An A-musing Life

Candles and Covid

I light 2 menorahs each night of Chanukah. One is the traditional House of Hillel (what we were taught in Hebrew School) way that increases the number of candles each night. The other is according to the House of Shammai that decreases the candles each night. I have been doing this for years.

Rabbi Hillel’s practice is "Ma'alin Ba'Kodesh ve'ayn Moridin,”: “One increases in matters of holiness and does not diminish.” From small to large you are creating unity by joining one light to another expanding together. Rabbi Shammai goes in the opposite direction. The potential is all there on the first night. We decrease to create a unity of the many who have become one.

The light of Chanukah expands and contracts. Each night we kindle the cadence of its spirit. Candles and oils bring menorahs to fullness of energy whichever direction they go. Their flames dance with our prayers. This is the grace that Chanukah gives us. The light glistens as it swells and reaches toward the infinite, and then contracts to its center. Menorahs working in tandem like this illustrate the spiritual meaning of this holiday for me. Just as consciousness needs to move, light needs to expand and contract in order to thrive and keep in balance. It can’t be day or night all of the time. We need them both. This dynamic is part of all life.

Friends have become accustomed to my taking up more room on the table as we have gone from home to home to celebrate together bringing our menorahs with us. Now they would feel something were amiss if I did not bring them both.

But this Chanukah will be different. I will not be packing up my menorahs every other night. I will not be making copious amounts of latkes. Well, at least I will not have to get into another existential battle between my dieting soul and deep fried sufganiyot. But I will remind myself that we are all in this together.

I will go to Zoom parties from the responsible safety of home. Even though ‘Zooming’ can melt into vaguely forced frivolity that sometimes leaves me feeling there is no gravity to my world; visual and communal connection is vital. It helps me when I am stress-jettisoned into a cavern where I struggle to keep from being splayed against its rocky walls. The jagged reality of where we are scrapes against my heart.

The visceral truth of our factionalized humanity has come forward. It is daring us to reckon with it. We are experiencing our vulnerability on a raveningly huge scale. We are scared and we are raw. But we are also creatures of great capacity for resilience and love. We can move through this with compassion and action, but it must be based on the understanding that our individuality must be moved from our central vision. It is time to see that we are one of the many and to stand side by side as we light each other with the flame of connection.

Chanukah cannot come soon enough for me. I need to wrap it around me like a tallit, like a balm for a season that will challenge us all. Winter has always nurtured me. I have been happy to be cloistered within, by choice, and excited to reach toward the snows that I adore. But this winter is bound to be heavy with dire hardship and pain for many. I find myself calling upon the days to hasten toward the holiday. I need a spiritual path through this time and know my menorahs will illuminate my way.

To be in the presence of fire is to be in the duality of what it means to be alive. Fire warms but it can also burn. Fire transforms and it destroys. It overtakes and it can be controlled. We can be on fire with passion and fired up by rage. Fire creates light to see and creates the dark when it is quelled. I see all of fire’s ways in my lit menorahs. We are creatures of the elements.

From nothingness to somethingness, from expansion to contraction; lighting candles that grow and diminish each night creates an energy flow in both directions. We heal from what the dark has to offer as well as from the light. This is the richest metaphor that I can think of for where we are at this moment. These movements are the breathing of the universe and the breaths that we each take. They are the words we say to ourselves and to each other that can bestow love and understanding or hurt and anger.

Chanukah has days in 2 months that have different spiritual and emotional teachings. Kislev is about support and Tevet is about seeing the truth. Trust that you are supported and nourished while you learn to see your truth and work to reconcile the polarities of life even though there will be times that this seems too hard to bear.

I invite you to sit with your menorahs to let this sacred time nurture you and see the veracity of your soul. Contemplating and directing teachings of the months toward what we want to fix, what we want to accomplish and what we want to diminish and increasing the holy and diminishing the negative is the emotional work we can do.

I will find faith and solace in my menorahs. I will fill them with candles inscribed with hope that we will move through this time with heart and clarity and prayers of mourning those we lost and continue to lose before we are out of this thing.  

We can break through the darkness, heal with radiance and connect with the infinite which holds us all. This is Chanukah. This is Tikkun Olam.

Grounding in the Time of Lava

I let part of my garden go untended this year. It grew in wild abandon. It ignored my care-placed stone circles and lines of plantings when I created it years ago and scoffed at my incessant weeding habits of the past. It exploded into extravagant plumes of plants I had no idea lingered within its depth. They sidled up to my perennials with a come-hither sway to their leaves. The party was on, and it was wonderous.

To some eyes this would look like a hot mess, but to me it just looked hot. Well, not at first. I am an intuitive enough gardener to feel what my patch of solace and creative expression needs. I back it up with science, of course because I don’t want to do anything blatantly ignorant. I love the design stage that begins to enliven my winter hands. Oh, the lists and diagrams! But this year I knew I had to bow to what the garden was calling for. The Devas needed to breathe big this year. What first looked like pandemonium became wild, passionate wisdom. What an opulent panorama for my dailyish grounding practice.

Grounding, to me, means to become present to where you are. This gives me the capacity to expand toward what is beyond and to look back to the past without dissolving into a traumatized mound of mud. These days we need to do this more than ever.

I conjure the requisite grounding cord to come from the spirit of this lush growth. It rises from the bounty and transforms into a verdant green vine. We swoon with delight in the loamy richness of it all. It is bedazzled with drops of dew from the morning that glitter in my mind’s eye.

It winds through my feet, then my center and then out the top of my head, where by now, in lithe waves of surrender, I connect to the great cosmic stage where I am twirled with the deftness of an accomplished dancer of the universal ballroom experience. That sentence was as long as the vine itself. How I adore our waltz.

My bare feet are cooled and nurtured by the soft soil. They are covered with earthy mirth. I am connected to the world outside of me and the world within. The peace of the garden feels like smooth jazz. It resonates deep within me.

Wait, what? Did I just hear the rumble of an old news story that Vermont is perched on top of some future lava spewing volcano?! Well, that tugs at my earthy rope, now doesn't it? It seems we are sitting on a future giant swell of hot, roiling magma. Scolding spurts of its turbid churning may be permeating our consciousness this very minute as it boils below us.

Well this is going to change our grounding practices, isn't it? Walk cool. Miles Davis, where are you? Clearly, jazz fits every occasion. How might one maneuver her silken tresses of spiritual glee through a fire that will vaporize her before even a giggle can come forth?

In a more practical turn of thought, I wonder what this will do to the home-grown metaphysical devotion? It seems there might be a new stream of meditational obsession for the spiritual larder.

New prayers, new dances, new catch words. 'Well, just let that idea bubble awhile', now has a direct and physical reality, so that to 'simmer a pot', could refer to a newfangled spiritual and emotional process. Making pasta may take on a whole new meaning. Well, I've been simmering stuff in a cauldron for years, but that's another tale.

So perhaps letting my garden have its way with itself was a foreshadowing of the flames of the interior that are bounding their way toward us…in 50 million years, give or take a millennium or two. So, for now, I will tread with added awareness and perhaps a lighter foot so as not to get burned by what life has in store for us. But wait, isn’t there an election coming up?

A Tale for Today

When gratitude is the most difficult to find, it is the time we need it the most. Today feels bleak to many, hard and scary. Reaching toward being thankful can seem like a monumental task for which we need the nurturing presence of grace.

We are in the holy hands of the Jewish New Year-The High Holy Days. We look back at the year coming to its end, and we look toward the year about to begin. We do tshuvah, known to most as ‘repentance’, to atone for our short fallings. But tshuvah really means ‘to return’. We are invited to return to the welcoming love that the Divine, Nature, all the Beloveds in our lives(that means all of us which now may seem a daunting task), and Ourselves (another difficult place for many to be) that we may have turned away from and created a disconnected space in our spirits.

So ‘tshuvah’ means to return to being connected so we feel whole again. When we ‘return’, we ‘connect’, or rather we ‘re-connect’ to what we have been separated from.

Gratitude is a path we can take on our way to tshuvah. The Hebrew term for it is ‘hakarat ha tov’ which means, literally, ‘recognizing the good.’

When we do tshuvah with thankfulness, when we come back to our source as pure souls, as with a lover, the Great Compassion of Gratitude loves and cleanses us.  This place we return to is the source of the connection that we seek to rekindle for the new year.

The Tent of Gratitude

A Rabbi and Student were on a journey. They lived in the days when sandals to the sand, and eyes to the rocky girth of terrain was how one traveled.

"Where are we going?" asked the Student.

"We will know when we arrive”, answered the Rabbi.

They walked far into many days and slept far into many nights. The Rabbi joyously prayed with arms stretched up to the sky, but the student prayed with eyes hardened to the difficult path.

At last the Rabbi exclaimed in jubilant tones, "We are here! We have found it!"

"Finally," moaned the Student as quietly as possible. “This trip has been misery." Of course, the Rabbi heard the Student, but said nothing.

And so they came to a tent that was as round as the moon. Its frame was made of gold and silver and inscribed with prayers written of inlaid wood and gems. Translucent fabrics of rich colors and textures beyond any artistry either of them had ever seen hung from the posts. Though the sun was high, there seemed a perpetual twilight within. It enclosed them like hands offering welcome and comfort.

"Rabbi, what place is this?"

"This tent is made of all of the holy arks that ever were and ever will be. It holds every prayer, joy and sadness, hope and love that ever was and ever will be. It is where true healing can begin."

And then in the fleeting beat of an angel's wing, the scent of holiness that the Student had only surmised in dreams filled the air.

The Student's heart expanded with awe, which turned to deep peace, and then faced what the student fought with the most. The Student, at last, felt a connection to the wholeness of life and happiness for being alive.

The Rabbi had deep thankfulness for the Student's long sought for awakening.

The Student felt genuine gratefulness for the first time.

Tears flowed for them both.

The Rabbi knew that gratitude, hakarat ha tov-the recognition and return to goodness- was the last lesson the Student needed.

"Now," offered the Rabbi," you understand why this place does not need light. It only asks that those who visit become like the moon and reflect forward its teaching from this source of sacredness of connection and gratitude.

And so with that, the Student and the Rabbi truly prayed together for the first time. 

I have become very stupid

“Winter is coming”. No, sorry Game of Thrones, “Reopening is coming”, and I don’t think dragons are going to be of help for this one. So, what is next? We are beginning to venture forward. It may not be as far and wide as we have been able to before, but we must start to re-navigate this part of our lives.

To mask or not to mask: that is the question:

Whether ‘tis safer to clothe thy nose or suffer
The winds of naked breath in dappled trek,

Or to sling words against the railing of opposition

Never again with past comradery now to die,

Mourn the waning of reasonable discourse

There seems no way around the reality that no matter what your opinion regarding the ‘Virus’, the ‘Pandemic’, you are going to piss someone off; and it may be someone you consider a deep and lasting friend with whom you have alwaysish been on the same page.

“Wait, what? How can that be?”, you moan. “We sign the same petitions, but now she says I am uninformed and making bad and hurtful choices!” “He and I root for the same team!” (writer’s note: that last bit was politically incorrect) “He and I always chant together!” (writer’s note-okay that last bit dripped with privilege).  ”We go to concerts together!” (writers note-is that better?) “Well, now what do I do? Clearly my friend thinks I have become very stupid.”

Okay, let’s unpack this. I want you to remember that this pandemic thing and all the havoc it is creating sits in each and everyone’s living room. It lurks around the corners and eats the last piece of pie in the fridge when we are not looking.

It overlays everything. It permeates our skin, our thoughts, hell it’s in the bath water! How much more bubble bath and oil do I need to get a moment of relaxation? I want to be warm and dewy in my fluffy robe and nestled into a soothing cup of hot chocolate with some bourbon, for medicinal purposes of course. Okay, I guess I’ll just have tea as the ‘health juice’ ‘evaporated’ last month and then I will think about putting on some make-up for yet another Zoom call.

Do I have to? Yes. Just because I am shlubbing around, my vanity is still somewhat intact. I refuse to believe that I am alone in this. But why gussy up when I am just at home? I haven’t worn a piece of jewelry for 2 months. I wear a few sweaters and I guess I brush my hair.

The health world tells us it is important to keep as regulated and normal as always. What if I have never been regulated and who knows what normal even is? I am as normal, for me, as I will ever be, because whatever fresh hell I make of this moment, it is where I am. Keep your Hades mess on your side of the river, please. Let’s Styks to that, shall we? We can socially distance wave to each other.

They advise us to exercise, eat well and get sun but don’t expect to actually be able to do any of this, so let yourself off the hook if/when you can’t do it. So, let me summarize. I should spin around giddy with goals, raise my shining eyes to the sun, but when I fall on my face, be okay with it and seek some comfort. Oh, like reach for the piece of pie in the fridge that is not there?!?

Also (and this is a load of privilege again) experience this time for self-reflection and inner growth. After all, we are at home safe from the virus. Well not all of us are, but I digress.  I may be safe from the virus, but apparently, I am not safe from myself because all sorts of varmints are making their way out of my mind like ants coming out of the ground in spring. They are crawling around my ‘issues’ and brain like it is a delectable picnic.

This time is also verdant for spooks and ghosts of our unresolved encumbrances to visit. We all have ‘stuff’. It is not that this ‘stuff’ was not around pre-this-time-that-sucks; but now I constantly feel like my face is being swatted by some invisible sheet darting by when I walk from room to room. I never know when, but I have taken to bracing myself just a bit. The specters lay in wait.

I have been doing things to fill time when in need of a mindless distraction. In other words, when I am no longer able to continue being productive as in actual work from home tasks, I pull something from deep in the closet of my mind, and sometimes the actual closet. I tell myself that this is a vital thing I have put off musing or doing that holds much import for the quality of my life. Whatever works, I suppose.

The blood and mortar box contained pictures from my birth through adulthood, relatives and friends long gone and the various sundries of travel and life. There was one picture of me as little kid cradling a large hunk of snow like it was a rescued animal. I was no more than 3 or 4. The winter white was as tall as I was. My snow suit encased me like a hardened marshmallow. I remembered that so clearly, I could feel it in my heart and hands. Perhaps this is where my critter and healing love began.

I found cards and letters from people I had not thought about in decades.  What did we think about the world back then? What were our struggles, and have they let up, or do they persist guised in older aged concerns? Did we follow our hearts and joy? Yes, it was a memories and maudlin day at the homestead. A memoir in pictures splayed itself all over my floor. Hence, I buttered a homemade almond flour and cheese biscuit, because there was still no pie, and put on some comfort TV. No, I am not going to share what it was. I do not need to be judged. That box did enough of that. I felt like Pandora was having a good laugh.

I finally fell toward sleep. I promised myself to be better present to my work, take all my vitamins, check in on a friend who is an essential worker and not get into a Facebook pissing contest about why one should or shouldn’t wear a mask when we are let out. But even I knew that the next day’s reality would probably mostly be this:

Tomorrow I will organize all my YouTube lists. Tomorrow I will bake another pie and hope to get at least one piece.

Entering the Space Between Us

We would be fools not be afraid. This is ripping every emotional, social and economic system to its shredding point. But we do not have to lose ourselves to this modern fall from what could be our redemptive amends for all that we have wrought. We can do this. You got this. I got this. 

Awakening this morning, I felt the need to reread Viktor Frankl’s ‘Mans Search for Meaning’. Through the years its wisdom has helped pull me from whatever nonsense I have gotten myself into. Feeling that we are prisoners of this virus, I went to my bookshelf. We are at the mercy of this creature, politicians, and those of the masses who put us all at risk because they do not take this seriously.

But then again, are we really captives? Frankl came through the concentration camps more emotionally intact than many because he encased his suffering with his connection to life, soul, nature and spirit. This is a lesson for us to heed. His instinct and natural leaning toward relationship to others, faith in something bigger than himself, an astounding will to be, and his cunning capacity to be present amidst the constancy of terror, enabled him to maneuver through those years.

We are not free to walk about. We are not free to feel the human touch of community that is so essential for wellbeing, especially for those who live alone. Worries about food availability, work, financial stability, loved ones, and the world at large is a mist of burden that surrounds us. Sometimes it is a light spray of concern, other times it is a suffocating haze of fear, and at its worst, a drenching downpour in its voracity of collective trauma.

Of being a prisoner, Frankl says that “…the last of human freedoms” is the ability to “choose one's attitude in a given set of circumstances.” He urges us to find our way to this through many illustrations of his own experience. Choose well, choose whole-heartedly. Live through this time soulfully. We may be confined, but we are not without some self-determination. 

And then Frankl offers us this: “In spite of all the enforced physical and mental primitiveness of the life in a concentration camp, it was possible for spiritual life to deepen.” If you don’t resonate with ‘spiritual’, replace it with the belief that your inner depth of self, mind and heart are what will save you. Taking signs from the world outside of the awareness of pain and torture, Frankl sees the movement of a bird that is so brilliantly timed to his ‘communing’ with his beloved wife, who for all he knew was already dead, he writes, “Then, at that very moment, a bird flew down silently and perched just in front of me, on the heap of soil which I had dug up from the ditch, and looked steadily at me.”Frankl grasps there is a future beyond the hell he is in. There is the wider expanse of the world, nature and the will to be. All in time, Frankl knows this hell will pass. 

We have a unique relationship to time. Because we are conscious of it we can reach time in all directions.  We ponder it. We celebrate it. We mourn it. And in desperate moments we call to it. But its beat is neutral to us.

Come toward me time, you voracious one. You with eyes that sear the rains to steam, push the winds to scream, and whisper the birds to lofty migration. I hold one till its feathers leave their imprint like a fossil. My palm holds their story. My hands become an artifact to unearth. 

Time, you do not tell me anything, but show me through my acts of reckoning. That is your answer. Do you judge, or is that a human convention? I breathe you like the air I cannot see. I hold and release you inside my intention to cleanse and renew. It is I who must come toward you. Time does not heal all wounds. Time allows us the distance we need for the sting of pain, the immobility of fear, the howling of our hearts in the darkness of agony. But remember that time also shares the wide stroke of the infinite that shows us its beauty. 

We are the healers. We can clasp pain to us, or we can render it a tempered breath that laments into grief and then sighs into a place of quiet but for the trill of our heartbeat. We can halt the blood that our pain has spilled. It does not have to have a continual voice. Offer it to time that in turn will offer us wisdom.

What does this have to do with today? Today we are all in varying levels of pain. The world has shifted into something we were not prepared for. This is not a minor disturbance in the force. This is a razing of all the fields we occupy. Every aspect of being alive is being called into question.Again, Frankl elucidates. “We all had once been or had fancied ourselves to be "somebody." Now we were treated like complete nonentities.” This is what this time has done to us. We are being shorn down to our skeletons. Dim petroglyphs of the time before this mass deathening have been carved into our bones. It will be up to us to rebirth.

The ebb and flow of the virus, economics and politics will dictate how we manage ourselves and the world. We will have to find a new ordinary-every-day. Our lives will be different. Some, perhaps, only in nuanced degrees, others more far-reaching. Embrace this looming truth that is, not so slowly, turning toward us. It is here, now.

“But in robbing the present of its reality there lay a certain danger. It became easy to overlook the opportunities to make something positive of camp life, opportunities which really did exist.” Frankl is offering us a map he marked with clarity and wisdom. 

These days of halted living are showing us who we truly are. What strengths do we have that will serve us and what weaknesses do we have that will hurt us? How unconnected and insular, safe within our own construction have we been?  By being one of the lucky few, I can ‘rough this out’ with some ease. But I do not see this as a welcome retreat. This time is a chance to become who we need to be to continue. The personal ‘will to live’, must become the collective ‘our will to live.’ This pandemic is decimating more people than could fit in a meditation hall. It is turning the already hateful divide between political factions into an abyss that may well become uncrossable.  It is reaching into our primal, old survival brains and clashing with our more, theoretically, evolved ones. This is wreaking havoc on our perceptions, feelings, and behaviors. Is this an opportunity to shift ourselves individually and globally? Who wouldn’t say yes to that? But just how do we do this? I see the banners of love and prayer and the cannons of a fierce battle. Going between the two, I am losing patience with both camps. We must find a meeting place where our shared humanity creates connectedness and change.

Again, we let Frankl teach us. “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” Today that space is the stillness of staying in place. Today it is the tarry of our fingers on our keyboards. Today it is pause between words of retort. We must reflect before we react. Fearful, even terrified of what is coming and how it will leave us, I face it so it doesn’t pummel me first. I walk toward it barefoot. The ground is strewn with spongy balls of mud made from the tears for those we have already lost. Each footstep I take is a prayer for their past and our future.

And so here we are. In this churning whirlpool of tumult, we are doing reluctant pirouettes in spinning waters where we will either drown or find a grace that will sustain us. We have a choice, not about if we feel fear, but how we live with it. How will we embody it? Are we going to accept its truth and invite it in? Yes. Give it place at our table where we will feed it with compassionate words and wise actions.

Pass the Abundance Please, It's Next to The Holiday Pie.

Act I

Holiday giving is grand! It is heart-opening. It is a way to celebrate loved ones and the meaning they bring to your life. Even the shopping is amazing…sometimes. To craft or become one with the Borg-like world of consumerism? You figure that out for yourself. I have my own problems.

But, what about receiving? How also grand is that?!?  What better time a year is there to go about getting what you want?  You don’t care about getting anything for yourself? (sorry, I don’t buy that, pun intended). Don’t you deserve it? I think we all deserve to give ourselves some goodies. If that were not the case then why are there so many articles, books, and judgments about it?

You don’t know what I am talking about? Let’s tweak one word a smidge. Instead of ‘receiving’ try ‘manifesting’. Didn’t I just see a flyer for a workshop about that? Oh, wait, it’s at the same time I planned to go to the mall. Oh, no! What to do, what to do!

So should I go to the ‘Magical Manifestation Workshop’ or go to the place with the soft pretzel kiosk, so reminiscent of my NYC home, where I can happily munch and wipe mustard from my chin while filling a cart with loving smiles for others?

To manifest is to bring forth. But a manifest is also a list, such as a flight manifest. So to manifest is to bring forth a list of, presumably one’s desires, at least in the self-help workshop world.

Therefore, to manifest is the ability to make something happen, to bring something toward you. Just don’t get hit by one of its wings as it flies by you in all of your I-just-called-this-forth exuberance.

“Huh”, she said pondering the poster and sipping a fancy holiday coffee, of which she allows herself one during ‘the season’.  (yeah, right, just one)

Where does one find such a list? Oh, from your soul! At least that’s what that poster says. “Dream your dream no longer, call and the universe will respond. Name and your life will contain.” She faces the audience stage center. “Really?  So how do you do that?” And scene.

Act II

First, you have to have a place for your manifestation to land. It needs to take up some space on your table or it will fall on the floor and make a mess.

It is a vaguely sunlit day. The doorbell rings. “Oh, yay, I’m starving!” she squeals as she bounces to the door. Two hands reach toward her from under the shadow of a passing cloud. The exchange is made. All will be well now.

She crosses stage left to the couch. After arranging herself and various eatery items just so, she opens the first container. The look of gleeful anticipation fades like stage lights into dark confusion. “I didn’t order this. I can’t eat this. It has squid in it. Kosher Chinese food doesn’t have squid in it.” A thump of china breaking is heard as it hits the floor. And scene.


Bringing something toward you, creating something, has many layers.

Thoughts, intentions, and beliefs are things of frequency. They are the vibration of our truths. But if way down deep beyond your awareness, you have a core belief that does not align with what you are attempting to manifest, you will not succeed. If you have a belief that you do not deserve what you are reaching for, no matter how high you raise your open hands to the universe, you will not be able to hold a thing.

The belief that to manifest something is easy and that if you can’t there is something wrong with you, or your intentions, has become part of pop belief. When they don't 'work' self-reproach and shaming often occur from the self and others. I have heard horror stories about this.

But this does not have to continue. There is hope!

Lights come up on stage. Woman is stuck under the couch, feet thrashing downstage, cleaning up her broken dishes. “Whoever made this couch so friggin low, I am not amused!”  But soon she will replace them with something even better. So let’s unpack this box of porcelain that is making its way to her door.

This is what I think about the hoopla about manifestation, vision boards, affirmations, and the myriad of iterations thereof:

They can be life-changing.

The process for them to work is more complex than cutting out a few pictures.

The place to start is where you are, not where you want to be.

They do not work unless you have the capacity to embody your manifestation.

Not understanding the above will cause emotional damage.

What to put on your new fancy china:

Kindness and compassion with yourself, which can be a challenge in itself!

Awareness that you may have unresolved issues such as trauma, self-worth deficits that you may not even be aware of and that may be standing in your way.

More compassion with yourself.

No place for shame.

No place for self-judgment.

While manifestation, a.k.a. creating your life place, is an easy slice of gooey goodness to some; for others, it is a struggle just to make the pie crust. So, for this New Year flavor your life with gentle-heartedness for yourself and others. And use the good silverware.


Love’s Grace

It is as rainy outside as it has been watery inside my heart. I have surrounded myself with blankets and open curtained windows so I can feel enclosed between my tears and the droplets of cool from the clouds. The air is watchful and quiet as it stands witness to my spirit. All is still with mourning.

My cat died this week. I found out she had a fatal and fast ravishing disease on my birthday. The next day she lay in my arms in the endless stillness of death. As her death wore on, she felt heavier. I do not know the medical reason for this, but to me it was because she was becoming laden with the time I will now be spending without her. 

The room her vet set for us had a low cot that she climbed up on. I have no idea how she managed that. The difference in 24 hours was astounding. She was already half way gone. Her eyes we not focused on the physical world, but her body knew my touch and her purrs became deep and redolent with love.

Should I have known she was sick? Cats will hide their pain. Cats are deep beings. I am not saying this as the ‘crazy cat lady’. I am not that. I am not and you can’t tell me I am. But if you are not a cat person, I can do nothing for you. FYI-I own no cat jewelry or cat socks.

I was not looking for her, but that is how it has always been with fur beings who have come into my life. They adopt me when they need me. That seems to be my arrangement with the universe. When I am needed, they land on me and knock me over till I get up to give them treats, love and to most often deal with their emotional and physical issues.

Solstie was complicated. She was loving, fierce, beautiful, smart and oh, so verbal. According to her acupuncturist and Chinese medicine doctor, she had too much yang which made her easily stressed and sick. And again, not a crazy cat lady. But when a being is in your charge, you take care of them with all you have to give. 

And when a cat brings you little gifts, you thank them and enter into their world in appreciation just as they have entered into yours. So yes, there were 3am hunting parties. There were warnings that if the crunch, crunch, crunch of mousey delight was not heard by said writer within 10 minutes, it was going to the treasure chest outside. The one with the lid that she could not open.

But I did have my limits between making her chopped liver and keeping my closet arranged to her liking so she could snuggle in it during winter days until I came home. The day she brought me her first squirrel and proceeded to eat its head was a boundary I could not let her cross…too often. After all, what feminist has the right to hamper another woman’s power?

I feel her heart upon mine. I can still hear her meows and the conversations we used to have. I have never had that with any other four-legged. She was known by those who were in her life as exceptional.

What is this loss to those of you readers who are not other animal people? We are animals too, and we must remember that. Pets, not a word I am comfortable with, are not adornments. They are not things that we have. They do not owe us love and loyalty because we chose to have them for our own reasons. They are companions in our joy and pain. They are partners in our space. They are the grace of soul and spirit that we must hold in honor.

Even when they pee on the bed, you ask? Yes, even that, because it is probably your fault.

There is a tree outside that looks like the classic Halloween card image. It is bark weary and filled with time. Its many limbs arc in different positions like once strong dancers posing to hold up its leaves in their glory. It glimmers with rain and memories. But this tree is also powerfully present. Its roots still nourish the life below the earth that our eyes do not see.

I invite you to stand still and feel the leaves that have been left to the ground. Inhale the scent of the season. It is verdant in its swift shift. This is life. This is connection. This is the flow of love and time. And this is bigger than us. This is what my soul bows to as I hold Solstie in my heart that is full of tears of love, gratitude and grief.

The Vital Un-Silencing 

“Your silence will not protect you.” Audre Lorde

There are many ways to silence. Some are sought for healing and growth. It quiets the clatter of superfluous thought so we can hear our truth. This silence is the vibration of inspiration and the note of creation. Its intonation is the heart of mind.

Silence also comes from fear and hopelessness. Its hammer of stultification pounds down words without warning. One is hit with the molten scream of no sound. The more you resist, the harder it turns you like a glassblower until you relent to its heat.

This happened to me. An obscene convergence of the urge to speak, overwhelm of what needs to be said, and dread of a reaction crashed itself on my spirit. I became mute. This was fostered by the sheer weight of the reality that the world has morphed into a dystopic battleground. I did not fight my inertia because I did not have the wherewithal to. I gave into it.

However, recently while sitting under a winsome sun of what has been a light-starved spring, a wind whipped remaining autumn leaves into a vague frenzy. “Entelechy", I said. I haven’t used that word since college. Was Aristotle lurking behind a tree? Was he kicking those leaves? The juxtaposition of the seasonal burgeoning growth and the gaunt remains of fall felt like what I had been feeling come to life.

Entelechy, the vital force of a ‘thing’ (me), is what I have been at odds with. The pull to illuminate the truth amidst the chaos of ignorant beliefs that are causing violence and damage and the flat out fear of dangerous backlash was my battle. Part of the vitality that propels me is what I have come to call righteous beauty. It is to stand in a place of justice, love and clear mind to create a place of elegance and truth of thought and being. I was unable to sit, let alone stand.

But enough is finally enough and not holding my pen has become painful. No, this is not a metaphor. I have a shiny new one that is threatening to poke me in the eye if I don’t pick it up. Our bodies do not lie, even if our minds do. I will face off the trepidation that I will not be as eloquent and smart as I wish to be. The rotten tomatoes that may be thrown at me are a different matter. (That happened at a performance for a gaggle of unruly adolescents once, so I come by that thought honestly).

We live in a small world despite the geographic spread. We get information and misinformation instantaneously.  We get pictures that imprint on our nervous systems. We respond from a place of emotional reactivity.

I don't think I know anyone who has not lost friends, acquaintances or social group inclusion due to the politics and beliefs of the day.

Each side has its own view. How does that get sorted? It demands a wideness of vision and commitment to try to create peace and understanding.  When issues of the day are so layered so that each layer you lift gives way to another, and there are contradictions and disagreements in your own ‘camp’, fruitful discourse can be a daunting affair.

The practice of critical thinking is to discern, assess, and reconstruct your view as needed in order to arrive at the truth. Unfortunately, there are many for whom this process is anathema to their conception of self and the beliefs at hand. It becomes an emotional stance rather than a thought filled stance.

 I overheard a coffee break debate between two intelligent people regarding a particular political issue. They were on opposite sides. When one of them took the other through a clear and systematic explanation of the facts, the other retorted with the death knell of any possibility to heal this rift. They adamantly replied that they were not going to change their opinion even though they now knew it was incorrect. The reason: because they did not want to. The truth did not matter.

We need to still ourselves long enough to hear the other side instead of lunging in an impulsive fury. We need to elucidate our ideas and opinions in reasoned ways and bring to clarity why we believe what we do.

And, here is a big one: We need to not need to be right all the time.

I was at an event that devolved into an incendiary and assaultive ‘call to action’ against a local business. While I do not agree with many points made by presenters, I went because we need to find some common ground about an issue that is so divisive. I believe there must be.

Some who are ardent about this cause felt this went too far, but others did not, and now permission was given. The image that came to mind was the torch carrying mob scene in ‘Frankenstein’. These people were hysterical in their hate. They could not see past their fists that were holding on to the torches. They were incapable of seeing what the flames could illuminate for them. They could not see past their own darkness.

But we live in a small town that needs all the cohesion we can muster. We cannot afford to accost the community that we depend on for our sustenance.

So I will tackle this hard reality with all the aplomb I can, even though I hear Marlene Dietrich in the background. I hoist my leg up on a stool in my imaginary smoky night club and say, “Yes, Marlene, I am tired too.”, or is that Madeline Kahn I am talking to? Either way, Frankenstein’s monster is here and we must deal with him.



One Moment, Please 

I am in a car on a New England highway. It is a sunny winter day. This ride could not be more different than the one I took last month. I recall that day because it is 4 days before New Year's Eve and we still have had no snow to speak of. This does not make my inner snow bunny smile.

It was 1:00 pm. The drive from Vermont took the requisite 3.5 hours. The sky grew grey and menacing the closer I got to New York City and the anticipation of having a much missed hometown exploit. Snow was in the forecast. I hadn't been in a winter snow in my beloved concrete jungle in years. Not that I do not appreciate where I live now; but I am split like a log being halved for a winter wood stove.

My friend came to the lobby and introduced me to the doorman. He entered me in the computer so other building folks would know that I passed muster to be allowed to traipse in and out for the week. When I saw myself being popped into the thing a.k.a., the real doorman, I wondered if it was related to H.A.L.

So up we went to settle me in, then just as quickly we spun around to walk the streets of Broadway and West End. Oh, the grit and wait, the harsh swirl of wind (?) that was wrapping itself around my ankles made me stop. I took a whiff of the air with my now New England snout and knew we were going to be in for it. 'This can't be good', I thought. I tried to ferry my friend along all of our stops to avoid the ensuing deluge, but she wouldn't heed my warning.

Yup, we got caught in it. We got so caught in it that I stopped seeing a way out. The snow came down fast, wet and heavy. Frenzy ensued.

After getting sloshed by a passing car for the second time in under, like, 1 minute, I was harkened back to former times. I felt an odd glee and closed my eyes. And scene. Nope, one more thing. A new wave of sloppy wetness washed my face as it nonchalantly rolled down the street in its slushy glory. I reached for a tissue from my coat pocket, but only pulled out a receipt from the kosher deli.

Time to find a cab. Ha! In a snowstorm on Broadway! Ha! I suggested that if we walk, albeit slowly, we would probably get home sooner than we would ever get a cab. Okay, so here is how it went. She answered with a staunch, "No!".

So we claimed a corner on the uptown side of Broadway. Cabs already filled with dry people and dry bags of goods pushed past us. Ours were beginning to look like broken snow globes. I could only imagine what condition the leggings I bought were in. I pictured the cardboard wrapping seeping like paste into the fabric, the picture of the woman stripped of her protective coating, just an unseemly blob. Her lithe figure became a more encumbered one. The hopeful expectation that when I wore them I would be transformed into a long-legged eye-stopper began its decent into the abyss of realization that I was fooled again. Along with the slush that was sliding into my boots, my feet were as frozen as my dreams.

Finally, a cab came our way! We shared it with another poor thing besotted with the allure of getting home before everything she was holding became a memory and mush.

Dry and peaceably quiet, we sallied forth. A veritable barrage of winter delighted my eyes. But what's with all the frickin' car horns?

Excuse me, but we are gridlocked, so no amount of honking will make us go any faster. Now knock it off. "Let it go", I said to myself.

But then, oh, but then, appearing on the left side of our chariot, going down Broadway, prancing like a stallion of gastronomic prowess, was a truck decorated in unabashed branding font that spelled one of my favorite NYC tastes: G-O-Y-A, holder of the splendiferous taste of Spanish and Cuban cookery and eateries, and yes, I know for some, Goya is like Spaghetti-os are to real Italian food; but remember, being tucked up north, I no longer live a close jaunt to the authentic. (Please enjoy this impossibly long sentence as a visit into the excited mind of a foodie back in her element, so no judgments please.)

Anyway, so there I was. Soggy yet happy and breathing the lilt of the season, my inhalations felt like wintery mini-rollercoasters made of snow and wind. My innards were on a joy ride.

And then it happened. I looked out the right side window and was tossed off my wonderland sleigh and plunged into the bowels of the earth, or at least the city. Sidling up next to us, crooning with it's dilapidated gears like a worn out lounge singer, was a truck emblazoned with the words 'sewage and plumbing'. Yes, the underbelly of life and a good meal are never far apart.

The irony of the situation was not lost on me, and I let out a laugh that jolted my car companions. "Heaven and hell", I said pointing out both sides of our cab. The steam of savory rice and the roiling waters of the city underworld were doing an odd tango in my head.

The beauty of the created landscape with all its passions and art, and the muck and mire of what lives below are really a necessary pair, but still….can't I just have my New York moment? Oh, wait, that was my New York moment.

Witch Hat To Wear  

Winter swoons into spring, spring sings into summer, summer chants toward the beginning of autumn. It is a primal tone that has deep intention and thrust. The shift from summer to fall is powerfully dynamic. Our eyes go from seeing the lush colors of flowers and gardens to the stunning last vision the leaves show against the muted fall sky. it is both stark and enchanting. The contrast is extraordinary and daunting. This beauty is nature's incantation that brings us toward the winter. But first…to the pumpkin patch!

Okay, so here it is. My favorite time of year. The summer has ended. The month long Jewish High Holidays, which begin with Rosh Hashanah and end with Succot, have ended, I like them both, but they each leave me exhausted. The heat wilts me and my garden. Keeping it perky and producing is an endless watering task. The High Holidays are spiritually vast, but also physically draining from the cooking, the clergy work and inner work that the month calls for. [Illus. The prehistoric Uffington White Horse in Oxfordshire, Britain. About 3,000 years old.]

By the time all of this is over I just want to curl up with a piece of challah and tea and watch, oh, I don't know, maybe a Halloween movie? A nice one, not horror, although 'Shadow of the Vampire' is a favorite, but so is 'Practical Magic', and of course 'Hocus Pocus'. Oh, and then there is 'I Married a Witch' and 'Bell, Book and Candle'. Can you see where I am going with this?

So now, I sit amongst my favorite decorations of the year. They transport me. Bring out the invite that makes the invisible visible. My glittery shoes, bats and cauldrons add a layer to the air that makes way for guests of a more non-corporeal nature. This is my Wiccan succah (a temporary structure that is built during Succot that is our home of faith and spirit. This is a connection and remembrance of the 'homes' that Jews built when we made a yearly pilgrimage to the ancient Temple in Jerusalem during the holiday of Succot.)

During the days when we are in the succah, we call in a different set of ancestors each night.

On Halloween, or Samhain, we also call in our ancestors, friends and whomever else is flying about, to spend some time with us. The veil between the worlds is open for both of these holidays at a time when the earth is transitioning to a seemingly more dormant state. But really, it is all there, if we open ourselves to this 'enseen realm' and feel its movement and power.

The spirit of Samhain has become a cultural reality in spite of its commercialism and its plethora of  horrendous sex-up-anything costumes. People come together to host Halloween fun for the kiddies and themselves. Okay, so perhaps this is because it is no longer considered wise to let children roam around town after dark looking for candy; but this reality has opened like a skeletal hand rising from the dirt of a grave pointing us toward community turf to celebration together. 

And oh, yes, back to the costumes. I do not don too much of a holiday costume, as I am in costume all year, so to speak; but I am not a costume curmudgeon. I will help anyone fancy up, and once my vampire costuming skills won first place in a competition. 

I love the way that Halloween garb can be an expression of ideas, concerns, hopes and dreams. Some are witty, some are beautiful, and some are touchingly poignant. I usually wait with light-hearted breath to see what will be parading around, but with what is going on in the world right now, this year my breath will be holding more stalwart apprehension than gleeful anticipation.

I suspect that this year I will look out from under my seasonally pointy and wide rimmed hat with one eye. The other eye, you may presume is looking for the nearest bar, er I mean, tea room. Nope, I do mean bar. I can have one bourbon and not fall off my broom, right?


NOTE: I wrote this before the massacre in Pittsburgh. Is any humor appropriate today? Should I have saved this for next year and offered a tone like my Charlottesville article? If I have offended anyone by not only writing about yesterday, I apologize; but i am a Jew and I am a Wiccan, and i will be open and proud about both, although I am surely a double-whammy target some some hateful f*** out there. So I will not hide. I will not hide.

Letting It Flow

I have let my garden go this year. It is growing in wild abandon, ignoring my well placed circles and lines of plantings from years before. It is scoffing at my incessant weeding habits of the past. It has plummeted into extravagant plumes of plants that I had no idea lingered below just waiting to erupt. They sidled up to my perennials with a come hither sway to their leaves, and the party was on.

There is a feeling in this place now that is like an electrical charge. It is scented with the red hot of unexpressed passion. What a panorama for my grounding practice.

Grounding, to me, means to become present to where you are, and to expand toward what is beyond at the same moment. A metaphorical and energetic for some, myself included, cord comes from the very core of the earth and swoons with delight at the fragrance of the loamy touch of where we stand.

It winds through my feet, then my center and out the top of my head, where by now, in lilting strokes of anticipation, this waving ribbon will connect me to the great cosmic dance where it will twirl with the deftness of the accomplished hoofer of the universal ballroom experience. That sentence was as long as the string itself. Ah, solid ground, how you waltz me about. What could be better?

Oh, really big ocean boat, how you unearth me and spin me with your watery sentience. I am upon the deep, wet sea of the great unconscious. I sense Jung lurking about in the briny mist. My rock tethered interior is now unmoored and afloat on the waves. My feet become part of the waters of constant movement. I feel like I can sink into its depths instead of my usual travels through the solidness of earth. It rises to meet me, but this aqueous shindig is dancing me right into the walls, that for some reason keep moving.

My center of gravity has shifted. It needs to be as fluid as the waves that are tussling us about, ever so gently. This is a different kind of waltz. Actually, it is more like a rhumba. This is the dance of surrender to the inner and the outer. This grounding flavor is new to me. I taste the vastness of the salty, roiling sea, not the savory taste of land. I close my eyes and breathe in its aroma.

And I breathe again, now back home in my familiar to my spirit earthiness. There is something so cooling and nurturing about the feel of bare feet on the ground. The arches and planes of my feet are covered with earthy mirth. I am again connected to the deepness of being; the being of the world outside of me and within.

Oh, how wondrous…wait, what? Did I just hear the news correctly? We, in Vermont, are now believed to be perched on the top of some future lava spewing volcano?! Well, that tugs at my cord, now doesn't it? How might one maneuver her silken tress of spiritual glee through a fire that will vaporize it before even a giggle can come forth?

We are sitting on a future giant swell of red hot magma. Scolding spurts of its turbid being may be permeating our consciousness this very minute as it churns below us.

Well this is going to change our grounding practices, isn't it? Walk easy and be cool. Miles Davis, where are you?

In a more cynical turn of thought, I wonder what this will do to the home grown metaphysical devotion that abounds here? It seems there might be a new stream of meditational obsession for the spiritual larder.

New prayers, new dances, new catch words. 'Well, just let that idea bubble awhile', now has a direct and physical reality, so that to 'simmer a pot', could now refer to a spiritual and emotional process. Making pasta may take on a whole new meaning. Well, I've been simmering stuff in a cauldron for years, but that's another tale.

So perhaps letting my garden have its way with itself was a foreshadowing of the flames of the interior that are bounding their way toward us…in 50 million years, give or take a few millennium. So for now, I will tread with added awareness and perhaps a lighter foot so as not to get burned by what life has in store for us.

Of Hippos and Their Snacks

These days when I sit dutifully and optimistically at my computer, my partner, who's soft illuminated keys always give way under my touch, will barely budge. The heaviness of my heart squashes any movement.

All I can muster are thoughts of what the blazes is going on in the world, and how it is reverberating in our burgh of Brattleboro. It feels like the air has been overcome by a froth of conflict that covers our conversations to the point that I have seen relationships rupture. Some days the act of breathing seems like a victory.

How do you navigate wanting to respect the dynamic of community relationship and speaking your truth, when you hear what you consider hurtful and harmful points of view? How do we see through the thickness of this atmosphere?

What would Thornton Wilder say? We are in an 'Our Town'. The various written and spoken outlets of disagreement that turn to outrage rebound in a small town that so depends on its web of connections. This has impact beyond the particular issues.  

I overheard a conversation that froze me with the dismayed realization that no give and take may ever be possible. I feared that a common understanding and then joint action to work toward a solution might not to be.

A newly minted adult in the working world; one filled with good intentions and only the highest vision for the future, stood determined in an opinion that left no possibility for anything but seeing their own side. When offered facts, verified reality of the situation, that was even equally verified by this person's side of choice; it came to no avail. They said that their opinion was more important than facts because their opinions and feelings are real and that is what counts.

Yes, feelings are vital to being conscious and part of a community. But when they are attached to rigid beliefs, they become rabid gatekeepers to the truth. The capacity for discourse and critical thinking is supplanted by a self-righteous and closed mind.

Are there facts on their side that are indeed to be considered and valued? Of course. Both sides need to hear each other's truths and maneuver through them together before a fissure opens that will swallow us all in its fire.

It takes time and openness to sit with the 'other' side. And yes, there are some who think it would be a waste of time, or that with some issues there is only one side. I must admit that when it comes to some issues I have believed this to be the case. But what I may think is irredeemable, another may not. Do I owe that person the chance to be heard? Yes, I do. Do I say this in light of being part of a small environs, or because social justice has been an active part of my life, or might it be a bit of both? I have shifted my own beliefs through tough conversation and soul searching in some instances. I think therefore I discern, or should it be the other way around?

It takes commitment and a bit of a thick skin to put yourself in potential harm's way to have these dialogues. Like the ponderous pachyderm that can be found in the middle of many family gatherings and meetings; this hoary hippo of lack of this necessary discourse and critical thinking has been chomping on our town for quite some time. Article by article, assembly by assembly, it snorts the waters of its muck along our path. My shoes are drenched and I must now reconsider my usual summer footwear. I have many cool and groovy sandals that I may have to leave in the dark of my closet. I am not amused. I am not even bemused. I am struck by the pain of it all. 

So what is the value of taking this risk? When you have witnessed the lack of ability to consider another point of view, or another set of provable facts; how far into this forest can you go before the trees become armed with branches that poke you as hard as words and anger can pierce?

It grieves me that when issues are as volatile as they are, a disagreement often becomes a judgement against your person. The political can be the personal, and when a situation is bracketed as one that defines your moral capacity, it becomes a judgement about your character.

This flows into every other part of life in a small town. Who would want to be friends with someone whom they consider immoral and feckless? Friendships and trust are lost. Can we afford this in a place where we are so very dependent upon the good will and commitment to be in community with each other? I do not think so. How violent can the war of words and ideals become? They are nebulous and sharp at thee same time. Their tones shift between us. This is frightening to me.

Are there different shades of grey to this? Yes. Grey is not just the color in a movie. It is more alive and better written that any fiction. It is not as seamless as the grey of well ordered, lushly appointed play rooms. It is not always slick and smooth.

This grey is sloppy and sticky. It stings. It is fraught with words that slam into walls until they are no more than sludge that pools at the baseboard. But if navigated with heart and mind, it can be sublime. It can be illuminating. It can be healing. I want, no, I need to believe this.

However, the process of spinning this color wheel is filled with subtleties and provocation that can destroy if we are not attentive to how we approach and speak with each other.

It can tear people apart when we should be coming together. It can wear us down. I don't know about you, but I need a break.

Anyone want to go to the movies with me? Popcorn with lots of sexy butter is on me. Nutritional yeast is optional.

The Resolution Revolution


Well, it's that time of year again. The snow is showing its night time hue of get-inside-it's-too-cold blue; like what my lips will look like if I don't vamoose toward the warm wood stove.

And it's that time again to get ready for my Resolution Fairy to visit. Last year she sent an 'associate' in her place. I have no idea what he reported back to her. This year I wanted to have my resolution affairs in order and pass muster. (I invite you, reader, to look at last year's encounter.)

Considering the year we have had, I fear that my dear 'friend'(intoned with trepidation), might be crankier than usual. Yikes! I am determined not to make her crankiness even darker than I know it will be.

It was cold this morning. It is always cold on winter mornings in Vermont, but because of the severe arctic spell that has us under its power, we are being swayed back and forth by its below zero winds and whim.

I took out my index cards of possible resolutions. Perhaps I should do this on a mind mapping program. I could make it all colorful and pretty, but she would just call it a poor attempt at deflection. There is nothing like being scolded by a scrappy immortal with wings.

So back to the index cards it was for me. I spread them out on my table. The white of the cards against the dark grain of the wood looked like the sky on a clear winter night. Each star was a timeless quest toward a goal. I imagined myself using Orion's belt to swing between them. How exhilarating to swish through the cosmos. Now I really must go to Costa Rica and go jungle sliding on those ropes.  I will put that in the future fun constellation.

Seeing all this starry universality made me feel oddly still even though the stars that look so stable to our eyes are actually glowering balls of gas. This dissonance between what appears and what is feels similar to the cognitive imbalance that many of us feel today regarding the world, politics and you know, everything except maybe when to feed the cat.

And yet, the time when the deep night becomes the dawn becoming the start of day is a moment that feels like time is holding its breath….and scene. End of musing. She had arrived with a stomp of her heels on my clean wood floor.

Standing next to me at my table was the head fairy of them all. "Well, welcome back. I missed you last year", I said with a lilt tinged with terror.

"Did you really? From what I heard, you had a grand time cajoling and charming your way into the good report pile. Someone left here optimistic that your resolutions would actually be met." Was that a smile I saw, or was she just taunting me?

"Well, your stand in was quite the surprise. I had no idea that you have so many 'cases' that you would ever not be able to fit me in. That's commitment for you." And with that I got up to get her the requisite wine. “Here". I handed her the glass feeling a little like a petulant child. How does she do this to me? I am a grown up!

She is now at her usual spot on the couch. She looks around the room to see if there have been any changes. "Hmm, no cheese plate I see. That's a change."(again reader, the cheese plate incident is noted in last year's retelling. It wasn't pretty).

"Educating yourself I see.". In the cheese plate's place are various books about political action, history and organization. "Good job."

Holy political rally! I almost fell over. Did I just get the much coveted compliment, an affirmation from the most cantankerous being, human or otherwise, that I have ever met?

"Don't get all impressed with yourself. We haven't talked about your writing or exercise discipline. “More wine", and with a thrust of her arm she was back.

She picked up my latest piece of writing from the coffee table entitled ‘The Liminal Place as a Threshold to Power.’ She read the title and first lines aloud as if she were a teacher who's student she could not decide had a brain or not.

"The day holds the night with its tug toward the long skied twilight. Dusk halts us within its transitional spirit. It is this in-between time that holds our attention and presence. It is where we are still and also moving. This is about transition. It is both a threshold and a boundary to the past and the future. This is the liminal position."

Peering at me in a very deliberate manner, she handed it back to me and waved me on to continue the read.

"The liminal place holds power. You are free to go either way. You are attached to nothing but your own wits and britches. To be in a liminal space in the midst of chaos calls you to hold onto your belt even more."

"While this liminality is its own time, its construct, when applied to action and power, is about being clear sighted and deliberate as it looks from an outside stance. It is the embodiment of the understanding of the past and the awareness of the future within the container of the liminality. This is a time of reckoning and choice. It is a portal”. I put down the paper and replaced it with my own glass of wine. Gulp, oh, gulp.

I know that you may say that I am talking about mindfulness and you already know about that, as do I; but before mindfulness there is this place of the in-between, the liminal, the split second when we decide to be mindful or not.

When something or someone unhinges us to the point of distraction we react. We react through our passion, fear, a primal sense of injustice and grief, and all the other feelings that live in the depth of our guts. I see them looking at me and you as I write this.  

It is easy to react with broad strokes. The wide swath of outrage winds itself like a fabric around the seeming quickest solution. It fills the contours of anger and injury with its weave that hopes to suffocate and end all the pain.

But these reactions and choices can "catch a glitch" as my Resolution Fairy said a few years ago upon discovering my lack of good choice regarding a certain series I said I was resolved to watch but once…not.

Sometimes a train wreck will not let you avert your eyes. It shines it's bling at you and you follow it like a cat that follows the red laser. But this laser is red with the "blood of your soul, if you don't knock it off." Again, an astute observation of my trusty R.F.  "But one of them is pregnant again and the father is now a gir…… ," I replied to no avail of a free pass in spite of the social relevance of the journey being filmed.

Can you resolve, not to get caught in that space of knee jerk reaction that absconds with the wherewithal to effect what needs to change with an additional or possibly better tactic?

"Case in point," chimes up the Fairy with the dairy, as we have now cracked open the Bailey's Cream. "We should question spending time, money and energy on replacing one danger with an even bigger danger who is more religiously nefarious, smarter and not afraid of work. This is an understandable, but possibly knee-jerk reaction that could fail good-minded people and the ultimate change that must happen."

Oh, I am thinking she is going to upset a lot of people with this opinion, but I think I possibly agree with her when I am not jerking my own knee or banging my head against the proverbial wall.

My Resolution Fairy understands the importance of a correct resolution and what that truly means. I wanted to have a deep-hearted conversation about this liminal space she knows to be the crux of success for so many of her charges. She has seen it.

She has seen us make resolutions that are well-intentioned but way to big. These  resolutions are "downed like the Hindenburg exploded by rose colored gas." Again: not my words. These are the ones that give her the most frustration. I believe I am in this category because I certainly frustrate myself…continually.

2017 was a piss poor year for us. So many losses of rights and potential to help our people and the world by those whose agenda has nothing to do with the meaning of the powerful positions they hold. So much dark and vile human behavior became exposed.

We have had a year to be in anger, shock and constant awe at how this darkness kept growing. But for 2018, we have to be more. We have to learn new ways because the old ways are becoming obsolete. Their intention is ever noble, but our actions have to grow. Thought and strategy of an additional kind is needed.

Can we resolve to embody a world view and thought and reaction process that honors the truth of the power that standing at the juncture of the liminal doorway offers.

We need to act from the liminal because we are liminal. We are not in the power crowd; but we can circle them.  A circle can squeeze something steadily and surely. We have to be willing to act from this space of threshold.

"Listen dearie, there is no easy out, but I can tell you that a balance of resources spent on the big horrors of the day that get media time on all of your devices, and the seemingly smaller issues that do not hit the same emotional triggers, is imperative.

“And by the way, how many times do you stick your eyeball to your phone each day?” I was asked in a rhetorical tone at least for now.”Uh,oh,” I thought.

Leaning forward to replenish her clearly much too small of a glass, she continued. "All issues are important. Don't walk away from them, any of them. Lean into them with your power. Breathe deep the scent of the liminal forest. There is a fork in a path there. Don't forget to plant your feet and open your gaze with resolve. Look within that woodsy threshold. I know it is there. I put it there."

And with that, the lesson and meeting of the spirits was over and it was back to resolution business as usual.

"Now let's talk about that phone of yours," and the foot tapping for 2018 began.

Cut To The Core


It's raining. A lot. Outside. Inside. It is not. Inside it is dry. The steam from my coffee points its vapory finger at my comfy chair and pushes me into its waiting arms. I think I will stay home today. The cat is happy for this choice, because obviously I cannot bear to leave her. She purrs quietly by my side.

But, before I cocoon myself against the world, I suppose I should look at the news to see what has blown up while I was asleep. Whether the bombs are real or figurative, I know I will find something. These days it is par for the course. And also par for the course is to then sweep what has gone kaboom into a lovely antique canister once used to store flour and deal with it later. We all do this to some capacity.

I click on my regular news site and take a cursory scroll down the page. The usual suspects are up to their usual shenanigans when I spot it. It is tucked at the bottom. After the big guns have made their mess, I see it.

I never imagined that this would be there. It was an unexpected slop of an explosion. The headline reached out its virtual tendril like the hand of God in the Ten Commandments. Well, perhaps it was closer to a B rated Vincent Price horror flick. It was all like, "Just try not to read me. I have you now by your eyeballs, but I want a hold of your soul." I had no choice.

"And the headline is" (where is Richard Dawson when you need him. Look it up, or watch some SNL if you don't get this reference), "Avocados can kill, or at least maim your hands forever". I became stuck in a force field of utter despair, fear and yet vague amusement. I was befuddled.

Why would an avocado want to kill me? I like them. Their sultry greenness charms me. I think they are lovely creatures who help keep me healthy and offer others who are not cooks, or just plain lazy, an easy thing to bring to potlucks. We all love avocados. 

And now, apparently, so do surgeons. I wonder if they needed to create a new diagnosis code: 'traumatic laceration caused by moronis' avocadis'. I can only imagine their operating room banter. Or here's an idea: people could just learn how to use a knife. But perhaps that's just me.

I was now on the hunt for other articles of this one's ilk. They were all over the place. Splattered like spilled guacamole. The fumes of peppers and lime juice made me dizzy, and a little hungry.  Really, this is the issue of the day? I suppose there will now be avocado cutting devises for sale. There are already avocado storing and scooping toys.

This harkened me back to the bagel cutting contraption craze, although there were no surgeons involved, only some sliced pride. But I almost understood this. For those of us, not that i am one of this group, who can get lost just sitting in a chair, who see the world slightly askew, seeing in a straight line can be a challenge. But this was a remedial tool, so to speak, not an idiot's journey.

And oh, yeah: one more thing. I thought to myself, while considering this avocado injury travesty, "What a first world problem this is." Please read with a more aware-than-thou accent. However, here is a newsflash for you and for me, she says, as the lightning bolt tasers her out of that big, cushy chair.

I am not of the first world, and neither are most of you who are reading this.

The first, second and third world delineation was penned in the early 50's. Post World War II created it from the mud puddles of drying trauma and despair. It was the Golem of the time. But I think using this today is incorrect.

The world has gotten smaller. There is give and take (unfortunately, more taking by some than giving), a deeper awareness of each other, and a wider worldview.

But to consider 'our' world-and I mean the place that runs on class, privilege, faith and race stratifications-the 'first world'- reinforces disconnection, way too much self-importance, and singularity from the rest of the planet.

The first world is those cultures that were already here when we were just a gleam in the clean ocean's waves.

We are the industrial writhing mass of excess and waste. We are the world that has splattered itself all over the globe. We are the world that has done great good in some areas while doing more damage in others. We cull havoc from power.

We are the third world and possibly the last world.

Am I splitting wordy follicular phrases? Perhaps. Are we all awful? Some of us are, but I would like to think that more of us are aware and are working to make things better. Many of us are privileged in one way or another. I call to this privilege to mix with consciousness and action, while eating non-bloodied guacamole, of course.

Alas, might the avocado knife really be the sword of Damocles? Are we just a hair slice away from being even more ridiculous than we can already show ourselves to be? I can only hope this is not the case.

But now if you will excuse me, I need to make something for a potluck.

A Remembrance of Yom Kippur Angels and the Dancing Rabbi


It was Yom Kippur-the Day of Atonement-and I was on my way to the first worship of the holiday-Kol Nidre services. Jewish holidays begin and end at sundown. I was walking down West End Avenue off Broadway in New York City. The sun was beginning to set and shadows were convening over the buildings.

I saw the usual suspects outside the shul talking in clusters on the sidewalk. The impending holiness of this time was beginning to grace and come toward us. It made everything a little more illuminated with a layer of shine so that every color, every texture became more vibrant.

While this is a deeply thoughtful service, there is another side to Kol Nidre that is often overlooked. This is the side that always speaks to me.  And now it does even more because of what happened this particular Kol Nidre night.

The High Holidays are an ingathering of the congregation. Many people do not attend on a regular basis, but the Jewish New Year services of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur draws us all together. I was a regular service goer and involved with various activates at my shul, so this service was a chance to see just how many people could fit into our small sanctuary. It always seemed to expand, as if by magic, to accommodate and make room for every soul who entered.

This service is when we begin the journey of the day of repentance. We pray that we will be engraved in the ever popular Book of Life. The Kol Nidre prayer service is the gate that opens Yom Kippur. It is only recited on this night.

It is written that an angel stands in front of you during the Kol Nidre recitation. The prayer is about asking to be relieved of any vows that we made during the past year that we did not honor, and to be relieved of the vows we are about to make that we also may fall short on. This act of putting yourself before your Creator is a daunting and deep act of faith.

The Kol Nidre prayer is sung to one of the most hauntingly beautiful melodies in Jewish liturgy. Its tones reach inside your soul. We sing this three times with each time getting a little louder and more sure of our hearts. 

But despite the ‘seriousness’ of Yom Kippur, expressing joy is also a part of the Jewish religion. It is even discussed in the Talmud and by the rabbis of old.

Our shul was known for its music because our Hassidic rabbi was a songwriter who traveled widely with various Jewish musicians and bands. He strove to embody the joy of life through his unique and soul lifting prayers. Even Yom Kippur services, the day that we are judged, is also the day we are being blessed and cleansed by the Divine Mysterious. So this is a joyful day, filled with joyful prayer as well.

I said my hellos to my friends and those I only saw a few times of year, and went to my regular seat to put on my tallit. Although this was an orthodox/Hassidic oriented shul, I was one of the many who traveled between the orthodox and the conservative worlds of Jewish practice, although this was my home base, so to speak. 

I was fourth row next to the wall on the women’s side. It was one of my favorite places to be. I could stand and be supported by both spirit and the natural world, if you will.

I began to chant with the rest of my spiritual family. I felt weightless, but my feet were heavy and seemed glued to the floor. I was grounded and flying at the same time. This is Kol Nidre.

I did not feel I had been listened to, or seen, much that year. There were times I felt that I must be invisible. Although there were no major tragedies, it was a year with many frustrations. But I supposed it could have been worse, as they say.

I wondered what others were looking forward to moving on from and creating anew. What had their                                                                                                                                                                                                            pain been? What were they grateful for and were there vows they had not honored? I hoped they would find some healing in this service. I raised my head from my prayer book to look at the people I stood with and could not believe what I saw.

There were angels standing in front of every one of them. They were light and luminous and radiated blazing love. They were so connected and deeply engaged, listening to the heart rendered prayer of their human charge.

But when I looked in front of me, to see my angel, there was no angel. Instead there was a Hasidic man, a rabbi perhaps, in a brown suit with the traditional fur hat smiling and dancing and looking right at me. Our eyes met and I felt seen for the first time in what felt like was ages. His jubilant dance and loving eyes showed me that I am indeed seen. I am heard and I am surrounded by joy.

I have been dancing ever since.

Charlottsville — The Heart of the Serpent

Walking home from school in 4th grade, I was hit with rocks because I am Jewish. As I turned to see who had thrown them, two boys from my class laughed and ran down the hill to their homes. I will never forget the sound of their self-satisfied churls of hate.

One year before, we had moved to this more stable and better school-systemed NJ suburb from Newark, NJ. We moved there six months before the race riots occurred. Jews leaving Newark was an exodus encumbered with feelings of survival and remembrance, and for many of us, empathy. We saw, up close, the burgeoning tensions and pain that were painting the social landscape with a new layer of anguish.

It wasn’t fair. It wasn’t fair that we had to uproot, yet again, to a place that was clearly not free of anti-Semitism. It wasn’t fair that those remaining were bound by economic and social default because of the lack of prosperity on soul damaging and economic levels. They were still being subjugated and abused.

My rabbi marched with Martin Luther King. He wrote and rallied and made us all think and act. Social justice is part of the deep breath of Jewish thought. Inhale the Divine and exhale Tikkun Olam-Fixing the World.

I became aware of this at a young age. I was aware that we had to leave because our synagogue was bombed…again. We had to leave because of what was happening to the social matrix. But it was never because of the people. This was a system that was hurting those who had never known not being hurt. We know about this. Jews do not get to be racist. We did not leave because we hated.

My first best friend was black. I remember the look that passed between my mother and Cheryl’s mother as I asked if we could have a sleep over when I was picked up after an afternoon of play in the Newark project housing, not the one family house that we lived in. It told me everything.

I saw two women, mothers who were charged with ushering daughters into the wider world, look at each other with a mix of understanding, alarm, concern, and camaraderie. The energy encased in that look was palpable. I almost reached out my hand to touch it. This is what a reckoning with truth looks like, and for me, what it feels like.

Breath is life, and in that moment, my breath became still with warning and young wisdom. I had just been initiated into the world of separation due to fear of the repercussions that hatred from others might create. I got it.

A few months before we left, two families moved onto our block. They were both black. I was free to play and meander with one of the families’ kids, but I was not allowed in the house or to play with the other. The mother of the girl who lived there made it very clear to me.

I did not take it personally and I did not hate her. I saw the social dissonance of prejudice played out in front of my eyes. I got it..again. But there was also more to this than I knew, and I knew that. I might have only been in the third grade, but I knew the picture had a much larger frame than I could see. And that frame holds the pictures of today that, too closely, match my younger years.

The strides of horror that filled Charlottesville brought back the sound of the boys running away after hurling their rocks at me. I had not thought of that in years, but a memory like that lodges itself at the ready to step forward. It knows we can never forget.

When I heard the mob of people whose tomes were shrill with loathing, and saw the hardness of their hate that could crush stones with its force; time became a serpent that held the ages. The past, present, and future were reflected back to me from the lights of the torches on its skin. I looked into its eyes, felt the heaving of its lungs. My soul shuddered.

Belief fosters action, and action feeds reaction. Reactions of violence become the serpent that bites its tail with jaws that are locked in fury. It will spin us into its whirlpool of dark waters, slick scales of pain, and renounced justice. It will suck us into its vortex. We will drown. We will all drown.

I grew up with the expression 'Never Again'. It referred to the Holocaust. I sewed a 'Never Again' patch onto my father's army jacket. I still have it. Well, it is starting to happen again, because it never stopped happening.

Other groups are planning this action somewhere else. They are strategizing, be sure of that. We can hope that their violence will, as in Boston, ‘only’ be profuse with words, not artillery. Might Charlottesville have stopped this, or is this a naïve notion?

If there are both, we need to restrain from engaging evil in a way that will empower it to grow in force. This does not mean do nothing. It means to do something differently. We need to devise additional ways to engage with these groups. We cannot let ourselves fall to violence as a first response.

But I was not there. I was not pushed to the brink where my whole person was being burned by the torches and their vileness. It was hard enough to watch it through the shield of a screen. If there, I might have done the same thing. I might not have only stood in place and just yelled back a response to "Jews will not replace us.”

Nonviolent confrontation and communication are challenging when you are faced with the visceral violence of hatred, but it must be a tool we learn to use. Throwing news boxes cannot be the first response. This empowers the impulsive way to become the only way. I realize there will be some who disagree. So be it.

We need to join together so that all of us: the Never Again of my past and ever-present can join with past and ever-present of Black Lives Matter and Indigenous First Nations, all faiths, and cultures that are part of this nation that many of us are dismayed to be part of. It is time to unify in love and vision.

Does this mean that we 'have' to love everyone, even a racist, misogynistic, LGBTQ hating, anti-Semitic, xenophobic Nazi? No. Do we have to acknowledge that on a primal, base human level we are connected and have both the ability to love and to hate? Yes.

I can recognize you as a being and know that, unlike you, I do not hate you because of the circumstance of your birth and culture, as you do me. I hate what you believe and I abhor your entitled imposition of it on the rest of us; but would I harm you? I do not want to be part of something that would create that possibility, at least not without the capacity to move that possibility to the back.

But I do not love you. I do not need to love you. I see you. I would, perhaps, converse with you to see if there is any way to reach you. I would not want to be your friend; I could not be your friend. I believe that we must be protected from your intended violence of body and beliefs if you will not let your hatred go and join us in equanimity. This is what a just society would create.

I believe in love that is based on acceptance and peace. Unconditional, blind love that does not look at the underbelly of the lived and on the ground reality of a life serves no higher purpose. When hate fuels someone into loveless actions toward another, my capacity to love them diminishes; my spiritual validity does not.

A woman who loses a child, no matter what her hatred of others might be, suffers a devastation that I would not wish on anyone. I feel for that pain, I feel our shared humanness and would hope for her to find peace with her loss. I can feel compassion for her, but I will not say I love her. I would say I regard her as another in desperate pain.

Am I beyond despair about this? Do I wish we could bring those who hate toward us in peace and agreement? Of course. Knowing innocent children are being indoctrinated and women are being harmed, even when they espouse these beliefs, throws my heart to the ground.

I recognize pain and know that many believe that the personal is not political; but at this moment, in this fight, I think we have to live that thought. We did it in the 60' and 70's, but it seems to have faded from our awareness.

Serpents are from the roiling sea of fear but they also hold the power of healing and righteous power. They contain the secret of how to connect to the whole and the wisdom of how to live in balance with passion, love and right thought.

To turn toward this serpent face to face and heart to heart is what I hope for all of us.

The Art of Flight

I worked in a chiropractic office in NYC in the 90’s. I was a chiropractic assistant, which meant that I gave ultrasound and electrical stimulation treatments, hot and cold packs, general comfort and a listening ear. I was also free to offer the various healing modalities that I gave to private healing clients. This ranged from hands on healing, flower essence, journey work while under my bear fur, to spiritual teachings and counseling to whatever else was appropriate.

Our chiropractic patients ranged from those who would have no part of my work, to those who were open and soon became steady visitors, to those who came specifically for this.  Funnily enough, there was one patient who did not believe in any of this ‘stuff’, yet insisted on keeping my card in his wallet because he just liked to know that it was there. But he didn’t believe. Hmm.

While I cared about all of our patients, I did have some that I especially looked forward to working with. Some of these  were the performers from Circus Oz. Based in Australia, they were one of the first circus groups to show the world that this aerial, gymnastic and juggling-to name just a few of their skills- kind of circus is indeed an art; not just a mind boggling athletic feat. This is an art form of entertainment, social commentary, and flat out astounding expressions of beauty and skill that flies you through the air, to the ground, to out into and over amazed audience’s heads.

For the week that they were in town, each day some would limp a little, wince a little and smile much as they got onto my table. Having a theatre and dance background that had come to an abrupt halt due to a serious injury and seriously bad medical care, I empathized with their pain and knew just what they needed. It was a meeting of the spirits and I always felt a little healed by their visit.

They were living their passion and the world happily imbibed in their wondrous offerings. In turn, they drank in the joy they received by this appreciation and chance to give what they so dearly loved.. Many of them also reveled in passing on their skills to those who were clearly on the stage path, and also to those who came for personal enjoyment and growth. There is nothing like seeing someone gain confidence and find another aspect of themselves they didn’t even know they had. Does it get better than this?

Not one of them was willing to give into their pain. “The show must go on” is a living and breathing entity, not just a five work flick of the tongue. I knew it well myself. These were hardcore performers whose bodies of discipline, brightness of soul and lives of travel told the tale of what a person can be when they are living their true path.

They would tell me their stories through their grandly toned instruments and their words. I always knew they were getting the healing they needed for that night’s show when conversation waned and turned to silence, and an occasional snore.

“Injury is a form of trauma, even if you get it from swinging on a ridiculously high trapeze of your own free will and randyish delight”, I told one performer who had wrenched her shoulder. She looked at me as if I were a mound of mud so stuck in my earth-boundedness that I could not possibly understand the joy she felt of flying and spinning midair with the winds of her making at her call.

‘Okay, let me rephrase that. Living is a form of cosmic insult.” No, save that for another cynical New Yorker. So instead I said,“Okay, here’s the deal” Much better. “Just because you love flailing through the air and hanging headfirst in swaths of fabric, having a rather jaunty time of it, doesn’t mean that all of you is waving at the audience. Part of you is working to make sure you don’t fall and make a mess all over said audience.” A hint of understanding was peering out from under the icepack that lolled around her shoulder like a snake escaped from its charmer.

“Your body knows how amazing it feels to do what you do. You can call that up whenever you want. But your body also remembers your injuries. Even though you can heal from them, and you are in good enough shape that you do; each time you reinjure something, the memory that is in the cells awakens and grabs the new injury towards itself. It recognizes it and it becomes a new part to this matrix”. My performer now looked at me as if I had become the feared evil creature, the Australian Bunyip, and was going to devour her. 

I couldn’t help but laugh a little…on the inside. I went on to explain that the first part of my job was to stop this from happening by healing the injury on the physical and energetic level so it wouldn’t become a cellular memory. The second was to promote restoration and balance.

And so between the chance to do some deep work with amazing people, and the free show tickets, I fell in love with the art of the circus. And then…..

The 2000 Winter Olympics opening ceremonies were on. I watched them in rapt appreciation with a sentimental eye and a new professional eye toward the production itself. I had begun to work in the field of corporate theatre. We had a client who wanted a top skilled contortionist and circus acrobat for a company party. Index cards with the names of our performers were spread out on my bed in piles according to skills. When the performers exited the arena and the commercials were in full pursuit of my dollars and dreams, I called my first choice contortion artist.

He sounded a little out of breath. Perhaps he was just happy to get a call for a gig. I apologized for the short notice, the date was just a few days away, but we had just gotten the call. He said he couldn’t do it because he would still be at the Olympics.

Shots of glee went right through the phone from both directions. “Wow, did I just see you in the opening?” I did indeed see him. I told him how great it was, how proud I was of him and how oddly impressed I was that he answered his phone while he was still backstage and collecting himself. He said he would call me when he was back in town and tell me all about it.

A few days later I needed a hula hoop artist, and yes, she was at the Olympics too. And she also answered her phone when she knew it was me. Again, the commitment and passion that I was allowed to be privy to by these circus folk will always be a highlight of both my healing and artistic life.

Art, ‘even’ the circus arts, do not stand singular from the rest of our culture. It is part of the fabric of a community and world view. It also crosses, sometimes well and sometimes for ill, into the world of business, law and power. I have lived this. It straddles the world of the mundane and the world of the spirit. It is up to us to stand in integrity under its gaze.

The Great Exodus-Salamanders and Passover Crossings

It was the first night of Passover; the night of the first Seder. It was also the first night of the annual crossing of the salamanders when they go to the vernal pools to mate. In an effort to save these creatures BEEC, a local environmental group, organizes volunteers to protect the salamanders and their attending frogs as they cross the unpaved roads to their local pools. I was one of those organized. A group of us met with rain gear and flashlights in tow. Our task was to slow the oncoming cars so all make the long journey across their muddy desert safely.

It was not overly cold; it never is on Passover, but the light rain offered an edge that made the importance of this night sharp with focus. We were there to help sustain the ecosystem and, as far as I am concerned, a culture; a lifetime that spanned eons of the same behavior with the same expectations each time. The winter had melted away, the lushness of nature was awakening, and the rains had come. The pools appeared from under the ice and snow that created them. It was now time to emerge and continue life while the land is verdant and moist.

The luminous sheen of the salamander’s skin, the darkness vaguely lit by what the sky could offer, the scent of nature’s abundance deepened my breath.  My heart glimpsed the endlessness of time and its fire spark that night. Archetypal images rendered themselves in my mind’s eye.  I was filled with the presence of this ancient event that was whirling around in every sense I had.

Just as I could feel the deep paths of my ancestors’ exodus laden with slavery’s heaviness; I felt the salamanders’ primal urge that propelled them toward their equally long journey across their dirt road. The vastness of each resonated.  

One side of the road had just a few houses each spaced a distance from one another. Their various grasses and plants came to the edge of the road to meet the dirt and small stones that served as pavement. Beyond this lay the vernal pool, the land of milk and honey, or rather water and algae that was their promised land.

The woods from which the salamanders and frogs emerged were on our other side. We kept vigilant eyes on the slope of the road that held the forest at bay, so as not to miss even one. We walked slowly, always with our flashlights pointed toward the ground. What took us just a few seconds to cross, took these beautiful spotted beings many times more. What respect and awe we were all in at the determination and strength we were witnessing. Sometimes our feelings got the best of us and we would gently pick one up, and with reverence, place them in the grass across the way. We stayed for a few hours, adults and children, and ferried our charges.

The sound was all encompassing. While salamanders are silent, almost other worldly; the frogs sang in different tones; some fast and high, others long and low. There were different species each with their own song. I could see my ancestors crossing the Sea of Reeds and almost hear their song. The many trees curved their branches above us forming a dome that looked almost like stained glass as the moon dappled them with its light. The rain was gentle and added its own harmony as it landed on the leaves and grass. The sounds of the earth and the animals were music of the highest kind. 

At last, all the salamanders that were going to cross that night had already done so. Their exodus ended until the next rainy evening. How poignant that on the first night, my Seder was one that had become animated and played itself out right in front of me. 

When the last person left for home and to warmth, I stood on the edge of the road that led to the vernal pool where I had placed so many to forge their way through the grass. The mist of the night and continuing songs of the frogs and rain filled the air.

I breathed in the deepness of the night. The frog’s dulcet tones began to sound like prayers. I stood still and softened my vision. My feet were grounded to the earth but my head moved slowly back in time.

I began, softly at first, to sing Eliyahu’s song. The longer I sang, the more I felt nature and history meld together. This was the embodiment of the Passover story and I felt taken to the center of the energy, the pure essence of this holiday. The connection to history past, the present and the future wrapped itself around me.

This was a true Seder.  This night was about freedom. The freedom to express one’s true nature, the freedom to express one’s true spirit, and the freedom to feel that there is truly a place for each of us. I made my prayers and went home to have a cup of wine with Elijah.

One Sip at a Time

It was a morning for nibbles taken slow and steady. No deep gulps of juice and hearty bites of toast and scrambled eggs that usually accompanied her morning routine were going to happen today-not after last night.

There were lots of lights and action and too much drink, bourbon to be precise. She used to be a scotch girl, but a sentimental run in with some a few years ago had given bourbon a warm place in her heart. The guy at Racine’s liquor store was thrilled that Cerridwen wanted to buy some. Bourbon was his passion and she was a willing student. She left with an array of mini bottles and one full size bottle of his favorite. “All different tones”, he said."Well, I do love music," played Cerridwen. They both smiled and each knew they would be seeing each other again.

She also left with the sneaking suspicion that someone was watching her, on her tail, so to speak. “Hmmm “, Cerridwen Marsh said to no one in particular,”Why do they call it ‘sneaking’ when it really hits you over the head? I guess not much can sneak up on you when you are in a particular line of business,” she said with an inner smile and slight outer sadness in her eyes. Despite herself, she did take her profession seriously and her clients knew it, as did the police. Perhaps this is why she never lacked work.

”Okay, time to get going”, she said after she downed some aspirin and retrieved her keys from the ‘thing’. The thing was a vase given to her by a client. The gesture was made for appreciation of her sleuthing skills, but perhaps a little more for the divorce attorney referral. The 'thing' was loud and awful in texture, color and size. And, she realized, was not about to let her hide it, so she let it live on a shelf in her entrance foyer in all its gaudy glory. That being the case, she figured she might as well put it to some use.

“Oh, crap”, griped Racine as she reassembled the Frito’s display. She felt a bit like the hamster in its wheel at the pet shop next door. Always running but the scenery never seemed to change. The rack got knocked over again, but not by the usual wild kid. A quick clip of someone’s rustling coat and the rack was down while the footprints were still warm. But there were no footprints. Racine kept the place immaculate. She did not want to mess with the department of health.

Racine went back to checking out her bourbon laden customer and would clean up after. She felt like something was going on though, but what? It must be important, because, lots of important things happened in her store. Some she saw, some she just heard about and some she participated in. She liked to think of her place as a cauldron ,of sorts, where she could stir up what needed to happen. “A bit of witch, you are,” someone once said to her. And then she got cold because she remembered that voice. It chilled her like the touch of a trench coat that she knew once. 'He's back', and her chill became part of her bones, just like the season.

The trees held the sun for as long as they could. The air was a net that caught the cold of the night and held it through the shortening days so that no matter how bright the sun was, its warmth could never fully penetrate. Light or dark, there was an iciness to that crept into one’s being and stayed for the long haul of the season. But not for Cerridwen.

Julie, Cerridwen’s trusted assistant, office holder and general mess cleaner-upper on more days than she would  choose, found an envelope taped to the front office door. Whoever put this there must have been in a hurry. It hung at an angle as if slapped on in a frenzy so as not to be seen. Julie cocked her head to read the very haphazard cursive, although she already knew who it was for.

After turning on the lights and doing all the usual morning tasks that an office demands, Julie opened the envelope. Not only was she dismayed by the continuing appallingly bad penmanship, a pet peeve of the organized; but was that grease? Really, was this moron eating junk food and using a pen. Have you ever heard of a napkin! Another pet peeve but this time of the culturally inclined. After reading yet another cryptic, and she was being generous with that word, and ominous, again more generosity, clue that was supposed to point to some penultimate matter, Julie put the whole mess down.

When Cerridwen finally bothered to arrive with one of her better hangovers, Julie cast her annoyed eyes in the general direction of the corner of her desk. Cerridwen was used to this over educated attitude. Actually, she kind of respected it, at least most of the time. She picked it up and said to Julie, “Well, let’s have a read then.”

“It was a long day in winter when the birds flew home and she went to roost. It was a short day in summer when the chickens ran free. It was a middling night when one is free-toed in salty spring.”

“Really?  I am not up for this?”

“Remember what you always say”, Julie gently admonished, “it is the incidental sounds and impressions you want to find. The incidental sounds will sing like a torch song singer with a secret.” repeating her bosses words back to her. “You’ll figure it out, you always do.” Cerridwen walked the note into her office. What was she going to do now?  Put on some Edith Piaf, really loud.

Why when she read it again did a faint scent of something junk foody and salty waft through the air? Why did she instinctively turn her head, just a bit, as if she might see someone standing to her right? “Wait a second”, she thought. Snack food remains, late last night feeling a presence nearby when she stopped at Racine’s for her bourbon binge, and now this tell-tale badly written note. ”Jubilation Malone”. Cerridwen said the name with certainty. Her eyes narrowed, she felt cold and on alert. “He’s back.”

Cerridwen raised herself from her chair with the tremulous resolve that could only be aided by a robust cup of coffee. She was going to crack this case if it is the last thing she did. There is a piece of someone’s soul at stake here. But then again, there always is.

Looking straight ahead, steps stalwart but not pounding the floor too terribly much, she headed to the outer office and for the coffee pot which had been sitting in all its overbearing coffee thickness for the past two days. She no longer offered coffee to clients. Her odd tolerance for coffee that would easily support a stick to stand upright in the middle of the pot was not a popular beverage preference.

Julie, for the most part, had become used to ‘the walk and don’t talk’ moments when her otherwise friendlyish boss was to be treated like a vapor, just a slip of presence…and no phone calls. But sometimes she could not help herself from exclaiming her disgust of this stunning ‘coffee habit of horror’.

On those occasions, Cerridwen would reply, “Blame it on Scott MacConnell,” and without missing a translucent beat, she would shut the door to her office and drink.

A Resolute Spirit

As a nod to one of the words for 2016 posted by Merriam-Webster-‘post-truth’; part of this piece is ‘post-time’. Its initial writing came to an abrupt halt due to, well, you’ll see.

The End of…. 2015

The last day is coming and a wintery air of anticipation abounds. This closing of time is like a book that one has finally, yet often stubbornly, finished.

It flies around you like an insistent bird that won’t stop flapping its wings and banging its beak into that tree outside your window. Walking through hazy morning eyes toward your coffee, your bare foot crunches a slight piece of bark. It has a soft, dulcet tone until it leaves a splinter in your heel. How did this get into my house!

And there is the book waiting on your kitchen table. It is a somewhat annoying book, really. Not consistent, not hilariously funny, but not dreadfully sad. Its protagonist was kind of brave, was kind of well behaved, and was way too attached to good cheese. She was not overly lovable, but not too disliked; just enough to confirm she still had some spice. Room for improvement, for sure, but would not be a total embarrassment if flirted with in a bar.

“So”, said my New Year’s Resolution Fairy, although she looked more a cross between a gargoyle gone soft and a lapsed, yet surprisingly glamorous, burlesque dancer. She adjusted her wings into the cushions on my couch, then threw one leg over the other and proceeded to pump it in steady rhythm. It reminded me of the cat clock I had as a child. The tail moved back and forth like a metronome of time. Only this was no cat and it did not purr. Rather, it brandished questions and comments like an old feathered fan that had been used in some onstage extravaganza.

“tell me what ya got.”

“I don’t know yet. I haven’t thought about it and I didn’t know you were coming today.” Did I really just say that? I felt like a guilty child. I busied myself with straightening up to avoid eye contact. In other words, I moved things from here to there for no reason whatsoever. 

“I can think of a thing or two,” she quipped, eyeing my newest and fanciest cheese board. Those eyes made a slow orbit between my birthday gift to myself and my eyes, which I am sure, resembled the proverbial deer caught in the headlights; not a grown woman who knows how to stand her ground.

“Okay,” I said rising to the occasion. I called on my inner Wonder Woman and planted my feet on the floor, lifted my chin in righteous clarity, and spoke.

“I will not be bullied and shamed. I am a grown up and I can determine my own indulgences.” And with that, I blew a bit of bang out of my eyes. Not the strongest ending, I suppose.

My declaration was met with a stern look of bland amusement. “You got any wine to go with that cheese?” she asked. “I seem to recall we discussed wine last year.”

As usual, she got the last word, and off I went for a bottle of my best red. “Would you like to chase that down with some scotch? I seem to recall we discussed that as well,” I retorted, proud of my quick inspiration. “Touché,” I thought. A bold parry, this was. After all, she was getting something out of the deal.

“Why, yes, I do recall that,” she answered, “but if you think plying me with even more liquor than last year will give me a hangover, don’t bother. You think I look like this because I don’t know how to drink?”

“Okay, look,” I said, taking a seat next to her while defiantly munching on cheese and a slice of zucchini that I often use as a cracker, “I am a foodie. If I ate food the way I talk about it I would not be able to fit through doors and I would be on more medications than you can fit in a pill organizer.”

No response; just a well-appointed foot- she does have good taste in shoes- tapping, ever so slightly, the embellished edge of that new cheese platter.

“This is going to be tougher than I thought…again,” I quietly lamented.

And then….

Yellow!!!!! I woke up yellow!!!!! It was the tip of 2016. I was still rolling with 2015. The Resolution Fairy had barely left. I was still finding her snarky looks peering around the edges of the notebook I was recording her yearly visit in when….I woke up yellow!!!!!

I take care of myself with clean food-even the disputed cheese is infested with nature, not additives-and clean supplements and herbs…oops. Clearly, that herb was not clean enough as it spread havoc within my innards like a stealth bomber until….Have I told you I woke up yellow?

So I spent the year de-yellowing, de-traumatizing and de-lighting my inner resources.

New Year’s Eve and Last Night of Chanukah 2016

Okay, well here we go again. There is still cheese, but I am chasing it down with beet juice in my finest wine glass, of course.

“I’ll show her,” I thought.

Despite the year I have had, I still believe in the aesthetic life. Beauty and necessity can partner and sustain an ideal. Beauty adds to living. It does not diminish moral values or actions. And this year was filled with moral and immoral actions on a grand and global scale.

Now it was my turn to tap my feet. My Resolution Fairy was later than usual. Was she having too good a time outraging someone else?  I decided that when she heard about my very colorful year, we would have something to celebrate. Maybe she would forgo the blasts of eyeball and snorts, and cheer me on for once. I decided to bring out my good port and long unused antique port glasses to mark the occasion. 

While my head was stuck in the china cabinet, which had gotten scarily dusty during my year hiatus, I heard a tenor toned yelp and then I heard a crash. “Oh, this does not bode well,” I said to myself. Perhaps she had as tough a year as I did. I wondered if she ever takes broken resolutions personally, or is her not so veiled disdain the answer to my question. I guess if I were in her position, I might get a little cranky myself.

So I walked into the living room bearing a shiny grin and crystal glasses when I was stopped short in my reverie. My eyes were filled with the most disheveled and frayed creature I ever could have imagined would share space on the celestial pod, or wherever fairies and their like live.

I never could get a clear answer out of my R.F.; who absolutely abhorred when I called her that. The only thing she ever said was not to be too surprised, as she was when she started this gig, with the motley crew that any group of beings can include, emphasis and eye-jab on ‘any’ pointing toward me, as I recall. But I think I also recall just a wee smile from her.

“You’re not my Resolution Fairy,” I said as he unraveled himself from my curtains.

“May I help you?” I continued. “You seemed to be lost.” But my eyes were stuck on permanent open because I didn’t want to lose any part of this sight. 

“I’m not lost at all,” he said. “I’m taking over some of her cases this year’s end eve.”

And then I blinked…a lot. “Cases?  Is that what I am…stop…A mess to be managed…stop… Well, harrumph to you!” I screamed inside my head.

I probably looked like I was practicing Morse Code.

“Overrun we are, with the most recent of hatchling resolutioners. Oh, and by the by, she most dislikes when you call her R.F.”

“Well, if Yoda channeled Shakespeare, it would be you; and yes, I know she does not like it,” I replied while chomping on some much needed cheese, as I was left famished by all that blinking.

“Who are you then? You certainly don’t look like a fairy.”

Not that I had a hold on what all fairies look like, but I presumed they all at least had wings, and this creature was as close to the ground as one could come.  He held onto whatever he could find as if he were in the constant possibility of landing face down on whatever surface was beneath his odd little shoes. Nope, not a fairy.

“I am merely a fraction of a most large spirit beast such that holds time.” He was off and unwinding like a too tightly wound pocket watch.

“How I lament, with every pass of moment, the waste of chance, oh sorry humanity, you had, to make time move toward something of bounteous conflagration of wills and ways. Verily, oh, woe to me, who feels you swat me like a fly.” His flailing arms could hold him no more. His center of gravity lost to his grave words, and with that, he fell over flat.

“Please forgive my outward passion. I have not been ‘on the job’, as you say, since William penned himself to history.”

“Holy crap,” I thought. “You have been retired that long? We must be in bad shape if they pulled you out of the Globe. Here is some mead for you then,” I said leaning down to floor level.

“I know what port is,” he sniped. “Gimme that,” and he grabbed the bottle.

We spent the rest of his time with me, as he did have other ‘cases’ to see, discussing the dawning awareness of the political imperative to action, drinking beet juice and port; well he had the port and almost all of the cheese, laughing and crying and basically charming the hell out of each other.

We agreed that the only resolution anyone needs to make this year is to keep moving forward, if that is already what you do; and for the new resolutioners, to begin to move forward. For those of us in the first group, I also suggest that we add another to our list. We will keep motivating all of us and mentoring the newly awakened ones.

To you all, I offer my new friend’s last words, borrowed from his old friend.

All days are nights to see till I see thee

And nights bright days when dreams do show me thee.’ ( William Shakespeare Sonnet 43)

Mushroom Soup with John

December 5, 1989 I was numb with mourning. I had spent the last month at St. Vincent’s Hospital herding people and doctors in an out of John’s room. I became his door keeper and soul keeper. John had helped many people navigate the pain and fear of having and/or losing others to AIDS. His healing circle was sacred space for us. Now it was time to do the same for him.

While we were not close before his hospitalization, John and I soon became each other’s heart. As his unexpected, yet not reluctant healer and then psychopomp, his world became my world. When the circle asked me to go to the hospital where John had just been taken, the sound of my heels on the sidewalk kept me focused. I listened to them like they were a drum. Each step was a beat that steadied my fear so I could find the courage that John needed me to have for us both. I knew John’s death path would beam its dying light on the many who loved him. The map of the AIDS trail had begun to draw itself, and we were all learning to walk it.

We grasp at ways to comfort those who are beyond being comfortable. We had become veterans of the dying companion brigade. We who were not sick, ever or yet, took the lead in turns. There was always someone who was in hardship and in fear of what was imminent. These were the days when an AIDS death sentence was a given. Caregiving was about ease of transition, restful interlude between medical horrors, and softening the additional trauma many experienced when reaching out to family that often did not want to reach back.

Those days were contained in an intractable intensity. There was no letting up the vigilance this time demanded. We were on constant alert for new diagnosis, new needs and new ways to create emotional and spiritual tools. There was an unspoken commitment to be strong for each other, so when we did need to fall apart, there would be arms to hold on to. Tears were a commodity that we could not often afford because they could easily slip us into the inability to act.

There were times all I could do was stand back and watch nurses frantically try to apply their skills to quell this thing that seemed to have its own agenda. When the nurses were finished, we would change places and I would offer my own abilities. We felt bloated from the tears we all held inside. We were all in this together. We were all suffering.

But then, when the morning came, and I could walk to the lounge to get a coffee, I knew damn well who the patient was. My heart howled at those treacherous nights of holding John and others through their anguish because we were ultimately all so inept. I could only offer myself.

It is a natural inclination for me to cook for people. Food is a way I nurture, and hospital food leaves a lot of space for that. One day I brought John cream of mushroom soup. Although he could barely eat a tablespoon, the aroma was a sense memory for him of happier times. He felt calmed and cared for. I made fresh soup every day, often doing so late at night after coming home from the hospital.

Most days he could not eat any. But having someone do something just for him was a little healing from a cold and distant family. John’s father would not come see him. He wrote a letter that John clutched in his weakening hands. Seeing him press the envelope to his heart was a challenge for me. This image still brings me to tears.

I say Kaddish for John every year. I also hang a unicorn ornament inscribed with his name and death date that I bought from a street vendor outside of the hospital a few days after John died. My heart breaks and fills, at the same time, on the same day, each year.

Maybe because of the present political and social climate; this year I needed to do more for John’s yahrzeit. So many of us are in a state of fear from something over which we may have no control in spite of what we try to do. Our lives, life as we have been living, has got to become something else.

This was AIDS in 1989. We were forced to face a new reality that we were ill prepared for. Our worldview and behavior were being challenged and our lives felt usurped by a virulent darkness. The ground had become a fragile bedrock of shifting fault lines. I believe it is this way again.

So this year I made John’s cream of mushroom soup and thought about his lustrous eyes that smiled when they could, and how he called me his ‘sweetness’ when he saw his soup.



And so I came to where you did your spirit’s work.

We did not speak, but I sat in your circle week after week.

You were mysterious to me.

And I would go home to the skies of late fall

and watch the shadows change from under my

warm sweater and steamy coffee and hazelnut liqueur.

The air smelled sweet-the time was safe.

One day you walked across the room.

You were not alone-you were not alone.

I saw the silent sigil of death that walked behind you.

You were in two worlds at once-and

the air parted to let you through.

And then there was voice on the phone.

“Go to the hospital. He is there.”

I was catapulted fast, so fire burning fast

that I had no choice but to follow its flame.

I saw the cold tiled floor and heard the

relentless clicking and churning of the machines.

I walk into your room and you are asleep.

You are asleep in your frailty, in your anger, in your pain

in a sterile white bed.

You sink into the middle: it surrounds you.

You are a long, thin wavering line

but your presence is strong-even then.

Are you traveling in your sleep-

time across the universe?

No, not yet.

We have work to do, you and I.

I put my hands around you.

I feel your heart and see where you are.

You know I am here.

And I begin to know you-

through my hands, through my heart.

These were the tools I had for you.

I began to know your pain and terror,

but I also learned your beauty and love.

You echoed in my heart in the most endless way.

It is twilight, darkness is coming.

This is not the comforting time of home-

This is not safe.

This twilight is of bold transition.

It moves the day to night with swift strides:

A tidal wave of shadows tumble in against the moon.

Our time was about our deepening connection

that was a step toward completion.

The fact of death, the process of dying shows us our frailty-

but also makes us find our strength.

Your heart lay upon my heart and beckoned me.

Your soul was the object of my vision.

For me your dying was to learn that vision.

For you it was a last lesson of love.

There is a certain rhythm to being.

It is a silent current in the earth: in our souls.

It is subterranean wet

and when we reach it, we can ride its moist power-

Be surrounded by its waving, undulating pulse.

This is where the knowing is.

This is what we listen to deeply.

The language of the earth is time.

The language of the divine is love.

They intersect, they intertwine.

The day you were ready to leave I was in my kitchen.

You stood impatient-you were ready.

On the train the rhythm of the wheels felt like the beating of your heart.

My heart joined yours for one last time.

It grew luminous and multi-colored-the air was thick.

Time was culminating in a cascade of pulsing breaths.

We would ride them together until you could go alone.

I felt your moving to death around me like a wrapping from centuries ago.

It had the smell of time.

It had the feeling of grace.

It had the rumble of thunder.

I came to you.

A tear rolled down your cheek.

We looked toward each other one last time.

I saw you through the light-just a little way,

and touched you one last time.

And then the air became sweet and the time felt safe.

11/12 and Counting


I went to sleep half an hour before the election was called. My sleep was grey and dreamless.


I awoke unable to take my usual deep and nourishing morning breath. The only thing I could manage was a thin inhale that had to maneuver between stone piled upon stone. 

I was in a supreme oxygen-withholding-deep-dread-awareness-of-the-day-before mode. This soon became laced with organ menacing fear. My blood and breath were running their course, but with their backs to one another. This felt like a mirror of what is going on in our country. Those on opposite sides and preference have turned away from each other to lick their wounds or shine their win.

I thought about what will happen to Standing Rock. I thought about how deeply ingrained our country’s misogyny is; how fierce it is in our cultural geology. It is scary squared to think about Trump and Pence having a go at us. I thought about friends who voted for Trump and Pence and their vile views. What might this do to friendships? These were all issues that had been contentious conversations before the election. What would happen now?

We: those who voted for Hillary, those who voted third party and those who did not vote at all, are part of how this happened, as is the campaign and Hillary herself. Did we really believe no matter what happened that we had this election in the bag? Were we just too complacent to call out the behind the scene chicanery of ‘our’ party and the media? What if we protested then and not now?

I know that even if we did all we could, that the political machine is not a cool and witty steampunk contraption. It is a behemoth of gears of unrelenting disregard for those who do not oil it. We may still have had this outcome.


It was a blur of grasping for a normal moment; but normal is reshaping itself. It is throwing off our old expectations and behavior. That normal is chalk on the sidewalk outlining a body waiting for a forensic examination. This will be blown away by January’s snows. Don’t try to catch the glittery dust. There is no romance in those sparkles. My mantra for the day was, “We don’t need the SYFY channel. We are living it.”

Facebook was a flutter with condemnation, allegations and challenges of retribution. Some questioned if they should unfriend their friends who stood on the opposite side. Others tried to educate by posting endless articles and memes meant to show each other the way. Some tried to placate and reach out. Basically, Facebook used some funky mushrooms in its soup recipe post.

People look for comfort and explanation when bad things happen in order to cope. Posts and conversations began to talk about how Trump is our shadow figure and that this is a good thing to have happened so that now we can fix it. One article told me that Trump is really our spiritual teacher and that we can learn all about the darkness from him. Can you guess what my shadow wanted to do when I read that?

While there is some truth to this; to hear this now feels like an easy way to take the sting out of what happened through the guise of being ‘spiritual’(and I am part of that world).But I don’t want to take the sting out. I don’t want to risk losing the urgency to act. We need the sting.

The time will come when this shadow can be our guide to action, but we need to become stronger and unified first, or risk becoming passive because we are overwhelmed with the task. 


In a need for some relief of growing fears I wondered “What would be in my swag bag from this new venue of the Un-United States?” The grips dissolved in my hands when I picked it up. Clearly, I didn’t have a handle on this thing yet.

But then there were the swastikas.  I remembered learning about Nazis as a child, and being afraid to go to the bathroom at night because I would see two Nazis there with guns.

The hatred and bigotry is not only pointed toward Jews, I know this; but because the Nazi Swastika is still the symbol used, as it has become a container for all hatred; I cannot help but feel the time when I was in third grade and had rocks thrown at me for being Jewish.

The darkness of generational pain and loss again stops my breath, but it also sharpens my eyes and makes my feet want to walk hard on the path to join in the fixing.

We cannot become quiet and still after the first spate of protests fade, and our everyday lives call us back. What is ahead is daunting. It is bigger than each of us. It has also happened before. We have to look at history and finally learn from it. I fear that if we do not do this, and do not work together in a committed, compassionate and smartly strategic way, we will become the country of our nightmares.

Friday Night-Shabbat

It is Friday night. The sun has set on the fourth day since the elections. Autumn night Shabbats are my solace. The early darkness of these weeks, that only last till the next solstice, is a precious time to me. It is richly lush with the scent of the shifting earth. There are still some leaves left to swirl in the winds and our gardens are putting themselves to ground to begin their new year of regeneration. 

This is a poignant image of what we need to do right now. We need to look deep into our own interior landscapes and then we need to look toward each other.

I remember lighting candles and singing with the friends with whom I am now at odds. Politics and religion are hard issues to clash over, and this election has brought them both out full force. I am not sure that the- we should just agree to disagree-solution will work this time.

The principled stance, despite the different ideas about what that is, has become a central pillar of discourse. The politic and the moral are deeply interwoven in the Trump/Pence platform. They see their politics growing out of their religious beliefs. Separation of their church and state does not exist in this world view that is rife with twisted and hateful declarations and plans to act on them.

“I long for the day that Roe v. Wade is sent to the ash heap of history,” said Pence. How can we respond to this? Action, not only words, must become the new response. Registering Muslims is the beginning of another holocaust, and not disavowing David Duke is agreeing with him.

I have friends who voted for this ticket because of its economic policies. They say they disagree with the misogyny, racism, xenophobic plans, denial of climate change, LGBTQ rights, voter suppression, etc. They do not see the disparity of this.  Those who are vehemently opposed to Trump/Pence do not see how they can miss it. This is where communications break down, and friendships find themselves in peril.

“When we judge others - we contribute to violence” - Marshall Rosenberg

Friday Night- Shabbat Mantra: “Before you taste anything, recite a blessing.” Rabbi Akiva

Saturday-Shabbat Morning:

It is Saturday, still Shabbat, and five days in and counting. The air is crisp and I feel fried. I have spent some time on Facebook posting and responding to other’s posts. I told myself that I would limit this because I didn’t want to get pulled into the whirlpool of call and response of the frustration, anger and pain. I needed a break and I wanted some solitary time to collect my own thoughts. I can take in just so much before I begin to lose my already off kilter center. And it is Shabbat, so why did I even turn on my computer?

Saturday-Shabbat Late Afternoon:

Words are difficult to reach now. The past days have lodged themselves in my body. As the sky begins to turn toward the evening, the end of Shabbat is coming. I usually feel filled with new energy for the incoming week, but I feel tired and heavy with concern and despair. When the body, mind and emotion are on overwhelm, the spirit steps back to make room for what the soul needs to process. The extra soul that we receive on Shabbat has not been a comfort to me because I can hardly feel it. My heart is wide eyed with pain and turmoil. I fight with myself to find my hope, the belief that we can make it through what is to come, and then, somehow, I feel a fragile smile of resolve.

Saturday night:

Hasn’t come yet. Can I presume I know what to assume? Not anymore.

But I do know that we cannot just crawl back into the cocoon of stillness. We need to fight that inclination and then fight the fight. Inaction is not acceptable.

Cry, if you are inclined, with tears of salt or howl with tears of primal tones. Let those tears roil into a sea of engagement. We need to move into the waves of action and wisdom.

I am afraid that the earth’s hands will let her fingers, that have been so entwined to hold us, dissolve and we will fall into the muddy abyss if we do not.

A Snow Bunny in Summer

As Summer begins to wane, but birds still beckon us outside with their flights of fancy through the sky, as the mountain that my inner snow bunny snow shoed up (well it was more like ‘upish’) winters ago….(you see where this is going?)


It's time for the girl from the city dark with soot to try her hand, or rather her feet, at a summertime sport:


It's time to climb the mountain on foot, sans snowshoes.

So Rabbit donned her hiking boots-(okay, so who am I kidding, I don't own hiking boots. I have a pair of sneakers that might be 10 years old)....whatever. So off Rabbit went to climb that there mountain.

          Snow Bunny Journal-Entry Two-"Hopping with Summer"


Upon awakening that morning, our Rabbit dejour demurred to the pull of summer madness and packed her bag for her foray up Wantastequet Mountain, or Rattlesnake Mountain, so named centuries ago. Rabbit had heard that the only snakes left there are the non-lethal ones, though since they were asleep during the winter she didn't see any of them when last there in the snow.


So into her bag went water, rabbit snacks, journal, pen, cell phone for its music and camera, not to call for assistance; although she did inform some other rabbits of her upcoming foray, earphones and a few sundries.

On her walk through town and across the bridge to the foot of the mountain, Rabbit met some other folk who were out and about enjoying their own summer play. As Rabbit had spent the winter and spring being sick and mostly isolated, a story for another chapter perhaps, she was also enjoying the many sandaled feet whose attendant arms waved ‘hello’ and ‘glad you are looking better.’


The mountain was lush though a little muddy, a little buggy-but let's pretend that is part of the charm! Walking through a forest, the scent of the earth is at its most relaxed. The wind sighed with the stretch of growth. This mountain is a bit steep and rocky, so until one is familiar with the terrain, the ground should always be kept in sight. And not wanting to be a damaged Rabbit that is just what she did. And a good thing because crossing her path was a snake! She looked at it and it looked at her, such as they could. It was quite a pretty thing really. They had a little chat and off they went, hoping that they would meet again.

A while up the path there was a hawk feather sunning itself on a rock. Quite alone without the rest of itself, the feather decided that a ride in an ear clip was as good as it was going to get. Hence, Rabbit gets adorned and the feather gets a better vantage point more suited to its nature. There was a dappling of other hikers along the way. All greeted each other in the most kind of manners.


Rabbit continued on her way. The sun flickered through the trees. The sound of singing water from the various waterfalls, waterfallettes really, quite cute with the sweetest tones that caught the light and sparkled like sprites, made her swoon.

Tromping and chomping along, Rabbit was having a nice look about when not even 15 feet in front of her she came face to snout with a bear. (No, I am NOT making this up!) Rabbit stood still and wondered what Jack Hanna would do. Oh yeah, who cares!

Bear made a slight nod to her as if to say that it was just looking for lunch. Rabbit smiled and introduced herself in as relaxed a manner as she could. “I must google do bears eat rabbits”, she thought. With just a vague smile of response to this, Bear thought better of it and replied with a , “Nice to meet you and have a nice day”, yet her eyes said,” Now go away”, but not in an overly rude way. So Rabbit spun herself around, ever so slowly, and walked back down a ways…very quietly. When she turned back to have a look, the bear was gone. She surmised Bear had headed off the trail down the ravine looking for berries…not bunnies.

Turning back toward her destination, Rabbit continued forth with a little lilt to her hop. She told three other hikers she met about it. They were highly skeptical. She being from the city, perhaps, they proposed that she had not seen a bear at all. It was probably just a big dog that was with 2 other hikers. "Give me a break", she thought.

They actually asked her if she knew what a bear looked like because they had never heard of a bear up here. She told them that she had been informed by a lifetime resident that bears have come back and that her family had one in their backyard and anyway, the bear was carrying a picnic basket, so yes, she knows what a bear looks like. That got the hikers quiet. She’s snow bunny’s fool, this Rabbit.


So off Rabbit went to climb the rest of the way. She reached the top and watched the hawks and geese fly. The sun was beginning its evening decent over the vista of river and endless mountains and the town below.

A little proud and a little surprised that she made it this far, Rabbit took one more look that turned into a battle with her camera’s panoramic setting, checked to make sure her hawk friend was still with her and turned to walk down toward home. She munched on her last bit of snack and thought of bed. A tired and recovering Rabbit had had a good day.


Frost in the Summer


A Simple Reflection on Groundworks’ Un-grounding at 39 Frost Street

Simply put: things happen. Funding does not come through, people have opinions and reactions and organizations have their stance that seems intractable. Parties become adversaries instead of partners. The lessons learned from this can spread a wide net, if we let it, if we tend to it.

When I first read about Groundworks opening the winter shelter on Frost Street, just houses down from where I live, I was excited. I was glad that there would continue be a place for those who need shelter. I was proud and looking forward to being a part of it. When the plan became expanded, I thought even better.

I wanted Groundworks to be able to establish their programs here. I saw a tremendous potential for the neighborhood and the wider community to create a model of health, service and inclusiveness, so that the broken hoop of our culture, that negates and disenfranchises so many, and creates class dichotomy, might begin to heal. A new paradigm was waiting to show itself. It would take immense energy and commitment, but it could happen. 

Soon other voices were heard. We are a neighborhood, a community, and as a member of this clan, I needed to listen because this project was not just about Groundworks; it was also about the people in whose midst it would live.

While there was consternation and trepidation surrounding the project for some neighbors (while I can’t say I didn’t share a few of these feelings, I was always clear I wanted this to work) and those in nearby recovery; I was willing, to become part of the solution with others and Groundworks to mitigate these considerations. I never thought it would be easy. It could make for a frosty summer indeed.

Groundworks holds its mission close. But while a mission is the masthead and vision spearhead; policy is what gives an organization’s mission its bones, and some of those bones were going to need to be adjusted. Whether it would be a large or small adjustment, I suppose, would depend on where you stood.

This was going to be tough. It was going to be harsh at times and compassionate at others. 

Simply put: this is how big issues run and I wanted to run with it. I wanted to believe it would work and that we would come to an agreement that would suit us all. I will miss my own vision and mission to restore and nurture growth and healing that I so wanted to share with Groundworks clients, staff, our neighborhood and wider community. I wanted to be part of creating this.

I believe in Groundworks’ mission. I believe those of us who have, should help those who don’t. Showing gratitude for what you have, and concern for those who do not by offering yourself; be it by direct client interaction, money or behind the scenes help, is true creation of community, heart and justice.

Groundworks’ client demographic is varied and complex.  Yes, there are some clients who have issues that might affect the wider community in negative ways; but so many of the individuals, the families who come for the shelter and other programs are, what is now, way too easily called ‘the working poor.’

They have jobs, they have homes, they have responsibilities that they fulfill brilliantly; but their hard work still does not afford them the ‘luxury’ of being able to buy the food they and their families need. They are stressed beyond their tether to balance, and so need support services as well.

Make no mistake: this could be any of us.

I am concerned for the people who will need shelter for the coming winter and hope a new location is found.

Simply put: Whether Groundworks find a new place or by chance comes back to 39 Frost, I will continue my run and invite you to join me.

Draped in Time

The trees begin to rustle. I change the ringtone on my phone to the Bewitched theme. Their leaves become brilliant with color. I get out the orange, purple and green bat mug. They crackle as they are tossed about by the autumn wind. The outside decorations sway their come hither dance in the October bluster.

The sun leaves earlier than many would like. The warmth has become illusive, although still shows itself in snippets. The last of the summer crops are foraged by hands still lustful for the past season.

But for others, this is the widening of the earth’s soul. It is a time of rising depth and deep inhalations of an expanse of spirit. The winds sing in the key of mysterium mundi. 

This is the short and shifting time of year that walks toward winter quickly. Transitions are powerful. They rearrange and set the stage for what is to come. They demand you go with their will, or you are be left on your own. This transition’s beauty is soul searing. The verdant scent of the leaves and plants as they begin to make their way inward toward the earth fills the air and dances with the smoke of newly awakened woodstoves. I love this rich and moist aroma. It coats my fingers and I feel it seep deep within my spirit. It takes me inside myself, just as it takes itself deep within the ground. It is lush with the changing of the season.

This is also the only time I am drawn to read the French Symbolist poets. How can one resist:

“Towards a sky softened by pure and pale October
That reflects its infinite languor in great formal pools
And deigns, on the stagnant water where the tawny agony…” Sigh by Stéphane Mallarmé  

You get the gist, oui?

This is the turning time, when for a few nights, the veil between the worlds is open. It reveals the other side so we can take a peek behind the curtain. When we hear flapping in the night that swooshes us out of safe sleep; is it a night critter on the forage, or is it this veil fretting for us to look to the beyond?

Okay, so what is Halloween, or for some of us Samhain, all about? Let’s get the easy answers out of the way. It is a commercialized day that puts nothing but pressure on kids and parents, much like Valentine’s Day. It is when nerds, apparently the new cool, get to become their sci-fi alter egos, or as they may say, to be ironic; although I think that is more of hipster stance. It is also when there are way too many ads for insulting costumes for women as sexualized whatevers and anythings.

I must say, as someone who adheres to the spiritual aspect of the day, All Souls Day- which is the reworked takeover of a holy day that was not going to be wrested from the heathen heart- makes me smile a tad. I just had a thought! How about a new restaurant called ‘The Heathen’s Heart’-food for the soul and the stomach.  It would be done up with lots of curtains that open to the various nether regions of the beyond-aka- eatery of mood environs; a sort of Dante’s Inferno, but with candy corn and a bit more fun, and velvet, lots of velvet. But I digress.

This is the spell of measure that offers a vantage point of the past, present and future within a shared point of time. It is a place to reflect and vision and to take honest stock of where you have been, where you are and where you want to go. Invite your ancestors and helping spirits, who may just be waiting by their cauldrons stirring their otherworldly chicken soup, to guide and inspire you. Don’t be shy. Velvet is soft and their hearts are warm.

Muse, reader, on this wind.

Muse, reader, on this time that holds the turning.

It can catch your soul as quickly as it can catch your eye.

And for crying out loud, let yourself eat some goodies.

Trick or Treat


Blessed Be to all.

A Penne for Your Thoughts

Oh great bowl of pasta that shines like a buttery heaven. It glistens with abandon. Little sparks of sunlight cheese roam about the grainy goodness to add some depth. This is the secret; a smattering of micro-planed hard cheese. Oh, the sheer fun of holding the wedge tempered to the room. Having lost its chill, it fits in her hand like it was carved by an angel. The cheese sings in soft timbre against the grater. The dulcet tone of tap, tap, tap. She gently pushes the last bits of tendrils that remain attached to the metal, like a chad, but much more holy. Her fingers, lovingly filled with anticipation, release their grip. The hard cheese floats softly down, deftly finding its place on the awaiting deliciousness.

Their tongues stand in anticipatory glee. They are on the precipice of joy. The scent of steamy sweet of flour, butter and cheese opens their hearts. Oh, the way it makes them feel; like all is well with the world. There is a unifying, cohesive awareness when you realize that many others, those of your cookery tribe, will intone the slurpy goodness as one.  All revel, in the taste gently cascading down their throats like sweet nectar of the gods as it swirls around their mouths. It is like dining with the deities.

Pasta is the flour of fun, the laughter of the soul. So many search deeply to experience this joy. How they shine with fullness as the cheese and butter fills them with inner spirited glow. This is the ultimate concern of roving moment. The immediacy and the everlasting become entwined. They meet and all rest in this cosmic unfoldment of truth and eternal harmony. Their spirits join in the great trinity of their hearts. Their souls are now on the path of completion. They inhale the luxuriant fragrance, like a holy rose, they rumi-nate on life. They are at their highest in themselves and group. How abundant is the world in all things-flour, even those without gluten. How it holds the sauce and nurtures it toward one’s feelings of satiety and sureness of glycemic footstep.

They become one with the breath of time. Oh, that glorious exhalation of the divine. This eatery of the repast they enter is one built of connection, joined commitment and path-work of the higher realms. This is not a place constrained by concrete and engineered plans. This is built this with intention, creativity and intuition.

Pasta flour sets the gastronomic table. But when it is dredged into suffocating form, the welcoming sheen of our dishes dull and tablecloths droop.

What true epicurean could like being boxed in rigid name and use? They tell you what to cook. They tell you how to cook it. They tell you with what you can eat it. They do not let you think. You are not allowed to create. Just follow the directions like it is the sacred writ of cookery: a doctrine of cartonology, if you will.  All are constrained and held back from true sensual delight. Their foodie spirits are squashed.  Enchantment and wonder cannot thrive because of obligation to strict adherence to the scribed words of recipe. They are a restraining package that directs the way to the pot and bowl like a blind horse that is pulled to water.

Angel hair in a box? Talk about a no fly zone.   Alphabet ‘noodles’ spell out “no escape”. What comes up in the spoon from the soupy lagoon is what you get to read. Ravioli is enclosed and has room for nothing else. It hides the truth of what is inside. It takes the unlit leap of faith to apprehend what it holds in its grip. Rotelle wheels turn but are burdened with the heft of the spokes of a doctrine hindered by false sense of savory correctness.

As so many others, those who follow this way, sit in the same chairs around the same table as those before them, and eons before them. Their experience is predetermined, just as will be their futurelings. Oh, how restricting and flat. To use the same methods meal after meal is death to the soul. How can one truly feel the joy of eating when you are bound by the twines of the dogma of nourishment? The toppings, sliced and rasped with graters annealed with the bound generations of hard cheese; that solid and indigestible food made from milk, canon that declares the only way.

So what is left for one to do? Is it best to gather ingredients with wild relish and abandon and to sing the glorious notes of savoring the unbound passion of pasta? Should one taste in pedantic chew after chew the ways that started it all? To adhere to the missives and memorandums of the ancestral gourmands, who perchance knew that flour, with its many possibilities, first has to be ground?

Or perhaps, it is best to remember that life is just a gas.

License to Frill

Welcome folks! Come on in! Don’t trip on the way down to our subterranean Cave of Narrative Notions. Careful now, don’t slip on something you didn’t see. Those can be the most obvious banana peels around. We hope you enjoy your time here.

Straight ahead is Heart Hollow. It has been said that our hearts are our centers. All radiates from this thumping thing that stirs through joy, sadness, awe and well, by anything else that passes its way.  While this ‘center’ concept might be up for debate these days; we choose to remain faithful to the classics, hence the placement. So come on in and smell the coffee or the flowers as they say. Yup, we offer you a richly aromatic rose or a ‘cuppa Joe’ for those who find heartwarming depth in the bean.

By a miracle of destiny and engineering, you can feel the gentle beat of said heart through the gilded and moss cushioned benches. Why not through the ground under your feet, you ask? It was considered, but really, it’s kind of creepy, and for anyone with a hint of a balance issue there would be much tilting and falling. It is hard enough to keep steady with all the pulsing and pulling we have inside of us already; not to mention the extra staff we would require to have about. This is to be a nurturing nook not an obstacle course.  So have a seat, or a lie down on the grass, and let the sway of the gentle wind that seems to always be there just when one needs it, massage your spirit and your figure, a dashing one at that, before we move on.

Gather round and look to your left. We will now enter the Maze of Memories. There is a basket of rose colored glasses at the entrance for those who feel the need, but most people prefer the cup of emotional solace cocoa-shot of bourbon optional- that we offer. This is a still place; a place of dusky, grey velvet sky. Leaves colored by the seasons alight upon your shoulder and soft, bring you a memory.

All the memories you have are here. How, you ask? Some call it magic from another realm and find themselves a little spooked. But for those of you in the ‘know’, you know that what some call magic is a natural capacity of the natural consciousness of everything from our thoughts, to, let’s say, a plant’s inclination to share their qualities of their spirits when we ask. You know…the ability to cast spells. And this is how we have created this maze. Everything in here, the plants, the stones that line the walkways, even the sky above has been worked with in tandem by our ‘designers’ to dip into your inner chasms and show you what you need to see. You do remember the disclaimer you signed, right? What a treat to re-see your favorite old toy or a day in high school that was actually not noxious with angst.

But what a heartache it can be when you see a loss or painful time leaning nonchalant in a corner of the maze. Some of these stay with us and move beside us even though we don’t know it. Your perceptions and reactions are colored by their hidden presence. This pain comes out in ways we often do not see. We invite you to let these memories go, only if you are ready to of course. Just breathe and we will do the rest. So take a last look as your memories slowly float upward and their earth colors meld with the embracing sky. When they can no longer be seen, let the maze show you to our next stop.

We are now at The Arch of Aesthetic Rights, more commonly called by visitors, ’Sometimes you simply must’, or named by one such grammarian who came by, ‘The Arch of Dangling Participles’. Sparkles and spectacles abound here. There is nary a spot that is left unadorned. The place abounds with glittered, collaged and painted leaves that hang by filaments of gold and silver.

What is this in your hand? What is that sticking out of your pocket? It seems that a leaf from the Maze of Memories has gone rogue and taken up residency on your person.  Go on now, look and see what memory you are holding.  Are you surprised or does your center become stilled by its truth?

Sometimes a memory breathes along with you. You are not finished with it and it lets you know. Its shadow turns toward you and you sense its mist in the corner of your eye. Your soul becomes ever so tremulous like a sea about to roil. Even though your mind understands what created that moment in your life, it continuous to be an apparition that hinders your heart. There are times that living entails showing yourself some compassion by shifting, or rather, adding another element to a memory so that its sting and pain can finally find quiet and peace.

Is this a false way of dealing with our lives? Is it dishonest? Maybe this is a self-saving stance of humility, not hubris, to know that in order to put something to rest you must offer it a guise of comfort.

And so like our grammarian, modify with aplomb, with beauty, with decorations of the deep whirling of ribbons. This is your story. You have a license to frill.





A column by

Nanci Bern

Inspired, amused and sometimes befuddled by the creatures we call ourselves, nature, the arts, the spirit and the mind, cosmic or otherwise; the columnist is ever in awe of the spectrum of life.

Whether her fingers are tapping out her latest column on the keyboard, or delivering relief through her healing work, eco-art therapy and social justice work, the columnist goal is to infuse and inspire your spirit with healing, humor and the thoughtfulness of natural inquiry.

Her essays, non-fiction and poems have been featured in various online journals and her poems have also been composed to, danced to and displayed.

Warning: don't be ambushed by her humor - it sneaks up on you in the middle of the night.

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