I’m off to play with the wild things!
In less than two months I will leave Arcata for my great big adventure. my solo sabbatical. I’m headed to the green hills of ancient Tara, to Ireland. I’ll be staying in a hermitage cabin by myself that is part of a community dedicated to solitude, silence and communion with nature and the Divine in contemplation. They allow folks of all faiths or no specific faith to spend time in their hermitage cabins, after determining if the person applying is someone who will work for them and their process, and this wild and wacky crazy Jewish woman, somehow made the grade. The fey folk and I go way back.
So, now I am moving through the hundreds of things that have to get done before I depart for this time away. There will be no phone and no internet in my small stone cottage. I will have a bed, a desk, a wood stove, a small cooking space, a bathroom and electricity to work my computer. I’ll be cooking my own meals with food provided for me from the gardens of the land I’ll be on. I’ll be sitting quietly on moss, swimming in cold rivers or lochs, walking to the beach and exploring the green, misted and very mellow and unpopulated countryside. I’ll be praying and writing and sleeping, resting, studying Torah, meditating, playing with watercolors and sleeping more!
The last many years of my life, over thirty actively parenting children and years before that taking care of other people’s children and all the community work I’ve done, wherever I’ve lived, has taken a toll. I need a lonnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnng break. My tradition encourages us to attend to the Sabbath, every week, every year and every seven cycles of seven. Those of you who have followed my meanderings on these pages and perhaps also on my website/blog www.ohohands.com, know that I am in my Jubilee year. It’s time for me to get away and survive on the fruits of the last fifty years of my living and serving on this planet.
All leave-takings have an aura, a whisper of forever in them…
I am lingering in my hugs with folks. I’m weeping often. Here, at my desk, thinking about being away from my most beloved husband it is hard. As I prepare to go away from my lovely home, incredible and magnificent husband (yes, I’m repeating myself, because I am over the moon about this man, still, after 26 years) my children, community, and family, I am feeling the pain of loss. One never knows what will transpire when one goes on a sojourn away from family, community and friends. Who I am is always unfolding and changing, as it should be for all of us. I am not running away from all those I love with glee, I am clearly and consciously taking my leave of them for a time. It’s not easy or simple.
In March, in the pouring rain off of Lanphere road, as we all shivered and cried along with the sky, I led a memorial service for a local man who died suddenly in the arms of his beloved. He was in good health, had just started a new business and gotten a clean bill of health from his doctors. His children, friends, former partners and wives all were in a state of devastation and shock. There is no way to prepare for someone’s leaving in this kind of way.
As a friend of mine, who is a cardiologist, said to me upon hearing this story: “Sometimes the first sign of a problem is called sudden death.” Sudden death, is not something we get to come back from. I’m not planning on a “sudden death,” none of us are, but it can and does happen at the drop of a hat, at any moment.
In Pirkei Avot (Sayings/Teachings of the Elders) a book that compiles the wisdom of the elders of the Great Assembly, which contains sayings attributed to sages from (200 BCE) to shortly after (200 CE), it says: “Repent one day before you die.” This is a flawed English translation of very complex Hebrew. Teshuvah, which I’ve written about extensively in the past, doesn’t translate exactly as repent or repentance. Returning or reconnecting, or mending are more accurate and enriched meanings
Repentance, in and of itself, is a word with very strong connotations. I’m not opposed to the idea of repentance because it has much more meaning in Hebrew and it is an amalgam of the ideas mentioned already. Most folks in the groovy-new-age-be-mellow universe of non-adherence to responsibility or to strong ethical guidelines take issue with this idea. I’m not in that category. I believe in making amends and wrestling with wrong-doing and working hard to fix what I’ve broken or trying to get clear with someone I’ve hurt. So, I don’t mind the word repentance, but it triggers lots of people who are not religiously inclined and makes them reject, out of hand, a very important teaching.
How do any of us know which day is the day before we die?
Therefore, every day is the day to return to the path of goodness, wholeness, engagement with the Divine. Every day is the day to mend what we’ve broken, what we have destroyed or harmed. Every day is the day to reconnect with those we are fighting with or are distanced from. Every day is the day to say “I love you, you are precious to me.” There is no guarantee of tomorrow, there is only this moment and these hours and this opportunity for healing, connection, engagement and growth.
When we live our lives this way, we find grace and more importantly we create it.
As I say my farewells, I am endeavoring to be gracious and careful. But unfortunately I’ve messed up and been less than kind with friends, or not been as present or clear as I should have. Part of me is already gone. The Pirkei Avot teachings are the pillars in my life that make all the difference. They encourage me every day to be kind, clear and honest. So, even if I am erring, I am also continuously self-evaluating and working diligently to make things better.
Some troubles and issues are way too big or complex to fix or mend in one day.
I’ve been working on hard territory with people I love very much for long years. Teshuvah is a process, and even this longer-term kind of Teshuvah process will now have to move to another level, one that lives in my heart. All my work will be taking place beyond the mists, in a liminal, shrouded internal other place.
Part of my going away is about actively being free to engage with a completely different way of being, one that isn’t always tangible. I engage in prayer and practice every day for all those I love. It is my always practice to surround folks with light or see them laughing in joy or cuddling with a wished for companion, or resting in the wings of the healing angel Raphael. This will still be going on when I am away, but in a wholly deeper way.
Will those I love and who love me hear my prayers or know that they are being loved and cared for, even when they do not HEAR from me via email, letter, phone, or in person? If I’m not sending a care package, making soup for you or calling you to check in on you, does it mean I am no longer loving you? Of course not!
Being off the grid is something that I long for at this point. I’m crossing the ocean, and communication in physical form, will be on hold. Interactions that are coming from other realms will be ongoing and continuous for and from me. Will you hear me, when I say “I love you?” Will you feel the light, the healing and the hope curling around you? I hope so with all of my heart.
No longer engaged in giving birth or caring for children, no longer having the physical stamina to offer continuously as I have, what and how should I give to this planet, to those I love, to those in need. What is my offering as I go “over the hill?” Am I going to teach, pursue a Master’s degree in Religious Studies, or Judaism? Should I pursue becoming a rabbi? Should I open my own office of healing arts and “how to” lessons about connecting with the Divine within or “how to love” lessons? Am I supposed to write multiple books or continue to just do things as I have in the past with some modifications based on my physical reality? What really is the best way for me to serve going into the future?
I am dedicated, bound, completely and for all eternity to serving.
This is cellular for me and soul-deep. There is no reality I can imagine or want to be in where I won’t be endeavoring to find a way to serve. The question, as I age, is how to do that best? This is something I don’t have an answer for yet—and it is the ultimate reason I am venturing away from my life as it has been.
I am committed to having NO AGENDA or PLAN for my time away. I’m so done with both of those things, no “to do” lists and no forcing of myself into a space or time based on someone else’s needs. I am actively taking this brief moment of time between child-rearing and caring for elders in the coming years.
This time away is not just for me, even though it is a solitary time. This is hard for some folks to understand. My time away is about rest, yes and time away from doing, but it is also about finding out how the Holy One wants me to serve for the rest of my time on this earth.
I hope to find some of these answers in the moss, from the cool breezes, from my dreams in the ancient stone built cottage where I will be alone with just myself and the Divine. The body of my prayers in Hebrew and English and my tears, all my tears, these will be the Mishkan (sacred dwelling place created in the wilderness while the Jewish people ventured from Mitzrayim to the Holy Land). I will be creating and dwelling in this Mishkan built of my prayers, my years of working to make this happen, my kavannah (intention) and my desire. This Mishkan will also inform my process, being alone with just the Creator and the beauty of the creation around me will water the orchard in my soul. The hearth flames, the birds singing, the rolling green hills, the sound of the sea not too far off, these will be my companions and guides. I will wrap myself in my blue prayer shawl and call out to Ha-Shem and beg with all of my being for healing for this planet, for all those I love and know and for all those suffering on this spinning orb. May you feel the love for you that is in every dew drop, ray of sun, mossy knoll, and all of creation offering itself to you in every moment.
Byline is below from where this piece was originally published in the local paper where Nicole currently lives; The Mad River Union in two parts, on April 29, 2015 and May 6, 2015
~~~~~~~~~~~~~Nicole writes her last column, for a time, from her Bayside desk. She will continue to write and may post updates on her blog www.ohohands.com. No matter where she is physically located, she sends Love, Prayers for a Refuah Shelemah (a complete healing) and lots of wishes for Shalom/Salaam/Peace your way.