20 April 2020

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#Covid-19 is on every news site, on everyone’s mind, and yes while we need to stay current on the news and how the evolving situation affects our daily life, I find more than ever that I need distraction from the news of end times. (At least until my blue gel arrives.)  But, I find I can’t get away, not entirely. I’ve been knitting (of course) and my knitting journey since October 2018 has certainly consumed me, entertained me, frustrated me, challenged me and kept me from losing my mind.

But, who I was prior to taking up that hobby was a person interested in a multitude of topics equally balanced between science and religion. Why religion? Because my mother, who was a Sunday school teacher for a time and a devout Christian, raised me in the church for the first 16 years of my life. Why science? Because I have always questioned everything. I just can’t be that person who accepts information at face value, even when it gets me in trouble. Even though I myself am not a devout Christian, I do turn to religious studies often. I will let the therapists sort that puzzle! I am at heart a writer, and even if I’m not actively writing something, I am writing in my head and often I journal. Recently, while pondering and writing about the current state of the world and what 2020 means to me, i.e. the year of hindsight, the year of reflection, and how we are now being faced with a mortality unexpected. I found myself pondering repentance and how it’s important to take stock of oneself. I found myself drawn towards Mary Magdalene, as written in certain ancient texts. She is one of my favorites of all the ancients. While maintaining perfect politeness, she has no fear and questions everything.

Did you know she has her own gospel?

The Gospel of Mary was discovered in 1896 within a 5th century papyrus codex written in Sahidic Coptic. Sahidic is the most prevalent dialect of Coptic and originates out of Upper Egypt. It is grammatically close to Late Egyptian, and is distinguished from Bohairic, which is still used in the liturgical language of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria. The Gospel is unfortunately incomplete and in fragments.

The Codex that contains her Gospel is called the Berlin Codex – it was purchased in Cairo by German diplomat Carl Reinhardt. I admit I know nothing about him, but researching him is on my to-do list. The Berlin Codex is also called the Akhmim Codex. Everything in it is written in Sahidic Coptic. The same gospel, in fragments only, have been found elsewhere and a compilation of the fragments was published in 1938 and again in 1983. I’m not 100% certain that all of the fragments are meant to be together in one cohesive text, but not being an archaeologist, I cannot argue. Most scholars agree the original would have been written in Greek and would date to approximately 2nd century CE. Others suggest it was written when Jesus was still alive. Some scholars actually don’t agree that the author is Mary Magdalene, but instead Mother Mary. I completely disagree with that. Whilst Mary, Mother of Jesus, was certainly learned (she could quote the Odes of Solomon easily), I do not believe, based on speaking styles, that the Gospel can be attributed to her. I’ll come back to that in a minute.  Separate Greek editions were later found (in the 1990’s I think) in archaeological excavations at Oxyrhynchus Egypt. Nonetheless, the “surviving manuscript” is missing pages 1-6 (Ch. 1-3) and pages 11-14.  Personally, this is devastating to me because of the context of the book and the certain loss of knowledge. If I were an archaeologist, I would at the very least want to take the time to compare the Greek editions with the Sahidic Coptic editions for translation issues/omissions/additions. 

Anyway, in the Gospel, (keeping in mind that the first six pages are missing) Mary tells the other disciples about a conversation in which she quizzes Jesus about the destruction of matter. (Matter is an important and recurring theme in these ancient texts.) Jesus gave her an answer that has science (particle physics actually) at its heart.  “…the nature of matter is resolved into the roots of its own nature alone,” He says. Let that statement sink in. A brilliant answer if you ask me. Mary and Jesus then discuss, in the first section of these fragments, the nature of sin, and the answers are somewhat cryptic but understandable, i.e. “There is no sin, but it is you who make sin when you do things that are like the nature of adultery, which is called sin.” In other words, sin isn’t a thing in its own right, it is a behavior we can categorize as wrong, and an aspect of being human. But the disciples were very sad when they heard all the things that Jesus had said. Mary Magdalene tries to make the men feel better, but Peter -who is known to barely tolerate Mary M.- doesn’t trust her. He wants to hear more, and he says: 

“Sister, …”

Now I ask you, honestly, would the disciple Peter really address Mary Mother of Jesus as sister? No. He would never say that unless you want to argue that Peter and Mary were siblings which would make Jesus his nephew. Nope. They were brothers and sisters “in Christ.” This is one reason why I don’t think the gospel belongs to Mother Mary.

“Sister, we know that the Savior loved you more than the rest of us [disciples]; tell us the words of the Savior which you remember but we do not know nor have we heard them.”  He sounds quite petulant, especially because Mary is recounting how she had spoken to Jesus when the others weren’t around. Mary goes on to tell them how one time she had a vision of Jesus, and during this conversation with him she recounts that vision to him. Surprisingly, Jesus responds firstly by complimenting her because she didn’t “waiver at the sight of” him (so that tells me he must be quite difficult to behold). But she doesn’t really react to this, or she is too polite to comment. She instead continues: “How does he who sees the vision see it, through the soul or through the spirit?”  Jesus said, “He does not see it through the soul nor the spirit; but the mind that is between the two is that which sees the vision, and it is …” and the rest of this fantastic sentence is cut off because pages 11-14 of the codex fragments are missing!  I personally would have loved to hear more about what is essentially liminal space.

By the end of the recounting, Peter doesn’t believe a word of any of it and even accuses her of lying, a charge she vehemently denies: “My brother, Peter, what do you think? Do you think that I have thought this up myself in my heart, or that I am lying about the Savior?” This is another very good reason to believe that Mother Mary didn’t write this. I seriously doubt that Peter would treat Jesus’ mother in such a disrespectful way.

The short of this gospel is that sin is a part of our human design, and is a choice. Sin isn’t a virus you catch, or an evil that overtakes you (or a demon whispering in your ear).  The very nature of humans give us equally the capacity to do good things or do bad things. What will you do with your choice?

6 October 2018

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The song by Staind, It’s Been a While, comes to mind instantly as I log on to my blog. Yes, it has, and as I formulate this post in my mind, I cringe at the idea of writing about my new obsession, the very thing that has kept my hands and mind so busy as to keep me from writing. There are several people in my life who will now roll their eyes and walk away at a mere hint of that one word which describes this obsession: knitting.

Instantly, your mind draws upon images of old ladies and miles of brightly colored, wobbly knits in combinations no human eye should ever be tortured with. And you’re right to have those images in your mind. I had one particular memory of Ron Weasley standing in a cavernous room wearing a knitted jumper with a giant R emblazoned across the front. Harry asks, “What are you wearing?” His expression is one of polite confusion mixed with distaste. Ron replies, “My mum made it,” and pulls a face as if to say ‘what can you do?’ Indeed. Come to think of it, if Ms. Weasley had so much magic ability, then you would think her knitted garments would be, well, magical.

Good news, though, this is 2018 and knitted things have emerged with a new aesthetic: chunky, textured, and in neutral shades ranging from the palest creams and grey to charcoal and black. There are also complex cabling and super fine lace knits; skills I haven’t attained yet. This is not your grandmother’s knit. Still, knitting is very much like poetry – personal, open to interpretation, and quite often downright awful. Is it any wonder though when you look at the yarns currently crowding shops both physical and online. Grandma remains quite the feature, it seems.

I recently attended a “yarn crawl.” For the uninitiated, this sounds potentially fun, like a pub crawl is fun. I wish it were fun. They really should have cocktails in the mix, but instead it’s just driving from one knit shop to the next (many miles apart) and browsing the “latest and greatest” in domestic yarn offerings (mostly bold color gradients) coupled with the odd shawl pattern. I saw plenty of old ladies, too. Did I mention that yarn, especially nice wool, can be quite pricey? I saw skeins priced at $35 per 50 grams. You’ll need maybe 10 of those for a single sweater (possibly more depending on the size). Several hundred dollars later, you slog home to your favorite knitting spot and … you’re back to where you were yesterday. Longing for a drink, and knitting something that you hope someone enjoys.

It sounds dreadful, doesn’t it? If it’s so dreadful, then why even do it? All I can tell you by way of an answer is to describe my own personal journey. It barely makes sense, even to myself.

For me, it starts with sheep. I realize this is a tough place to start. I recently watched a bit of a yarn documentary where that point was exactly made: it all starts with sheep and grass. In my case, it was nothing more than a strange and rather surprising affection for bucolic, pastoral solitude. England, Scotland, Ireland, the sea, chilly weather, a cup of hot tea, sheep in the pasture… I have no idea where or when I developed my affection for that, but it lurks around in the back of my psyche and manifests itself in odd ways. As if my old soul was born there when the rest of me wasn’t. On Twitter, I found a shepherdess who has an online shop that sells specialty UK wools. She often posts lovely pictures on her Twitter account and one day in the summer she posted a weekend sale of her yarns. It had never occured to me to knit prior to that very moment. I directed my browser to her shop, full of natural wools, and fell in love. I didn’t know the first thing about knitting, so I watched a YouTube video on beginner knitting, and decided quite immediately that I could do that. I bought a very small amount of the UK wool and waited, not very patiently, for it to arrive. Meanwhile, I was plagued by an unfathomable scent memory picked up while living in Australia. Irritated, I hunted for and found a local shop (The Black Sheep. Adorable, right?) and bought a small amount of non-UK yarn and the necessary tools of the trade. I couldn’t wait to start knitting!

When my yarn arrived from England, I was very surprised at the texture, particularly the skein of natural cream wool (natural means it hasn’t been dyed). It was springy and bouncy, fuzzy and not itchy the way I remembered wool from my childhood. It felt right in my hand, like reuniting with an old friend after a lifetime of being away.

After numerous false starts, I finally got the hang of knitting and completed my first scarf exactly a month ago. There is something incredibly satisfying about creating something wonderful from something so inherently humble.

Not content to just knit for myself, I decided to try creating something I could sell. I have miles to go before that grand day, but when it arrives I will post something here. With any luck it won’t go over like bad poetry.

Who was I even before knitting came into my life? I look back to the woman who used to spend most of her free time studying ancient Egypt, reading science articles and working on her novel manuscript. In tribute to her, HERE is an article that combines the best of both worlds. One day, I will do so in a more tangible format!

Enjoy!

8 March 2018

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Hello, dear readers! I hope everyone is happy and well.

I thought I would share a recipe with you. Are you hungry? I am trying an anti-inflammatory diet this week and next (and maybe the next) hoping to arrest my ongoing battle with random pain. For dinner tonight, I created this chicken salad that turned out so yummy I just had to share with you. This made two servings, but easily can be doubled to serve more people:

Two chicken tenders (or one-half breast), boiled in salted water until cooked through, cooled and chopped well. Please, don’t use canned chicken! Fresh tastes SO much better! It doesn’t take long to boil the chicken and you can use that time to chop your veggies: two stalks celery, 1/4 c. diced onion, half a small apple diced, 2 tbs. slivered almonds, a small Persian cucumber peeled and diced, half an avocado chopped. Place everything in a bowl and mix with approx. 2 tbs. mayo (I used vegan because the diet abstains from eggs), 1 tsp. dijon, and one tsp. apple cider vinegar. Sprinkle with salt, fresh pepper, garlic powder, dried oregano, thyme and tarragon. Add a 1/4-1/2 tsp. turmeric. Mix well. I served on lettuce with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and a side of roasted fresh beets and carrots. Very delicious! I hope you try it in spite of the crummy picture.

Cheers!

26 February 2018

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Ode to my dear friend, Tamar.

One afternoon in 2004 at my apartment in La Jolla, I saw this tiny white-haired woman struggling to carry her groceries. I ran over and offered to help carry them. I think she was surprised by this gesture from a stranger, but we became instant friends and soon we were sharing our life stories. Tamar was a warm and outgoing woman who made friends easily. In her golden years, she sacrificed everything for her daughter, Barbara. She was lonely for her son, who lived far away at that time. She talked about Steven all the time, was so proud he was a rabbi, and shared pictures every time she had new ones. When her grand-daughter was born, she was so incredibly proud, and couldn’t wait to visit her. After she visited, she couldn’t wait to go back. Tamar loved her independence but she missed her family very much. I also had two children – two daughters. My oldest was just ten when Tamar babysat her after school. One of Cara’s favorite memories was sitting in Tamar’s living room pretending to do her homework while they watched M.A.S.H., and Barbara worked on puzzles and Bandit the overstuffed cat snored peacefully under Tamar’s bed. This was the essence of Tamar. She invited you in, made her home yours, and loved to talk for hours. Sometimes we just talked on the phone, sometimes we ate lunch at her favorite sushi place or at Soup Plantation. We shared Thanksgiving and Hanukkah, and even Christmas. When she called me and got my answering machine, she would say “Hi, Lisa, it’s dreidel, dreidel,” with a happy voice. No matter what, she started each new day with a positive outlook. Tamar was also a writer and encouraged me to write. She wrote poetry and short stories, and loved to share her work. When our apartment complex was sold, I together with another friend moved her entire house to a new apartment. She ended up living there until nearly the end of 2016 when her son Steven came to California, packed her up and moved her with him to Colorado. That would be the last time I would ever see her, except in my dreams. This morning, she completed her earthly journey and left us for the next life. I will forever miss Tamar and all the wonderful times we had together. I will miss the sound of her voice telling me about her life, telling me to not be afraid, to be strong, and to work hard. In some ways, Tamar was like a mother to me, but mostly she was a wonderful dear friend that I and my daughters will miss very much. Rest in peace, Tamar, and know we love you more than words can say.
Lisa, Cara and Kaitlyn

14 February 2018

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Stop. This isn’t about Valentine’s day, but happy romance day to all who celebrate.

No, this is about food. Some people are in love with food. My middle of the night mind meld made me get up too early to make a lamb dish. WTF? Half for breakfast and half for lunch, I guess. So, here is the recipe:

Half pound ground NZ lamb (minus a tiny portion for Hobbit), turmeric, garlic powder, fresh pepper, marjoram and tarragon, plus salt. I didn’t measure, but you are smart enough to decide how much you like, right? Fry that in a skillet, sans oil, and break up the pieces whilst it cooks. Meanwhile, take a few sprigs of parsley and 3 mint leaves, plus one clove of garlic- chop fine. When the meat is nearly done drain off fat from your pan. Throw in the herb/garlic mixture and sprinkle in approximately 1 tbs of gluten free panko crumbs. Stir cook for a minute or two. Serve with fresh lettuce leaves (i.e. wraps) and drizzle or dip into balsamic vinegar. I used this fantastic German date balsamic, mmm yum. Mind meld person, I hope you enjoyed that as much as I did 💕