a wife because she lets him play the man, or she comes with a substantial bride price. Or perhaps he’ll choose her because she is skilled in the uniquely feminine arena of flattery and allure. But a man who would choose a wife because she is his equal? I do not believe such a man exists on earth.

So I say, do not feel sorry for me. Yes, I am married to a fool. But God is good and there is work for me here – God-given, honorable work – and I am grateful for it. For as long as Nabal lives, I will serve him as my husband and I will use every resource at my disposal to care for the ones he overlooks, trods upon, ignores and wastes. If not me, then who?