Notes from Malta

Here is a partial list of countries / civilizations that have conquered or tried to conquer the islands we now call Malta: Arabs, Phoenicians, Carthagenians, Vandals, Ostrogoths, Byzantiens, Normans, Swabians, Hohenstaufens, Angevins, Aragonians, Turks, Knights of St John, French, British. Some of these I had to look up. Have I ever been taught about the Swabians or the Hahenstaufens? The crown of Aragon I thought was a fictitious kingdom invented for the Lord of the Rings/ Renaissance Faire crowd.

Growing up an American European history of the Middle Ages was never  particularly  interesting to me. Even the popular show Game of Thrones, while visually beautiful, always seemed to me impossible to follow and entirely inconsequential. Now here in Malta, staring up at the limestone bastion separating Fort St Angelo from the Mediterranean Sea, built first by the Arabs in 1091, I find myself entirely overcome with wonder. 1091. I can’t even imagine what life was like for people in 1091. There was no 1091 in America; was there? Indians in teepees perhaps. Do we even know? I don’t.  First constructed in 1091 this jagged knob of land was fortified by each subsequent culture who successfully penetrated the wall, or found another way to conquer these diminutive islands at the center of  conflict in the Mediterranean for hundreds of years. Staring up at the this fort with a Spanish name, edged with fleur de lys, British built barracks, tears slip down my face. Just a few. Just for a minute this mash up of cultures takes my breath away.

“Cry? Why?” My Maltese friend Alex mocks me in his crisp charming Maltese accent when I would later recount my day. “I don’t know exactly,” I told him.

I still don’t know precisely why staring at the face of the grandeur of a world I could barely imagine brought me to tears. I  just know that it was beautiful.


A List Poem for Quitting my Job

The “senior team” was never a team at all;
merely a collection of individuals each pulling in their own direction,
for their own agenda.
We rarely even held the same rope.

My boss,
who hated being called “boss”,
but acted so much like a boss,
with his huffing
and puffing,
and blowing at houses.
All that turbulence was bad for my health.

by the whispers of the chattering class.
from spinning the damage control machine.

I snuck out the back door
and hailed a taxi for my freedom.


Flying Cat Freeing Myself from Fear

I am someone who has always had very intense dreams during times of great conflict and change in my life. Their meaning often remains a puzzle to me; but I don’t fail to notice their increase in frequency, emotional intensity and my own heightened attention to my dreams during these times.

Last night (the night after I resigned from an organization I worked for for twenty years) I had a dream that I was carrying my cat in a messenger bag all over New York City (the city where I was born). I was flying with her in the bag slung securely over my shoulder looking for the address of our destination, first passing it flying too far north and then overcompensating flying too far south. She was getting annoyed by the sounds and lights of street traffic – headlights and car horns glaring and blaring up at us from the crowded street below.

At one point I saw another cat on the street that looked just like her and I thought it was her; I thought she had gotten out of the bag. So I landed on the street and took that cat and merged him with my cat. Together they made a kind of muted version of my cat, but extra furry. Then i realized the other cat wasn’t my cat at all – too furry and the beautiful mottling of her colors lost their distinct pattern in the extra fur – so i unmerged them back into two cats. I put my cat back into the messenger bag over my shoulder and left the other cat on the street in a semi-empty parking lot. My cat seemed somewhat free after the change, happy to be back to herself.

As I lifted us above the city streets, I held on tight to her. As we flew above the empty lot to be on our way, the other cat, was baring his toothless mouth at us, looking sad and confused.

img_0609.jpgI woke up confused. I have been having a lot of cat dreams lately and while I’ve always considered myself the crazy cat lady in waiting, this has been a bit much.

I think this dream is about leaving my job. My cat is my closest companion, subconsciously representing a part of myself – my heart, what is most precious to me. I thought my job was a part of me; now that I’ve separated from it all the fears I had about leaving are defanged (an animal without its teeth isn’t much of a threat). I can see the animal for the neutered beast that it is – isolated and ineffective. The dream ends with me leaving the beast behind. And then turning to look out across the city – my city – scanning for what’s next, holding tight to my heart as I head out on the journey.