Reflections in Stillness

There is a lot to learn by reflecting in stillness. Unfortunately in our busy lives, we don’t often take time to be still and reflect. This time of forced stillness gives us all an opportunity to do that. Sometimes it’s painful, sometimes joyful, but in the end, we come away with a better understanding of ourselves. Hopefully, we take that information and do something constructive with it.

I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting. In the past few days, I’ve reflected on my last writing, My Anticipation Addiction. As I reread it, I noticed what a great place of privilege I write from. The things that I miss and even the things that I’m learning to appreciate are all gifts that come from a privileged life.

During this pandemic, the differences in race and class are being further pronounced. While we are all in this together, the differences in how we are having to maneuver through it and cope are stark. While I didn’t write about it in my last post, that doesn’t mean I’m not aware of it. I’m retired with retirement savings, so the financial impact has not bothered me. I am in the house with my husband and our house is large enough for us to have private time when we need it. We are healthy and do not know anyone as of yet who has been ill with the virus. While our families are not with us and we can’t travel to them during this time, we can talk with them regularly or see them through technology.

Many people live alone so the isolation can become unbearable. They don’t have access to technology. Here in Morocco, people live with extended families in modest homes. The lack of privacy is probably maddening at times. They can’t find the stillness. Many have lost their jobs, or worse, a loved one to the pandemic. Finding money to feed their families or time and a place to grieve for a loved one isn’t easy. Some don’t even have homes to shelter in. Health care professionals and employees of groceries, pharmacies, and other essential businesses go into work to keep our lives comfortable, at very high personal risk.

Every day, I wake up with gratitude knowing that I am safe inside my home, I have money to buy food and pay rent, my loved ones are safe and secure and I am with my husband, my best friend. In this stillness, take some time to reflect on your position in life. What are you grateful for?

My Anticipation Addiction

Anticipation is my favorite emotion. Since I can remember, I’ve enjoyed and created things to look forward to. As a child, some of those things came organically, like my birthday, Christmas, Easter, and weekend trips to my grandmother’s house.

When I became an adult, the childhood celebrations and excitement surrounding them became chores as I had responsibilities around those for my own family. So, I had to look outside of those and began creating them myself. There are small things like lunch with a friend, date night with my husband, a spa day, or a concert or a movie. My addiction grew and these things weaved themselves into a normal pattern of my life no longer giving me the spark and high that I craved.

Travel was the thing that gave me the most euphoric feeling and kept me going through the mundane tasks of life and daily work grind. I dreamed, researched, planned, scheduled, booked, and enjoyed these trips with an obsessive intensity.

Since the pandemic hit, I have missed a trip to Italy, a birthday/anniversary trip to a beach resort, and I had planned to spend the holy month of Ramadan in the United States visiting a multitude of friends and family. In June, we were booked for two weeks on a safari in Tanzania with a side trip to Zanzibar. Anticipation had built for months before the realization came that these things weren’t going to happen. To say I was disappointed doesn’t begin to describe my crash.

My anticipation addiction was further aggravated by the realization that these things would not be available for the foreseeable future. This forced me to a reckoning, an intervention of sorts. And, as with most interventions of this type, it hasn’t been an entirely bad thing. Being deprived of the resources to feed my addiction as I have before, I’ve found new, simpler things to anticipate and on a shorter time frame.

I now anticipate with great pleasure my leisurely mornings and the first cup of freshly brewed coffee. I dream, research, and plan meals culled from the many recipe books that I’ve collected from past travels. Each meal takes me to a different place in Italy, Greece, Russia, Germany, and Morocco. Sitting in my living room with the morning sun pouring through my window touching geraniums and orchids in full bloom is something I look forward to when I get out of bed. Long walks on the rooftop of my building where the breezes are refreshing and the views stunning are in my daily ritual, as is the afternoon with a cup of tea and a good book. Later there are phone conversations with family and friends. An evening cocktail with my husband is our new date night.

Morning Cuppa
Orchids and geraniums
View from the Rooftop
Evening Cocktail
Negroni, now named Coronegroni

Anticipation is dependent upon the future. The future seems uncertain these days. There are a million self-help books out there about living in the now. I haven’t read them, but I know the gist and have learned the value during this strange and pensive time. I will consider this one of the positive outcomes of a disastrous, frightening, and ongoing period of change and adjustment. Oh yes, I will be traveling again as soon as it’s available and I feel it’s safe. But, in the meantime, I will take every opportunity to feed my anticipation addiction with the small things that life offers.

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year! Well, another year’s over and a new one’s just begun. Whoops, I borrowed that line from a song. Anyway, it’s true and I’ve been too busy to write! Well, that and my website crashed. So, I’m back on track now and there is so much to tell.

Christmas Day was spent at the lighthouse nearby called Cap Spartel. It was a lovely sunny day and we rode out and had a very nice lunch with a spectacular view of the sea. The day after we departed for Marrakech, my second visit there, but the first with my husband, which made it very different. (more on that later)

Time does have a way of flying by, doesn’t it? I had not realized how full my retirement years would be. When I retired so early (age 52), I wondered how I would fill my time. I was sure there was a lot to the world outside of work but wasn’t sure what all it entailed. Wow, what a truly marvelous wonderful world we live in full of opportunities and possibilities!

New Year’s Eve was quiet having just returned from Marrakech and New Year’s Day busy with a seaside brunch and a movie.

In this new year, my Darija course is going well, and my teaching job is not. After our trip to Marrakech, we hurried to plan our next travel destination, which will be Egypt in late February. This winter, so far in Tangier has been very sunny and very mild. The daytime temperatures are perfectly lovely and the nighttime is nippy.

Our new apartment is bringing us so much joy. It’s sunny and spacious and because we just moved in, uncluttered and new. We’ve enjoyed decorating together more than I ever would have anticipated. It is quiet and peaceful and the other residents who live here respectful and practically invisible.

Happy New Year! I hope you find all the peace, love, and joy that your heart desires.

Stay tuned for all the sites I visited in Marrakech and more!

The Cinema

Going to the cinema has always been one of my favorite pastimes. I remember when I was very young and RC Cola offered a deal for six bottle caps to get into the Saturday morning matinee at the Donelson Theater. My brother and I saved up, contacted our friends and set out for a morning at the movies.

When my sons were small, Sunday afternoons alone or with a friend in the dark quiet of the movie theater was just what I needed for relaxation. Even though I am an avid reader, there is something about being entertained with little to no effort that can be very appealing.

Hot summers in Boston with no air-conditioning pushed me to the cool, dark cave of the cinema to enjoy the air-conditioning and the latest in filmmaking. Whether it’s hot weather or cold, sitting in the theaters dark, usually with not many other people around, staring at the screen can really take you away.

Why don’t people go to movies anymore? I guess with the wide assortment of movies available on TV, internet, Netflix, Hulu, DVDs, etc., combined with movie screen like TV’s in peoples home makes it feel like an unnecessary effort and expense. Yet for me, it’s an entirely different experience. In the theater, dark and void of distractions, I can really let myself step into the big screen and become a part of the film. It takes over all of my senses and emotions.

Watching Casablanca at the Cinema Rif
Watching Casablanca at the Cinema Rif

In Tangier, we have the Cinemateque RIF. It’s a historic art deco theater which hosts film festivals and has an archive of films all its own. We sometimes see the latest Hollywood films, as in First Man, recently, but generally, there are foreign films of French, Spanish, and Arabic origin. The cinema also hosts a monthly series of English films on Sunday evenings, most recently Francis Ford Coppola films.
Cinema Rif
Cinema Rif

Over the years, I have enjoyed my share of Hollywood films, but have become bored with the predictability of most. I steer towards indie films and foreign ones now, which may lack the special effects of Hollywood, but have deeper, more interesting, emotionally charged topics.

The last time I went to a matinee in the United States, it cost almost $25 for the ticket, small popcorn, and a drink. That is probably another reason people don’t go anymore. The cinema here costs 50 dirhams or $5. The café inside doesn’t sell popcorn, but you can get a glass of wine, beer, or tea. If you really want popcorn you can buy it from one of the street vendors outside for 20 cents a bag, sorry no butter.

As winter approaches in Tangier, I’m looking forward to my movie nights at the theater.

Thanksgiving 2018

Thanksgiving is the time to be thankful. It’s come and gone and I haven’t even celebrated it yet. It’s been on my mind though. I’ve had a horrible cold this week so have stayed in bed. There’s been lots of time for reflection. Last year, newly arrived in Tangier, we decided to try out one of the most famous restaurants here, El Morocco Club. We enjoyed it immensely and have had many meals there since. We planned to repeat that for our Thanksgiving celebration this year but I was too ill to leave the house.

This week Morocco also celebrated Mohammed’s birthday so things closed for two days. Because of that, I didn’t teach at all, so it was not the worst time to be sick. Every year at Thanksgiving, as well all do, I reflect on my many blessings. This year was no different.

It’s been many years since I celebrated Thanksgiving with my family. I think the last time was in 2012. When my sons were young, we lived in another state and it was too far for a short holiday so we rarely visited extended family at Thanksgiving choosing instead to have a quiet one at home. Thanksgiving is, however, my favorite holiday.

Unlike the obligations and requirements at Christmas around gift giving and religious significance, Thanksgiving for me is just a time to reflect on what it is you are thankful for. I hate American football and the food associated with it is not my favorite, so it all boils down to that for me. However, that is a big thing.

I’m thankful for so many things I hardly know where to start, which is a nice place to be. Of course, for my wonderful husband and two amazing sons, I am always grateful. Fortunately, my parents continue to live productive, active lives. My health has improved over the years amazingly enough. Diagnosed with lupus in 2002, I went into remission when I moved to Italy in 2010. My egg allergy disappeared as well (or at least I am not allergic to European or Moroccan eggs). These things are high on my list of blessings. I live in a wonderful tolerant country, which has a low cost of living, low crime rate, and wonderful fresh fruits and vegetables and seafood.

I’m thankful that I had a successful career, but that I didn’t die still doing that work. Also, I’m thankful that I was able to achieve one of my life goals of writing a book and continue to enjoy the art of writing. Without a doubt, I’m thankful for all my friends here in Morocco, in Italy, and in the United States. In addition, I’m thankful to have known those dear friends who have already parted from this world.

I’m thankful to have been born in the United States, but that I have the freedom to live elsewhere. Additionally, I’m thankful for the government there with three distinct parts and in particular, the judiciary branch which still manages to show some level of decency and adherence to the constitution and all that was intended when it was written.

I’m thankful that I can write what I want to write here on my blog about what I think, feel, and observe. I’m thankful that I have a readership who appreciates my thoughts. My life is by no means perfect but I’m thankful that it’s damn near. I hope yours is too. Happy Thanksgiving. Count your blessings.

Fireflies, Where Have They Gone?

The other day, my husband and I were reminiscing about our childhoods. He grew up just outside of Meknes, Morocco, and I grew up in Nashville, Tennessee. The differences between our childhoods are enormous, but we both spent a good deal of time playing outside with our friends.

We rode bikes, played hide and seek, tag, a variety of games with balls and ran a lot. I don’t think kids do that much these days. We were drinking cocktails on our sun porch at sunset while we talked. The stars begin to shine through the changing sky and it reminded me of the first twinkling of fireflies.

Lightning bugs, we called them, were a huge part of my childhood and a true mark of summer. The long days, setting sun, dusk and then the fireflies came out, twinkling in all their glory. I hadn’t thought of them in years and described to him how we would capture them in jars to make a lantern, or cruelly squish their lamps out and place on our fingertips to make wild light shows.

As I described them to him, (he had heard of them but never seen them in real life) I thought about my recent trip to Nashville. My parents live on a lake. It seems an ideal place for fireflies. It’s not too far from where I grew up, so I know it is an area where they live. I hadn’t seen any fireflies! Well, my father feeds the geese that gather around the lake, so that must be why they stay away, right?

The next day, I thought about the fireflies again and began a little research. Where fireflies live, Mr. Google, I asked. He says they live in Asia and parts of the Americas. There are no known fireflies west of Kansas in the United States. Then I stumbled on several reports starting in 2016 about the extinction of fireflies. There are three major causes, light pollution, loss of habitat, and chemical pesticides. Fireflies live underground during the winter months, so when lawns are treated with chemicals, it kills them.

This makes me sad. My childhood world is or has become extinct. Kids don’t play outside so much. They don’t play hide and seek or ride their bikes in gangs around the neighborhood. Plus, they don’t catch fireflies and maybe there aren’t any.

Have you seen any lightning bugs lately? Please tell me yes!

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