A New Moon

It is a Friday night and I am driving home. It is not early and it is not late. Although it is not a long drive I am enjoying the night, jazz on the radio. What I see is people in a terrific rush, passing me at high speeds – well above the speed limit.

Am I just enjoying the drive or am I getting old? We identify slow drivers as old or drunk. I am not driving particularly slowly, just not racing. It is a beautiful night, a night to be enjoyed. A night to roll the windows down and feel the wind on your face. I have always done this, since the time I started driving. Now it makes me feel young and beautiful.

All these people in a terrible rush. Are they getting home from work? Are they headed for a party, a date? What catastrophe will befall them if they don’t hurry? The older I get the less I understand that rush – unless I am late for an appointment of course. There are moments to be savored in this life and driving on a beautiful new moon night is one of them for me.

Stop and smell the roses, isn’t that what we have heard? So this is my version. Watching all those people missing the moment; perhaps they are headed for their own special moments and can’t wait to get there. Maybe what they don’t understand is that the moment, the experience, will still be there when they are – it will still be a moment. But the journey is it’s own special moment. Every moment is the now. If you are rushing toward another moment, you will always miss the one you are in.

So for me, it was a beautiful new moon Friday night, the windows down, the wind in my face, soft jazz playing and the now is always a wonderful thing.

Parking Lot

Things I see – woman by the side of her car in a grocery parking lot. Sitting in the motorized cart. 24 pack of Budweiser in the cart’s basket, one light. An open bottle in her hand at 10:30 a.m. Couldn’t wait to get into the car, or maybe smart enough not to drive with the open bottle. Couldn’t wait to get home, the need burning her up.

This and other detritus of our American life is the palette of the grocery store parking lot. Panhandlers. Birds picking at the trash we are too impatient to bring to the can. Surgical masks ripped off of reluctantly worn faces and dropped for someone else’s infection. Bottles, cans, plastic bags despite the recycling bins by the store’s door.

This and other detritus of our American life is the palette of the grocery store parking lot. Panhandlers. Birds picking at the trash we are too impatient to bring to the can. Surgical masks ripped off of reluctantly worn faces and… Click To Tweet

We are an impatient people. Circling the parking lot endlessly for a spot closer to the door, God forbid we should walk a bit farther. Leaving our carts willy nilly because we are too lazy to walk to the cart corral. Leaving our trash because we can’t be bothered to bring it to a trash can; laziness or impatience, or both. Maybe for fitness sake we should make all parking spaces farther away from the store, and for the environment’s sake we should put trash cans everywhere because it doesn’t seem likely that retraining will be successful, or even happen, any time soon.

The only energy I see in the parking lot is the creative panhandlers and their dramatic tales of woe. Somehow they all sound the same – stranded families, broken down cars. When I offer them the location and names of organizations that can help magically they drift away to accost someone else.

The parking lot is a culture of it’s own. Do you put on your blinker to indicate that you are waiting for the spot? Does that even work? Mostly not. So we can add rudeness to the parking lot cultural characteristics. People walk behind moving cars, assuming that they are safe, that the driver knows they are there, not always a safe assumption. But that walk is always made with confidence, dare I say arrogance.

If the parking lot is a micro of our culture as a whole, on this day I am sad. It shows us to be addicted, sloppy, impatient, lazy, rude and arrogant. I dearly hope that is not what the world is really coming to. Hopefully parking lot culture is just the parking lot.

I AM

“Let us dress ourselves in the garments of G_d – compassion for the needy, embrace of the stranger – and then spread the canopy of peace over all the world.” (From the Reform prayerbook Mishkan T’filah.)

"Let us dress ourselves in the garments of G_d – compassion for the needy, embrace of the stranger – and then spread the canopy of peace over all the world." Click To Tweet

I am a Jew. I came to it a bit later in life, accepting the heritage of my father’s family. Some would consider me not a Jew, a fault of my maternal heritage. But I am a Jew. And now we are approaching Yom Hashoah, the remembrance of the Holocaust – what so many would prefer to erase from memory and history.

Anti-semitism is rising, not just here but around the world, not that it ever went away. But in a thread on Facebook I was following that was begun on the topic of racism, I read something that I had to read more than once. The writer said he was a Jew but had never been touched or “flinched from” anti-semitism. He went on to say that perhaps progressive Jews were more sensitive to such bigotry.

This last statement is so loaded with problems it is hard to know where to start. To begin, I have no idea what he meant by progressive Jews. Contextually the implication was that somehow the liberal snowflake Jews would take more offense, bringing us into the more overtly political. And then to infer that it is just a sensitivity of uber political correctness to be offended by anti-semitism. Finally to imply that more sensible (less liberal politically) Jews would not be bothered by bigotry. Fallacious notions all.

When my son was young and we lived in sub-urban New Mexico, he experienced a great deal of prejudice. I concede that it was primarily born of ignorance not of hate, but it was painful nonetheless. And those who acted on their prejudices could not have cared less what branch of Judaism we practiced, or what our political beliefs were. We were Jews, we were alien.

And then there are the social media threads that argue over whether Jews can be real Americans if they are Democrats, or whether Democrats can be supporters of Israel is despicable. I am a liberal Democrat, although I try to be a thinking independent as needed. I am a reasonably religious and observant Jew. I am a supporter of Israel although not in every action that they take. I have always been hopeful for a peace that seems farther from our grasp than ever. I am deeply offended by the notion that any of these things are mutually exclusive and that our divisive and combative national dialogue has now made my religion an issue of patriotism. I love what this country should be, and I am a constitutional nerd. I also believe in the values embodied in the quote I started with. But my religion is not, or should not be, a political issue. My politics are grounded in the values my religion teaches; a very different matter.

Where I live now it is astounding how many people do not know what a Star of David represents. Most have no idea what Judaism is, what our beliefs or values are; despite the fact that they embrace the old testament as part of their own various faiths. To many we are still money grubbing baby killers. People always seem surprised to learn that I am Jewish, as if a pleasant 60 something woman should be somehow other than.

“Judaism is a doing which can be grasped only by the heart.” Julius Lester

Find Your Joy

Find your joy they tell me. But where are the instructions? Is it outside, inside? External, internal? Both? I am literal and need a road map. But I have referents.

Looking into the face of my child, both as a baby and a grown man, that is joy. But sometimes when I look at the grown man I also see the pain of that growing and my heart hurts even with the joy I feel. There is nothing that compares to how happy I am to be a mother to a remarkable man, that is a joy I will take to the end of my life – it is always there.

Cooking for people I love and knowing that they love me back, that is joy. Even with cut fingers and oven rack burns, their enjoyment of my food is joy, no matter the pain.

Reading something beautifully written that evokes emotion, that is joy despite my slight feeling of envy around the talent that created it. Once in a while writing something that I think is beautiful and resonant makes me very happy.

Looking up at the moon and stars on a very clear and beautiful night and thinking love and dreams are still possible. That is joy, despite the fact that I am alone and sometimes it is painful.

Wandering through a museum in an exhibit that is new to you, seeing what others have created and how they were inspired. That is it’s own kind of joy. Going back to a familiar museum and artists that you know and love, that is a comfortable kind of joy.

The sacred act of making music. Now that is a pure joy. How do you describe the feeling of blending your voice with other voices to make a cohesive whole, a round and beautiful sound. How to communicate the joyfulness of losing yourself in beating a drum, a tambourine or a woodblock. A simple morning walk is made joyful with music in your ears, the unexpected shuffling of songs. Making music is the act of creation; and joy. And what is odd is that it is fleeting. Unlike other art forms it is not concrete (yes it can be recorded), you sing and it is gone. You hear it, it resonates, and it is over. That is the only pain – it is over.

Sometimes a clear blue sky, a sun shiny day, puffy clouds, blooming flowers and gratitude to be alive. That is joy although it often does not endure. But it comes again another day with any luck and an open heart.

Isn’t that what joy is like?  Both internal and external. You create it, you feel it, it resonates and then it is gone. Until the next time.

Ghost Year

2021

 

 

 

 

 

Oh my, just like that it is 2022. I find that hard to accept. Although I have done a bit more social, a bit more live things, it has fundamentally been almost two years. Two years of masking, of distancing, of staying home, of busy work and isolation. Two years of cooking for myself with the occasional pickup or delivery to break the monotony. Two years of home repairs and reorganization. Two years of loneliness and zooming.

It feels like 2021 was a ghost year. A year that didn’t really happen. Except I feel my age at least a year more, I see my body changing. I feel myself falling into ruts and routines because there is little to break them. Some are healthy, some very much not so. I feel old because the things I used to do that felt young aren’t happening all that much. The apathy of isolation makes motivation toward self-care an often fleeting thing. Perhaps saying so will help.

I am hoping that this new year will allow me to release those things I have been struggling with and to be open to whatever my new reality is. I know that I have no emotional or real time for resentment, envy, negativity, self-pity. But they seem to keep creeping back.

So what is the path to releasing those things that no longer serve me? Letting go of dreams that will never come true and allowing new ones to take their place. What is the way to allow love and happiness to be the guiding principle of my life? I think just keep talking to the people that understand, letting people love me despite myself and accepting that my life is so much better than it could have been or be. Keep writing, keep making music, keep cooking, keep reading.

I am resolved that I will not have another ghost year. I will make memories. With any luck, some dreams will come true. I will love the people in my life. With a little luck, maybe I will travel again. I will try to face every day with gratitude and a little bit of resolve to do better than the day before.

Here’s to 2022.