Posted by: Naomi Baltuck | May 10, 2015

Reflections

Originally posted on Writing Between the Lines:

Once, when we were running late, I was waiting impatiently to lift my little boy Eli into his car seat, while he studied a bug on the driveway.  “Hurry up!” I said.  “We’re going to be late.”

Puzzled, my little boy looked up at me and said, “Mommy, why are you using that tone of voice?”

Such a grownup expression from the mouth of the babe!  And it took my breath away.

“You’re right, honey,” I told him. “It’s not the end of the world if we’re late to pre-school, and it wouldn’t be your fault, if we were.”

Eli and I had a good look at the bug, while I quietly reflected upon what kind of parent I wanted to be.  Which memory of me would I want my kids to look back on and remember me by?  My mother once told me, “The best friends you’ll ever have…

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Posted by: Naomi Baltuck | May 6, 2015

Magic Carpet Ride

In Turkey, everywhere we turned there were carpets…

…dressing up every room in the house.

Indoors…

…and outdoors.

Sometimes in the most unexpected places.

 There are special prayer rugs in the mosques.

Even Turkish camels use them.

Cats love them too.

They really really love them.

And so do I.

They are important to the tourist trade.

 I was willing to do my part to boost the economy.

 

But how to choose?

So many variables.  Size, color, intricate patterns…

We knew we should research the market, measure the space, photograph the rug, walls, and furniture we wanted our  purchase to match.  But we didn’t.

The wine helped.  Hospitality is customary in Turkey, but it doesn’t hurt to soften up potential buyers.  We didn’t care: we knew from the start we would walk out with a new carpet.

Relying on instinct, we pared it down to two rugs. Then Metin explained the symbolism, and the deal was sealed. The tulip border on our favorite was a common Turkish motif, symbolizing the Garden of Eden.

Tulips recall Turkey’s rich history and culture, from the ‘tulip mania’ that brought “the Konya flowers” from Turkey to the West, to the many doors of understanding and appreciation opened on this shared journey.

One border design depicts water…

…for freedom and triumph over difficulties, because water follows its own path around, below or above any obstacle.

It also symbolizes fertility.

Red is for vibrance, passion, happiness.  The ‘S’ border is for the first letter in the Turkish word for love.

The oleander flower, strong and drought resistant, stands for protection.  It can be poisonous but is used to treat cancer, epilepsy, heart conditions, and more.  Thousands of years ago Roman soldiers took it to cure hangovers.

Could our Turkish carpet brother be reading us so well that he could tell us exactly the story we want to hear?  Love, passion, protection, and satisfaction guaranteed?  Absolutely!

We weren’t worried about cutting the best deal or finding the best bargain: that was the happy ending to someone else’s adventure.  It was the love story that stood out for us, the one we felt invested in, the one we happily bought into.

And the rug was a perfect fit–although not where we’d intended to put it, but–surprise!–we found an even better place for it, and we love our carpet more than we hoped or imagined.

We choose our own stories, just as we choose a carpet or a mate.

A little glass of wine can help.  Don’t worry about the ticket price, go by instinct, and carry it home.  Not every day can be a magic carpet ride, but these things hold their value, and a good one will last a lifetime.

All images and words copyright 2015 Naomi Baltuck

Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Photo Challenge: Intricate.

Posted by: Naomi Baltuck | April 25, 2015

Poetry in Motion

Forgive me, Blogger, it’s been four weeks since my last post. I’ve been on the move!

We were visiting our son Eli, who teaches in Turkey.  He has adapted remarkably well.

 Eli lives off the path beaten by tourists, but flew to meet us for a visit in Cappadocia.

He came bearing gifts, including Turkish cotton candy, pistachios, dried apricots, baklava, and my favorite–a savory snack with a cheesy crust baked over a peanut.

We brought him a taste of home–Triscuits, Good ‘n’ Plenty, Junior Mints, Reese’s Pieces, dried seaweed, and Girl Scout Cookies.

I’ll tell you more about Cappadocia another time. But trust me: it was golden.

Eli met us again in Istanbul, a huge city with masses of people, dogs and cats everywhere.

The streets and bazaars were a crunch of unrelenting perpetual motion.  I had to snap pics on the fly to avoid losing my companions in the sea of people.

The Spice Bazaar was stimulating to the senses; we were hard pressed to take it all in!

It was fragrant.

Tasty.

Colorful.

Exotic.

Uniquely so.

Bright.

And shiny!

It was all Turkishly delightful.

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I sensed invisible walls, like those on subways in New York, Rome, or anywhere multitudes converge and people are reluctant to meet each other’s eyes.  But I caught glimpses, reminders that each person in the throng was someone’s parent…

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Sister…

Brother…

Friend, spouse, or lover.

On the walk back to our hotel, traffic was barely moving.  Street vendors bravely plied their trade among the backup of vehicles.

Across the street someone emerged from walls raised by Emperor Constantine more than 1500 years ago.  I was enchanted, and zoomed in with my camera, waiting for traffic to abate. It was a long wait, but finally it happened.  I looked up to meet the eye of the driver who’d stopped his rig in the midst of rush hour to give me a clear shot.  In case I didn’t get it, he motioned to me to snap the pic. I clicked and smiled, he waved, shifted gears, and drove on.

As I watched him go, I saw a Titanic moment played out by a couple of kids from a car’s sunroof.  I snapped it, knowing it wouldn’t be a great shot, but I wanted to record the joy of that instant, theirs and mine, which was heightened by my appreciation for a stranger’s random act of kindness.

Then someone was speaking to me in Turkish from a car by the curb.  Was he scolding me for taking photos?  But he held up his own camera, and in one eloquent motion, he instantly established understanding and common ground between one lover of life and another.  He smiled so warmly I had to laugh and take his picture!  For his open heart, his good humor, his generosity to a stranger and a foreigner, I believe at that moment I truly loved him.  In fact, I still do.

All images and words copyright 2015 Naomi Baltuck

Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Photo Challenge: Motion.

Posted by: Naomi Baltuck | March 28, 2015

Where We Live

The view outside our kitchen window is a lovely mosaic of green foliage.

We love our yard.

And the neighborhood just outside our door.  We take walks through the woodsy parks…

…or to the duck pond.

There are berry patches to graze on…

…and lots of little free libraries.

  You’d never guess that just a couple blocks away is a sweeping view of Puget Sound.

I grew up in Detroit, where the only sound of lapping water was the sewer backing up in the basement. I still thrill at the sight of the ocean, and will never take it for granted.

Just like us, it has many moods.

…and is constantly changing.

It changes with the seasons…

The hour…

The viewpoint…

The weather…

From the time my kids were little, after story hour at the library or a trip to the post office, we would turn left instead of right and go a few blocks out of our way to drive home by way of the water.

 “So we remember where we live,” I would tell them.

They say the only constant is change.  But some things never do.  My daughter Bea is home from Stanford on spring break.  What a joy to have her home again, even for a little while. The other day she came with me to the post office.  Just like always, we turned left instead of right.

To remember where we live.

All words and images c2015Naomi Baltuck

Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Photo Challenge: Ephemeral.

Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Travel Theme: Outdoors.

Posted by: Naomi Baltuck | March 17, 2015

Stairway (to Skellig Michael)

Naomi Baltuck:

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Originally posted on Writing Between the Lines:

When we traveled to Ireland we visited Skellig Michael, a monastery founded by Christian monks in the 7th century.  Life there was remote and harsh, the weather often severe.   The monks collected rainwater to drink, raised a few animals and imported soil from the mainland nine miles away so they could grow vegetables on that barren little island.

If a monk made a rare crossing to the mainland for supplies, rough weather might strand him there for a week or a month.  To return to his spartan life in a cold stone beehive hut, he would have to climb 700 feet up these winding stairs, bearing whatever supplies he had fetched home.

On our life’s journey most of us earn our bread, raise our families, and pursue our passions.  Sometimes, like water flowing down a hillside, we take the path of least resistance.  What in your life do you care…

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Posted by: Naomi Baltuck | March 17, 2015

You Don’t Have to be Einstein…

Yesterday was my Cousin Albert’s birthday!

Actually, he was my fifth cousin, and we never met. My personal theory of relativity is that some relative of his got together with some relative of ours somewhere in the old country, and we have the DNA to prove it.

An indisputable fact is that he was a genius, whose life work changed the way we see the world.  He also had definite ideas about intelligence and education.

Cousin Albert said it is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.

Last month Thom and I drove to Olympia to protest oppressive high-stakes standardized tests. This disturbing trend towards over-testing affects the quality of education for children all across the U.S. by reducing the time to teach and the time to learn.

Since both teachers and students are evaluated by those test results, teachers feel compelled to spend their class time working on tested material, leaving no time to nurture creativity, exercise imagination, or teach a higher order of critical thinking.

Standardized tests don’t account for students testing on empty stomachs because their parents can’t afford to feed them breakfast. Or those who didn’t sleep because their parents were arguing about a divorce.  Or homeless children with no place to study.  Or those who can’t afford reading glasses.  Test scores won’t cut any slack for students with learning disabilities, or recent immigrants who haven’t mastered English, or orphans of suicides, or children suffering from depression, or those who simply don’t test well.

The system of assessment is unfair. For example, in Florida an excellent music teacher was fired because of her students’ low math scores, even though she was not responsible for teaching them math.

Cousin Albert said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”

He also said, “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant.  We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”

We honor that sacred gift of the intuitive mind when we allow teachers to assess each child’s strengths and needs, and design teaching strategies to nurture that child’s curiosity and passion into a lifelong love of learning.

Standardized testing is the servant of the rational mind, reducing children into test scores.

Who benefits from over-testing?  Not students, who are stressed and most of whom will be labeled as failures.  Not teachers, who either teach to the test or risk losing their jobs, regardless of whether they manage to pull kids out of their Learning Comfort Zone, and encourage them to take risks and learn from their mistakes.

The benefits are reaped by corporations like Pearson, that specialize in testing.  Or technology companies that sell schools the massive amounts of hardware students use to take these computer-based tests. Or private charter school operators who are waiting to step in as soon as public schools are labeled failures.   Tests are designed so that 68% of those taking the tests will fail.  It’s better for business.

Diane Ravitch, an educational policy analyst, says, “It’s all about…propping up a vast and growing “education industry” that’s only worth the trouble (money) of the likes of Gates, Murdoch, the Waltons, and the Bushes….if it’s standardized and millions of customers–I mean children–are buying.”

Cousin Albert grew up in Germany, where the spirit of learning and creative thought were lost in strict rote learning.

He was among the scientists and intellectuals who escaped the Nazis, those methodical masters who were terrifying in their efficiency.  Cousin Albert was lecturing in the US when the Nazis put a price on his head, and confiscated his property, turning it in to a Hitler Youth camp. But as efficient as the Nazis were, according to Cousin Albert, they lost their technological advantage and eventually lost the war because they murdered or drove out all the creative free-thinking innovative imaginative intellectuals.

     Cousin Albert said, “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.”

And you don’t have to be Einstein to get that.

All images and words copyright 2015 Naomi Baltuck, unless otherwise stated.

If you’d like to read more, here is a link to an excellent article about the results of the protest, and a bipartisan bill proposed to repeal Common Core.

Posted by: Naomi Baltuck | February 27, 2015

He Lived Long and Prospered

 I mourn the passing of Leonard Nimoy, the actor who brought depth and integrity to the role of Mr. Spock in the classic Star Trek series and films.

I grew up on Star Trek reruns.  The show helped me formulate ideas about writing, as well as life.  It was an enthusiasm I passed on to my kids.

No wonder I became the Proud Mom of a Starfleet Cadet and that so many of our parties…

…favorite toys…

…and family fun has been inspired by Star Trek.

 

Leonard Nimoy co-wrote and directed Star Trek IV, The Voyage Home, which was my favorite of all the Star Trek movies.  His vision for the story was to have “no dying, no fighting, no shooting, no photon torpedoes, no phaser blasts, no stereotypical bad guy.”  It was funny and quirky, and didn’t take itself too seriously, yet its message was important– advocating protection and conservation of our world and its creatures.

There was much more to the man than Star Trek or Mr. Spock.  He was the son of Ukrainian Jews, he spoke and wrote Yiddish, was a photographer, a poet, and a man of principle.

According to NPR, when he found out that Nichelle Nichols wasn’t being paid as much as the other actors on the show, he protested on her behalf.  When he found out that she and George Takei were to be excluded from the animated series, again he went to bat for them and they were hired on for that series.

His last message to his fans was very appropriate, wise, even logical:  “A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. LLAP”

He lived long and prospered, but he also lived well.

And we will never forget him.

c2015Naomi Baltuck

Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Photo Challenge: Reward.

Posted by: Naomi Baltuck | February 14, 2015

Joyriding

  • “Love…

…doesn’t make the world go round.”   

But love

Love…

Love…

Love…

Love…

Love…

Love…

Love…

Love…

Love…

Love…

Love…

Love…

LOVE!

 Yes, LOVE!

“..is what makes the ride worthwhile.”–Franklin P. Jones

Always has.

Always will.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

c

c2015 Naomi Baltuck

Posted by: Naomi Baltuck | February 9, 2015

A Theory of Relativity

I met a little Elf-man, once…


…Down where the lilies blow.


I asked him why he was so small…


…And why he didn’t grow.

He slightly frowned, and with his eye

He looked me through and through.

 

“I’m quite as big for me,” said he,


“As you are big for you.”

—JOHN KENDRICK BANGS.

All images copyright Naomi Baltuck

Click here for more interpretations of  The Weekly Photo Challenge: Scale

Posted by: Naomi Baltuck | January 30, 2015

Depth Perception

Last Tuesday we went downtown to attend a concert at Benaroya Hall, commemorating the 70th Anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz.

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The performance was called Art From Ashes, and was produced by Music of Remembrance.

I had mixed feelings about going.

It was a wet cold day in Seattle.

The city seemed dirty.

…And sad.

It would be heartbreaking to listen to works by Jewish composers whose lives and legacies were cut short at the death camps of Auschwitz and Dachau.

But the music proved more poignant than heartbreaking.

These doomed artists plumbed the depths of their despair, gleaned beauty from their cruel twisted world, and imbued their swan songs with love and longing.

Each note, each word a parting glance, a declaration of love, a prayer…

“…Tearfully stolen from the distant west, a gentle pink ray on the thin twigs, settling its quiet kiss on tiny leaves..”

As Jake Heggie wrote in his song Farewell, Auschwitz, they cast off their striped clothes and held their shaved heads high.  “The song of freedom upon our lips will never, never die.”

Ashamed and bewildered by the depths of depravity to which humankind has too often sunk, I also felt a fierce pride for its passion and courage and tenacious love of life that can raise art from the ashes.

Copyright 2015 Naomi Baltuck

Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Photo Challenge: Depth.

 

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