I Felt the Earth Shake Under My Feet . . .

Yes I did!  Today started off as a glorious day for me.  I completed two weekly discussion posts for my class, and received an invitation to apply for a part-time position beginning in September.  I packed a few boxes (all of our books) and had just sat down for a break.  I heard a slight rattle and the cat jumped, meowed . . . then froze as stiff as a board.  Within another couple of seconds the entire building began to shake.  Not just any old shake, but really strong moving and rattling shake.  It sounded like someone was taking a sledgehammer to the walls next door.  It took another few seconds to realize that yes, we were having an earthquake right here in the metro-Washington, DC, area.  Those things aren’t supposed to happen here but here it was.  Now I am in a third floor apartment and I didn’t know what I to do.  We prepare for tornadoes or hurricanes in this area, but earthquakes?  Not so much.  At any rate I scooped up the cat and ran to the door.  The earth was still shaking . . . I didn’t know that those things lasted so long.  I stood in the doorway not knowing whether to run down three flights of stairs and out into the open or to just brace myself and wait.  I have no idea how long the quake lasted, but it seemed like an eternity.  Shortly afterwards Richard called to check on me.  He was on his way back to work after lunch and heard breaking news about the quake on the radio. I assured him that I was fine.  At the moment though, I was wishing he was still in DC with me.  Just to let you know how bad it was, I decided to post a few photos showing the damage in our apartment:

The first thing I noticed was that some oil cups in our Shabbos candelabra had fallen over:

I also saw that our Havdalah set was a bit askew, that the wine goblet had fallen over and the candle was a bit tilted . . . but then the candle always tilts so that may have had nothing to do with the earthquake:

As I walked through the apartment, I checked in our large storage closet only to find that some items had fallen over and that a couple of plastic bowls had fallen off the shelves:

And the last thing I discovered is that the earthquake had caused our Chanukah Menorah to scoot off the edge of the shelf so that it fell against the wall:

So there you have it!  This is the damage to our place from today’s earthquake, this and some frayed nerves for both myself and Pele, my beloved blind cat! While there was some damage to a few buildings elsewhere, to my knowledge no one was hurt. Richard, we missed you today.

And a special note for all my west coast family and friends: We did too have an earthquake!


Perspectives From a Hospital Bed

I slowed down a bit this week.  An eye infection got the best of me and I am writing this from my hospital bed on the eighth floor of Inova Hospital.  My eye is improving quite a bit.  I don’t have to have surgery as was originally rumored, but will be on meds and follow-up with an opthomologist when I return home.  My first thoughts as this saga unfolded were about writing, photography, school.  But being in a hospital with nothing much to do, and eyesight that makes writing, reading or TV viewing difficult, I had a lot of time to think.  Listening to the news was a shock to my system.  We don’t have TV so the only news I get is an ocational radio broadcast or quick snapshots on the internet as I wend my way to my on-line classroom.  Having large blocks of time to listen, and to see the pictures of devastation from Japan, albeit blurry, has been sobering to say the least.  I sit here with my problems and aches, but how can I complain?  My challenge is addressed with some antibiotics and then I go home.  How will the Japanese address their problem?  A massive earthquake, one of the largest ever recorded; a devastating tsunami destroying everything in its path and taking thousands of lives as it washed over the land; nuclear disaster as two nuclear power plants are distressed to the point of melt down, if not complete, at least partial.  I wish antibiotics would erase their challenges, but it won’t.  What do we do in the face of such a monumental catastrophe.

Sadly, there was another catastrophe this weekend that weighs on my heart, and few people outside the Jewish community know about it.  Friday night, or was it Saturday, two Palestinian murderers stole into the home of the Fogel family living in Israel, and brutally murdered five members of that family while most of them slept: both parents, an infant daughter, a 3-year-old son and an 11-year-old son.  Two of the three surviving children slept while this was going on, being spared only because they were not in their bedrooms and were simply overlooked by the murderers.  The oldest, a 12-year-old daughter was out at a youth event, and was the one to discover the gruesome scene upon her return home shortly after midnight.  To be honest with you, I want the monsters who did this found, and tortured for what they did.  What do we do in the face of such tragedy?  To be Jewish in this world is to be hated by many. . .still.  Needing antibiotics for an infected eye is not a problem.  Would that I could share antibiotics with the surviving children and bring their family back to life. Ridiculous thought, yes.  But I would if I could.

Reflecting on these events, I was humbled and my complaining turned to gratitude as I sit in this hospital bed and get poked, prodded, questioned and all-around bothered in this healing process.  Gratitude because there is healing, even as I feel enormous grief for the losses that defy explanation or understanding.

I have googled and searched for responses to both events, struggling to read, listening to what I can.  It occurs to me that we do have choices in how we respond to these heartrending events of recent days.  I share with you some of my thoughts mingled with the thoughts of others that I have come across as I sit in this hospital bed.  I don’t know their names, the ones who put some of this together, but I do know that good portions of what follows are from our Jewish prayers–Tehillim/Psalms–our ageless response to evil.

Grieve in its proper time.  The dead are worthy of our grief, our send-off, acknowledgement for their having lived and loved. They were part of our physical world, and now a permanent part of our spiritual lives.

Live in joy, as our ancestors have done for millenia.  Despite the evil, there is good.  Do not forsake the good to chase after evil.

Do one more mitzvah, one more good thing: Teshuva/Repentance, Tzedakah/Charity, Tefillah/Prayers, Torah/learn righteous living.

Return again to the path of your soul.  The derek/path to the heart of who we were meant to be.

Remember that your prayers rock the heavens and the earth. Pray from your heart for your nation, your people, all that is good and holy.

Now is the time for love beyond logic.

Pay attention to where you put your thoughts.  We become what we focus on! This is a law of nature.  Don’t spend too much time watching videos about the enemy.

The best way to challenge evil is to do good.  The best way to challenge evil is to do good.  The best way to challenge evil is to do good.  Remember that.

From Tehillim/Psalms. . .

Be not disturbed by evildoers. . . like grass will they soon be cut down, and like green vegetables will they wither.

Trust the Eternal and do good. . .

Dwell in the land and nourish yourself with faith. Only a little longer, and there will be no wicked one. . .

Their sword will enter their own heart and their bow will be broken. . .

Let them be ashamed and disgraced, those who seek my soul, may they draw back and be humiliated, those who devise my harm.  Let them be like chaff before the wind, and with the angel from the Eternal drawing them away. . .

Be gracious to me, G-d, I am calling out to You by the day.  Gladden the soul of Your servant, for to You , G-d, do I lift up my soul.

The following words are a constant reminder to us of who we are and whose we are.  We say these at least three times a day, and for me it has become a holy mantra when I doubt, fear, question or wonder about the events of life:

Shemah Yisrael/Listen Israel: Hashem Elokaynu/The Lord is G-d, Hashem Ekhad/G-d is one.

To those who inspired me with their words and thoughts, thank you.  As I stated, many words here are from those other sources, but I don’t know your names.  I took the liberty of mingling your words with mine as I reflected on the many thoughts of anger, despair, grief, love, repair, hope, and trust.  If you recognize your words or thoughts, please feel free to comment.  If you wish to share your thoughts and reflections here, please do.  Above all, seek the good.