The sun is just peeking over the hills of Jacoby Creek. I can’t see it yet, only the light rose watercolor-like wash on the bottom of a few clouds. I’m sitting on the floor in my new, very own room. It’s the first room I’ve had of my own since I was nineteen. I got pregnant that year, so my space has been shared with children and a husband for a long time. There is joy and sadness in this transition. This room belonged to both my daughter and son respectively. They are both adults now and have moved into their own spaces and rooms. I miss them.
And, now there is some time for me, for exploring who I am and will become over the next few years. I still have one son at home and lots of time and energy for him. None of this can adequately convey the profound sense of exaltation and glorious wonder I feel when I step into this space. Let me describe it for you. I have painted the walls white, the room is an attic room and the ceiling is pyramid-shaped and paneled in beautiful lengths of a light-colored wood (I’m no carpenter, so I can’t tell you what kind of wood it is). I won a bid I made on eBay for a fabulously complex red wool carpet from Iran.
I wanted this Persian red rug because the majority of what I plan to do up here is just sit and meditate, pray, study, cry, dream or imagine a world filling up with Peace. In each corner items representing the elements are placed. I’ve got the four directions marked with air, water, fire and earth. Additionally I am putting the symbols for the twelve tribes of Israel; three in each direction so that I am surrounded by my ancestors. My tradition and the basis for life on this planet are represented here in the elements and in these symbols. There is one window in the room between the eastern corner and the northern one. Now the clouds are orange sherbet and the sun will be making its appearance soon. I’m also using this space to write in. My laptop is up here on a small bamboo tray that I move to the side of the rug when I’m not using it. The rug stays free of items, when my tush isn’t on it, it is itself a meditation (the rug!, not my tush).
By the time you read this, we will be in what are called the “Days of Awe” in my tradition. These are the ten days between Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement). In this time period, we are granted a few more days to seek forgiveness from those we have wronged and to work on turning ourselves back towards the path of right actions in the world. On Yom Kippur, one of the teachings has to do with the idea of our fate for the year being sealed. I’m not sure I resonate with the idea of my fate being sealed, but I do resonate with the cycle of working on myself and correcting my behavior. I also look at the idea of fate sealing as a sort of template to work with, if I am angry and grumpy, nasty and unkind, my fate won’t seem as good as if I endeavor to be hopeful and cheerful. The practice of self-cleaning began with the new moon of this past month. I’m in it right now; making lists of mistakes I’ve made, folks I need to apologize to and get clear with, lists of my faults, qualities or things I’ve said or done which I am not proud of.
Rabbi Tirzah Firestone of Boulder, Colorado, passed on this image in a teaching she gave. I don’t remember who gave it to her, but it’s an ancient idea about the vessel our souls inhabit. On Rosh Hashanah, the Holy One grants us a new vessel, clean and vibrant to hold our self in and to pour ourselves out of. If, we have worked on our stuff, looked at our faults and made an effort to turn back to who we truly are in our hearts than we will not only notice this new vessel, but be enlivened by it. Every mistake we make during the year creates a crack in this vessel, big errors, like hurting other people makes for big holes. This means that by the time Rosh Hashanah rolls around, all that might be left of our vessels could be a shard or two; nothing that can hold water or light or love or laughter. In my tradition, if I do the work between myself and others, on Yom Kippur, the Holy One forgives me for the mistakes I’ve made between myself and myself, between myself and the Divine. Only those I wrong can forgive me for the wrongs I’ve done them.
So, I am endeavoring to do less wrong all the time. It’s actually a pleasure to be on this path. As I apply my intelligence and awareness to the task and work to live my life according to what is true in my soul, I feel lighter and clearer, never close to perfect, but just with a slight bounce in my step and a ready smile on my face. How can I smile when the world is a mess? Will my frowning or crying make it better? I cry in my new room, with the tribes of Israel surrounding me and the Holy One holding me and I sink into the elements which sustain not only me but also which breathe on all the children in every lonely place on this earth. I sit in Bayside California on Iranian wool crafted with flowers and complex curly swirls and send my prayer for peace into the wool and out through my window. Perhaps the sky will hear my cries for Salaam, Shalom. Perhaps you will.
And perhaps, all our collective crying, and praying and working will travel on the elements and reach those not only who are suffering but those who are contemplating hurting others or using violence to resolve their problems. I don’t know for sure, I’m just one woman sitting on her rug hoping while the sun rises.
Nicole lives and sits in Bayside California and hopes wherever you are sitting is a good place. She is wishing you Peace.
This piece is originally from September of 2006 and was published in The Arcata Eye. It is older writing but timeless information and so I share it here since I am actually busy and celebrating the High Holy Days right now. Next week, I will upload more of of my current Jubilee Series, which also deals with the themes of forgiveness touched on in this piece.