© 2020 Drew T. Noll

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Corona Implosion

The Promised Land is a strange and difficult term. When moving halfway around the planet to Israel, I told myself that I was deserving of it, a life-change and midlife crisis all rolled up into one. Having converted to Judaism while living in Los Angeles, I was still trying to find my own Jewish roots after 15 years of raising my little Jewish family in Colorado. I had fled from the city when my first son was born, and became a member of Jewish Renewal in Boulder, but never really melded into the fold, I always felt. At least that is what I told myself to explain the difficulties I seemed to be having feeling normal, but really just feeling Jewish. At the time I felt that I needed to understand, more in depth, the roots of the tradition, or religion, or culture, or place of origin, or language, or … any and all of the missing pieces of who I destined myself to be; so, I searched. 


I searched for many years to find a path in life that fit my own vision; a vision of the answers compiled together, addressing the question of the universe—and what it all revealed to me—and what, ultimately for me, ongoingly ... it all really meant. This search caused me to change directions many times in life. And traversed I did, from Hare Krishna to tribal surfers, from indigenous culture to the second Number One holding court on the beaches of Laguna, mimicking the Greeter, Eiler Larsen, who, when I was a child, had been an inspiration to me. I witnessed Eiler often, but only when quite young, driving by in the backseat of my parent’s automobile, with my mother exclaiming, always, for us to wave back as we passed. He had long stringy hair, I remember, and an even longer beard dripping down over his stooped European frame as he waved and pointed his index finger out, as if saying, “Give me a ride, I too am on my way to where you’re going…” And, echoing through time, like a promise delivered, I see today that he was not altogether unhinged. I have carried Eiler with me in this life, remembering the good ole’ times from days ongoing and then passing by; all the while: with isolation currently rocking the planet and a pandemic of biblical proportions waving its hand out with greetings, not so gently. Like pointing a finger towards a future mostly known but entirely unbelieved, we, like infants cast into a pond, pass over altogether its meaning and flounder about in order to find the new norm. 


Passover hit me over the head this year. I’ve been living the dream for 13 consecutive years, building my presence in the Land of Israel via ‘anyway possible.’ I started with cabinet making, as that is what I had known, but moved on eventually to the Internet and all the blessings and curses that have evolved since from that realm. Once parting with my employ for 7 years: the Christian German Zionist Kibbutz situated down the street, I began to paint. From there I spawned a gallery, an art school, a center for community, and then began to teach – woodworking, painting, drawing, and ceramics, with creative writing hugging the aisle; then came teaching English in public school. In the summers I traveled the globe from the center of the world, exploring my backyard in Israel to Europe, Malaysia, Africa, Indonesia, Madagascar, and beyond. I may have converted my nefesh back in L.A., but my neshama became Jewish here in the Promised Land. Since then I’ve been selling my khumetz to the folk I once had been; and this year was no different. But, Passover this year, as opposed to before, has sent cracks out and into the world. It was spent with my tiny pod, our family of two grown boys with lives of their own. We isolated together, virtually embracing, as the world covered its face with masks of disbelief. I wrote our own Haggadah, and then read it together with my pod of four humans, two dogs, and two cats prowling ... somewhere on their own. Passover, really, just hit me over the head this year. 


There’s a world lurking above our heads, always, in this modern age. The air is filled to the brim with signals blinking and pinging off reality as we go about our business day-in and day-out. Due to the circumstances of corona-isolation parameters, I began teaching online, and discovered that right above our heads lays a network of blessings in a time gone aslant; the world created has growth-potential beyond. We’ve always thought of the virtual world as just that, ‘almost reality.’ But, what this particular reality has ushered-in is the understanding of belief. We can travel anywhere, anytime, virtually, and it absolutely exists. Our minds, in the end, allow it to be. Reality has become the plaything of philosophy, not the other way ‘round. We have become independent of our realm. Rome conquered the known world with roads, we know, but that evolution led us to planetary decay. Physically binding, our bio-eco-growth has propelled us, and has thus physically connected all reality that seemingly matters. Physically we have reached the paramount of ascent, but have not really understood it, yet. Like free-falling with gravity-understood, a primordial sea splitting, we breathe in one last time—the essence of what we’ve built, the age of knowing about to decline. Turning the page now, we anticipate what our minds will build next, what the new reality tells us will become. And, turning over the next falling leaf, we may discover that we knew of a grand-plan all along. 


What is a promise? Well, integrity is important to understand, as well as hearing the truth of the reality spoken in the first place, but it’s more than just that. My mom, insistent upon asking us to look at the Laguna Greeter greeting and pointing the way, may have known. She was ill in her mind, at least certified by the standards set in motion by the ‘real world,’ but also had some underpinning of awareness of a place unknown. We dwell day-in and day-out waiting for the next landing, the next place, a land only dreamt of, the next awareness of what will be, but in the end all we keep wondering is only from which way it will come. Together we wait. Together we isolate. In gatherings we settle. And, we wait. Sometimes we adjust our own thinking, and influence others in our pod, as isolation waivers and the future reveals its possibilities. Sometimes we just inhabit within the influence of others. And, we wait. For what, we cannot tell. For, if we do tell, we ignite growth and decay all together. If we engage we risk chaos, uncertainty, and cracking the shell. There is, however, a quiet place that exists in us all, in our minds, deep at the back, that can guide us and help. In each of our bio-ships, our suits, there exists a node deep at the core, a place we remember from before. Like a world revolving above, a sword unseen, unbelieved, the promise from before sprouts up in our own backyards. Like a fountain of inner peace from our isolated souls, we reach out to connect to others, all others; we can reach out with our ingenuity and intuition, we can reach out and greet one-another as we pass over, and only then can we truly settle — and only then can we, in truth, dwell.

- Photographs taken in Ramat Hanadiv Nature Reserve near Zikhron Yaakov.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Masking a Future Distant

The Distance Among Us - 

Creating distance is as easy as stepping into your own private dream-liner, fully stocked with aspirations on hold for a time not demanded by regular life. The same is true of actually dreaming, in the sense that the life we live over in that world is always on hold for later, sometime in the future of ‘my’ perception of ‘me.’ Like a vacation that has been had, almost, not stacking up, but nevertheless over, a reflection on the past that happened before the last little bit determines the energies to be spent on the next little bit, and into the future. Breathe … it’ll be okay. The masks we all wear protect us from many things, and they isolate us from others. Covering the face can cover the window to our inner-being, while protecting us from the bio-terrors around and unseen. This also prepares us for a launch into the next generation of us. Just like sleeping and dreaming, we store up our energies and breathe in to our souls, just enough, to light up a future that is mostly paramount to none.

Sitting here, eating matzah with matbukha, I’m trying to remember how I felt during the year gone by. The last Pesakh I was in school to learn a new profession, in order to add it all up in the end of a life well spent. But, the end seems to have launched earlier than previously understood, or known. And … now we are all wearing masks and gloves like in an Asian sci-fi, or something. Was that racist to say? Is it even relevant today? It’s so hard to know anymore what is real, what is important, or … what is ‘me,’ with a capital ‘I.’ Do we continue down the path we began, is it even possible, or do we change course and fly into the eye of the squall, and … um … WTF does that even mean?! I mean, IT’S THE DAMN APOCALYPSE, right? (I usually refrain from profanity, but, circumstances oblige…) The whole world seems to agree, that the end is near, and that our pomposity of human dominance on the land is disowned, disheveled, dishonored, and drowned.

Next week I begin to teach, once again. My 9th grade classes have been returned to me, while my 10th languish with others. I miss seeing my students, maybe 150 in total, and my life is on hold like are their lives, and others. During kholamoed I built lessons for distant learning, from the comfort of my studio, where I’ll teach my students English, at least from grade nine. Using my tiny laptop I’ll try, with a window unto the world that is separate, mostly a dream, to build a connection to each of my students, and to tie bonds to our futures. From my studio I’ll try. With the blessing of the Internet, I’ll wear my mask and not complain, from my tiny imprint on our planet … I’ll try. The future is blooming, just on the other side, I can see it, not in a dream, I can see it shine, waver and shine! I can see it learning, I can see it grow, I see that it wants to, and with the help of others, I’ll see it mature, bisrat Hashem, you can be sure.

The beginning

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Freedom is a State of Mind...

Surf Chicken, oil on canvas, DTNoll © 2020 - 
My vacation was cut short by work. I was informed that I would need to cease and desist my online lessons, which did happen for a week, but I was then informed that I would need to continue again. Scrambling to aspire, I rose to it all, completing the additional week of lessons prepared and delivered to hungry minds via my laptop in my studio. With Surf Chicken on the wall behind, I spoke about reading, vocabulary, various grammar points, and did just fine. I had much help from a great staff of great people (teachers are like that, you know), and I smiled a lot while delivering my lectures to more than 150 young minds on the other end of a computer line. Even trapped inside, I have it really good, which I’m never really sure how to gauge, since I’m mostly always beating to a different drum, it seems. Is it okay to say I’m doing okay? Is it offensive to speak about it while others suffer decay? Sometimes I just don’t know what to say, so I don’t.

That is those silences you hear here, when I’m lost in chaos unfolding nothing from naught. Do we all experience such blanks in significant thought? Filling the voids with stories told by others? I loose myself further, quite often, creating more chaos to transcend; but, transcend I do always (thank God). I think of my students trying to grasp it with a world gone mad, and I find that I’m at a loss for words, much of the time—with nothing much said, I look into the horizon that I’m fortunate to see, and I begin again to write ... or paint … or draw. That’s what this is, you know, my process exposed. My legitimate flaw, thawing the life I carry on my shoulders, keeps creeping up and singing along with me. Sometimes it’s an echo, but real nevertheless, and because of my world being small, I struggle with righting it all; so, I don’t.

Or, maybe I do? At least I write it, sometimes. We are supposed to be asking questions right now, anyways. Plague has always been temporary in our histories, with grand out-comings blooming on the other side of seas splitting, on the other side of borders falling, and at the far reaches of our abilities to even understand where we are heading, and possibly … posthumously, where we began. One of my students delivered ice cream to my front door today. He was wearing the requisite facemask and gloves, and we stood miles apart while locking eyes in a knowing embrace. Ort, the school I work for, had contracted with my student’s father to deliver joy to their teachers, in a way that really made my day. Riches abound when least expected, as the mask-covered smiling face at my door attested. The struggle we face collectively is mute when confronted with astounding reality, as we can all endorse from our lives lived; and in the end all we can do is to try and fit an obtuse shoe onto a well-worn foot (at least in our own minds)—in the end, to lay it barely, all we can scarcely muster … is to say: I do.

חג שמח וברכות בצד השני, לכולם!



Sunday, March 22, 2020

Paving a Parking-lot with Paradise

Paperboy, from Book of Zombie Apocalypse -   
Today I hit my head on the freezer trying to pull out a bag of rotten cucumbers from the fridge below. My hands were full trying to get as much as I could in the least amount of trips from the kitchen counter and back. I was already frustrated, having installed two lighting fixtures after removing them both and swapping them with each other earlier in the day. They didn’t work to bring light where they were installed, so with my time I decided to correct it all. The fixtures were designed horribly, both of them, requiring that whoever wished to install them needed to stand on a ladder, balancing with a tiny screwdriver in one hand, the wire connectors in the other, and the fixture itself pinned between head and shoulder to keep it from pulling out wires and falling to the floor. One of them fell. Two bulbs were shattered below, across the kitchen’s hoard.

But, I had to get to a Zoom meeting, so dropped everything to take the call. Then the morning texts started streaming in… buzz… buzz… buzz… my pocket began to scream. Luckily, I had had a chance to wander around the mud-puddles in the nature reserve with my dogs earlier in the day; but, it would have been great if I had had the proper boots to wear. My last hike finished exactly as the souls of my shoes unglued and began flopping about, spraying mud hither and thither. So to tell, I wore my work shoes instead, since THE BEST NEWS had been unfolded prior: that “today” was the first day of my vacation! Yay!! I was informed thus as I furiously prepared lesson plans for the first day’s online teaching session the following week … um … yeah, that ‘would’ have been today.

So, breathing in the freshly cleaned air out in the nature reserve, we walked into the woods—along with everyone else wandering while wondering what’n the #*LL to do with a world gone mad, what to do with the kids, what to do with our time, what to do about dwindling … um … home-economics, what to do about getting along with meters between, and what to do about MY vision of me. Everything had changed. I know how to throw a pot on a wheel, I know how to make a forge. I’ve read many things, philosophies and such, and if I so choose my thumb is as green as they come. But … what to do about who I am? Should I paint it? Or, should I write? Should I build it, or should I just fight… Who the #*LL am I in this new damn world. Somebody or something has just hit the reset button, and didn’t think to tell me…

The beginning. 

Thursday, February 20, 2020

African Vibrations

Slick and traveling, I hopped onto a dream. Yes, it was mine too, admittedly. There’s a feeling inside of being trapped, being strangled … or … more specifically, being squeezed out in a specific unknown and desirably-felt direction. And I can’t resist but to slide into its gape of a jaw … slipping in and landing into a new development that becomes reality on the ground. I had a dream and it was shared by others, specifically my clinged-on, dreams I strangled in my sleep. But, arrived at … a wonderful freedom now exists, in my love, in my countenance, my expression. Yes; yes she is. Not the continent, but the woman.

It’s a kind of love poem to the world, in the world, for the world … just … so damn knowing. Almonds grown as grains of sand, spreading underfoot and over horizons. I’ve been there, but not ‘there,’ where she’s going. Africa, Kenya to be specific. A village I haven’t been in, a land remote and being reeled in. Check out this link, to liberty and beyond; she’s going to Africa to help, to be, and to heal. Donate now, or at least share, the cause is mighty and clear. Helping the youth derelict on the street, up the sides of it and in droves, to conquer its pain, restoring its hope.

Click here

Thursday, January 23, 2020

A Most Beautiful Accent

Glass House © Noll, June, 2015 - 

Sliding down into the darkness of knowing, I’ve hit the bottom of midterm madness, grading papers and tests, and processing it all into the ether above. I’m made to post journal entries for a ministry upon high, education of bureaucracy-not-nigh. I’ll post it now, the last post made, just so someone says something, anything, in this strange new world I find myself swimming upon, flailing high in my own mind, and quite possibly a belly-flop towards hell:

I’m almost done with midterm grades, at the end of grading 70+ material exams for high school and the last 40 or so video and written book reviews of 150 to watch, read, and grade. I have to post it all correctly to Smart-School along with all the other Google Docs and whatnot that need attention from ‘this’ novice English teacher. It’s a lot. I have good days and bad, today of which was more in the red than yesterday’s highs. Yesterday was quite lovely, as a matter of fact. So, I think Wednesday, with a class of 9th graders, is the best place to start today’s entry for staj:

Normally I read aloud to the students in order for them to hear correctly pronounced English, with the proper intonation and expression. On Wednesday, however, a handful of the students in one of my classes really wanted to read aloud. It was a very boring literature piece, so I had been spicing it up with descriptions and antics in front of the class, trying to keep 38 teens with me; it was difficult for us all. Most of my students really want to help me succeed as a new teacher, and I can palpably feel this often in classes as the students quiet each other down, pay complements after, and laugh a lot during key moments in the lectures I give and tell.

One student was raising her hand non-stop to read aloud and when I gave her a turn, she spoke loudly and with confidence – right up until almost the end of her paragraph, when she began to giggle and grin. I complained that we couldn’t hear her with the overlay of laughter between words, and so she admitted being embarrassed about her accent, most Israeli, most guttural. I stopped the lesson right there and then, insisting upon telling a story that I had learned somewhere, pop-culture, maybe from a friend.

“Who knows who Gal Gadot is,” I said loudly to the class. They all giggled and nodded with conspiratorial agreement with each other. Of course they knew; and I also found out that they already knew the story I was about to tell  – that an entire cast of women from around the world had tried their best to imitate the exotic accent of Gal Gadot in order to accentuate the fact that they were all portraying Amazonian warriors from ancient times and a mystical dimension beyond us all. I told the young lady reading in my class that her accent was beautiful, and to be proud of it. She immediately began to glow as bright as I’ve ever seen from some of my new students in English class, all engaged with learning a second or third language, maybe more.

Excited, after class, the young lady made sure to say goodbye to me as she left, that same glow hovering about her being … and then slowly following her out the door and down the hall to her life, and, of course, enveloping her Wednesday afternoon.

The end.