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MIRACLE OF LIGHT

MIRACLE OF LIGHT

With Hanukkah fast approaching this Sunday eve, there is a welcome pause that occurs in my world before the mayhem of December. My aunt and I joke about the holiday being “early” this year as many people compare the holiday, all Jewish holidays as a matter of fact, to the Christian ones close by. I can hear my former mother in law asking me, “When is your Christmas? When is your Easter?” Patience. Breathe. Don’t react. Jewish holidays are never “early or late;” they are perfectly on time because they are based on the cycle of the sun and moon, the Hebrew Calendar, not the Gregorian calendar we have been born and raised with. The holiday falls on the twenty-fifth day in the Hebrew month of Kislev, the darkest day both solar and lunar. Hanukkah falls during the waning moon into the new moon. If you are eager to learn about the moon cycles and Jewish Holidays this article is excellent-

http://telshemesh.org/water/jewish_cycles_of_the_moon_jill_hammer.html

There is no accident that the Festival of Light would fall on a waning moon and take eight nights to move towards the new moon. We are lighting a symbolic candle each night adding one to complete the holiday, reminding me at least that we have the power to bring our own light slowly and steadily to the proverbial table. We celebrate the miracle of light because the famous story goes that after the temple was destroyed around 165 BCE and the rebuilding was about to happen, there was not enough oil to keep the light burning- then a miracle happened and the oil burned for eight days. This has been the story we have taught our children for generations, but there is so much more to the story. This minor holiday is filled with symbolism of miracles and divine intervention, of resilience and resistance, but it is a minor holiday. In fact the whole gift giving is really not historical, but likely more of a tradition that happened because of its regular proximity to Christmas. I am not here, though to discuss physical ‘presents’ but rather the magic of reflection and the symbolism of light in its darkness.

What is light anyway? Why is it so important? As aging human beings, it is likely that we will experience areas of darkness in our lives, death, loss, tragedy, sadness are all part of the fabric of our lives. Darkness is part of the day, but so is light and the light is the wake up call. In Darkness, we go deep within, in Light, we open our hearts and broaden our view. In lightness we can see further on the horizon. Every Jewish holiday requires candle lighting. It is welcoming the light in the beginning of each holiday and it is the moment of reflection and meditation as we say hello to the moment. Thank you God for reminding us to light these candles by your commandments. It is a commandment to literally stop and smell the roses. Not just on Jewish holidays, but on every single Friday night, the Jewish Sabbath, Shabbat, the most important ‘holiday’ in Judaism actually.

I did not grow up in a religious family; I grew up in a cultural one. This is the luxury in some ways of Judaism; there are so many options within the scope of its history to participate. This is also the potential downfall as it is not nearly as easy to “keep the faith,” when everywhere you turn there is the white bearded Santa Ho Ho Ho-ing and the Easter bunny hop hop hopping. So in some instances especially with no Jewish family around except for my son and me, I must make my own traditions. What I treasure about the Jewish Holidays is the lack of obvious predictability in their schedules; precisely their lack of consistency each time they roll around. Shabbat, though, is predictable. Every Friday night, every Saturday until the first three stars show up in the sky, Shabbat never lets me down. It is always there for the taking and most often I let it pass by with barely a glimmer except when I am visiting my grandfather, then it is full throttle Shabbat. Synagogue and all. Shabbat is the glorious reminder, if you are a believer in the divine, that God knew the days of the week would fly by and would come with excessive work. That life comes at you and despite it all, you need a day off to rest and recover and reconnect with a higher purpose. I take great comfort in this knowing that I can take a gigantic step back into the call to rest on a Friday night whenever I need to. I am usually surprised that I don’t because I feel so good when I do.

Last year Hanukkah landed on Christmas, this year it is December 2nd, a Sunday night. With the world accelerating each year passing me by, the Jewish Holidays are a welcome respite to bring light back in, to pause, to invite friends to replace my absent family, to see my son in the middle of a school week, to end the year with connection and spirituality. Hanukkah, this year, “early” in the month, gives me a chance to slow down and cook for people I love and to share my own light. This time around it also reminds me of my spirituality that in the busy-ness of my life has left the building. Judasim, my faith, my interpretation of its symbolic presence in my life kind of like an Alanon meeting is always there and I am guilty of taking it for granted thinking that because it is always there, it will always be there. This is a mistake that needs correction.

This year, after the horrors of what seems like a mass shooting a day, I must attend to my spirituality with more consciousness. Not doing so allows assimilation to move in and claim what my great grandparents escaped from when they left the Russian pogroms in the early twentieth century. Ambivalence and taking my faith for granted does not honor the prevalence of hate crimes increasing daily, it does not recognize the tragic loss of life at The Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburg or honor any other group of citizens practicing and worshipping at their own churches and congregations. Whatever I decide to do, however it unfolds, there will be more of a conscious purpose to get back to something that I love. Judaism’s traditions and rich history of survival and resilience feeds my soul in a way like no other. This upcoming Hanukkah, like most of the Jewish Holidays gives me that gift. The gift to stop, think, act, participate, love, connect with my own light and with the people in my life who feel the same. This is a true miracle. May you have much light on any dark days and when there seems to be an absence of light, may the pause and connection remind you that the sun does indeed come up every day.

Hanukkah 101

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A NEW SPOT

A NEW SPOT

Change is good. I say this phrase often and for the most part I am an earnest believer of change being a good thing. I like to move furniture, change places I hang my art, sometimes my dishes and pans and my closets, certainly. I enjoy the notion that energy shifts created by change are great and healing for the soul. I love the feeling after everything is moved and put back into a new place, the zest in my physique after gathering the adrenaline to singularly move bookcases and couches. The calm and satisfaction of the final sit after a hot shower with a cold glass of white wine or a steamy cup of earl gray tea depending on my place in the I am not drinking or I am drinking life I lead. I am a happy soul as I look around at my work and feel the shift that happens as I sit in my newly created space surrounded by the peace it gives me from both my creative side and my get shit done side.

The change I have realized I don’t like is when a routine changes that I have come to depend on for most of my life especially since I have been a grownup buying my own groceries and paying my own mortgage. A routine forced upon me because well just because. A routine like buying my beach pass, getting in my beach accouterment packed car on a Sunday morning and driving to the beach lot I am accustomed to and walking to the spot I have been going to for most of my adult life. Do not fuck with my happy place- the beach and everything that goes with the beach. From the first packing of the bag, everything sand-less and clean, new cans of sunscreen, new tubes of the better one for my face and décolleté (yes I know- roll your eyes here), my new books and stacks of magazines I have been saving even if they are from March. Clean fresh towels, my big cotton blanket I got in Menorca seven years ago, a new tube of lipstick, a new hat, all of these rituals are part of my tradition. Like the same dinner I make for Passover every year, there is a predictability I have come to rely on in an unpredictable world.

Last year the entire beach situation was upheaved, a rug pulled out from under my neat little perfect beach world when the Middletown Town Council decided on July 5th to change the parking lot to a residents only. Imagine. Now please dear reader, bear with me, this new “problem” is not at all anything to be fretting about. I know this. I really know this. As I passed the woman with the I NEED A MIRACLE sign standing in the baking sun by the Mount Hope Bridge today, a woman many of us have passed daily for at least a year I realize these are what should be considered problems. Not being able to park my sparkly new car with my one hundred and forty dollar pass at the parking lot I want is not a problem. I shouldn’t even be complaining or making commentary or writing an entire piece about it, I realize this but there is an end to this discourse, I promise.

Today I decided to just get over it. I am never going to be able to park in the lot I have always parked in again and whining about it is not going to change anything except my beach experience for the entire summer. Today I decided to get to the beach at 8:30 am to see if I could stake out a new spot for the summer. In the spirit of total detachment, I chose to leave my phone at home so I could just focus on what the best part of what the beach brings out in me, napping, reading, writing, eating, swimming and meditating, staying present. I found a new space in the new parking lot and walked a very short distance (one positive already) to a spot that shall remain nameless as to not open up its whereabouts. I was almost the first one there, a personal best for me, and plopped my things down. The water was calm, the air was clear, very slight cool breeze; the day was a definitive ten. People started to come around ten but mostly families with little ones, no blaring music, no one yapping in annoying one way phone conversations and mostly there was generally great beach behavior.

I woke up from my nap to one of the dads standing strangely close to me and I realized he was staring at a hawk who had taken up residence about ten feet from me eying some prey below. We all had some quick conversation about whether it was an eagle or a hawk (come on, there was no fucking way it was an eagle), but regardless it was a big bird. I have witnessed a lot of red tail hawks and it definitely looked like this to me. I watched him (or her, not sure, but it seemed very male like, I don’t know why) I stood there with no camera just watching, then a red winged blackbird made its way over to the tree about six feet away from the hawk screaming like she was warning whatever was beneath his gaze. She was not happy and she sounded like a lioness protecting her nest. Watching this for about fifteen minutes was a spectacular moment in my new spot at the beach that wouldn’t have happened if I had been at my other spot. The reward for surrendering. As a matter of fact I had earlier floated on my back eagle spread in the crisp Atlantic water breathing deeply to the words I SURRENDER, I SURRENDER, trying to LET GO AND LET GOD take some of my troubled and sad self into the heart of the universe for a fresh wash in the spin cycle. These words help in times of crisis for me and as my old go to guy Wayne Dyer said, “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” This change in my new view finder today was rewarded with the beauty of a simple witness to nature today. And I feel better already.



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SHAKING IT UP

SHAKING IT UP

Wind and rain and cold, the perfect combination on a June 4th early almost summer day for my new installation of a second floor air conditioner. Like washing your car and the next day it rains, I said to the kind man doing the installation, “Now watch, it will be a cold and wet summer and this AC will not even be necessary.” Frankly, I am in disbelief that I have come to this place of central AC. In my former life of marriage and home owning, the thought of AC would occasionally be brought up by my husband at the time (I just can’t stand the word X, it feels like I am supposed to erase those twenty years of my life and I wouldn’t change them for anything). “ We don’t need ac,” I would say, “we live so near the water, the breeze is our AC.” I am a windows open 24/7 kind of chick. I like to hear the birds, the sounds of the day and the breeze of the water I am blessed to see from most of my southern and west windows. I almost feel like AC is a cop out for this hardy New England born and raised. It’s not like I live in Florida. I mean in the south, AC is a given. Like a built in pool, the intensity of the summer is so short lived here in New England, why bother?

Until menopause. Menopause changed all of this. Hot Flashes with a capital H and F changed my purist mind. My partner has it in his bedroom and sleeping on those hot humid nights with the hum of the AC has made camping out at his house my go to resting place since surgical menopause became a part of my world almost three and half years ago. So AC is now officially in the entire Whitehouse. And if the weather continues like yesterday for the summer, I will never even have to use it. But this is doubtful, this is New England and it is not even mid June yet.

As the guys were here most of the day yesterday doing the installation, I decided to move a few things around on my first floor. This led to moving a few things around on my second floor and up and down and back and forth I went for the good part of the day. Changing. Moving. Shaking. Tossing. Reinventing. When the mood strikes, the adrenaline rush could move mountains. The day before, I managed to get my dear son to help me with a few pieces of furniture. Back in the old days, I probably could have done it myself. I have always said, Hell hath no fury like a woman who wants to move furniture. Adrenaline is a powerful force to be reckoned with and it is a propellant that comes from the deepest part of my core when it comes to moving furniture. Rugs, pictures, chairs, tables, everything is up for grabs and in all of my years, I have learned to release the emotion tied to some of the stuff I have in my house. Of course the advantage is that I have a business on the first floor and it is easy to move up, down and all around. I am always thinking about change. Adding bathtubs, building additions, porches, decks, my brain moves constantly with ideas, but since I have a son in college for two more years, these major changes have to take a backseat. Hence the working with what I have. Where does the need to move and shake come from? I have friends who seldom move their houses around, they seem normal and happily adjusted.

I just have an inordinate amount of creative energy and this is how it reveals itself in my life. I often think this is why I enjoy wine so much, it helps to slow down and mellow out this creative force that takes hold of my spirit on occasion. Regardless of the whys, I have learned to go with the flow and allow the moving and shaking to do what it does, move and shake. There is a beginning and an end to changing things around in my house and an intense feeling of exhausted completion when the final picture has been hung and the last bag of trash has been brought out to the container.

I have learned a few significant points in all of this changing. One is definitely that just because it is a dining room doesn’t mean you have to put a dining room table in there. Just because the living room is considered the formal living room, doesn’t mean you can’t make it what you want, after all it’s my house. I can do whatever I want so instead I have lots of sitting spaces. As a matter of fact, I have over four in my house alone, and in my business I have three plus four outside.

Sitting. I have been trying to consciously sit a lot more. This likely sounds like a challenge to the reader here after what I have just written about my in my intense energy abounding daily. There is something about sitting though. Just sitting. No phone, not even a book, just sitting. And staring. And listening. And thinking. Just being quiet. All this working, working out, and moving requires the opposite in order to keep me in check. As I sit here in one of my new sitting spaces looking out over the garden, I feel energized and peaceful not doing anything except sitting and writing with my morning cup of tea as I decide on the rest of my day. Moving things around in our spaces helps to keep us awake and conscious about our lives. What we have accumulated, what we no longer need, and what we hang on to and why is a great outcome in the moving of stuff. Ultimately it is an energy shift in my space and then ultimately in my being. This is the joy of the change. Never a dull moment and for this I am and continue to be a lover of life.

Grateful, humbled, happy and sitting.






a few of the many places to sit and stare and wonder.