Thursday, June 11, 2009

A post about storms, lots of comments about the Holocaust.

The sky above Chinatown in DC, just before 7:00 p.m. last night.

Now that Jake is virtually deaf, I can enjoy thunderstorms again. He was so terrified of them when he was younger that he would try to wedge himself behind the toilet. He shook and panted. The poor thing was wild eyed until long after the storm passed. He could not be consoled no matter how I tried, but usually I tried anyway.

Now he's oblivious, so I'm free to check out stormy weather. Of course I enjoy it from indoors or the back porch. I switch off all electronic devices (since Brother Lightning loves to strike people holding celphones) and just gaze up in wonder at the sky.

Witnessing the storms of the past couple of days, I can't help but think about the parallels between them and me. When I get bent out of shape, I, too get kind of greenish purple. I roil up, become ominous looking. I shoot bolts of lightning out from my fingertips or eyes - or both. I rant and rave in a booming voice, cry a torrent. In fact when I'm angry, I am almost exactly like a big midatlantic thunderstorm, only smaller, definitely not as majestic, and a lot more embarrassed about it afterwards.

We humans are part of the family of nature, no matter how much we like to think of ourselves as separated from it, or above it, or below it. Lightning and thunder are literally my big brothers. Obviously they have been in a hell of a mood the last couple of days! Wow! I can relate brothers, I can relate.

Shadow (the other old dog in the house, the one I tripped over last week) is not deaf and therefore still terrified of thunderstorms. Imagine heavy panting, whining and lots of dog slobber. Poor thing.


Reya Mellicker said...

Ronda the shooting at the Holocaust Museum is, in a very sick sense, someone's way of dancing in shamanic alignment with all this stormy weather.

The energy around there is never good. I am conflicted about how it's a good idea to hang on to all those shoes, the beds from Auschwitz, etc. How does that help anyone?

One part of the museum I love is the library. That one space in the museum has a wonderful feng shui because that's where they preserve images and books about old Jewish Europe from before the Shoah.

With the help of their excellent librarians, it was there that I located the name of the shtetl where my family came from, where and when most of them died. From an old business directly I found the names of my great uncle and his kin. It was a real soul retrieval.

But carefully celebrating the Holocaust the way they do? I don't understand. I really don't.

(Not condoning the shooting, by the way, though I've got to say that there are shootings here all the time. This one does not seem to me any worse than any of the rest of them.)

Reya Mellicker said...

Clearly I have a whole big issue with the Holocaust Museum. Maybe my post today should have been about that.

My family's shtetl was Wyzygordec (Polish spelling) or Visgorodek when it was part of Russia. It's located in modern day Ukraine, just east of Lvov. Well it would be if it still stood.

The Nazis killed every resident on August 9, 1941, in Volkswagons with the exhaust turned into the cars, then bulldozed the town. There is still a railroad crossing where the shtetl once stood.

Reya Mellicker said...

People always say, "We keep these artifacts of the Shoah so we'll never forget." But I think there's something salicious, sensationalistic, really CREEPY about keeping those items. There are other ways to remember what happened, more healing ways.

I think this museum keeps the wound of the Holocaust active.

OK I'll stop now.

Lisa said...

i love the 'big brother' image of thunder and lightening- a friend of mine has to sedate her dog during storms they get scared- my poor old fat Ruby, just thinks its another excuse to get inside xx

Lisa said...

your holocaust comments have given me food for thought relating to keeping relationship energies alive and thriving..thank you xx

Cynthia said...

Reya, isn't it curious how animals show their connection to nature so profoundly? I used to have a darling and fierce dog, Lady Blue, who would let me know that an earth equake was coming. She would run around the house, anxious, and I would carefully prepare (put away what I didn't want to be broken) because she knew...and I knew she knew-and I knew she knew.
About the holocaust...I think that people have to go through their this case generations of they hold on.

I think it would not be healthy for me (but now that I think about it, maybe I do it too?)...and I wouldn't recommend the holding on to the pain's curious though...when you lose someone dear, especially to violence, their objects become evocative of their physical presence.

My mother's maroon wallet sits on the counter with her old credit cards and unfinished business...maybe it's the same thing...I want to remember that we have to fight for those who have suffered and died from or may suffer from hate crimes. Why her wallet? I don't know, it feels personal and connected to her.

I used to hold on to her red cowboy boots...but I decided that I should let them go...I keep the symbol of her in my mind but the boots are gone. <3

ellen abbott said...

I love thunderstorms. When I get in a 'mood' though, it's more subterranean. Don't currently have a dog but out last two were also terrified of thunder. One of my daughter's dogs is also. funny though, she loves getting wet. The other dog hates to get wet but storms don't bother her at all.

re the Holocaust Museum. I get what you are saying. I have never been to one of those museums though we have one here in Houston. I read The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich in high school and that was enough for me. I have had no desire to revisit those horrible things.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you Reya about the museum. If I had been a survivor or one of my ancestor's had been a survivor of those atrocities, I certainly wouldn't want a reminder displayed like that. A memorial, yes, books to read and history lessons, yes.

My boys are deaf now too, and there is a t-storm on the way, so I can enjoy it with them by my side now.

Reya Mellicker said...

Cynthia - Keeping your mother's wallet is an act of love. It's like the library keeping the old business directories from the towns before the war. If the families of the people reclaimed their ancestor's particular pairs of shoes, that would be a beautiful tribute. But to pile them up, all anonymous and horrifying, is salacious, a word I learned from my high school English teacher.

It's an exploitation of those who died, covered up in a costume of honoring them.

That's what I always see anyway.

Reya Mellicker said...


1. lustful or lecherous.
2. obscene; grossly indecent.

Joanne said...

Your thunderstorms must be moving up the coastline. Our weather forecast said we're due to be bombarded with them tonight! Interesting dialogue on the Holocause Museum, such a passionate subject. I've never been, but my mother did visit Auschwitz and was very moved. I'd imagine that's different though, seeing the actual locale of atrocities, rather than a separate "museum".

Lizzy Frizzfrock said...

Reya, you came immediately to my thoughts when I heard the news. Even though I knew no civilians were involved (except the shooter) I was concerned that you & Jake may be wandering around the area. I have not been to DC in years, not since many of the new museums & memorials have been finished.
I'm glad the library there helped you to bring some amount of closure. I can only imagine the pain. I find your comments about the museum enlightening.
Be safe.

mouse (aka kimy) said...

the shooting at the museum was so shocking.

I wonder if that old anti-semitic nutcase planned the act as a 'suicide by cop'

btw love the dog slideshow....

Mrsupole said...

Hi Reya,
I am glad that Jake is no longer scared by the thunderstoms. He is at peace during these times.

My two cats go crazy during the storms. But they do not like rain. And the noise scares them. But as long as I let them in the house and they are near me they are okay.

My heart goes out to the security guard's family. The "why" of the shooting is what makes it different. Hate, and I mean extreme hate towards someone who believes something different than you do is why the killing is on the news and shocking to the public. We are desensitized to killings during robberies, rapes, family disputes and other common reasons. Killing from pure hatred is not common and I think more fearful to everyone who thinks there are those that might hate them to that degree.

As to what they save at the museum, I think the point is to show that this is all that was left of these families. Some might be comforted by seeing these things, others might be reminded that this could happen again to their group. And the way you see the hate killings and hate protests, maybe it is good that we have lots of reminders to hopefully prevent anything like this from happening again. I have never been there and so I might say something different if I were to visit. But I guess it is their choice.

God bless.

Just me said...

I grew up in an area where people were blissfully ignorant about those who are different from themselves and many of the issues and history around prejudice.

I am sickened every time I hear about someone who states that the Holocaust didn't happen, or that the level of destruction and evil was "exaggerated".

Our country is such a large one, and the experiences and knowledge of people in different areas varies so greatly. Many good people can't fathom that level of evil. IMO, the museum helps raise the awareness of those who are uneducated about the Holocaust. I believe that there are people who need to be shocked with the photos and artifacts to understand just how horrific the Holocaust was.

The Bug said...

I woke up this morning to a thunderstorm - an ominous sign for the first night in our new house & my much longer commute to work. But it was fine. I love the racket!

I live near Cincinnati & we have the Freedom Center - an underground railroad museum. I've only been once (for shame!), but I've listened to GED students (black & white) discuss a trip there. They were all shocked and amazed at how slaves were treated. Being married to a historian I know a lot about slavery in America. But they were poor, urban young adults - many with records or addiction problems (some with both) & they just didn't know. So in that instance I feel that the museum serves a powerful purpose.

Elizabeth said...

Loved the dog tongue.....
I have never visited the Holocaust Museum for rather the reasons you state.
Possibly too emotional.
Something weirdly voyeuristic though too.
I'm glad you said it.
When I was a teacher my students read Elie Weisel's book Night. So short and so terribly sad. It really packed a wallop with the children.
Yes, you may be right about the sad artifacts. In a feng shui sort of way they really should be got rid of.

Word verification: zatax
sort of like Xanax
how did they know?

my post today relentlessly cheerful

Reya Mellicker said...

Mrsupole and Just me? Thank you. I hear what you're saying and I so appreciate you taking the time to tell me what you think.

I'm always resistant to the idea that traumatizing people is an effective way to learn. Shock tactics, in my experience, tend to harden the heart rather than open it up, or increase self loathing (something our species suffers from already).

But I hear what you've said, and I know that my opinion is in the extreme minority. Especially as a Jew, this viewpoint does not increase my popularity.

What's good though is that the people who "need" to be traumatized can go through the museum. I did it once, would change that if I could.

For folks like me, the library is perfect, preserving with love the memory of the living world of old Jewish Europe and in so doing, honoring the ancestors.

Thanks so much. I am so truly grateful for these thoughtful comments.

karen said...

Storms. Yes, we have also had the most out of season, violent storm here, which was a bit of a shock!! I'm glad old age has a few benefits and that Jake can't hear the noises anymore, it must have been so distressing seeing him inconsolable like that..

Read about the holocaust museum shooting in Kristin's blog post this morning. I see your point entirely, but I am more of the opinion of Just Me, who commented earlier. Having said that, I would probably go to see the horrors at least once, then retreat to the more peaceful library on subsequent visits. I'm glad to hear that the library is there, as an alternative...

JC said...

I like clouds so I like storms too...

~~~ Stuey having her Pay It Forward ... if you want any cool items ... go visit your blog ~~~

lakeviewer said...

We had similar storms coming up from the south, warm and thunderous.

Re your comment on Holocaust: the survivors need this display; it is a testament to their pain and sacrifice. Only through this we can begin to understand the enormity, and they can begin to heal.

WE tell our children what it was like for us as children. They don't want to listen; I can see it in their faces, in the impatient eye rolls, the smirk on their faces. They do not see how it would release me of that painful memory so I can live my life in the present.

That's what the Museum is for: to help the survivors release their pain; to help their children understand their parents; to help a nation understand the madness that occurred.

Sorry, for all this ranting of mine. You have my permission to erase it; it will not offend me.

Anonymous said...

We have to open the pantry door for our dog to "hide" from thunder storms. Sometimes she hides in my husband's closet among his shoes. She was a rescue dog from a puppy mill where she lived outdoors in a rabbit cage. My heart breaks to imagine her terror.
I love those photos of the doggy tongues. Sweet faces, precious pictures.
The shooting at the museum ...Lord! It diminishes all of humanity when we do not speak out against prejudice and hatred.

deborah said...

Darling Reya,

IMHO, the Holocaust Museum is like the plagues which forced Pharoah to let us go.

It is a piece of history which cannot be denied even when Mel Gibson and his Dad deny it--even when some Egyptians insisted their magic was as strong as G-d is strong.

It is CSI proof. It is history which warns against complacency. It is a call for endless humanity in the face of the ultimate blaming. It is fact in the face of hatred and denial.

We are such a tiny tiny minority of people and yet our history informs us and puts us at the center of stopping the killing of Brazilian Indians, of providing rights for all, of campaigning against and changing apartheid, of championing gay and women's and African/American rights.

Like the boots of soldiers and shoes of Iraqis in the Eyes Wide Open Exhibit--these tell the story, write the history, G-d willing, change the future.

With all my love and respect,

Reya Mellicker said...

Rosaria, why would I delete your comment? It's thoughtful and heartfelt and believe me, nothing is better for me than to have my mind opened.

And Deborah, thank you, too.

I know the Holocaust is still "unwinding" (my energetic description), that until - at least - all the survivors of that terrible event have passed away, that it is still ongoing.

My approach to healing and learning is not the common wisdom (almost never, not just about this).

What I see in our society in a very generalized way is that we expend almost all our energy on blaming, determining who is at fault, and deciding on how to punish the guilty. After it's all said and done, there isn't much left over for healing.

If assigning guilt, then punishing the guilty really worked, I think this world would be a lovely place.

With no offense to anyone who disagrees with me (almost everyone on this subject) thank you for letting me have my say. And thank you for disagreeing and being so thoughtful and passionate about your opinions.


Reya Mellicker said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Reya Mellicker said...

Posted that last comment twice - not necessary! So I deleted the copy.

willow said...

Hey, Shadow just slobbered on me!

It's very creepy how even Auschwitz is open for tours. Another one is the museum in Hiroshima, full of horrific photos of burned victims. It's called the Hiroshima Peace Memorial, but when I toured it, I could feel the negative energy it was producing all around me. In my opinion, these places do keep the wounds open.

Madame Ladybug (Ady) said...

I think that some of us cannot imagine the tortures of the Holocaust. I visited the museum before and I had NO IDEA... until I saw. It may be holding on to the pain. But sometimes we learn from pain...

The hardest thing about this shooting is that it was a hate crime that took place at a location meant to educate on the evils of hate...

it's poetic like killing tiller because of your religious beliefs on his way into church with his family

it's just all sick...

hele said...

whenever i forget that i am a part of a wonderful arrangement of storms and seasonal moons and whispering leaves and fat white clouds and all the uncountable wonders of the world i always start feeling as boring and grey as a perfectly arranged argument :)

hele said...

i have always been suspicious of how reading a novel about the holocaust made the atmosphere around me thicker. i only read one and then never again.

Ronda Laveen said...

I do think you are right about shamanic weather alignment. It does affect us so much more than we realize on the surface. That is what I see in the "thunder and lightning scared doggies." They can hear the energy, feel the concussions and are convinced they are in mortal danger. There is no doubt in their mind (limbic brain) that this is a flight situation. I try to convince them they are wrong but I do know, cognitively, that weather can kill. They are not wrong, just lack discernment. Why some dogs are bothered and others not, is still a theory I am working on. I do have some ideas, though.

As humans, I think we believe we are above such gut reactions but, often, there is no escaping the primal urgings of our old brain. Look at how people can turn on others illogically in a pack frenzy. I will need to digest this for a while. And why is it that we only seem to memorialize war and hatered and not peace and love. There is a shift a comin.' Believe me, I am working on it. I have eternity and am very patient.

Adored your side bar "Knack." That truly is a gift. I wish my success rate were higher but that is just an ego thing. Baby comes when baby soul is ready to begin. My knack is trigger points. I can smell 'em 50 feet away before the client hits the table.

This comment is way too long but really hit home as a connector to an energy piece I have been working on linking neuronally.

Lover of Life said...

We used to have to give our dog tranquilizers when it stormed. She went catatonic!

Bee said...

That big pink tongue is a delight!

We never have thunderstorms in this part of England, which is so strange . . . as TX is prone to dramatic ones as conflicting currents of air clash against each other. Sometimes a good storm really clears the air . . .

Bee said...

After I read your post, I commented . . . but then I read the comments, and I felt that another comment was needed. A post within a post!

Do you know if anything has been built on the land once occupied by your ancestors' shtetl?

steven said...

there's something in the sensation of experiencing a thunderstorm face on that is at once terrifying and incredible. it's very physical. very emotional - ask your dogs (!), ask my bunny (!)
my experiencing of the holocaust has been entirely through books and film - documentary and otherwise. unlike thunderstorms (that i don't really understand but love to stand out in) i choose to engage with the holocaust cerebrally rather than experience its physicality and so i connect to your coments reya regarding the difficulty you have with the idea and the reality of the presence of artifacts.
but, i get the need for some to know it through something more tangible than pure information. for me, the mere idea of what happened, the arms-length understanding of it is too much. so i stop there. thanks for encouraging so many to unpack this here. steven

Reya Mellicker said...

Hele you are NEVER boring and Ronda, your comment was NOT too long.

Part of healing the Shoah is open conversations just like this one that are provocative and present more than one point of view. That's why I LOVE this thread of comments. The storm post seems entirely not the point.

Bee - It's just a railroad crossing now, and within range of the still toxic land around Chernobyl. The radioactivity from that accident spread much further than was originally thought which is why I haven't visited the site.

I tried to get my family interested - planned a big journey to Krakow, just across the border. I thought we could then take the train into Ukraine and stay one night in Lvov, hire a driver to take us to the site. When I learned that a luxury hotel in Ukraine means they might have hot water, my family was discouraged.

My brother said, "Hmmm .... we could go there - or - we could swim with the whales in Maui." His idea does sound much more life affirming.

Reya Mellicker said...

Lover of Life - We often dose Shadow with tranqs. She gets so spaced out, we can't resist the urge to call her Pat Nixon.

And I also want to say again, I do NOT want to push the memory of the Holocaust under the rug or ever forget it. I think there are a lot of ways a museum could be designed that would not be so brutal, but still get the message across. But then I'm "too sensitive" as my family labeled me. So ...

Willow you finally got your avatar just right! Very cool!

Dani said...


Insightful post. I think people deal with grief, tragedy, war, horror, etc... in different ways. For some, the items are a painful reminder that can conjure up horrible memories.

Being a history major, I see the importance of preserving artifacts In maintaining physical items, it can help tell the story of what happened- what *actual* people went through.

Some times having the physical object from an era that we cannot relate to can put it into perspective and helps us understand that these were real people- just like us. (Not a distant shadow in a photograph or a name in the back of a book.


Ptolemy said...

I would suggest doing a little reading about "anxiety wraps" for the thunder-phobic dogs in your life... Try something simple -- put a closely fitting t-shirt on the dog -- clip or safety-pin the slack, so that the shirt fits snugly all over, as much as possible. Try not to "comfort" in a "you're right to be concerned" way but be matter-of-fact, "it's nothing to worry about," you say. We had a storm-phobic dog and the t-shirt worked miracles.

Gemel said...

We are all part of everything,(including the storms,) everything a part of us, no separation, and yet still humanity fights and destroys its self, and millions fail to see that the glory of the elements are part of them too. The thrill of a thunderstorm or the gentleness of a floating leaf, all belong in us, are of us. If we focus on the harmony of the world instead of the memory of hatred, war and disasters, perhaps our mother and her sleeping people would begin the wonderful journey home, to the peacefulness found within.....

A Cuban In London said...

Back when I used to live in Cuba I used to go out whenever there was a thunderstorm and get soaked to the skin. I loved being in touch with the elements. Like you, both thunder and lightning have always held a deep allure and this was increased when I took up Afro-Cuban dancing and teaching. Shango, the 'orisha' of thunder, is one of my favourite dances. Many thanks for that fantastic photo. I kept looking at it for an eternity.

Greetings from London.

Reya Mellicker said...

One last thought about why I don't like the Holocaust Museum:

Those piles of shoes turn the victims of the Holocaust, from my point of view, into nothing more than statistics. It's profoundly dehumanizing.

The "look how many were killed" approach renders the victims anonymous, takes away their uniqueness, makes them faceless and nameless.

I think the Holocaust was a lot more complex than a lurid tale of mass murder, impersonal and salacious.

I've said WAY more than enough. Thanks again.

mum said...

I've not been attentive to U.S. news these past few days so I learned about the shooting by reading your post. Not much to say except peace on the man's spirit.

Although I visited the Shoah Museum in Jerusalem when I lived in Israel, my conversations with neighbors and relatives were a lot more useful to me in bringing people's experiences to life.

The second most useful element was Jorge Semprun's writing. Semprun survived Buchenwald and is now a member of the Académie Goncourt. In his book L'ecriture ou la vie, he describes his reaction to seeing the first documentary images of his own experience and the feeling of unreality those images gave him. Suddenly, as he says, it was an act of 'looking on' instead of an 'experiencing of'.

Perhaps what you experience at the sight of those accumulated objects is something of that same distancing and objectifying of reality. Perhaps others need that distancing in order to apprehend something of the experience. It may be a question of individual sensibilities and what works best for different people.

My best wishes to you and to the dogs for a pleasant weekend, Reya.

Just me said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Just me said...

Reya- I wonder if you would prefer Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. It's been fifteen years since I was there, but the part that stands out to me was a memorial to the one million children who were murdered. You walk into a dark room with infinite small lights (candles?) illuminated. But then they also have photos of individual children who were killed... so it mixes the anonymity of the numbers with the individuality of the faces...

(PS- I deleted my previous comment because I called it the wrong name...) :)

deborah said...

Dear Just Me,

And the forest of people who risked and often lost their lives protecting Jews, Catholics, Africans and Gay people from the Holocaust--I've read that people find profound healing and inspiration from the experience by transitioning into this forest of heros--that seems just right to me.

lacochran said...

When we were at my sister's home last, the dog wanted to stay with us so she slept in the guest room with us. Around 1 in the morning, there was booming thunder and lightning that rattled the house. The dog whimpered, panted, paced, pushed against the bed, shook mightily (both herself and the bed). I tried to comfort her. After about 20 minutes of this, Hubby said "I don't know how much more of this I can take!" The storm passed and we all settled down again. In the morning I asked what he meant by his comment and he said he thought he might have to sleep in another room. It never even occurred to him to put the dog out of the room. :)

On the shooting: I would prefer people spend more time honoring the guard and less on the monster who gunned him down.

On the museum... a very complex issue. I have seen people warped badly by wrapping themselves in their suffering. It's a fine line to walk: to make sure the retelling is clear and compelling but doesn't create more horror/warping. Maybe it's impossible to do properly, as different people take different things from it.

Thanks for your thoughtful comments.

Steve said...

Reya, clearly I got sidetracked when I visited your blog yesterday, because although I read this entry I didn't make it to the comments and didn't see your holocaust remarks until now.

I must say, I disagree entirely with your take on the museum. I say preserve it all. The only way people can fully understand the horror of the holocaust is to witness something of the living conditions in the camps and the magnitude of the losses. Reading about it in books is one thing, but I will never forget that huge accumulation of shoes or that chilling archway reading "Arbeit Macht Frei."

I think it's especially important to keep these relics on display in this day and age, when holocaust denial is on the upswing and fanatics of all stripes challenge what we know really happened.

Steve said...

P.S. -- I do understand your point about the shoes and depersonalizing the victims. But as I recall there were several specific stories at the museum about individuals and their families, with photos, etc. (It's been a while since I was there, so I hope I'm remembering that correctly.)

All I know is, I cried. It was brutal. Brutal -- but NECESSARY!

Reya Mellicker said...

Steve you're a much badder ass than I am. Glad it was necessary for you. Not necessary for me. Vive le difference!

Lacochran - I agree with you - it's very complex and THANK YOU for noticing that the guy who was killed (39 years old with wife and kids) has been shuffled aside because of the location of his murder.

I learned so much from this thread of comments. You can not believe how grateful I am!

Delwyn said...

Hi Reya

As much as we might not like these museums and memorials they are important.

Ask a young German or a young Japanese person about the war - I suspect they will not know...Ask a young American or Australian and they know very little, if anything.

One of my daughters has a Japanese partner. He had no knowledge of the Japanese involvement in WWII,and was astonished to know that my uncle was killed by the Japanese in the Pacific war.

These countries choose to sanitize or obliterate their parts and responsibilities. So tangible history is important.

Happy Days

Teri and the cats of Furrydance said...

Very many, very varied comments today. I cannot watch movies about war, never saw Schindler's List, and sometimes feel like I am pushing reality aside, though not ignoring it. We all have limits to what we can bear emotionally.

On Memorial Day, I posted my memories of my uncle, who was shot down in Laos in 1994. His daughter wrote to me and she said she didn't realize how much I remembered or knew about her dad and that to honor him, she places flags in her front yard on the day he was shot down, on his birthday and on Memorial Day. She says her young daughters friends ask what it is about and she talks to them about her father, the war and in that way, the loss becomes personal, and if that only changes one person's perspective, then it was meaningful to have that memorial flag out. I feel that way about museums like the Holocaust Museum or others. But would I be strong enough to visit. Not so far...