December 19, 2010
So, Hanukkah is long since over, and there's nothin' coming up in the immediate future that those of us not so inclined to celebrate the mainstream holidays can get fired up about... but memories of the tasty latkes consumed within the last few weeks, the warmth of the Hanukkah candles and dozens of poorly played Dreidel games leaving me with scant gelt can linger on...
Which leads me to this most shocking (or not so shocking if you're the kind of person who likes to read books and learn things) revelation. I was struck full-force when dining with my husband's family at a German restaurant last week how very much Ashkenazic Jewish culture absorbed from the German culture. To put it bluntly, pretty much every incidental (that is, cultural, not religious) tradition.
All the good food, baby... Potato latkes, erstwhile "Reibekuchen" consumed with apple sauce and/or sour cream. German.
Hamantaschen, eaten at purim, find their roots in German pastries like Quarktaschen, a cheese pocket pastry (my favorite in my time in Munich).
Even Lox, that staple of the Jewish diet for shul-attending and secular alike, is SO German... they even used the word before us: "Lachs"
So much tastiness we got from them Germans, with the exception of some of the less edible Ashkenazic foods, like the dread Gefilte Fish, which everyone wants to see on their plate come Pesach but no one actually wants to eat... The original Ghetto Food.
"My Yiddishe Mama, you've got eighteen children and only two fish! What kind of fish-and-loaves caliber miracle do you expect to work that you should be able to feed them all??"
"!אין בעיה מותק, you take zeh fish and you make it into zeh loaf!!!... Fish-Loaf!!"
And don't get me started on the Dreidel game! I grew up imagining Maccabees spinning tops to keep their Torah learnin's secret from the Greek Gestapo... Then, to my dismay I was informed by a well-meaning educator that it was a direct rip-off of a German spinning top game. Instead of Nes Gadol Haya Sham, try Nichts Ganz Halb Stell, words that are merely instructions on how to play the game.
And yet... it doesn't really bother me all that much now to see how much of our own culture was absorbed from a people group that began as friendly enough neighbors who allowed us to flourish in their society, then eventually began to strangle, choke and attempt to annihilate our very spark of life, then in recent years has bathed themselves in tears of guilt and shame and emerged to become one of the primary fiscal supporters of the nation of Israel.
I can still imagine Maccabees gambling in the woods to cover for their Holy book-love, I can enjoy the world-flavored foods of my people without lamenting it's un-originality; rather, revel in it's diversity. The Jews have always been a melting-pot of cultures ever since the mixed multitude came out of Egypt. It kind of challenges one as a Jew to see beyond the boundaries of your own dang race and recognize the common ground of all people, which is a sport I like to engage in most of the time.
My awesome brother-in-law might posit that all of these traditions actually originated with the Jews and were absorbed by the surrounding culture instead of the other way around.... Dude, I love you, but you're crazy. :P
So... Merry Festivus, Happy Christmas, Sweet Kwanzaa, Wish It Were Still Hanukkah and a Good Gregorian New Year, people.
November 29, 2010
I see an upside-down triangle... I think it's made of chocolate. I'm gonna try to eat it; I like chocolate. I take a few bites and soon it's gone. But wait! I've unleashed a massive chocolate tornado, spouting down from the sky! Now it multiplies and the sky is full of nothing but chocolate tornadoes, and chocolate clouds, casting a brown shade over the landscape of rolling hills, houses and scratchety powerlines...
I see jellyfish, they become furry seeds, then they turn into comets, which become planets, then lightsabers, now they're tiny decorative light bulbs, which turn into wine bottles, beer bottles, then they become lightbulbs, and explode and expand into the entire universe!*
what do you see in your mind's eye?
*I am not high on anything but life :P
November 25, 2010
November 23, 2010
Untitled, detail, 2009, דבורה
"there are truly times when you are suffocating, as if in a flood of inescapable sadness. There are times when you feel as if you are under a deep dark ocean. You must learn to build an ark to protect yourself from drowning. Just as in the story, this ark is made with the specifications of wisdom, to be an ark that will float and not leak. And G-d said, 'make a window so the daylight can come through.'"
-Karyn D. Kedar
And my heart, I'd say it was more
November 15, 2010
There's a time for Joy, and a time for a Loneliness so abominable it's as dark as death.
And the experience is priceless. "Sadness informs," said Rabbi Karyn Kedar. Take the time to experience each moment, because the things you rush through may linger. Until you fully live through them, find the divine Wisdom in the moment of experience, then they can be released and passed by.
Last night was sadness. and pain. And groping through a dark chasm. Sometimes all you can do is hug and cry, and hug and cry, and wait till the cloud ascends from the camp before you journey on.
November 11, 2010
I dreamed I was in the house of a wealthy woman who recently passed away, and all of her possessions, jewelry, purses, were sprawled out through the various rooms of her house. I saw people taking items and putting them in their pockets, so I began to do the same, shoving back feelings of guilt. After all, she was gone, and had no descendants. I found dazzling gold rings, diamond necklaces. I shoved them all into a large Prada bag I found on the floor. But when I left the house, everything of value disappeared from inside the bag, leaving junky plastic jewelry, and candy wrappers. I felt disappointment, but at the same time I felt like I should have known that would happen...
"Cling to nothing, for all is fleeting." - Mishnah Avot 1:7
November 8, 2010
I went walking in the woods by my neighborhood, without realizing the lateness of the hour, or the soon-to-be-absence of the sun. I took a trail I had never taken before and soon became lost in the brambles. I had to make myself very small to come out from there, crouching down almost to the ground, under bushes and trees; I stepped through tall grasses and prayed that there were no snakes.
When I came out, I cried with thankfulness and dissolved onto the pavement of the trail. I left myself in the tangles, met G-d on my way out and we melted into one. For a moment, I felt pure Love.
"Is the one I love everywhere?" -Rumi
November 4, 2010
Tree of Life, 2010, דבורח
If I'm really going to be honest with myself, I should admit that... I'm not always honest with myself. Like still, murky water, my insides teem with un-shared truths that take the form of dragons in the deep as long as they are unknown. Fear sinks it's icy talons in. The only way to be free of its grip is to come clean. Being honest between myself and G-d begins a kind of flow, which at first runs muddy and dark, full of negativity, until I exhaust my chewing the fat of the matter and can begin to release, from outside to in, and inside to out, all my bracing and reserving and gripping around the edges of anything.* "The more you tighten your grip, the more star systems will slip through your fingers." The water can run clear now, and my thoughts turn to Joy. My very being turns to Joy, as I begin to embody the reality of what is hiding in the very center of me, but is so obscured from time to time by the thrift-store, sedimentary junk heap of peat moss and Vogon paperwork in the backyard of my heart: G-d.
Then I write poetry.
milk and honey
my food is to do your will
heavy with the pleasantness of you
you have rushed in sweetly to the empty places
within, saturating my heart in milk and honey
pouring from this stone
a sweet flow
the very vessel keeping us from seeing
that I am you and you are me and we are all together
don't just love your neighbor
love the stranger
see G-d in your enemy
The following is a teaching of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, a 19th century Hassidic master (which I found at http://www.barmitzva.org/Earth/field-02.html), on the subject of hitbodedut, which is a spontaneous form of prayer:
|The only way to return to the roots of one's being and merge in the unity of God is through nullifying the self. One has to efface the self completely until one becomes wholly merged in God's unity. The only way to achieve this state of self-transcendence is through hitbodedut. By secluding oneself and giving voice to one's inner thoughts in the form of personal prayers to God, one is able to remove all negative traits and cravings to the point that one nullifies all materialism in oneself. Then one is able to become merged in the Source. |
True hitbodedut is practiced in the depths of night, at an hour when everyone is free from their toil in the material world. During the day people are so busy chasing after the material world that it distracts the spiritual seeker from attaching himself to God. Even if he personally is quite detached from the material world, the mere fact that everyone else is then busy chasing after the vanity of the world makes it very difficult to attain self-transcendence at such a time.
Hitbodedut must also be practiced in a special place outside the city on a "solitary path" (Avot 3:5) in a place where no-one goes. For in a place where in the daytime hours people are busy chasing after the vanity of the world, even though they may not be there at this hour, it is still a distraction from hitbodedut, making it impossible for the spiritual seeker to attain the state of total communion with God.
For this reason it is necessary to go alone at night on a solitary path to a place where no one goes even by day. There one should seclude oneself and empty one's heart and mind of all worldly involvements until one attains the state of true self-transcendence and communion.
This is a step-by-step process. First the person should devote this solitary night-time hitbodedut to talking and praying to God at length until he succeeds in nullifying one negative trait or desire. Next he should devote his hitbodedut to working on nullifying a second trait or desire. He should go on like this night after night in this solitary spot until he nullifies everything.
Even then, something is still left of him, namely some residue of human pride and arrogance. He still considers himself to be something. He must persist with hitbodedut and carry on working hard until he nullifies this too, until nothing whatever is left of him and he is in a state of true self-transcendence. Then, when he attains true nothingness, his soul becomes merged in its root, namely in God.
Likutey Moharan I, 52
"better is the person who controls his own spirit than the conqueror of a city." (Prov. 16:32)
Nine, Ten, Begin Again, 2010, דבורח
*When I was in middle school, my mother, who homeschooled me, gave me the nickname "The Run-on Sentence Queen". In the ensuing years, it would appear that not much has changed. :P
Agnes Lawrence Pelton, The Primal Wing, 1933
Who looks out with my eyes? What is the soul?
I cannot stop asking.
If I could taste one sip of an answer,
I could break out of this prison for drunks.
I didn't come here of my own accord, and I can't leave that way.
Whoever brought me here will have to take me home.
October 13, 2010
Tonight I went to a "family Simchat Torah-Atzeret" service at Bethel. They did something entirely new (to me): they unwound the Torah scroll all around the sanctuary and had people stand in a row around the aisles and hold up the parchment. For awhile it remained completely unwound, then they began the slow process of re-rolling, while young people came around and read pre-selected sections. It was beautiful! And to my great delight the Song at the Sea unwound directly in front of me...
"Zeh Eli... Elohei Avi..."
"This is my G-d and I will enshrine Him, my father's G-d and I will exalt Him."
All about G-d casting the Pharaoh of Fear into the heart of the sea forevermore... then Miriam danced. Why hold on to fear any more? It's been defeated. "Adonai li, v'lo irah."
Song of the Stars 1 and 2, 2007, דבורח
So much Good Stuff lately. Particularly the last week. Synchronicities abound. So much to be thankful for.
Leo* said he was thinking of calling me just before I called him. S. Fields said my name to someone and I called her right at that moment. I was describing a "unitive" vision of the world to another friend - where Love is extended to all in existence pecause in Truth we are only One, and he described a dream he had the night before, wherein he hugged friends and each melted beyond their physical boundaries into the other and he though to himself "this must be what it is to be loved."
Junebug told me that when synchronicity abounds it's a sign that we are on the right path; where we should be.
Personally, I think these things are meant to encourage me that choosing an ArtLife is the very best thing, and to continue to steer clear of physical temptations, and keep seeking my Creator and creative identity. Also, that r.j. is my home here, and he continues to be the one who keeps me safe, keeps teaching me things about Love.
Didn't I just beg G-d "Please" for I-Don't-Know-What a week ago? Now here I've finished recording tracks for the ep, sold two paintings, get to take two vacations in a row, and get to keep making a difference in this hard-edged realm, softening corners and trying to leave the best clippings for the fatherless and the widow.
Golfo de Mexico, 2010
What does it mean for me to be a Kallah to the Song at the Sea? That portion contains a spontaneous revelation of profound hidden truths to a group of people who has just been delivered by their Father. I believe that G-d is speaking always, and today G-d is saying press on, press in, and do not be afraid! You're my portion.
*names have been changed because it's none of your flippin' beeswax. :P
I thought for a minute that he undersood me, but then I woke up from my rose-colored haze. Maybe some part of him does, but it's not the conscious part.
Oh well. I am me.
I Love the me that G-d made, in which G-d breathes, singular, One. There is only this: the sun through the clouds, in soft-edged rays, sparkling above the surface of a vast, deep indigo blue ocean, so massive and un-fathomable, so peaceful, complex, deceptively simple - the many-veined currents concealing the teeming life forms and groups below. When I want to escape, this is my answer: I am here. The current of Love is calling me to join the dance. Here I am.
Cozumel, Mexico, 2010
I have to say, all these harshities to the heart have not happened without effect.
The loneliness of soul-growth SUCKS royally sometimes. It's a game of sorts, involving purposely sinking to a depth beyond the end of one's rope, then slipping through the tunnel in the barrier, on out thru the Jericho wall of stony, structured civilization, to a scraggly refugee camp a few miles away where no one will believe you anyway, yet you'll be ok now, knowing you've plumbed the depths of a certain sort of loneliness and discovered that it did not lead to the doom you feared, but simply to a new round of questioning and probing.
Z'roah, 2010, דבורח
I've never heard a better metaphor/song retelling of the "ger"-ness of Moshe or Abraham (a choppy paraphrase: I'm a stranger in a strange land, and G-d told me to go this way... even though no one else appears to be going this way with me) besides Radiohead's song "Subterranean Homesick Alien". It's perfect.
making home movies
for the folks back home,
of all these weird creatures
who lock up their spirits,
drill holes in themselves
and live for their secrets.
They're all uptight, uptight,
uptight, uptight, uptight, uptight.
I wish that they'd sweep down in a country lane,
late at night when I'm driving.
Take me on board their beautiful ship,
show me the world as I'd love to see it.
I'd tell all my friends but they'd never believe me,
They'd think that I'd finally lost it completely.
I'd show them the stars and the meaning of life.
They'd shut me away.
But I'd be alright, alright,
I'd be alright,
August 17, 2010
The Nereids, 2010, דבורח
I’ve gotten down to the wire, to the bone. I’m frizzed and frazzled to the core.
My entire fragile ego structure has become a corinthian column of crazy cake perched, teetering, atop a toothpick of expectation.
Swelled sails of desire are pushing and pulling me through wave after wave. Double-minded. Doubly-doused. Full of doubt.
By a string, I can cling to a single memory to take the force out of my inherited wind: Passover of 2001 in
But the reason this memory rings in my ears tonight is simply because on that night I consciously chose to put the needs of others before my own for the entire evening; a decision to basically serve and in no way seek to be served. Chosen selflessness, accepted happily. What followed was one of the best nights of my life, and the memories of the night are so sweet, and so pure.
Alight on me again, carefree consciousness. Shake my dusty head from well-fed slumber to true giving. Kumi, ori! Arise, shine! “I no longer want to be loved; I want to love.” (poor Claire in Brother Sun, Sister Moon)
How else to disentangle from the cold, calamari grip of tentacled self-interest? How else but to give one’s self away?
*the town slogan of that little ol' village, Pfaffenhofen an der Ilm, Germany, where I lived with my family for a year. I guess you could paraphase it to mean something like "this place is classy" or "Pfaffenhofen has got pizzazz, jazz cats," etc...
May 19, 2010
Supernova remnant Cassiopeia A
“Wisdom is the bride of God, and we are a part of her.”*
In January I had a dream:
A woman stood on a hill and said “you will make a difference in people’s lives,” to the all the people who could hear her. But I watched as others ignored her, and chose a self-centered search for physical fulfillment instead, played out in various compromising positions. In my dream, the task fell to me. Suddenly, I was walking through an art museum. I saw a dark-skinned woman (“dark am I, but lovely” says the bride in Song of Solomon), chained to a chair like Cassiopeia. I broke her chains and carried her, running, out of the museum.
I get it now. It was Wisdom. The woman in the dream was a representation of that divine spark, scattered throughout creation, which we are meant to gather, unify, and so make tikkun olam (the restoration of the world). In a practical sense I do this by loving God and my fellow man, and speaking the truth that is in my heart. "If you believe that you can damage, believe that you can repair." --Rebbe Nachman.
I’m pretty sure now that this was a dream speaking about people in the Arts. The struggle of the artist - my struggle, people! I'm not just philosophising - inevitably includes the lure of self-centeredness and an intense longing and desire for fulfillment that can begin with sex, lead to drugs, and, finally, tragically, to rock and roll (tee hee).
"I've worked with a lot of artists, Em, and they all have a need that cannot be met by another human being."
- Madeleine L'Engle, Certain Women
We need to move past these distractions if we are to make a difference. (ok, not rock and roll…. even if it is dead.)
This one goes out to all Artists; this is not a call to drop what you’re doing and become monks and missionaries. And it sure as blazes has nothing to do with fame and fortune. This is a call to you, dear people, of all backgrounds, to simply serve the work. (another L’Engle quote)
Choose to be who you are; choose a life of Art – an ArtLife, if you will. (Dan & Dawne Broadfield's term) And I say this to you as one who spent most of my life, till a few years ago, keeping the term artist at arms length. Why?? Because I was being stupid. True story.
If you are a songwriter: set aside time to compose more. If you are a painter: paint more. If you are a photographer: go nuts…. Yeah, yeah, I know: we all have to do things we don’t want to do to earn money, but don’t let the pursuit of physical fulfillment choke out your true self, your true calling.
Serve the work and let the Infinite speak. We’ll bring healing to the world by speaking the truth that is in our hearts.
I’m not telling you that I know what this is gonna look like. But I know it’s what’s good, and I know it’s what’s right…
“Choose Art,“ says that still small voice to me, time and time again…
Creation, 2009, דבורח
*this is a statement that came to me today while I was walking through a park. For me, it clicked several pieces I had been puzzling over into place. It may not make sense to you, but maybe I can esplain some other time... or at least sum up, if it's too much.
March 26, 2010
"Only when we see that we are part of the totality of the planet, not a superior part with special privileges, can we work effectively to bring about an earth restored to wholeness." --Elizabeth Watson
"Shalem" means "complete" or "whole" in Hebrew. It's derived from the same root as "Shalom", or "Peace". To me this means that peace is something beyond just the absence of conflict; it is the absence of lack. Peace comes when I let flourish the awareness of my connectedness with God, the universe and all that I see around me. Getting outside of myself is the only way to become whole.
I'm inspired and intrigued by my friend Helen, and her re-newed impetus to paint birds as messengers of peace. Read her delightful story here: http://thewillowsnest.blogspot.com/2010/03/coming-to-my-own-rescue-with-creative.html
Alexandra Nechita, the child prodigy "Picasso posing as a ten year old", has grown up - and the dove of peace is still very much a part of her visual vocabulary.
"Perhaps there is this greater movement of artists and activists in healing our world and understanding their role as healers."
For me, the messengers of inspiration are.... bees. My name means "bee", and I have always felt a special affinity with bees. They don't sting me, they came out in droves to witness my wedding...
And yesterday, I had a special visitor.
After I was released from jury duty, I sat on a bench near the Alamo, a place I love to go, to think about meaty concepts like Courage and Freedom. There's just something special in the air around the Alamo; in the stillness at this "shrine", I always feel the weight of history.
So, I was sitting there sipping an over-priced raspa (is there any other kind? I mean, it's just ice and food-coloring...), when a little bee flew into my cup, landed inside the rim and started licking up the sticky pineapple flavors inside. I discovered that bee tongues are the same color as human tongues. The realization filled me with a fearfully-wonderful delight, and hasn't stopped doing so.
It's funny, but I feel as though I've discovered another Name for God.... Who Creates Fleshy Bee Tongues.
I know this is a bit of a non-sequitor, but where Helen and others have been awakened to Peace, I feel like the concept of "Courage" is being impressed upon me lately. I was looking for a good bee-photo to tack onto this post, and found out that Bees have often been used in coats of arms as symbols of Courage, among other things.
Fear has been a constant in my life since childhood - though the older I get, the less I fall under it's sway. I think that's because the experiences of my life have brought me to a fuller understanding of Love, which, in it's perfect form, drives out fear. So this new connection to Courage makes sense to me. I would have balked at all this a few years ago, when my heart was harder and I was a great deal more self-righteous. But Love has been opening doors for me....
Is this part of my "Speaking the truth that is in my heart"? Is there something for me to paint, or sing, or dance for Courage?
"Ometz Lev" is Hebrew for "Courage"; it really means "Strengthening (of the) Heart". To fear is to be faint-hearted. I think Heart-Strength must comes from the same place as Wholeness... A realization of interconnectedness with God and all creation. Getting outside ourselves to feel and know how vast is the Goodness and Love put into creation, and to know that we are part of it. Surely, this should drive out fear.
"Russian writer Vasily Grossman wrote,
'Human history is not the battle of good struggling to overcome evil. It is a battle fought by a great evil struggling to crush a small kernel of human kindness. But if what is human in human beings has not been destroyed even now, then evil will never conquer.'
I consider this kernel of human kindness to be the reflection of divine love. It is what Quakers call the Inner Light, the guiding presence of God within us that can never be extinguished."
--Phillip Gulley & James Mulholland, in If Grace Is True
So, Wholeness and Heart-Strength.... birds and bees.... It must be Spring.
January 27, 2010
This morning, I went ambling and wandering around in the mild wild behind my neighborhood, in the greenbelt; the last vestige of real hill country this side of 1604. I hope it stays perfectly under-developed. Made some attempts at getting the thorn out of my side, without success. Decided that rather than sink down under the weight of my particular brand of oppression, I would stand up and shine, knowing that the Darkness doesn't comprehend the Light.
I was blessed with a moment of bliss from out of torment, as I stood facing the serenely sleepy hills, under the cottony blanket of cold-front clouds, streaming gently over the land. A cute cat which I temporarily named Sophia came brushing up against my legs and saying "mah". There was a face in the clouds, and it was peaceful. I asked Wisdom to be my mother, sister, friend.
I would say it was a moment of clarity, when truths become self-evident as you realize things... the way they are, simply. The way you apparently forgot they were, because the knowledge feels like it is coming back to you, instead of appearing for the first time.
I thought of the Song at the Sea, of Shemot 15, a moment in time when the entire assembly of Israel found itself so whole, complete and in harmony with all Creation, (because of divine deliverance from out of a furnace of fear) that they sang a new song all together as one. A song of comprehending the Truth. A song of comprehending our place in the vast expanse of history and space.
These divine coincidences, serendipitous happenings, moments of illumination, have nothing to do with our selves or how special we may be. A real moment of clarity, of Light, and of comprehension has only to do with opening my eyes to the truth of God's vast river of Life and Love, and recognizing that I can choose to flow with the current of that river and experience serendipity, or struggle against it, attempting to find my own way, and feel myself grow colder, even as anger burns its way through the reserves of my fuel.
Light is so much bigger than Darkness. And no, the Darkness still has not comprehended the Light.
Miriam's Dance, 2008, דבורח