Tag Archives: Hi Ney Ni

Having Arrived…

Shabbat Flowers.
Shabbat table and flowers on Paul Barchilon’s  coaster in the home of my father.

It has taken me a few weeks to actually get here. Here being Denver, Colorado in the condominium of my father and his wife Judy, may her memory be for a blessing. I was grieving leaving my life and my husband, my garden, the Redwood tree who is my friend off my deck, my bed, my community and so many other parts of where I live.

But now, Here I am, Hee Nay Nee, הנני

I am fully here and arrived in Denver. Even though I moved here in mid-December, it has taken me a little while to actually get and BE here. I was going through the motions; getting the meals cooked, the laundry done and attending to my father’s needs just barely. I say just barely because my heart wasn’t in it. I’ve been preparing for this time, for years, literally over 15 or more. I’ve known that there would be a brief moment between raising children and my needing to help care for my father, my mother, my beau-père and my mother- in-love. That time has arrived and regardless of preparing for it, the actual transition to it, has been, like all transitions, not so easy.

I felt so bad, not being happy to be here, not being happy to serve. In my piece S.O.S (Surrendered Open Serving)  I wrote about serving the Holy One with Joy. This work is serving the Holy One, while it is also serving my father, my family and myself. Doing it with joy, is the part that I wasn’t able to just swing into. I needed to grieve not being with my husband. He is more than my mate in this life. He’s my life-line and being physically near him and with him nourishes my soul and my cells in ways that are central to who I am and how I do all that I do. He’s the silent, behind the scenes, invisible partner in everything I do.

So, the adjustment has taken a little bit of time. Now, when I take my Shabbat break from my father for the two days I have off, I start to miss him and feel pulled back to him. He and I have formed a new bond, similar to the one that we formed when our roles were reversed and I was the infant with huge physical needs unable to meet them by myself. It’s such an interesting pendulum swing and one that so many folks are fearful of.

I am not afraid of being needy or not in control. I am prepared for it and expect it. I also don’t think it’s so terrible to lose control. Part of why I am less reticent than others has to do with my fundamental Emunah/Trust in the Holy One and in the goodness of folks in my life and in the world in general. I also have less fear than most people about what is on the other side. And I believe it’s our calling, all of us, in smaller and larger ways to care for one another on this planet and also for the planet. Some folks will be care-givers of the earth, or a water-shed or a species of frog. Some folks will stand guard over a forest or a flower or a polar bear. Some of us will care for wounded soldiers or special needs children or adults. Some of us will cultivate awareness in art and music and bring comfort or a wake-up call to others. Whatever ways we find to listen and honor the voice of caring in our lives, it is real and present and of value.

As I spend this truly precious time with my father, he is weak, not-well, tired, sad, frustrated about his bodily functions and process and also very much mentally present. He wants to share stories and talk about hard things in his life. He asked me to record him recounting the few days leading up to and the day of my sister Paula’s death. She died at the age of 21 months old, over 54 years ago now. He wanted to share this video with my mother. The two of them have now talked about this time. This is something they never had done and it has been painful, intense and beautiful all at the same time.

To me, it is a huge tikkun/healing. It’s also been that for my parents. It’s never too late to have healing in a relationship or in a fraught situation. My mother and my father, despite all the territory in their past, have found their way back to a very tender place with each other. A place (my sister’s death) that they are closest to and can share feelings that no one else can. Across the 48 years since they’ve been together, this time and this desire on my father’s part and my mother’s willingness to listen and attend to all of this with caring and compassion has created a bridge. That bridge serves everyone in my family and most especially me.

My sister Paula’s death has colored every facet of my life. She’s been very present for me recently. I’ve been feeling her suffering and confusion at being alone, or what I perceive as those feelings, as my father and mother re-live the specific details of her tragic death. Today, I will go to her grave and sing her some songs. Her grave is a very unique and special one that many folks recognize who live here in Boulder. I will honor her, as I have my whole life, by trying to live my life with more gusto and more aliveness, with a double dose of the blending of my mother and father and all that this shared combination of heritage and story means as it flows through my veins and muscles and heart.

 

 

The front and back views of my sister Paula’s grave marker, which was commissioned by my parents and made by DeWain Valentine. The rocks are traditional Jewish offerings that I bring when I visit to commemorate my presence and as place-holders for my memory being as long as a stone’s for her.

The other night at Shabbat in the basement of Rabbi Marc Soloway of Bonai Shalom, we said the Mourner’s Kaddish for a thirteen year old boy who died last week. Children dying is terrible and not how we want our lives or the lives of those we cherish to unfold. Death is just not something we can ever overcome or get away from. It’s not fair, it’s not easy, it’s not fine or pretty or simple. We do all kinds of things to try to wrap it up that way, but the reality of it is anything but wrapped up neat. In the Jewish tradition, we have space, communal space, at every prayer service, for all those grieving to be supported, to name their beloveds and their pain.

This naming doesn’t fix the wound, but it gives us a container, a shared vessel for our hurt to be in, and it helps us feel less alone in our most tender and broken times.

It takes all my resources to show up for this dying time with my father and with others as well. I have very little energy for conversations or interactions with folks, because all of me has to be present now for these precious moments with my father, my brother, my mother and my family. It takes all of me to hold the space as we walk on the bridge between this life of my father’s here and now and the destination he is moving towards. It takes all of me to stay present for the feelings I have about when he will no longer be in a body here with us to tell stories to, or enjoy an artichoke with, or laugh at something silly or remark on something so intelligently that I feel like a total idiot in comparison. My father’s intellectual capacity far out-shines most folks I’ve met. He is still so sharp in his observations and thoughts. I’ll miss that, I’ll miss it a lot.

Nicole.Dad.1.10.18.2
Papa et moi.

So now the river of tears flows, as it can only flow when I have some space and time to be by myself and not be having to attend to his needs or anyone else’s. I’m very grateful for my time off, even though I’m acutely aware that every minute I’m away is one less minute I will have with him………forever.

Being present for what is going on in my life is one of the ways I honor the Holy One and my family and the planet. I cannot know when my life will be taken. I cannot know when my father will leave or my husband or a beloved friend or my children. I pray I won’t have to navigate losing a child, as my parents have, and as so many mothers and fathers in history have had to, but I cannot know.

So, every day I hold my family in my heart, in my prayers and I endeavor to honor them. I do this with my friends and my community as well. Mostly right now though, I’m just right here, tending to my father as he falls further from this realm. I hope to help ease his landing on the other side as best I can. I’m not alone in that. My brother and my children have shown up in various ways, as have some of my father’s nieces, nephews and friends to remind him of how precious he is and how much he is appreciated and loved.

What more can any of us do for those we love?

Papa Painting
“Dad wanted to help! He is 94, and doing hospice at home. My sister and I are taking care of him. He has seen me painting tiles non-stop for my big commission, and today he asked if he could help. Took me a little extra time to clean his work, but he was just barely able to do it. He made three tiles. I told him you never know, someone could dig up his tile in 10,000 years. He liked that!” Paul Barchilon

Enlightening, Enervating, Excruciating, Enraptured and Examined Elul on the Isle of Eire

2015-09-08 13.01.05 HDR
The View from where I sit and pray and meditate, just a two-minute meander down the bank of brambles I cleared.

I ordered a shofar from “the Tallit Man,” an operation out of Florida. Along with the shofar, the owner made a YouTube for me, with my shofar, showing me how it sounds and that it sounds. A shofar is made from a ram’s horn.

“All horns may be used, except those of cows and oxen, because their horn is called keren and not shofar. And also the horn of the cow and the ox is not acceptable because the accuser must not be made to serve the defender, that it may not be said: Yesterday they made the golden calf, and today they come to appease their Maker with the horn made from it.” ~S. Y. Agnon (from page 246 of Mahzor Hadesh Yameinu ~Renew Our Days~A Prayer-Cycle for Days of Awe~ Edited and translated by Rabbi Ronald Aigen

Jewish folks blow the shofar during the month of Elul, in the mornings, except on Shabbat. We blow it also to usher in our New Year called Rosh Hashanah and to mark the end of Yom Kippur. We blow it whenever we want to pierce the protections around our hearts and also the layers of klippot (hard shells created by our wrongdoings) that obscure our pure and radiant souls. It is not an easy sound, it is not an easy thing to make a sound with.

from: https://rabbisremembering.files.wordpress.com/2011/08/elul.jpg
Hebrew image of the word Elul taken from: https://rabbisremembering.files.wordpress.com/2011/08/elul.jpg

I think, other than ancient shepherds, the sounds I’ve been making in the hills of Eire with my ram’s horn are pretty unique. Although the cows across the stream in the next field and I seem to be communing as a result. Also, the crows don’t seem to mind the sound. The sound is supposed to remind us of the Akedah, (the story of Abraham and his sacrifice/binding of Isaac). At the very last second, an angel points out the ram in the bushes and the ram becomes the sacrifice, not Isaac. But Isaac was the sacrifice and this story is a haunting and intense one. There are many, many interpretations of it, perhaps another time, I’ll give you some of them.

I need to get back now, here and now, to “my Elul” in Eire. So, the loud, Jewish, Alpha female is living at a silent Catholic Carmelite Hermitage/monastery, no, this is not the beginning of a joke, but it could be. Here are some of the practices, sayings, rules here: No Fuss, Silence from 7pm-9am, every day (exception of prayers said in mornings and evenings), Silence Mondays-Tuesdays (complete day), Silence for a full week once a month, oh yes, silence in general, unless you really have to ask a question, but even then it’s preferred if you write a note. Oh and let’s not forget the basic vows of Catholic religious folks: Obedience, Chastity and Poverty.

Those of you who actually know me, are going to be laughing  hard right now. I am the opposite of “No Fuss.” Obedience and I have never been cozy, Chastity and I aren’t and never have been related and while I’ve lived in poverty in my single-mother years, it was never something I wanted to be doing. Simplicity and I are also like oil and water. If I can make something spicier, more involved, more complicated, then I usually do. Visually my home, body and any spaces I live in, are fully colored, adorned and they are also full of imagery and visual patterns. I am also the opposite of moderated, quiet, and sparse.

When I got to my simple cabin named “Clare” for the companion of St. Francis of Assisi, I opened a card from one of my dear friends. She had instructed me not to open it ” ‘til you get to your cabin in Ireland.” So, I opened it to one of her original art pieces with Hebrew teachings. It said: “I am dust and ashes” in Hebrew and English. I broke into tears, and am doing so now. This person knows me very well and is my “spiritual buddy,” I’ve given her permission to always say the hard things to me and to help me grow and she does. Five minute pause to sob here….that’s what I just did.

Elul is about self-examination. I timed my arrival here so that I would be here in time to have the full month of Elul in this space where all I get to do, if I choose to, is self-examine and correct. So, here where it is actually more perfect than I could ever have imagined, with robins, swallows, crows and the wind as my companions, I am and have been looking deeply at myself.

I do this every Elul, but this Elul is different because I am alone. Except, I feel anything but alone. The presence of the Divine is with me all the time and the Holy One is more accessible to me here, because there is no NOISE and no DOUBT and no INTERRUPTIONS to my connecting. The only sounds I hear from my cabin, are the stream outside my window, the crows, the cows, and the wind or rain. I can avoid seeing all people by choosing what hours I go to the main house to get my food or do my laundry, or I can choose to see folks but go on a day of silence so no conversations will ensue. Or, I can choose to join the people here in prayer and silent meditation on the days when that is happening.

I didn’t think I would set foot in their chapel. I mean no offense to my Christian friends, but hanging out with a cross on a wall while I am praying, has never been something easy for me. I used to have violent images come up for me with crosses and pyres of Jews combined, the crosses pushing the Jews into the flames. That is not the case for me here. First of all, it’s a beautiful space where the hermitage folks pray, very simple wooden small space, “no fuss,” and thankfully those images, from my people’s historic past, are no longer haunting me.

The most luminous part of being in this place and worshiping with these folks, is that everyone here is in love with Ha-Shem. The deep delight and beauty of that is extraordinary for me. It’s a feast for me to be around people who are in a relationship with Holiness that is not a chimera or philosophy. These folks have been living a religiously engaged life for their entire lives. They are not neophytes at worship, at communion, at listening to the voice in the silence. They are deep practitioners and to be in their presence is to be in the presence of Peace and Holiness. (Don’t worry, I’m not planning to become a Carmelite Nun).

I know this feeling of complete connection. I’ve had it whenever and wherever I go that people are not in question about the presence of the Divine in their world. I have experienced it with my Moslem friends, with my Jewish friends, with my Buddhist friends, with my Wiccan friends and my Native American Friends, with my Hindu friends. I experience it wherever folks are connecting from a place of love to the Divine, however they define that. I do not want to cause any distress to anyone who does not have this feeling. I am just trying to explain that the environment here is very different from the world at large. This place is steeped in and radiates Relationship to Reverence.

That’s why I’m here. Hee Ney Ni-Here I Am, which is what Abraham says to Ha-Shem when he is called. It’s what I am trying to say here, every day. Here I am, in my mess, my mistakes, my loud intensity, my large appetites, and my fussy, particular, complicated humanness. As I get better at sounding the shofar, the layers of my junk, the hard shells that obscure my soul, are getting shattered. Shattering anything is not easy or gentle. While I am in a gentle landscape, the work I am doing is not particularly gentle. It’s ragged and rough. It’s dark here at night, all my fears come forward, all my pain around issues that are old and familiar for me emerge, all my missing of those I love, most especially my husband, comes to the forefront and I find myself sobbing and sobbing. AND, the Exciting and Enraptured part of this is that there is no one here to interrupt my process or for me to appease or be taken care of, so I get to go really deep and actually heal from my core.

The Angels and the Holy One are here taking care of me, the stream and the green leaves are here taking care of me, the roses outside my front door are taking care of me, the view of clouds crossing the sky is taking care of me, the silence and the stillness is taking care of me, the warm cup of milk I fix myself with honey, nutmeg, cinnamon and vanilla (not a simple, no-fuss glass of warm milk) is taking care of me. Hee Ney Ni, Here I Am, open to whatever needs to unfold.

Shofar, Challah under orange cloth, Shabbat oil-wicks and one of my Holy Views right before Shabbat.
Shofar, Challah under orange cloth, Shabbat oil-wicks and one of my Holy Views right before Shabbat.

This place is the safest, kindest place I’ve ever been in my entire life.

I have never felt more enclosed and able to be fully tender and exposed than here. The quality of this place is delicious and gentle and I feel held here in ways I cannot completely express. So, I’m not traveling to Dublin to spend the Jewish New Year/Rosh Hashanah with other Jews. I’m staying here, and quietly and deeply saying the prayers that all my folks will be saying. I’ll play the recording, lovingly offered and made for me, of our Temple Beth El Choir, singing the songs they would be singing. I’ve actually been listening to it over and over, and sobbing or singing along. I miss my family, I miss my community and my friends. And, it is okay for me to miss them, because I am not missing my connection to what runs through all of us and the world. That is here for me in every breath, in every view, in every birdsong and stream sound and in the quiet smiles and presence of those around me who are also in communion with the Divine.

L’Shana Tova U’Metuka (A sweet New Year) I wish for you all.

August Full Moon behind the clouds, my cabin, (named Clare) below, Hi Ney Ni/Here I Am, safe in Home and Hearth and Enraptured in Eire.
August Full Moon behind the clouds, my cabin, (named Clare) below, Hee Ney Ni/Here I Am, safe in Home and Hearth and Enraptured in Eire.