So, here I am, Hineyni, in Western Ireland at a Carmelite Hermitage, I’ve been here since last July. I have to leave here in thirteen days. I packed up six boxes of books and winter clothes which I mailed over here a year ago. I now am reversing that process and removing myself box by box from this landscape and my cabin.
It’s actually very hard. I cry throughout the day. Between bouts of working hard to de-Nicole-Zone my cabin named “Clare” and all the details I have to manage, I also try and take a walk or just sit still and offer thanks. Of course, it’s raining hard again, off and on right now, so wet walking is the deal. Although at this very moment the sun is shining!
The time before Passover/Pesach is always many weeks of long days and lots of hard work in order for me to be prepared for Pesach. This year is no different. My internal and external clock always aligns with the Jewish calendar. This is not haphazard. I am connected to the flow of the religious festivals and the year and the Sabbaths by choice and also truly on some kind of cellular level. So, cleaning out all the cabinets and drawers and wiping things down is always what I am doing at this time of year. The difference is that I’m packing to move back to Mitzrayim, not away from it. I’m trying not to see it that way though.
Mitzrayim/The Narrow Place/Egypt is the place we left to go wander in the desert for forty years and have all kinds of adventures, including being given the Torah.
I am not enslaved here, I am free here. I’ve been free to laugh, dance with the stars and trees, pray loudly or quietly for hours. I’ve been free to be as big and wild as I am without any barriers. That’s a kind of freedom I’ve never known before and it is very hard to leave this actual place where I’ve had so much delight. It hasn’t only been good. Lots of work and old hurts and territory has been explored and lived here as well. The hard work of my life and my choices follow me wherever I go and that’s okay.
I’m heading back into the world of doing and working and caring for folks, so it’s sort of a reverse crossing for me. But, I am not heading back into bondage, I’m trying very hard to see my return differently. One of the great things about the Torah narratives is that they are never old and dusty. We live them all the time. So, like my ancestors I’m heading out of what has become comfortable and I’m actually not going to arrive at the Promised Land. Moses never does. It’s a journey, it’s a trek across the wilderness. It’s an unknown passage with the goal being not as important as the journey.
I’m heading home but it will be different. My youngest son will be going off to college in August. The house will be occupied by myself and my husband and our two cats. We’ve never had time alone. We fell in love 27 years ago when I was a single mother on welfare and I already had two small children. We’ve raised three birth children together and housed and helped quite a few others over the last 27 years.
Being just the two of us will be uncharted territory. I’m so excited about this part of my return home. The chance to just be with my man, to honor him and love him and have more time with him than we’ve ever known. That’s a taste of the Promised Land and Olam Ha Ba/The World to Come, for me, right here on earth.
But, the getting there is hard, hard going. Disentangling from what has been glorious for me, dealing with all my physical stuff, way too much of it that I sent over here, and the saying goodbye to the people and landscape is painful.
I never even cracked open some of the books I mailed over here, and I acquired new ones and now I have to get them back to California. I am leaving some things behind, gifting folks with certain things, but still I have a lot of stuff to pack up and clean up and get sorted. It’s funny on some level when it doesn’t feel like I’m trapped and in bondage to all my possessions and the things I think I need. Oy vey, I’ve got too much stuff! I’ve loved living more simply and, of course, my version of simple is still pretty fancy.
But, having a small cabin that I, alone, have kept clean and been completely responsible for has been heavenly. Moving myself back into the large stream of humans in my life, walking with them, working with them, sharing meals with them and stories with them, all of the engagement with folks that I am returning to feels complex. I have been looking at how I will navigate my return without it just being a return to the way things were before.
It won’t be any kind of liberation for me if everything just reverts to how it was. I need to carve a different path for myself even as I return to familiar territory. I’m heading out into uncharted territory, once again, even though the place where I’ll land will be familiar. I don’t have a Moses or Miriam to lead me through the desert and no sea parting to help me get across. I will be crossing the Atlantic ocean on a large cargo vessel called the MS Independent Voyager (I’m not kidding).
Even the name of the boat serves as my reminder that the Holy One is always directing my steps, whether I’m walking in Ireland, crossing an ocean on a boat, or weeding in my garden back in California. I have to trust that the miracle of this place will stay with me and that it lives in me at my core. I am practicing this trust and reminding myself of this in between my freak-outs.
So, back to box packing for me. I’ll take a walk on the beach, rain or no, with Brother Thomas, in a few hours because all workers, everywhere and always, need time for a walk on the beach, that’s ALWAYS TRUE!