My new book “Midlife Solo” is now available.

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down and up

Zero degrees – it actually feels like November. Outside, as much yellow and brown as green; leaves tumble, squirrels frantically search and bury. Soon I’ll get to use my sexy blue snow shovel. Teaching is winding down for the term too – two Ryerson classes and the home class ended this week. Each class has its special dynamic, each student his or her particular kind of growth and courage. How I love my work.

Spent time the other night exploring the last century’s heart of darkness – a documentary called “The Rape of Europa,” based on a book of the same name – how the Nazis pillaged Jewish art collections and museums everywhere they went. It showed how nations tried to protect their priceless treasures and monuments, not just from the voracious Germans, but from Allied bombs. A group of American G.I’s, called the Monuments Men, travelled with U.S. troops in Italy, fighting to preserve art and architecture – and yet so much irrevocable damage was done. We watch young American airmen prepare meticulously to bomb the train hub at the centre of occupied Florence, so that none of the nearby buildings is damaged. Then the Nazis, as they are driven out, blast and destroy the city’s ancient bridges and surrounding buildings. Sickening, vicious destruction.
After the war, we see the liberation of bunkers and mines, overflowing with the greatest art in the world. “I could not understand,” said one Monuments Man, “how these people had the humanity to appreciate masterpieces of art, and at the same time were mass murderers, slaughtering millions. And I still can’t.” No one can, sir. The shots of G.I.s, in amazement, holding up canvasses by Vermeer, Raphael, Michaelangelo – tears in the eyes.
The documentary ends now, with a German man whose job is to trace the owners of Jewish religious artifacts unclaimed after the war. With one pair of ornate silver caps for the Torah, he manages to find the family of the murdered owners, and travels to suburban New York to bring the caps home. We see these beautiful objects with their delicate bells being put into place, the Jewish community dancing around with their Torah, the young German, kippah on his head, watching and clapping. We learn that most of the reclaimed art work is now back where it belongs. Over the final credits, though, we watch a parade of magnificent paintings lost, never found. An incomprehensible, hideous savagery. In this story, the Americans are the heroes of civilization. It made me proud of one side of my heritage, of my father, a G.I. in a MASH unit in France.
Luckily, this powerful heartbreaking film ended at 11; I was able to switch immediately to the Comedy Channel and lighten my heart with Jon Stewart. He is having such a marvellous time with the Republican presidential race – comedic gold, each candidate more impossibly idiotic than the next. Two nights ago, he had a hilarious interview with Diane Keaton, and last night, with Martin Scorsese, who, it turns out, is an extremely funny man. Or else, he is with Jon, as is almost everyone. The show is on late, and often I’m drooping, and yet cannot resist a hearty laugh with a smart, handsome man – a smart, handsome man proud of his Jewish heritage – before bed. Especially after watching something like “The Rape of Europa.”

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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

Some Blogs I Follow

Chris Walks
This blog evolves. It once was about travels. Now it’s a reason to be at the keyboard that I value.

Theresa Kishkan
Theresa Kishkan is a writer living on the Sechelt Peninsula on the west coast of Canada.

I walk on. With my feet, and in my mind as well.

Carrie Snyder
Wherever you’ve come from, wherever you’re going, consider this space a place for reflection and pause.

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A new book by Beth Kaplan, published by Mosaic Press – “Midlife Solo”

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