Tag Archives: Yom Kippur

Take Heart

Purple Poppy with Frilly/Frayed Edges from my deck in California
There is no way to tell this story without lots of tears, mine, yours and the world’s. It’s an old story and one that repeats all the time and is going on now. It’s my story and it, unfortunately, may be yours as well. I begin to unfold it, here and now, breaking years of silence, on my part. I do this for my healing and hopefully for the healing of someone I love, in the spirit of Elul, and because it is time. There will be much more about this in the future….this is just a beginning.

I failed my prime directive as a mother. I did not keep my children safe from harm.

I was young, single, on welfare and living with charlatans, who I trusted. I cannot justify my failure and indeed it is against Jewish understanding to ask forgiveness or try to explain or justify a wrong action when asking for forgiveness. I’m not asking for forgiveness here. Forgiveness, if it is granted, is a private personal process between my children and myself.

Nevertheless, Here, I am/ Hi Ney Ni, turning in the harsh and cold wind of my pain and regret. One of my beloved sisters, by Love, Terret, recently gave me a piece that has helped me understand this territory more. She has been part of this particular story from its beginning, in terms of being present for my children, and being with me since we met when I was eighteen. I became pregnant with my first child when I was nineteen. Terret reminded me that I would willingly have cut off both my arms, if it had meant I could stop the suffering of my child. Cutting off my arms will not stop the suffering, nor will wishing I had been smarter, wiser, seen what was happening or prevented harm from happening.

If there was a sacrifice, of any kind, that I could make so that the pain in my child’s life would lessen, I would have made it a thousand times over. We cannot go back in time and erase what was done to us or those we love. Hindsight is always 20/20. I can and will continue to support healing and hope for there to be a Refuah Shelemah (Complete Healing of Body, Mind, Heart and Soul). I will do whatever I can to make amends, but I cannot change the past.

Just a few days ago, I met with my child’s therapist, with permission. My children are all adults now, but I am wanting to respect their privacy, so I’m not naming them. This man told me to “take heart.” He said that the fact that I was allowed to speak to him meant that there was an inclination, on the part of my child, for reconciliation.

Taking Heart, for anyone who knows me, seems like a no brainer. I’m all about that, I’m all over it, I’m a poster child for it. Nevertheless, it’s not something I have done or can easily do in this situation. So, it was nice to hear those words.

In two weeks I will stand before the Holy One, with my congregation, with my friends and with my teachers. I will hope for renewal and to be granted a new vessel to hold my soul in. I’m definitely due for some renewal!

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.

Vase/Vessel by Paul Barchilon, Table by Shullie Steinfeld, Flowers by Ha-Shem, arrangement by ME! This is the kind of vessel I inhabit, a very colorful, Moroccan one made with love and of EARTH.

Tikkun Olam/Mending the World, and Refuah/Healing are continual processes. Every year of my life, until I leave this world, I will have to look at myself, my mistakes, my leaks and holes. There is no free ride or free lunch when it comes to personal spiritual growth or practice. If you want to serve the Divine and to serve Goodness, you do not ever rest on your laurels. When all people on earth are fed, when all children are safe from harm, when all those whose lives have been broken by hurt are healed, when the planet is free from wanton and grievous pillaging and rape, when we honor and treasure each other in our differences of shape, size, religious inclination, age, gender identity, sexual preference, pigmentation of our skin, income bracket or whether we are human, animal, plant or river, THEN and ONLY THEN can we rest.

This doesn’t mean you can’t take a break. I take a break every Shabbat, and on every Holy Day. We have days for mourning and feeling all the hurt in my tradition. Those are important for me. Most of the time, I live in a state of constant gratitude to the Divine. I am lucky enough to be able to hear the song of the flowers and the planet. I have tremendous support from family and friends. I have a phenomenal husband who has my back in every way imaginable and who has been with me on this journey for a long time.

I will never regret having my children young and alone. This was how they came to me and I chose to keep them and have them, even without support. I wouldn’t trade them for anything in the world. Their unique genetic blends, their deliciousness and magnificence is something I will forever delight in. Being their mother has been and is the greatest gift the Holy One has ever given me. And then, I was blessed, to have a third child, finally, with a man who loved me. A man who, not only has stayed the course through very difficult territory, but who has held, supported and nurtured all of us.

I am profoundly and painfully remorseful and sorry that I did not protect my children. I am working all the time to make amends for that harm. My husband was our rescuer, the person who brought us all into his heart and under the protecting shelter of his arms. He came into our lives when my children were three and one. Because of him, healing for all of us is possible.

This photo was taken by my husband, our rescuer. I was 24.
Since starting this post, I’ve broken down and cried several times. This territory is so terribly hard and I feel such shame, pain and grief. I’m listening to Berel Alexander’s music right now, it’s helping me. He’s singing a gorgeous song called “Giving Thanks,” from his album Hooked, and because of him, his mother  Rabbi Naomi Steinberg, my family, my friends, my community, my prayer practice, and my teachers, I am able to hold this much pain and grief. Because I am not alone, I can and will keep trying to make Tikkun in the world and in my family.

I cannot know if there will be a Refuah Shelemah in our lives, but I won’t stop working for it and praying for it. A wound cannot heal if it is kept in the dark and never tended to. Wounds need to be seen and to have the pus drained out. There is no way to do that without pain and without addressing the root causes of the wound. 

The great South African Archbishop, Desmond Mpilo Tutu, gave us the Truth and Reconciliation process/model. With that in mind, I am hopeful. How can anyone think that it isn’t possible to “take heart,” when we have this amazing example of South Africa and their courageous efforts towards healing from the most heinous crimes?

So, I will Take Heart. I hope you will as well, and together, with our very broken hearts, we can come together, each of us, being honest, taking chances, crossing hard territory and trusting that the only way to be whole is if we all are holding hands and working hard to speak truth, being kind, endeavoring to forgive those who have hurt us (if they are genuine in their efforts towards reparations), and even if they aren’t. Forgiveness is healing for us as well as for those we forgive. We still and always must take responsibility for the wrongs we have done and hope and pray to be forgiven.

May you find yourself held and supported as you navigate your own hard territory. You are not Alone!

Rose and Dew drops by the Holy One, reminding us all that there is more Beauty and Grace in the universe than we can ever fathom. I grew this Rose and she returns every year to remind me of this and she smells like Heaven!

Mikveh, Movement and Me

2016-08-07 09.36.06
Big Lagoon, where Mikveh and I Meet

I have broken ice on a small stream to immerse myself, I have soaked in a steaming warm hot-tub to immerse myself, I have and do slip off my clothes and immerse fully into the Big Lagoon, or the Pacific Ocean, regularly. I do Mikveh, Mikveh does me, we meet in the

מּים חיים   Mayim Chayim/Living Waters


A mikveh is a Jewish ritual immersion in living waters that transforms you from one state to another. From ritually unclear or ready to clear and ready, from the everyday weekday to the Holy Sabbath Day, from non-Jewish to Jewish, from single to married, from married to single, from broken to whole, from old year full of mess to new year full of hopes and promise. Women and men are supposed to immerse whenever they come in contact with their own blood or seminal fluids before they are intimate. Often people think it is only women who are required to immerse, but men are required to as well. We also do mikveh after caring for and preparing the dead for burial, as a transition from death back to life. The Mikveh is Magic and transformative. Many folks do not understand real Magic, which flows from the Divine and the creations of the Divine: waters, winds, earth, plant beings, animal, stone and human beings all hold sparks of this magic.


Because Mikveh is a gift from the Holy One and involves immersion in Mayim Chayim, which are waters that are alive and flowing (streams, creeks, seas, rivers, lakes, lagoons, rain-fed cisterns that fill a pool and move through those pools back out into the ground, stream-fed ponds, and of course, large bodies of water like oceans), it is connected to the origins of creation and to our origins. We swam in living waters in the wombs of our mothers, all of us did. When we return to living waters, we get to be reborn, re-watered, renewed and reimagined. Mikveh is critical to my life and has been for over thirty years, when I first learned about it and started engaging in it consciously.


I’ve always been drawn to living water and used to jump into any creek or stream I encountered while walking in the Rocky Mountains as a young girl and woman. Because my Jewish education began when I started dipping my own feet into it, at the age of 18, I had not encountered this tradition until then. I still was doing it though, just not knowing why and what I was doing. This has to do with my tribal cellular connection. The part of me that is my bloodline and core connected across eons to a specific lineage and way of engaging with the planet and the Divine.


I try to always do a mikveh on Rosh Chodesh Elul,/the new moon that begins the month of Elul. I always do a deep 40 day process connected to the beginning of the month of Elul, which just began, and which ushers in a time of contemplation and preparation and work before the release and rejoicing of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. I invite other women to join me at the lagoon where I swim, I have done this for several years. There were five of us this year. I’m not attached to how other folks interpret or engage with the particulars of a ritual action. I lay out what is traditonal, give folks a chance to orient themselves around that and make their own decisions about how much or what they can or are comfortable with doing.  I’m all in, when I do it, most of the time I go full-throttle traditional.


What is traditional? One is supposed to be naked, free of all jewelry, make-up, nail-polish or other kinds of body make-up. Scrubbed clean of all dirt. The mikveh is not a bath or a shower to get clean in. You come to it clean, with all your knots combed through, if you have long hair, like me, and with nothing but your clean body, as if you were a baby in the womb. Just as free and innocent as a child swimming in a healthy womb enviornment, you completely immerse yourself three times or seven. You offer a prayer of thanks to the Holy One for the immersion and for the Living Water. There is always someone there who witnesses you to verify that you were fully immersed, no fingertips or toes were above the water line, for at least one full second, you were totally surrounded by living water. You spread your legs and open your arms, you fully allow the water to find and enfold all of you. You are transformed.


I’ve done mikveh without a human witness, when I’ve asked the angels to witness me and I’ve done mikveh with many women present to witness me. The witnessing is an important part of the process. The acknowledging of your shifting, or your intention, of your immersion and transformation are part of the bond to it and confirm that you are indeed engaging in sacred action.


When I am in water, I pray.

As I move through whatever waters I find myself in, I am engaging in deep prayer for all, including our planet, our rivers, and all who depend on this earth. I surround all of those I pray for with love, light, warmth, healing, whatever hopes they have shared with me or pains I try to focus on those when I pray for others.On Sunday, September 4th, I turned 52, this is my Gregorian Calendar birthday. My Hebrew birthday is always two days before Rosh Hashanah, so the 27th of Elul and the piece of Torah I was born with while swimming in the living waters of my mother’s womb was and is always Nitzavim.

Big Lagoon on a sunny day, where I swim and pray.

I am trying to be on a mini-silent retreat right now, only talking or engaging with others when necessary. This is a new part of my Elul practice and for my own well-being. I really need to minimize contact with everyone for my own internal process. It feels necessary to be on retreat after the last few whirlwind months of my life. It is common to fast from various things during Elul. My choices for this month are to work on more silence, fasting from chatter of all kinds and I am also fasting from wheat and meat and entertainment and using my kindle/ipad for books or movies.

I am working on dealing with ESSENTIALS and the PRESENT moment as much as I can.

My mother’s older sister, Aunt Jean, in Florida, is in Hospice care and is not feeling good as she moves closer to the other side. I have friends going through extremely difficult and life-saving/changing surgeries and navigating hard, hard challenges and transitions. I am pretty sure this is always the case for people on this planet, my circle of care is just large, and I’m an empath so I feel these realities deeply in my cells and bones and core.

I am needing a great deal more space and quiet than ever before. I have made a sea-change since being away on my retreat in Ireland. I want to be present for folks, but can only really do so, from my prayer practice and from my own center of quiet and calm, at this time. It’s been an extremely intense adventure for our family over the last four months. Having space alone with Kevin, with my prayer practice, and with myself is what I need right now.

I hope this month of Elul will be noursishing, healing and calming for me and for those of you engaging in whatever journeys or transitions you are in. I will connect with folks and activities, as I am able, from within my cocoon.

In my eleven year old self, cocooning. This photo was taken by Francesca Woodman, 40 years ago, but it expresses my mood right now.
I’m wrapped up in my home, re-making it into a space for Kevin and I, who have never been alone without children, since we got together 28 years ago.
In Stillness and Light,

Yom Kippur, Yom Ha-Din, Yom-Ha-Difficulty

Erev Yom Kippur at my cabin in Ireland, getting ready for a day alone of fasting and prayers, by setting the space with beauty and white for purity of intention and space
Erev Yom Kippur;  getting ready for 26 hours of fasting and prayers alone. This photo is from my window-seat. I set my intention/kavannah and space with beauty and white flowers and decor to enhance and imbue my prayers with purity and clarity.

This was the hardest Yom Kippur that I can remember.

My beloved Rabbi Naomi Steinberg says, we should never compare Holy events. She remarks, “this Shabbat was in the top 500,” rather than saying this Shabbat was “the best.” I appreciate this teaching and try to incorporate it into my life, especially around Shabbat observance. It’s a very good reminder to not judge joyful occasions and a great encouragement to be fully present in the moment. The human tendency to compare and contrast and look at something from one celebration and measure it against another celebration can be a way to not honor the people you are together with and it can be decisive.  Not doing this requires tremendous conscious effort. I consistently have to remind myself about this “top 500” idea. Nevertheless, sometimes making a comparison is what needs doing.  Marking the boundaries of this Yom Kippur and defining them feels important because what transpired for me was so intense and significant.

I knew it would be hard to fast and do all the prayers without the support and help of a community of folks, all working together. Those who observe the full fast refrain from eating and drinking from sunset of the holiday, called Erev/Evening until the concluding service called Ne’ila which happens when three stars are visible in the sky of the following day. It was about 25 hours long this year.

On Yom Kippur, congregations around the world, come together and share in the heavy load of prayers. We pray for all people in the world and ask for forgiveness, stating all the wrongs a person can possibly do, we name each act of ugliness and violation that humans do to each other and our planet. We recite these prayers and confessions and supplicate for mercy and look deeply for hours and hours. We rise and we tremble before the Holy One as one giant body of beings, we sway and sing and chant and hope that our sincere presence and effort will help mend the suffering in this world. We support each other with our combined efforts and are all humbled by the process. Doing this all by myself turned out to be very, very hard.

I felt closer to death by 8:00 pm right before the end of the fast than I’ve ever felt in my life. After 25 hours without water or food I was weak and beyond weak, stumbling and dizzy when I tried to stand or walk. It was acutely intense and I was afraid, I wasn’t sure I would ever feel alive again.

My head ached, my limbs were heavy and hard to move, I felt awful, wrung out and completely DONE. I roused myself, in the dark, because my Holiday candle, which had been burning for 25 hours, had just sputtered out. I stood up to say the final three prayers and blow the shofar to mark the end of Yom Kippur. I made it to the end of Yom Kippur and as I chanted the final words of the service, my tears flowed, as they had been doing all throughout this never-ending day. I was dehydrated already from not drinking and because I’d cried so much as well. My water-reserves were at an all time low.

There is an element of Yom Kippur that is about death and getting close to it in a ritual, supported and honest way. We are not exactly trying to emulate the feeling of death, but rather to attend fully to our souls and their life within our bodies. This awareness perhaps will help us be a more alive in the here and now and also gives us a taste of what it might be like when the Holy One takes our souls back to journey among the stars.

I find myself weaving in and out of Holy Time and Connection when I pray, so there is timelessness to all my supplications and praying, and a loosening of the boundaries between space and time. The difference on Yom Kippur is that you can see everyone moving towards their angelic selves and it helps you get through the day when you feel bereft of vigor. We wear white, and in the most traditional communities folks actually wear their burial kittel (part of the Jewish shroud, but also worn for Pesach/Passover). This garment is always white and simple, but modeled after the garment that the High Priest wears. Indeed the Torah portion we read on Yom Kippur from Leviticus 16 describes these garments that the High Priest Aaron is to don in order to come close to the Divine:

He shall be dressed in a sacral linen tunic, with linen breeches over his body; with a linen sash shall he gird himself, and with a linen turban shall he be crowned. These are sacral garments and so he shall bathe himself in water before dressing in them. ~ Leviticus 16:4

These simple sacred garments are what we bury all people in. We are all clothed as the High Priest, rich or poor, we all get the same shrouds, made out of linen preferably or cotton, with no fuss, finery or pockets (who needs a pocket in Heaven?). This equalization in death, that does not happen in life, is an essential teaching. We are all bodies, we are all dust and ashes, in the end and will return to dust, our bodies that is. Our souls are another matter entirely. So, when we loosen our connection to our bodies and focus on our souls that process reminds us to attend fully to being in a body. It’s a funny twist of human nature, that we feel things more in contrast to their opposite. We feel most alive after a long illness, as if we have never ever had it so good. We feel most grateful for everything usually in direct relationship to how long or far away from it we are.

So, I miss my husband extremely now and when I see him again my joy will be beyond measure. I love him the same amount when we are seeing each other every day, but being away from him makes me appreciate and notice his presence and his absence even more.

If we are lucky or we work for it, sometimes all of us, in moments of deepest connecting, we can cross the boundaries of our habitual patterns and conventionality and then we can and do reach that deep place without having to be separated. But we do have to SEPARATE ourselves from the idea that we are individuals or that we are just bodies, in order to have that oceanic, intense, beautiful eye to eye, heart to heart, soul to soul feeling. We can have this feeling  alone in prayer or contemplation, or with friends, with strangers, with beloveds, whenever we get over ourselves, literally.

GET OVER YOURSELF, and move into the person or the tree or flower across from you or near you.

Or, in the case of the Divine, we have to let go of our sense of being alone or thinking that we are only just a body without a soul. We have to get over our tired old story, or our fear, or all the mess and walls that we construct between all that is good and available for us. Yom Kippur is the perfect prescription for doing this.

Mireia, a new friend, and I, getting over ourselves and connecting from a deep place, in Barcelona, April of 2013
Mireia, a new friend, and I, getting over ourselves, in front of a wall, and connecting from a deep place, in Barcelona, April of 2013

So, I am SUPER glad to be in a body today!

The sun is shining and I will go outside and work on creating a Sukkah, since the next Jewish Holiday, my favorite, very embodied holiday (NO FASTING, LOTS OF FEASTING), is in four days. OOPS, I just made a comparison between Holy Events. It sure is hard to avoid doing that. And, I do really enjoy Sukkot a whole bunch. I’m not sure how I will observe it alone, but like all the other adventures I’m having here, I’m sure it will work out beautifully! We do invite in our Holy Ancestors, so I won’t actually ever be alone, and the faeries are always happy to play and dine with me.

What enabled me to actually get through to this moment of aliveness and joy was the NOT BEING ALONE part of my being alone. Let me explain. I was able to connect with my Temple Beth El community, thanks to modern technology and the kindness of some Temple Beth El members who made it possible for there to be a live-stream of their entire Yom Kippur services, all of them.

So, when I was losing it, or too weak to continue my praying I could sometimes manage to log-on to their livestream and see my friends praying. They even said hello to me from the bima and for the Kol Nidre service I could hear my son Ethan’s voice, which made me immensely joyful. I think it was Rabbi Naomi’s husband Saul, who took the camera and turned it at the end of Tuesday night’s services, so that I could see my boychik in the flesh. There he was, clapping and singing  and I got a glimpse of him for one joyous moment before the livestream went offline. I cannot even begin to express the joy I felt. It was beyond expression! It was 5:45 a.m. for me and I’d been tuning in and out to their prayers since 2:45 a.m.

At Temple Beth El, they were eight hours “behind” where I was in my prayer cycle, but finding them wherever they were throughout the 25 hours of my process made all the difference for me. Here’s a link to one of the services, so you can see for yourself these magnificent humans in their white angelic garments and in their angelic personifications and expressions:


A friend also turned me on to a wonderful streaming of services. I could watch this community when I wasn’t able to connect with the Temple Beth El community. It is a new experimental community based in New York City and is called Lab/Shul.  Here’s their definition of self-hood from their website: “Welcome to LAB/SHUL, an artist-driven, everybody-friendly experimental community for sacred Jewish gatherings based in NYC and reaching the world.” They have a musical line-up and people singing straight from their hearts and souls and their services were AMAZING.

They chant a line or two from one of our traditional long prayers and dispense with the volumes of words that accompany the usual liturgy. Their knowledge of the Hebrew and the prayers was deep, deep enough that they could fly out to the stars with their roots grounded but able to fly straight up towards the Heavens. It was pretty extraordinary when I could catch them. Amichai Lau-Lavie, their Spiritual Leader, also gave a great teaching, in between the chanting, music and praying. I was transported when I could catch up with them. He mentioned Pope Francis and his Encyclical. I’m  in the land of Catholics and Pope Francis and his teachings are a common feature of discussion here. I’m not sure how many Jewish folks were talking about Pope Francis this Yom Kippur, but it was pretty perfect for me, considering where I am.

And, here at my hermitage, three other hermits came and spent a brief amount of time with me in prayer. They did this out of the kindness of their hearts and because, even though this week is a silence and solitude week, they wanted to support me in my Jewish practice. So, two Catholic nuns and one Catholic contemplative came to sit with me and pray with me late in the afternoon of Yom Kippur, This is usually one of the hardest times of the day, when I was feeling pretty gray and not interested in continuing to pray or even be much in a body. Their presence uplifted me. It was lovely to pray with folks across the boundary of religion. It made no difference what specific faith tradition we identified with. We were able to be as one in our GETTING OVER OURSELVES. That’s my new mantra, I hope I can carry it through beyond this moment.

My “getting over myself” Yom Kippur crossed several time-zones. I started before all my community, eight hours earlier than the Californians, five hours before the East Coasters, two hours later than the Israelis, but somehow all of us were joined in a completely other place, a Holy time. After all, Divine time is nothing like human time. So, I crossed lots of boundaries and went a little too close to that feeling of weakness and torpor that comes from the body not having enough nourishment. I almost always observe the complete fast, no water or food, so this year’s feeling closer to death was unexpected. It gave me tremendous compassion and more appreciation for those who are actually approaching death of their bodies, friends who are in hospice care right now, friends who have been and are struggling with long debilitating illnesses and/or cancers that come and go, folks who are starving, literally because they are poor or because they are being tortured.

Why would anyone willingly choose to feel these things?

Doing so, even once a year, renews my commitment to serving the Divine in all my parts, with all my organs, senses and abilities. Until the world is a place of wholeness, kindness and equality, like what we pray and hope for, we all have to dedicate ourselves and look at ourselves deeply so that we can attune to Justice and to Goodness. This day is also called Yom Ha-Din which means the Day of Judgment or Trial. We are on trial for not doing enough for those who are suffering and for whatever we do that increases suffering on this planet.

Now, the good news is; that many, many, more people are doing this good work and are engaged in lessening suffering and violence, than the newspapers, news agencies and stories you hear in the mainstream media, would make you think. We are the majority. Those of us working, praying, living for Goodness, Justice and Mercy are in numbers beyond measure. We will make and are making a difference and every time one of us reaches deeper and longer and connects it makes a change in the flow and fabric of time and in the flow of events on this beautiful and wild spinning orb we call home. We are all b’tselem Elohim (in an image of Holiness). This means we are POWERFUL and CAPABLE of doing miraculous things!

To end my fast, before I began it, being the Virgo, Alpha female that I still am, even alone, I had made my brother Paul’s Dahl. I did indeed have a little bowl of it, which was more than I could actually finish, at the end of my ordeal. I was still a little too close to the other side and felt sick and weak. I ate because I knew I needed to, not because I felt hungry. I was beyond hunger when the three stars in the sky had emerged to announce the END of the fast. So, after my three glasses of water and my small bowl of soup, I slept for a few hours.

My usual sleep pattern is, if I’m lucky, four hours, than maybe another two if I get really lucky. So, at my usual time, which was around 2 a.m., I got up. I was hungry then and I opened my tiny fridge and decided to have a small bowl of yogurt.  This was yogurt that the nuns had gotten for me.  I had asked for organic plain whole yogurt. I am endeavoring to not eat sugar or gluten currently. But, somehow, they and I, missed the blueberries on the label. Those small blue berries were tiny in the picture at the bottom of the container. In fact, the plain yogurt and the blueberry yogurt look very similar, but guess what, they aren’t similar at all.

I was so HAPPY, you have no idea, with that blueberry surprise. That marvelous “mistake,” that the Holy One surely orchestrated for me, of blueberries and just a drop of sugar in a perfect blend of Irish whole milk yogurt, ummmmm, yummmmm. I cannot even begin to tell you how fabulous that bowl of yogurt at 2 a.m. in the morning was. I only hope, wherever you are, in whatever timezone, or faith tradition, or state of wellness or illness you are currently experiencing, you stop and take a moment to breathe and appreciate this moment of your being alive, in a body. Hopefully you can find a moment and are able to say with all your being Todah Rabah/Immense and Great Thanks! If not, have somebody go get you some blueberry yogurt!

I’m closing with a photo of my lunch today, which was at 3 p.m.; this seems to be when I want to eat lunch here. I basically don’t eat dinner, just a snack, or piece of fruit. But, my appetite has returned and so this was my lovely large luncheon. The carrot salad was a new invention and I’ll put up that recipe sometime soon. The Dahl, yogurt raita and lightly cooked kale are all recipes you can discover here, should you want to recreate this meal. The lamb chops are from a local butcher with lamb from a nearby field. The kale and carrots and cucumber (in the raita) are all from the garden here. It’s nice to feel alive again and have this kind of feast for my tummy as well as for my eyes and heart.

Food for my Body and Soul
Food for my Body and Soul
Detail of the Holy Feast!
Detail of the Holy Feast!

L’Shana Tova U’Metuka-To a Sweet and Good New Year!

Morning Light in Morocco
Morning Light in Marakkech, Morocco coming through the ceiling of one of the ancient palaces of the Royal Family

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).

Rosh Hashanah Flowers arranged by Nicole for Temple Beth El
Rosh Hashanah Flowers arranged by Nicole for Temple Beth El

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.