The last 2 days have been windy, and the wind is coming from the east and is full of dust. It’s the “Toez”, the same wind that greeted us last February on our first morning in Palestine. It’s strange to be familiar with something here. I feel a sense of completion in opening the suitcase that has our winter clothes, a settling in to what is supposed to be.
This is the olive harvest time of year. I drive around town and see women in traditional dresses (Toub) climbing up on ladders amongst the olive trees. They are harvesting olives. What they gather will supply them with olive oil for the coming year, but the lack of rain this year has made the harvest less juicy.
We see them by the roadside, and I know they are harvesting on bigger lots of olives elsewhere.
We saw these young guys riding horses through town on the morning of the olive pressing (see story and pics below), and we were told they may be using horses to get to hard to reach olive groves where carrying big sacks of olives is not possible without a beast of burden. (that sentence used to read “breast of burden” which was a hilarious typo of mine. I guess Laila’s been nursing A LOT!)
Well, I am too shy to stop and photograph these women in their toubs, so I took my kids to Teta’s house and we “helped” her harvest her olives over 2 days. An olive harvest is something I would never miss, and the kids loved it! Outdoor play time, whacking of trees with rakes and hoses, gathering and dumping olives and stones. What’s not to love?
After the olives were harvested, and after one of the women gathering fell hard on one foot when an olive branch broke under her (an injury I am told is common this time of year!), they were put in sacks and my family returned the next day to take Teta and her olives to the olive press in Old Town Ramallah to get her olive oil. What an experience!
Now, an olive press in old Ramallah is much more than just the act of getting some olive oil. This place was a little factory built into ancient stone walls with people from surrounding villages waiting for their oil–people who actually need that oil. It’s not a tourist stop where you can buy “Real Holy Land Olive Oil!”. It’s a part of life and living by the seasons and at the mercy of rain and with lots of hard work.
It was a tiny, loud, and grimy factory full of olives and people waiting for the oil from their olives. It was in old Ramallah, as I mentioned, which means it was in the part of Ramallah that looks like a movie set with it’s old stone walls and tiny shops and even tinier streets. I loved it.
And once the olive press guys saw me touristing it up, one of them took it upon himself to show me around and point out great things to snap a photo of.
As I understand it, you should be ready to argue with the guys over how much your harvest weighed vs how much oil they gave you from it. Plus, if you want your own oil from the exact olives you harvested, you have to wait a bit longer until the group olive pressing is done. I could never make it here long term, I just can’t argue over money. Still a problem for the mid-westerner in me.
The oil is such a deep spring green color, and I think it’s lovely. It’s quite acidic when it’s this fresh, so we are letting it “rest” before use.
While in medineh al ‘adimeh (the old city) I saw another shop that caught my eye. Next door to the olive press factory there is a very small nut roasting operation. Here it is:
Part of his process is apparently to get the nuts to a certain doneness, and then lay them in the sun to dry a bit more. On the sidewalk. These are peanuts laying out in front of the argileh shop next door:
I will probably never get used to the relaxed health codes here. In order to be safe we only eat food from places we have tried before or that family recommends. And I don’t let the kids eat peels on fruits and veggies when we are out of the house. I doubt other people wash their fruit and veggies as thoroughly and compulsively as I do (scrub with soap and water, then a vinegar with grapefruit seed extract and water soak, then rinse in filtered water). It’s a little crazy, I know, but even with this regimen we still get belly complaints pretty often. Much more than we ever did before.
Mom Thought for Today: on catharsis
The other night I met a woman who had had a baby 6 weeks prior. A reporter and (extremely talented) photojournalist by trade, she started asking me questions immediately on connecting with me as a fellow mom. Eventually she asked about Laila’s infancy and as usual, I had to pause and breathe before answering. Laila’s infancy was not easy for Laila or for me. Or for any of us actually. I told her that Laila had had reflux and had spent her infancy, in fact her entire first 11 months, in pain and mostly screaming. Not crying, screaming. As usual, a big sadness welled up in me that I held back just behind my heart. Usually people blow right past this with a wrinkle of the nose and a commendation on being over it now. Not to disparage anyone whose had this conversation with me, but I never feel heard. “Holy shit!” she said, “My daughter had reflux for 2 days and I thought it would kill me. That must have been AWFUL. I don’t think I would have survived 11 fucking months of it! How the hell did you do that? Do you have PTSD now or what?” What a relief! I usually have the urge to grab my audience by the collar and explain how crying is not like screaming, and how 11 months was a daily eternity and how I felt a great loss over Laila’s infancy and our early days for a long time.
Then she asked me the big question, the one I consider daily and the one I think will propel me to eventually research other women’s experiences with infant GERD. She asked, “And what’s she like now? I mean, did the reflux and all the crying influence her personality?” Well. If I hadn’t been about to teach my yoga class I am sure I would have wept. Yes, I clearly have had PTSD. And I do believe Laila is struggling to recover a sense of calm and trust in the world—and in me. I couldn’t stop the pain she suffered and I was not always a pillar of strength for her. Sometimes I was a mess, too. There was the constant stress and upset it caused us as a family that surrounded her. Especially me, of course. Me: sleep deprived, exhausted, in shock over the constant crying, grieving the loss of contact with Sufyan as Laila’s need was intense around the clock, grieving the calm moments of deep connection to my newborn I had been hoping for, losing friends who couldn’t understand what was going on and why I couldn’t even manage a phone call.
Laila and I are building an exceptional bond now–long after so many baby books say our ship has sailed. Our bond includes forgiveness. I no longer believe in a single, all-important bonding window. It’s a myth. Your bonding window is your life and all the moments you have with your baby/infant/toddler/child. So Laila and I are doing the work together, and its AMAZING and lovely to feel this brilliant, energetic spark of a girl in my heart and in my life.
Yoga Thought for Today: on the jewel in the lotus
two nights ago I finally got this mantra that I have heard literally almost my entire life: Om Mani Padme Hum.
I was practicing and suddenly I heard the mantra in a new way, like for the first time ever. It knocked me over with it’s truth.
Om Mani Padme Hum.
The precious teaching in the midst of “word-soup”.
The moment when breath and body dissolve the mind into boundlessness. All you did was show up on your mat.
The love we feel for each other. We are imperfect.
It’s so beautiful.
Om Mani Padme Hum.