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Tag: passover

holy week, promised land, and the spiritual practice of making do…

“why is this night different from all other nights?”

year after year for all the years we’ve been circling ’round tables when the paschal moon is at its plumpest and pinkest, telling and retelling the story of exodus — of plagues and passover and a promised land just out of reach — that question, the first of the four questions traditionally asked by the youngest, sharpens the focus on the holy act of separating time. setting aside particular hours, according to particular rising and setting of the moon in the heavens, lifting those hours out of the ordinary, sanctifying. making holy. erecting cathedrals of time, in the words of abraham joshua heschel, the late great rabbi and thinker, who wrote:

Judaism is a religion of time aiming at the sanctification of time. Unlike the space-minded man to whom time is unvaried, iterative, homogeneous, to whom all hours are alike, quality-less, empty shells, the Bible senses the diversified character of time. There are no two hours alike. Every hour is unique and the only one given at the moment, exclusive and endlessly precious.

Judaism teaches us to be attached to holiness in time, to be attached to sacred events, to learn how to consecrate sanctuaries that emerge from the magnificent stream of a year. The Sabbaths are our great cathedrals; and our Holy of Holies is a shrine that neither the Romans nor the Germans were able to burn; a shrine that even apostasy cannot easily obliterate.

this year, the question — why this night? — carried particular resonance. and its sister question, why is this week different from all other weeks, begins to burrow into the holiest questions quivering just beneath the surface of all this 20-second hand washing, and bleach-and-water spritzing and tying of masks round our smiles.

in a week woven with tradition — with particular prayers in particular places, particular recipes, particular gatherings year after year after year — it’s all broken open. it’s all in shards and pieces we assemble and reassemble as best we can.

i think here of the japanese art of kintsugi, beholding the beauty in the brokenness, not occluding or hiding the cracks, but filling them in with rivers of shimmering radiant metals, gold or silver or platinum. deeply understanding the infinite wisdom of rumi, the sufi mystic: “the wound is the place where the Light enters you.” or the resounding redemptive truth of hemingway’s glorious line from a farewell to arms“the world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong in the broken places.”

and in this old house where we weave passover and holy week, where the retelling of the parting of the sea, the fleeing from evil pharaoh, the pestilence and boils and locust and darkness, the slaying of the firstborn (the litany of plagues that visited upon egypt) interlaces with the stories of the last supper, the betrayal of judas, the flogging and crowning with thorns, the crucifixion, i found salvation in the spiritual practice of making do.

and there, in the straining of imagination, in the redefining and refocusing on the essence at the root of each strand of tradition, in scouring the pantry, in testing the powers of my own ingenuity, i began to see in sharp focus the extraordinary blessing in reinvention, in improvisation, in the promised land just beyond my reach. in the imperative of bypassing any and all shortcuts. working just a little bit harder. discovering joy at each tiny triumph.

take the chicken marbella.

IMG_1425over the decades since the silver palate cookbook was first published in 1979, and over the decades at the passover seder where i’ve marked the first night of prayer for 36 years, that glorious rendition of chicken and olives and prunes has become synonymous with the jewish rite of spring. add to that the fact that my home-bound freshman in college happens to love it, practically licks the plate of it. (and these days — passover or not — i’ll climb any mountain to bring him one iota of everyday ordinary un-quarantined joy.)

IMG_1432i’d decided a week ago that, come heck or high water (an apt expression in the season of red sea crossing), i was going to muster up a pan full of that vernal succulence. eyeing the few parts of chicken in this old house, i tucked away a package of breasts at the back of the freezer, knowing i might not fetch another till this pandemic is ended. i happened to find just enough dried prunes in the pantry to realize i was halfway there. olive oil, oregano and garlic, i scrounged up with little worry. brown sugar, ditto. white wine i found in the dark and dingy corner of the basement. it was the spanish olives that presented the hurdle. so i made do: i found a few lonely olives, black ones not green, at the back of the fridge. and i stirred it all up like nobody’s business, rejoicing all along the way that i’d found a way — through scrounging + improv — toward chicken marbella.

next up was the seder plate: where in the world does one look for a roasted shank bone in the depths of pandemic? and was i really going to sacrifice one of the six lowly eggs in the fridge for a ceremonial platter of symbols? i was not. so off to the cupboard i trotted, reached for my half-dehydrated markers and scissors. grabbed a sheet of printer paper, and voila, shank bone, egg, and — the hardest procurement of the week — one square of matzo, all kosher for passover. haroset — the apple, walnut, cinnamon and wine meant to remind of the mortar used by the slaves who built pharaoh’s pyramids — that came courtesy of the many-years-old bottle of manischewitz concord grape wine stored in that same dingy corner of the basement, and a stash of walnuts left over from christmas.

but, when we sat down to our laptop, dialed into our zeder (seder by ZOOM, the cyber salvation of the red-ringed siege), we had ourselves a proper seder table, from marbella to matzo, the ingenuity way.

all that making do, all that finding my way — deciding what’s worth the effort, what doesn’t matter — it’s becoming a meditation in mindful distilling. take nothing for granted. turn in to your own toolbox of tricks. never mind the easy way. do away with the unnecessary.

have you noticed that barely-enough makes for extraordinary? have you sensed the keener attention you pay when so little is taken for granted? when i sliced into a ripening pineapple the other morning, and discovered it was perfectly golden and sweet, not hard and pale yellow as it sometimes can be, i felt a sigh of pure joy riveting through me. you would have thought i was an arctic explorer staking my flag in the pole, so triumphant did i feel at suddenly beholding my cache of pineapple perfection. when’s the last time you remembered for days how sweet your pineapple was?

and so it is in the time of corona. when a trip to the grocery store — or a ride on the el, or rubbing elbows with the stranger wedged in beside you at the movies or museum or ballpark — without fear of catching a potentially fatal infection might never again be taken for granted.

we are all, collectively, living and breathing improvisation. expanding the boundaries of what we thought we could do (heck, i’m now very best friends with the sourdough starter bubbling away at the back of my fridge, and i’m zooming into book groups all over the globe, chanting with monks hundreds of miles away). we are looking out for each other in ways we might not have before (sending meals to ER departments, sharing seeds with the neighbor next door).

the brakes have been halted on this mad-paced world. and yes, it’s filled with heartbreak upon heartbreak. jobs are being cut (i lost one of mine). paychecks are being slashed (happened here, too). magnificent glorious souls are breathing their very last breath afraid and alone (dear God, praise the nurses and doctors who step into those holiest of shoes). the obituaries (some of them being written in the room just above) will make you weep (and they do, day after day).

but inside of all the uncharted fear, and the bureaucratic ineptitude that might make you furious, this holiest week is upon us, and it’s teaching us lessons we might never have otherwise learned.

in the nooks and the folds of making-do, i’m paying closest attention to those deepest essentials. and therein lies the holy way home.

what making-do moments have you encountered this week? and what lessons spilled forth?

a housekeeping note: you might have noticed that all week long, in the comments of each week’s post, i’ve been tucking away especially succulent morsels i happen to come across in my cyber adventures. as we’ve long considered this our shared kitchen table, it seems more than apt to leave little bits of deliciousness all week long. so be sure to click back, and scroll through the comments, where i’ve left a bevy of links and snippets of poetry. 

before i go, here’s one i clipped from a letter the great george saunders wrote to all the fledgling writers at kenyon college whose spring quarter was snatched away. he wrote a beautiful long letter, but this one paragraph i saved just for you:

from George Saunders to Kenyon writers:

There’s a beautiful story about the Russian poet Anna Akhmatova. Her husband was shot and her son arrested during the Stalinist purges. One day she was standing outside the prison with hundreds of other women in similar situations. It’s Russian-cold and they have to go there every day, wait for hours in this big open yard, then get the answer that, today and every day, there will be no news. But every day they keep coming back. A woman, recognizing her as the famous poet, says, “Poet, can you write this?” And Akhmatova thinks about it a second and goes: “Yes.”

may we all find poetry, even amid the pandemic….

IMG_1429

and now i enter deep into my holiest hours….the triduum of holy week….

(p.s. that’s our zoom seder screen shot above, same characters year after year after year. beloved mary schmich, the brilliant pulitzer-prize-winning chicago tribune columnist, wrote about it….here.)

all at once

before i was barely awake, before i’d lifted that first cup of wake-up to my thirsty lips, i was reaching for the red-polka-dot binder that has long been my guide through days like today.

after 20 years — that’s 20 passovers and 20 high holidays, 20 purims and 20 briskets with latkes aplenty — i’ve stuffed so many road guides into one fat pocket, that all i need do is flip to the itty-bitty tag marked “jewish holidays” and a whole chorus of voices rises up, whispers, cajoles, reminds, takes the pan from my hand and shows me the right way, her way, of course.

oh, there’s grandma syl in there, and audrey, my adopted jewish mother. there’s jan’s mom with her working-girl’s-guide-to-making-a-seder. and harlene’s mom with her now famous brisket. why, the whole los angeles times test kitchen is stuffed in that slip, weighing in with their rendition of noodle kugel, though not the one i’ll use today.

i’ve got the rabbi’s wife’s gefilte fish, step-by-step on a yellow legal pad, back from the day i spent at her side in her kitchen, sloshing and dunking those fish balls just the way she instructed. and, scribbled on a paper napkin not too many pages later, i’ve got the matzo balls that ina pinkney, one of chicago’s great jewish mamas, insisted, in her much-above-the-din stage whisper, would keep my hubby happy forever. so far, so good.

they are my chorus, my girls, my back-up squad, there for me every time i, irish catholic as the day is long, tiptoe into the kosher kitchen to make like a bubbe.

and today, the climb is a steep one. i’ve got to crank out a kosher-for-passover kugel for 10, one that calls for farfel, 6 cups, doused and swimming in 6 cups hot water. mind you, i’ve never touched a box of farfel, let alone taken it swimming.

but i’ve got to get it all done, signed, sealed, awaiting delivery, by noon.

because today is an all-at-once day of supreme proportion.

in addition to being the first night of passover, it is the somberest day in my book: it’s good friday, and i am biologically wired for silence from noon to three, when the sky will go dark, will rumble, when the whole world — just watch, i always tell my boys — will weep for the long-ago death of jesus there on the cross.

it’s a full plate today, yes indeed, and right through the weekend, as the holiest of days unfold flat atop the retelling of the exodus, the action-filled story of moses leading his people — our people — out of egypt, across the red sea and on into the promised land.

it’s a story whose retelling for more years than i’ve been married has pulled me to the tables of crowds now synonymous with the seder. i’ll be back at the seat at the tables where i’ve sat single, and newly engaged, where i was a new bride, then a pregnant one, and, for all the years after, the mother of one boy then two who were growing up as i now am: weaving their jewish and catholic stories into one unbreakable braid.

but, far back as i can remember, the first night of passover hasn’t fallen on what we call good friday, a name that always prompts my boys to ask, “why is it good if jesus died?”

good question; one, like so many, that’s hard to answer. but when you raise your children jewish and catholic you get used to that; there are many good questions hard to answer, so you get used to thinking aloud.

fact is, i’ll be scrambling all morning, groping my way through this roadmap of a recipe for johanna’s farfel-soaked noodle kugel. it’s a recipe that melts me into a puddle of kosher-for-passover butter because, without even closing my eyes, i can see my little one, his arms still chubby in that baby-fat way, reaching across the table, grabbing for the spoon, because it was perhaps the first exotic thing he ever loved. and, oh, he loved it. and after so many years of watching him love it, spoon it high onto his plate, and gulp it down, i finally managed to get the recipe from johanna. and today i tiptoe into the land of farfel.

it’ll be out of the oven, if all goes as planned, by the time the clock strikes 12.

that’s when i’ll be up in my window seat, with all my holy books spread around me.

already i am achingly missing my usual companion in that sun-soaked window nook: for all of his high-school years, my firstborn joined me, though it never took long for him to slide down under a blanket and doze, while i drank in the stories, retracing the stations of the cross, jesus’ long cruel walk to calvary.

but we were together, he and i in silence, and even though my open wounds of missing him have healed over plenty, even though i can get through a week without hearing even a syllable of his voice, today, in the silence, i will miss him.

i keep saying  — and it’s true — grief is like that. for long unbroken spells of time, you’re just fine, used to someone you love no longer being around, but then, out of the blue — a sound, a smell, a thought — it hits you like an anvil over the head — or is it the heart? — and there you are oozing in the wide-open emptiness that just might swallow you whole.

might be fitting, come to think of it, that on this day of remembering — remembering the exodus, remembering jesus’ last hours, and most of all his last gasp of holy forgiveness — “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing” — i should spend a solid few hours aching for my faraway firstborn son, as i absorb once again the afternoon of shadows.

and then, well before sundown, i will slide my farfel-soaked kugel off the counter, and carry it back to the passover table whose story i now know by heart.

it’s the way i’ve come to know it on days like this, all-at-once days, guided as ever, by my chorus of cooks stashed there in the polka-dot binder.

here’s all i managed to scribble, on a pink sheet of paper, marked “Johanna’s Kugel”:

6 cups farfel

6 cups water, soak up &…[i am giving you these notes precisely as i scribbled them, thus you can see the holes in my roadmap]

6 eggs — beat 1st, then add

2/3 c. sugar

2/3 cup brown sugar

3-1/2 t. cinnamon

1-1/2 t. salt

9 Tbsp oil

6 apples

lemon juice

mix. bake 350 degrees. 35-40 minutes.

and now, you too, can swim in the land of waterlogged farfel

how will you spend these holy days? 

seeds cast to the winds…

our house this week has been aswirl with all that comes in that holiest of weeks, the week at our house when, so often, passover and easter glide in and intermingle.

i’ve been in the kitchen, digging out the pint-sized processor my beloved jewish grandma (the one i’d felt was mine, from heart, if not from birth) shipped to us back when our firstborn was just born, and she decided, upon his birth, that it was the one thing i needed, so she boxed it up in florida to send our way, lest i choose to someday whir the baby’s veggies to a pea-green paste.

i made charoset for the first time in years, the apple-wine-and-walnut mortar, the one set upon the seder table, a table we’ve not set here in years and years, but did this year because the rabbi who usually leads us all in chants and jewish mysticism, he’s had a bumpy year and couldn’t manage yet another room of crowded tables.

i pulled the “silver palate” cookbook off the shelf, decided after much debating with myself, that the only feast that symbolizes passover for me is the chicken marbella, page 86, the one we’ve feasted on for 20-some years at a dear friend’s second-night seder. and so it is; it’s now our first-night feast, now that i too know how to grind the head of garlic, stir with spanish olives, prunes and capers, an aromatic cloud that filled the fridge for one whole night and next day long.

i roasted egg and shank bone. i boiled up matzah ball soup. ordered gefilte fish from the fishman. watched my boys sink in their forks, and smile from deep-down places.

and now, with the pantry stocked and freezer too, with foods that have no leavened grain, no grain at all, save for ground-up matzah, we carry on the catholic end of the week, the holy week, the days of awe for me.

and while i sometimes find myself in lonely place, alone at church on palm sunday, for instance, i have found in this end of the week, quiet joy, unexpected joy.

last night my little one sat beside me at holy thursday mass, the mass that remembers the last supper–a seder, after all. he curled into my side, entwined his slender getting-longer fingers in mine. he asked me questions throughout, and i whispered answers, so quietly moved that for once i was not alone at church.

and today, good friday, a day i’ve long marked in silence from noon to 3, in remembrance of jesus on the cross, jesus suffering, my 6-foot-3 rower told me he was skipping practice. why, i asked? because it’s slotted for noon to 2, he said, matter-of-factly, and it’s good friday.

i quietly felt a glow.

i have not been one to try to wedge my boys into the practice of my religion. i’ve not tried to wedge anything at all. i have offered up all i have. i have made the seders, left out holy books, asked plenty of questions, tried to answer questions without easy answers.

we have, every night since each boy was born, whispered a litany of prayers, a head-to-toe veneration and then some, before sweet child slipped into slumber.

i have put out shabbat candles every friday. made fish for most shabbats, a subtle catholic-jewish intertwining.

i have walked to the lakefront with my boys, tossed bread upon the waves, cast sins at the jewish new year. savored the ritual, felt deep-down blessing at the many roads to the holiest of holies.

i have honored the sacred in all its forms. but i have not demanded, not sulked. oh, i’ve shed tears, though, but not when anyone was watching. i’ve felt the price of living in a home where two religions were offered. i’ve felt the sting of their pointed questions, of not knowing if they believed at all.

it’s a far lonelier road than most anyone will tell. i have tried hard to make peace with carrying on my quiet flame, believing all alone, of being without my boys on holy thursday night when the time came to take off my shoes and have my naked feet washed by strangers, and to return the blessing all alone.

and this year, i am quietly and deeply moved that i was not alone last night, and will not be alone this afternoon in my silent vigil.

it is dicey business, this growing up with deep cords of faith, in a world where the secular is drowning out the sacred. it is double hard to try to teach two religions, when there seems barely room for one.

it is not wise, i figured out, to demand belief. there is no such demanding.

in the end, we can only light the candles, set the seder table, cook fish for each shabbat, revel in the glories of the good times, and pray to God that in the darkest hours, our children will find the seeds that we once planted. and those seeds somehow will swell and burst with the tender beginnings of a vine that someday will carry them to the heaven that surrounds us.

that’s my prayer this holiest of fridays.

and how do you pass the seeds of faith to your children, or to the ones you so love?

every year, a cast of characters

 

 

every year. count on it. there will be characters. they will be many. they will be deeply, richly, crazily creviced, shadowed, colored.

it is as much the order of the seder as the haggadah itself. the table will spill with character. ooze with it. rumble, tumble, jumble, full of characters.

wafting just above, that’s character no. 1. the tall one, that is.

that’s ted. rebbe ted. the one wrapped in japanese prayer robe, tied with obi. the one raising the first of four glasses of vintage manishewitz. the one we drive miles to be with every pesach.

ted, a rabbi and cantor without a congregation these days, is a therapist; spends his working hours trying to screw on people’s heads, or at least screw them on a little less wobbly than when they first wandered in.

but mostly, always, ted is a character. ted’s eyes, i think, must gleam even when he’s sleeping.

at ted’s seder, things are, um, unorthodox. ted reaches in a bag and pulls out yarmulkes from around the world. sometimes he wears his tibetan temple headdress. he always wears his japanese robe.

at ted’s, you do some chanting. you close your eyes and chant the vowels. you do not close your lips when chanting vowels, he tells you, and thus you assume a posture of openness that ted thinks the world truly deeply needs. you chant deeply, ahhhhhhhhh.

at ted’s, you eat sumptuous french hors d‘oeuvres. (and then you find out, oops, they are not kosher for passover; maybe that’s why they tasted so good.)

i tell you the story of ted because in bringing my children to ted each year i bring them to one of the most essential gifts a parent can give a child: the gift of the one who’d never paint by numbers, the iconoclast, the eccentric, the character. the deep and rich and soul-expanding knowledge that life is splashed with vibrant colors.

one of those colors is the color ted.

it brings unending joy to me to bring my children to tables where i know they will hear voices they do not hear at home. home is where the grounding happens. home is where you learn that the parachute has a safety cord, and you can pull it any time.

other people’s launch pads are where you learn to lift your foot off the ledge, set it in mid-air, and feel the fall, but then the updraft, carrying you, lifting you to places you’d never see from the safety of that concrete ledge.

last night we soared with ted. heard his salty brand of politics. took in his dash of new-age mysticism. felt the gestalt of letting go of that by which we’d been enslaved. watched him raise a yale sweatshirt, oy, to teach a lesson on hebrew light and perfection. (right there, spelled out on yale’s emblem, in hebrew letters, who knew? found out that centuries ago, at the founding of yale, patrician of patrician schools, hebrew was required study. ted, by the way, went to yale.)

tonight we congregate again. at another table of eccentrics. they will be the ones with whom we’ve worked for decades. the ones with whom i’ve “sedered” for 25 years, before husband, before children, and every variation since. a cast of newspaper kooks. my boys, all eyes and ears, will learn much that i won’t teach them.

besides the wine glasses filled with jelly beans (the kinder version of fruit of the vine), the flogging each other with scallions, yes, scallions, the pulling out of little plastic plagues, there is the annual putting of passover lyrics to broadway tunes.

we drive home each year, from nights one and two, with bellies aching. not from all the passover matzo kugel. no, no. from laughing ’til our sides feel split in two.

we are blessed. so very blessed.

all my life, far back as i can remember, i have loved the odd ball. the duck who waddled to his or her own drum beat. at my mid-century mark, i survey the landscape of my life and see i’ve assembled quite some cast of characters.

my almost-man-child told me recently that one of the most lasting lessons he learned from his uncle david was when david spoke of a brilliant friend of his, a friend with phD in sanskrit, a friend who studies global drumming and, for a long while, drove a cab in new york city. david, it seems, told my almost-man-child: “he really is a kook.” and my almost-man-child told me that the way he said it, he knew that uncle david meant that to be a kook is a very noble thing. “that’s how i learned i should never march to other people’s drummers,” said my boy who decidedly does not.

my prayer this pesach, my prayer that already has been heard on high, is that all the children, not just my boys, hear a world of many drummers. and come, as often as they can, to a table that spills with kooks and characters and bold eccentrics, a table, every first-night seder, led by rabbi ted.

who, by the way, i love with all my heart. even if he makes me close my eyes and chant the vowels.

do you collect characters? do you see the beauty in those who color outside the lines? do you, if you have children, or love children, or are a child at heart, seek out tables where you know they–and you–will hear voices unlike the ones they–and you–hear at home?

holy, holy week

in our house, it is the gospel according to matthew, and the seder infused by elie. and this, by the blessing of the calendar, is one of those wham-bam weeks.

we’ve got it all, and weave and flow from exodus to last supper, from parting of red sea to rending of blackened sunless sky. we dash the house of bread, but then bring on the easter baskets.

long long ago, we set our own pesach dispensation for easter sunday. even when it’s in the midst of the eight days of no leavened grains, we part the matzo for a sprinkling of chocolate, for jelly beans, in the easter basket.

i was musing that wednesday is the only day of this whole week not rich in something jewish or catholic, and thus i would need to consult the koran to divine my depth for the day.

it is, very much, a fact that the interlacing of the passion of jesus, a passion set in history at the cusp of passover, and the jewish remembrance of the exile from egypt, is, for me, a rich one.

after 25 years of living them on top of and through each other, i have come to see shadows, understand subtleties that would have escaped me were it not for my being drawn, in love and faith, to a man who is, himself, a son of the tribe of israel.

and so it was that we all, the four of us, two jews, one catholic and one just learning both, walked into a church courtyard yesterday where palms were swaying in the air, the priest’s red robe was billowing–nay, blowing–up and nearly over his head from behind, the winds were whipping so unrelentingly, a red bird’s plumage in flight. the red cloth punctuating the otherwise gray day.

the priest, one i’d known long ago, one who’d grown older and even wiser, and though he’d grown bent, never bent from his focus on that core of what i call dorothy day catholicism that sees peace and justice as the central burning flame of a religion he won’t let go down in flames.

he was in the midst of reading the passion of jesus when he looked up, looked out at the sea of waving palms, and implored the multi-colored crowd: “consider and tend the wounds of the world as if they were your own—-for they are.”

that then, i gulped, is the mission of this week.

i came home, sat down to consider elie wiesel, the nobel-prize winning poet and seer who survived the holocaust and will not, bless him, let us forget.

“i love passover,” he wrote, “because for me it is a cry against indifference, a cry for compassion.”

wiesel wrote those words in perhaps the only autographed book (certainly the only autograph that fills me with awe) on my shelves, “a passover haggadah,” (simon & schuster) his 1993 commentary and guide through the seder, or meal of remembrance, the retelling of the exodus story, that is the centerpiece of passover.

“sometimes the sheer speed of events makes us reel,” wiesel also wrote in the haggadah. “history advances at a dizzying pace. man has conquered space, but not his own heart. have we learned nothing? it seems so. witness the wars that rage all over the globe, the acts of terror that strike down the innocent, the children who are dying of hunger and disease in africa and asia every day. why is there so much hatred in the world? why is there so much indifference to hatred, to suffering, to the anguish of others?”

wiesel asks. the old priest implores.

because i am catholic, because i spent many years on my knees studying the 10-foot-high crucifix that hung before me in the church where i grew up, i don’t even have to close my eyes to see the wounds that i’ve been asked to dab with cool and healing waters.

and so i walk, i stumble, through this most holy week.

what questions do you carry into this blessed string of holy days? what thoughts do you put to those questions? those callings?


p.s. some really fine thoughts–really fine–have been tacked onto meanders in recent days, thanks to the brilliant souls who keep pulling up chairs. bless them! don’t forget to take a look back and keep the conversation flowing. just because we move on to a new meander does not ever mean the case is closed on a meander past. in fact, we might have drummed up a real-live beekeeper to tell us a thing or three about the
heartbreak in the hives….
p.s.s. welcome back from break, all of you who flew away…we held down the fort just fine….