Seeking compassion (Radical Torah repost)
This week's portion: offering

7 things you might not know

My wonderful husband Ethan tagged me to share seven things you might not know about me. (Thanks, sweetie.) As it happens, back in 2007 I got tagged to share five things you may not know about me, so I guess these are items six through twelve on that list!

1. From the time I was twelve until I was twenty I kept an ongoing stream of diaries and journals. They were inspired in part by reading the diary of Anne Frank at the age of ten; a couple of years later I read the diary of artist Wanda Gág, and by the time I finished her book, I had started keeping a diary of my own, faithfully. When I went off to college, I left the journals from junior high and high school at home for safekeeping. A washing machine flood in my parents' utility room drenched the cardboard box I'd packed them in, and most are now illegible. (I still have them anyway.) These days I keep a paper journal only when I'm on retreat or traveling.

2. I am a serious lover of tea. My tastes are quite catholic; I like black teas, green teas, herbal teas (perhaps more properly called "tisanes," but I'm not picky), flavored teas. I love the dark umami smokiness of Lapsang Souchong, and the delicate kick of a good Earl Grey. I love Adagio's Valentines tea and Tealuxe's Monk's blend. Lately I've been grooving on a tea that Ethan's colleague Lokman brought to us from Hong Kong; I can't read the packaging, but inside the canister are little golden bonbons which, unwrapped, each reveal a tight-packed ball of tea leaves which unfurl in the pot.

3. Probably my favorite thing to do, when I'm lucky enough to be someplace far from home, is to find the local market and lose myself in it. Makola market in Accra and the vast open-air market at Kumasi, the tangled warren of market streets in the Old City of Jerusalem and the contemporary bustle of Machane Yehuda: these are a few of my favorite things. (I've got a whole photoset filled with images from Jerusalem markets last summer.) I love burlap bags full of spices and teas, piles of gleaming fruits and vegetables, the sound of market vendors calling out the names of their wares. I love the sense of endless possibility: I could take home those beads, or that scarf, or that box of fresh figs...

4. I live in western Massachusetts because of my high school Latin teacher. My high school Latin teacher (also my occasional house-sitter, when my parents went out of town) attended my high school and then ventured forth to a small liberal arts college in western Mass. Over the years we spent translating the Aeneid, she became a mentor and role model for me in every way; I followed in her footsteps and wound up here. Of course, after college she returned to south Texas (and became my Latin teacher for a time; she's a doctor now) and I stayed here. I'm still here. Every now and then, when the purple mountains catch my eye in a certain kind of light, I think of her and I smile.

5. The summer I was fifteen, I lived for a month with a family in the town of Lannion in Brittany. It was an amazing experience all in all, though I still remember with chagrin my first linguistic misstep. I had just arrived, after a long day of travel, and in trying to make dinnertable conversation I referred to my "décolletage horaire." (I meant décollage horaire -- jet-lag. Décolletage means cleavage. Whoops!) Anyway: three years later my French host sister came to San Antonio for a month, the summer after my first year of college. We've since lost touch and I can't find her anywhere, though I Google every so often in hope.

6. I've become deeply invested in LOST. Watching the series feels to me like immersing in a long, satisfying set of serialized novels. I like how real the characters feel; I like that they are all flawed in interesting ways (and yet generally lovable even so), and I like how interconnected they all are. And I like that the show rewards rewatching. Every episode is full of the kind of details on which one could hang an interpretation, a new idea, a new way of seeing what's happening. And the characters themselves engage in this kind of obsessive exploration of the symbolic resonance of the world around them! It's delicious fun -- and I trust the creators enough that I'm content to go along for the ride.

7. I'm obsessed with Antarctica. The spectacular beauty of the place knocks me flat, as do the stories of the hardships endured by the early explorers. Ethan and I are heading to Argentina for a few days this March, and I have to fight the temptation to suggest that we go to Ushuaia; it's probably the closest I'll ever get! (In all honesty, though, I do hear that there's not a ton to do in Ushuaia other than prepare to head further south. Alas.) I've joked about trying to get a creative fellowship through the Office of Polar Programs -- I think of Sara Wheeler's Terra Incognita and Kim Stanley Robinson's Antarctica, both of which were written out of such fellowships -- though I doubt I could really make a cogent case that my career requires the residency. Something tells me they're not in need of rabbis at South Pole station...

According to the rules of the meme, I'm supposed to tag seven other people. Hm: I tag Simcha Daniel, Margaret Ronald, Chicagowench, Elizabeth Yalkut, Rev Allyson, Kate Abbott, and RJ. (If this sort of thing is not up your alley, of course, feel free to ignore.) And to everyone else: if you've done this meme, feel free to drop a link in the comments; I'd love to learn 7 things about each of you!

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