Tuesday, April 17, 2018

I Will Carry the Rain: a poem for the Counting of the Omer

I will carry the rain
in all its gentle letting down.
I will let it run through me,
so that it waters all my secret places,
and watch each drop
fall from my fingertips,
to wash over the earth,
Mother of us all,
and holy.

I will carry the rain,
and gather her waters,
and walk shoeless
among my mother's bounty,
towards the mountain of fire and ash,
whose voice is thunder,
and heart is mercy
and binding is love,
and holy.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Omer, days 13 through 16, give or take:

I've had better weeks. I've had better days. Of course, the converse is also true: I've had worse weeks, and certainly much worse days. Let's face it - life can get really crappy sometimes. I am grateful to have learned the gloriously annoying lesson of "this, too, shall pass," and I barely even grit my teeth when I say that.

There was a time that I felt as if I had to climb a ladder in order to get to crappy. There was a time I lived in the land of forever for ever bad thought or feeling or day I had. The good stuff was always fleeting; the bad stuff was eternal. I knew it. I'd gather all my crappy baggage and crawl into that crappy neighborhood that lives inside my head, and I'd set up camp near the busted out buildings and tumbleweeded vacant lots, ready for, well, forever.

I knew, more than anything else, that I would feel just as crappy and bad and sad and lonely and less-than tomorrow, and the next day, and the next week and month and - you get the picture. I was a tragic figure, ready for my close up.

So, it's been a crappy week in a year or so of crappy weeks. There've been some good times hidden in these days. Some of them brilliant and filled with light and wonder. There has been joy, and play and gifts unimaginable - not necessarily anything big and grand. Often quiet and unlooked for, like opening a forgotten box wedged into the back of your closet, only to find a press of dried cornflowers and the squidgey marks of a tiny, brightly colored handprint made just for you. Mostly though, there's been a lot of crap strung between those glory days.

And it's ok. I'll take all the crappy days, along with the good ones. I've been around long enough to know that sometimes, those days are one and the same. Take the other day, for instance.

It started off well enough. Oh-dark-thirty is quiet. The cat waits for me to start moving so that she can climb onto my chest and purr for a while. Not a bad way to start a day, even wishing it were closer to six than to three, even wishing she'd lay with her head facing me instead of my feet. Coffee is next. And the poking and prodding with several needles of varying sizes. It gets tot he point where you really can't feel it anymore. One of the tiniest gifts, to be sure. If I wanted to get all spiritually, I could stretch it to a big one - thank you, God, for the grace of better living through chemistry and technology, and access to all the medical miracles that sustain me. Too many people are dying because they don't have it nearly so good as me. Peapod delivery in the barely-lit morning, and the boy is up like a flash, putting the groceries away before I can even wake him and "ask" which we both know is more command than ask, but we like to be polite about it. Hey - this day is kinda looking up, yeah?

Breakfast of cheerios and banana and milk - and really, can there be a more perfect breakfast? No, there cannot. It's my go-to, ever since I was pregnant with The Boy, nineteen-plus-a-smidge years ago. CNN is on in the background - we are so close to some drastic upheaval, I can taste it - even as I worry about the unintended consequences that might flow from all of this turmoil and nastiness and change. Studying at the table, the window open behind me. Mostly spring. It's a great frikkin day.

The boy left, CNN gives way to MSNBC. This textbook is boring as all get out. Time for hummus and chips. Time to take a nose dive on the kitchen floor. The hard, ugly red-Spanish-tiled kitchen floor. For some reason, I mumble "nonononono" as I go down. I've been doing that a lot - falling and mumbling "nononono!" as if my comment will magically stop the falling from happening. It has the exact same effect when the cough starts to attack me, or my legs and feet start to cramp: none at all.

And I thought the carpeted dining room floor was uncomfortable yesterday. Ha!

Well, at least no broken bones this time. Small favors. The day begins to spiral downwards. It can be like that, you know? No matter the lessons I've learned over time, about chance and crappiness and joy and God, I can careen madly down that hill at breakneck speed, in a heartbeat. Forever comes awfully fast in my world. Instead of class, I was looking down the long tunnel of staying home to nurse my fear.

But today, oh today! There was a gift. There was grace. There was love. These were the lessons of the day: stuck in my aloneness, in my fragile body and overwhelmed spirit. It began with a text. Specifically, mine to a classmate, to let her know I wouldn't be in class. Her response was quick.

"Are you ok? Do you need me to come over? Please say yes if at all necessary."

Do I need someone to come over? To do what? Stare at me? Watch me be fragile? Pity me? "Thanks," I texted back. "I'm ok; freaked a bit, but ok." Nothing to see here, folks. Pay no attention to the woman behind the curtain.

The phone rang. "I'm coming over." Then she hung up.

And she came over. She hugged me and talked to me. She asked what I wanted. She asked what I needed. She waited for me to answer every question. I was surprised (not really) that I still have no real vocabulary for this - no true ability to articulate what it is that I want or need. She was gentle and loving and patient. She asked what I wanted for lunch. "I can get it," I said. "What can I get you?"

I refused to let her see my need. This Fixer of Broken Things cannot - will not - be fixed.

"Don't be silly! I came to help you," she said.

Ugh. I hate showing vulnerability. I hate that I need. "I hate being so weak," I mumbled. Like my insistence that a "nonononono" will keep a thing from happening, I cling to the belief that all my various ailments and complaints are subject to my will alone, while I tamp down the fear that all my vulnerability makes me less than and my need will swallow me whole and drag you down with me.

"Oh honey! I didn't come over because you needed anything. I came because I love you,"

And there it was - clean and clear and filled with such exquisite beauty - love. Not because of. Not in spite of. No qualifiers at all. Just love.

There's a lot of crap in my days. My weeks. Months. I carry it with me, as burden and badge of honor both. It is comfortable, a known quantity. It is exhausting, really. But there are these moments, skipping and slipping through all that curious dross of mine that lift me and set me free, that remind me that there is love, unfettered, unbound.

For all the moments, every single one of them, let me say, amen. For the lessons - all of them, but especially for this gift of such breathtaking grace, let me say, thanks.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

The Slow Falling of a Tree

There is an ancient riddle
involving a tree
and a forest
and perhaps a sound.

I wasn't there
so I didn't hear,
but I think
I found the answer
in the clapping of one hand.

What is the riddle, then
of barbed wire
and flames
and a growing silence?

The answer may be found
in numbers etched
into soft flesh;
in acrid smoke
rising to heaven;
and the slow falling
of a tree.

And if the tree were chopped,
If the hand were bound
If the silence grew,
minute by minute by hour by day
by heart and soul
until it covered the land,

Would it matter,
do you think?
I wasn't there
I didn't hear.
Perhaps it never happened
after all.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Omer, day 7

Omer, day 7

As I stare at the mess that is my kitchen, and I contemplate the discipline of cleaning it, I feel the overwhelming abundance of my life, the grand fullness of it.

And there, nestled in the midst of all that fullness, also lives the general chaos of life - of my life in particular - the chaos that is the opposite of control, the essence of crackling, crumbling, overwhelming fragility.

Abundance and fragility. With every breath: love and fear, full and sere, abundant fragility.

Once we were slaves, now we are free, to face liberation and redemption, the wilderness and the known, the leaving behind and the moving towards. Desert, water, life and war.

An intricate dance, abundantly fragile, in precarious, exquisite balance.

Shavua tov to all I love and hold dear xoxo

Friday, April 6, 2018

Memorial: a poem for Yizcor

Lit in a moment
of in-betweens,
neither day nor night,
neither dark nor light,
this flame does not dance.

It casts no shadow
and holds no blessing,
only remembrance.
It rests upon the altar
of my kitchen counter,
scarred from years of bounty
and gentle benediction.
My empty cup
overflows with longing.

This flame burns without heat,
but there is great blessing
and grace in Your name.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Omer, day 4 (and 5, there at the end)

Time is difficult.

It seems as if there is either way too much of it or not nearly enough. Half the time, I feel as if I'm straddling some wildly bucking beast, trying to hold on for dear life, sure that I'm losing the battle.
The other half of the time, there's a huge expanse of forever falling away from me, and every step I take leaves me farther away from its end - trapped by Xeno's paradox, in which I can only reach the halfway point from here to anywhere, never the end.
Of course, there's also the other other half - where I'm paying attention to something else entirely, and time slips by before I notice, and by the time I do, it's too late. I don't exactly know what it's too late for, not always, but I get a nagging itch to chase after it, to capture it back (as if I had passion of it in the first place!).
Time is so difficult, I end up with three halves of it.

Thing is, I spend so much time looking for it, chasing it, trying to bend it into submission, I run the risk of missing the time that is right here. See, I always want it to be the Big Moments (can't you hear the capital letters?), those grand entrance kind of timestimes require horns and huzzahs, perhaps even parades and confetti.

Even that grand expanse thing, that endlessness of forever time thing - it's the twin side of the same coin. Time isn't slow or boring. I make it stretch and grow until it blots out the sun. It's so big and endless, I still miss the stuff at my feet, the time that is right at my fingertips.
I forget the beauty of the right now. I forget the depth of small moments. Oh sure, it's not all profound and exquisitely joyous. Ugh. That would be the fourth half of the difficulty of time. No, the right now is just that - here, unfolding with or without drama (the "with" would be the completely within the moment kind, rather than what I slap on from outside of any particular moment of time, reeking of sweat and desperation).
One of the gifts of counting the omer, of this time of mindful intention, is that I can, once again, right-size my relationship to time. It is neither bucking bronco or infinite expanse. I can stop chasing all the other moments, stop killing time or wasting it.
I can be in this moment, this here, this now.
And with that, day four flows into five of the omer. Welcomed to now.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Gathered Family - a poem for the Omer, day 3

You are the gathered family,
the one found along the way,
not necessarily the one
of bones and blood; met, probably,
before time was measured
in hours, or days,
but merely collected,
like rain in a bucket.

Long past this now,
these hours, this day,
when hearts sigh, and grieve,
and all your gathered family,
we found ones who have loved you
since before time was counted,
we will carry you with us,
a sweet memory of gathering,
of finding along the way,
and blessing.

for my Aunt Donna,
zichronah liv'r'cha

Monday, April 2, 2018

Omer, day 2

Omer, day 2

Breathing is not my strong suit these days. You'd think that after almost 57 years of doing it - most of those years and months and weeks and days, almost every one of those hours and minutes, doing it absolutely unconsciously, just a simple in and out, again and again and again - you'd think I'd be pretty good at it.

You'd think wrong. I'm actually pretty bad at it. There are moments when I'm not quite sure that there will be a next breath, that I will never stop coughing long enough to breathe in again. For the past few months, I've a tendency to cough so hard that I pass out. That's happened while sitting, while standing, a couple of times while driving. Thank God the worst thing that's happened as a result is a broken toe and a couple of metatarsals. Needless to say, Nate has gotten plenty of practice driving, and I've had to learn how to be a passenger.

I'm on a boatload of meds. Mostly, they seem to have had little to no impact on the asthma. They've had a huge impact on my ability to sleep more than 3 or 4 hours, and if you're ever looking for a sure for weight gain method, I have your answer.

This is, of course, the tip of my healthcare nightmare iceberg. Needless to say, I've been down and distracted of late. I've been feeling overwhelmed and just this side of hopeless.

And then, miracle of miracles - a shift. Nothing has changed, not really, but yesterday - a tiny bit of ease. Feeling a tiny bit of hope that, if I won't ever be "cured;" then perhaps I can manage, maybe even be a little ok.

So of course, last night, an asthma attack. A bad one after not having had one in a week or more. At least I didn't pass out. Yay for small favors.

Is that my new bar - at least I didn't pass out? Ugh. I am discouraged and exhausted and yeah, even a little bit anxious. Dammit - I just started driving again, since I haven't passed out in more than a month! Do I have to take away my own driving privileges again?

And there it is. Yes, I'm worried about my health. Who wouldn't be?! Various parts of my body are freaking around their edges, breaking or grumbling under the strain of time. Lucky me.

But. Always a "but."

My biggest concern - at the age of almost 57, all I can do is... wait. Keep doing what my docs suggest. Take my meds, even when I start to maybe feel better. Listen. Ask for help. I get to be a passenger, get to be taken care of, get to not know. 


I hate that. All the control I insist I have, that I cling to, until I have those little half moon marks in my palms from where my fingers have dig into the skin - it's the worst kind of illusion, because the only person I can fool (and not very well at that) is me.

Time to be a passenger. Time to be carried. I suppose there are worse things than that, yeah? I suppose this old control freak can find a bit of grace, even in that.