Friday, August 31, 2018

#BlogElul 2018 Day 20 Love

Try and define love and you end up with a series of metaphors or stories— anecdotes and personal tales. Little episodes. 

But love for someone or love of something? Love as a word that’s used loosely or love that is fierce in its attachment.

Such an expansive word. I love frozen yogurt, lobsters, and chips. I love the sound of the ocean when it rolls over the sand— then retreats. I love the line of calligraphy it leaves in the sand. I love the color of canyons. 

I love reading scripture and poetry and well turned phrases. 

Love is family and your sport’s team. Love is the family that has cracks and places that will never fully come together. Love is letting go of what you can’t have and giving thanks for what you do have. 

Love is a belief in something beyond yourself— love is what you strain towards.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

#BlogElul 2018. Day 20 Fill

Take Care

Whatever I fill my day with becomes part of me.
 It’s my choice.
It is how I define myself. 

Fill up with fluff and I cease to wrestle with ideas. 
What fills me becomes who I am. 
It’s my choice.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

#BlogElul 2018. Day 19 Speak

Speak Truth to Power

Tonight we went to see Spike Lee’s new film —BlacKkKlansman. This isn’t a review save to say this film is important and needs to have a large viewing audience. The Klu Klux Klan figures prominently in the story and their hatred of Blacks and Jews is palpable — spelled out by the Klan members.
Then all time collapses and instead of a story taking place in the 70s we catapult into present time and footage of Charlottesville. White supremacists march— their lit torches form a serpentine pattern. With each step  they spew hate filled rhetoric into the night.

The film clip shows fighting and a car running amok. Heather Heyer died after a car drove into the crowd of people protesting this intrusion of hate. 

Then Trump appears giving the speech where he said that there were good people on both sides...

We all need to speak out. Our country is almost unrecognizable. It isn’t ok to remain silent.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

#BlogElul 2018 Day 18

Turn and Return

Ask for what you need
and respond to those who ask
you for forgiveness

Monday, August 27, 2018

#BlogElul 2018 Day 17. Awaken

     to what needs mendIng
or words said in haste
It is time to turn around and find
those worn out patches
It is time to repair what has broken
or hangs by a thread

It is time to turn and turn again

Sunday, August 26, 2018

#BlogElul 2018 Day 16 Pray

Pray for the big things, 
but don’t forget the small ordinary 
day to day needs
Pray the written down words
You know the prayers that
reside in books, or the ones
the community intones 
I like to know I’m saying 
some of the same words 
but often it’s the small prayers
that connect me to God

I pray for the groundhog
to find another place to bed down
after filling a hole with dirt and stones
 I pray for the listless hydrangea bush
that needs more rain water and less sun

and I pray to take the time to listen

for that small still voice

Saturday, August 25, 2018

#BlogElul 2018 Day 15 Plan

Plan your days. What to do? What to accomplish? And then let the day unfold irrespective of those plans. If everything I plan to do is charted out in detail how can I be present for the unexpected. And I suspect that the unexpected is where we often are given a chance to find the gift...  the place where grace appears.

So I need to make room for the interruption. In some sense it’s important to invite the interruption into our lives. It’s sometimes messy and ill behaved and takes our time.

We live in that field between the well laid out plans and the interruptions. Each feeds the other. 

Friday, August 24, 2018

#BlogElul 2018 Day 14 Learn

On Sabbath Eve

Learn to bow a knee
and give thanks for Holy Sparks
within everything

Thursday, August 23, 2018

#BlogElul 2018 Day 13Remember

I remember the claw legs on my Grandmother Cecilia’s dining room table. I referred to them as lion paws. Did my grandmother really trample grapes and make wine or did my older cousin Jerry make that story up? But I do remember when she combed her hair out and then twisted it up into a bun— fastened with a tortoise barrette.

I remember my Grandfather David davening. I also recall him giving out small Israeli flags to all his grandchildren. 

On the High Holy Days his three sons went to shul with him. It was the only time of the year my father went to services. Even though neither my mother nor I went to temple, I had to wear a dress and I could not carry money. 

I shared a bedroom with my Grandmother Yette. She didn’t go to services, but had an intimate relationship with God. I remember having a terrible cough and my grandmother making up some sort of horrible compress and asking God to heal the cough. She simply addressed God— usually apologizing for yet another request. She was always asking for customers for her friend Mrs. Ruben. And God probably prodded her into purchasing pot holders and dish towels.

I remember my mother telling me to walk to shul and say hello to my grandfather, uncles, and my father. It was a long service and the shul was small, crowded, and hot. Every hour they came out to get some fresh air. I walked over with my friend Nina. They weren’t outside, but we could hear the intoning of Hebrew. Then one voice chanting a haunting melody.

I am always moved when I hear a hazzan ( cantor )sing. 
Gregorian chants and many Hebrew chants  touch my soul.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

#BlogElul. 2018 Day 12 Count

Monologue or Dialogue

Can I count on you?
      Let me count the ways.
Every minute counts.

      Now...Count your blessings.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

#BlogElul 2018. Day 11 Trust

You can’t go around not trusting
Some folks don’t trust the footing
they stand on— calling it a slippery slope
Some folks think the world is out
to cause them trouble
Other folks got burned bad
by not being loved right
so they are slow to offer trust
Other folks were loved from the start
They call that unconditional love
They rested in that kind of love
Some folks hold trust in their pocket
and dole it out like crumbs
Now God’s different 
you can trust that her word is good
and God’s willing to turn the page 

Monday, August 20, 2018

#BlogElul 2018 Day 10 Forgive

Three Ways

To ask another
to forgive 
and move beyond
the past is a plea
To be forgiven
does not bury 
what is past,
but retells the story

a light 
to illuminate
the silence 

Sunday, August 19, 2018

#BlogElul 2018. Day 9 See

Lunch in the City at a Vegetarian Restaurant

The man who makes my smoothie looks familiar. I think he worked at the falafel place next door.

A young boy’s Tzitzit stand out against his black trousers. 

Three girls push four tables together. They eat cut vegetables and wait for the others to arrive. In time the others come and order bowls of cut vegetables.

A  small stainless steel sink and a pitcher for ritual hand washing is between the men’s room and the women’s room. 

At an outside table two women drink healthy looking green smoothies. A brown and white dog naps half under the table. 

We walk to the car and pass a woman eating a sandwich with a pungent aroma.

In front of a restaurant called Brothers a young man and woman sit at a table and talk. They push their dishes to the side and hold hands.

On the way home we observe a man with a fluorescent green backpack enter a store. The store sells antiques and used furniture.

Each person has a story to tell. And each story connects to other people and places. My story and your story may touch at some point. 

Saturday, August 18, 2018

#BlogElul 2018. Day 8 Hear

when i hear a prayer chanted
or a choir singing a hymn—
when i listen to waves break
or lake water reach the shore—
when i hear gospel music
or a wordless hebrew nugin — 
i close my eyes and give thanks
for that glimpse of heaven

Friday, August 17, 2018

#BlogElul 2018. Day 7 Understand

Who can understand the why 
behind narrowness and distain
What happens to turn a person
 toward bigotry, toward hate
I see contorted faces
shouting slurs, words thrown
into public spaces, 
a seductive opiate for some
Lord of creation
Do you weep

Thursday, August 16, 2018

#BlogElul 2018 Day 6 Want

Want— just a four letter word with expansive arms. Want includes everything until it’s trimmed down and the word need comes into play. Despite that we may still want things we don’t need and we want things that may be out of our grasp. 

Some of our wants may require years to attain and some will be thwarted by unexpected roadblocks. How many prayers seem to be ignored ? Who has not asked for a miracle? Who has not wondered if their prayers hit a ceiling? Who has  had a prayer answered, but with a different response?

And how about those who want an eraser to eradicate words said, actions taken, missteps— and the person is no longer alive or we have lost touch. Write an unsent letter. Visualize the other person opening up the letter. 

Then there are the people who will not acknowledge your words. I’ve sent letters and don’t expect a response— but that doesn’t mean I don’t want a response. You never know when those words will be important to the recipient of the letter. 

Something I’ve noted when reading scripture : The Words I read may provide an answer to a want—voiced or unvoiced or  I may find myself  in one of the stories. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

#BogElul 2018 Day 5 Commit

Commit, such an intriguing word. To perpetrate — as a deed that has negative implications. To be committed—the individual losing the ability to make a decision regarding their mental capacity. On the opposite end of the spectrum the word commit infers dedication to something or someone or some activity.

To commit might also infer to consecrate or to devote. Some spiritually minded people commit their lives to a religious order. Some peoples commit their lives to God and try and live always aware of what that means in the everyday world.

During this Elul season what does commit mean to me? It means reading the Bible— studying the weekly portion, reading commentary, and being open to what I’m reading. 

But there’s more than sticking your head in a book — even when it is the Bible. I’ve tried to learn Biblical Hebrew, but never stuck with it—learning languages isn’t  my strong suit. But I bought a book, flash cards, and two other items for self-learners. 

Writing down what you commit to makes it real. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

#BlogElul Day 4. Choose

     It’s all laid out— expectations, wrong paths, choices. The blueprint for living and yet we get to choose. That’s the catch. Every day possibilities for choice. A chance conversation and the opportunity to see the holy spark within another. We can choose to think I’m—too tired, too harried to offer help, to listen, to pray in community, to break bread together.
     I want to remind myself that all paths have stumbling blocks and thorns. You can’t choose to avoid all the cracks and bumps along the way, but you can choose to partake in the blueprint. 

      And even when someone chooses to turn their back God offers a way back. 
A friend always quoted this line:  And  will restore to you the years that the locust has eaten... Joel 2:25

Monday, August 13, 2018

#BlogElul 2018 Day 3 Prepare

A Letter to My Mother

I’ll need a piece of paper—
I prefer paper that won’t let
ink bleed to the other side—
and a pen that writes bold
A delicate extra- fine point
with feathery writing won’t do
A comfortable place to write
with few distractions is a must
Should I pray for the right words
or just begin and let my thoughts flow 
Writing to someone who is buried
in a cemetery two thousand miles away
is one sided, but it’s the best I can do
I prepare myself by praying 
and remember how you loved 
your leopard spotted robe
and the shimmering tee-shirt
I found in a shop in Maine
I only wish I could go back
and tell you I loved you—
It was only when you had the stroke
and the nurse said to talk to you—
hearing was the last thing to go
I held your hand and told you I loved you
I don’t need a stamp

Sunday, August 12, 2018

#BlogElul2018 Day 2 Seek

     We all spend time looking for something. And we all define that something differently. As time passes what we seek may change. Life has a way of altering plans. Time also effects our trajectory. What we seek undergoes a metamorphosis in the cauldron of time. Our interactions with other people may cause shifts. Then the universe may jolt us and what we seek may no longer be feasible.
     And if what you seek involves other people they may be unwilling to accompany you. They may even refuse to partake or even listen. 
     What is it I seek? What do I want to pursue? Years ago I’d whip out my list: walk the Appalachian Trail, hike on a trail through the red rocks in Utah, publish a poetry book by a mainline press and on and on. My list, heavy on substantial weighted items, but light on  those ethereal items that become more important with time. 
    I have walked segments of the Appalachian, climbed Katahdin, hiked some in red orange canyons, published a poetry chapbook—and checked off other items on my bucket list.  

    Now I find that what I seek most has altered. I want to peel back layers and layers...

#BlogElul Day 1. Decide

     It’s easy to create sandcastles in your mind and believe that your construction is stable and impervious to destruction. Of course it is because nothing is real— just figments of imagination. Nothing moves, nothing changes. Nothing is transformed.
     To move beyond fantasy into a world that tilts, a world with obstacles, a world that spins showing new faces as it rotates requires stepping beyond the interior world. 
     In my mind I’ve written and rewritten a story without ever penning a word. Perhaps I need to step out, take up the proverbial pen and begin with once upon a time...Perhaps it isn’t really necessary to write that story.
     How often have I intended to say or do something, but the intention remained just that— unformed into something I acted upon. It’s the difference between passivity and action. And we all, at different times, hover in that space between the two poles. 
     If, that marvelous two letter word, allows for conjecture. To act even when aware of the implications of if requires putting one foot in front of another and proceeding. Some actions are simple—while others arduous and costly.
    Soon it will be my daughter’s birthday and I will buy a card. I’ll pass over a number of cards looking for one that is neutral— not sentimental nor aloof. I’ll write a check and enclose it with the card. I’ll post the card and in a week or so a text will arrive saying thank you. 

    This year I’ll send her a New Year’s card wishing her   L’Shana Tovah Umetukah. “ A good and sweet year.”

Prompt: Decide

Saturday, August 11, 2018


in my haste and in my lack of calendar awareness  i started the month of elul a day before it really began—thus i am now painstakingly going back and changing all the dates to accurately reflect the month

this explanation  and then the painstaking task of altering each date will allow me to arrive at the end of the month at the appropriate time

you ask why this is important— well to cite an important reference— there’s a time for everything—and rushing past a day, or losing a day alters the earth’s rotation and my sense of order

i blissfully was unaware of the error until i found myself looking at a calendar for the year 5778 and understood my miscounting

of course sometimes we telescope time — the year my father and lung cancer wrestled for time my mother called me and said can you fly down for a thanksgiving dinner a week after the usual day — by that time she explained it would be ten days after my dad’s chemo and perhaps he could enjoy some of his favorites

so we celebrated thanksgiving ten days after the official date with a turkey that was surrounded by our family’s usual accouterments

my father sat at the head of the table and ate a small amount of all the dishes and said it was the best meal — my mother, a notorious poor cook— had ordered in the entire meal—the turkey was already cut and then miraculously put back together so that it looked as if it was waiting for the knife

 sometimes you just need to alter time

Friday, August 10, 2018


The Hebrew month of Elul begins at sundown. During Elul observant Jews take stock. This is a time to mend relationships, to ask forgiveness for words and actions, to look within.

“..the Hebrew letters that make the word “Elul,” aleph, lamed, vav and lamed, are an acronym for the phrase (from the biblical Song of Songs) ani l’dodi v’dodi li, which means  I am to my beloved and my beloved is to me.

It is said that at the beginning of the month we are back to back and by the end of the month we are face to face. Repairs are made or in the process— changes made. This is the Time for reflection.

Someone posted a list of prompts for the month— just words to act as an impetus for contemplation and writing. I think I shall take up the challenge.

Thursday, August 09, 2018


Today is National Book Lover’s Day.
To honor the day I bought two books, ordered three at the library, and will pick up one of the two that just arrived at my home library. I almost forgot the biography of Emma Goldman—I found in the stacks at a different library. Years ago I owned a tee shirt with an Emma quote—If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution.  I loved that shirt and wore it until it tattered.

         An aside— according to one family story, not entirely reliable, there was a Russian anarchist in our genealogy. He was entangled in the Russian Revolution— attuned to Trotsky. Even if the accuracy of the tale is suspect it adds drama to our family history.

And before dinner I sat and read for an hour— all the while repeating a mantra—-‘‘tis a day for book lovers. After dinner, dishes, and odds and ends I continue reading. At 9:30 I poured some Chardonnay in an ersatz wine glass, looked at the clock with delight— more time to celebrate this fine day.

And what a fine collection of books awaits me. They are stacked, one on top of another.

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

Seltzer Bottle

Eureka! I got up this morning knowing how to create my oil pastel seltzer bottle. Several weeks ago, or perhaps it was only last week during this hot and humid spell, I pined for an old fashioned egg cream. An egg cream just like the one I had at the candy store in the Bronx. That was decades ago. 

And to create one at home I needed “real” seltzer. In lieu of trying to find all the proper ingredients I found a photo of an antique seltzer bottle. Then I drew my own seltzer bottle. A few days ago I decided to use my never used artist quality oil pastels.

But I really didn’t know how I intended to create the bottle. I did buy a board for the painting and I did draw the bottle( lightly ) on the board.

Last night I had a dream about colors. This morning I was slated to play golf ( a threesome) and decided to opt out because I suddenly knew how to paint the bottle and the background. 

So I put on classical music, took out the never used set of oil pastels— remembered that this brand was softer than I usually liked, but decided that it was what I had and began to plot out my color scheme.

 I can’t say that I used all the colors from my dream, but it gave me the impetus to keep at it. 

Mozart is in the background and my seltzer bottle is waiting for a glass.

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

Have a Handle on the Heat

     When the dew point creeps up and the heat ratchets up —every air conditioned place sees its  popularity index also go up. I’ve noted that libraries appear to have more patrons.
     My answer, if there is one, to this incessant heat— day after day—is to take out an armful of books from the library. I had a list, carefully assembled—three fiction books and one non-fiction. I had recently finished a large tome, so I wanted books that could be read within a few days— without staying up to dawn.
     Years ago I would open a book, become totally engrossed, and read until three or four in the morning. If I attempted that now I’d either fall asleep or re-read the same page dozens of times. It isn’t as if one became wiser with age— just that one’s fortitude was sorely tested and found wanting. 

     So now that I have a cache of books, some edible treats —the dew point is merely a statistic. And it beats snow.

Monday, August 06, 2018

Open Up

Secrets hide from light
and hunker down out of view

and wait for darkness 

Sunday, August 05, 2018

Don’t Argue

Our country is beset with people who believe in the most outlandish fabrications, Q is the latest. At first when I first saw shirts and baseball caps emblazoned with the letter Q I thought it referred to some candidate.

And the folks wearing the Q didn’t look as if they were representatives of the queer community.

According to research— it’s futile to argue with someone believing a conspiracy theory. It just assures them of being correct. So I’ll save myself engaging in common sense. Why bother trying to understand how ordinary folks believe that  our government will soon be arresting Hillary, Bill and Obama for their involvement in some nefarious scheme. 

Saturday, August 04, 2018

An Open Inventory

Stockpiling daily—
words spoken, deeds done, and thoughts
sculpting who I am

Friday, August 03, 2018


Rick Bass revisits  Mississippi and thinks about  writers  who were from Mississippi. Some grew up in the delta, a few in the city, some left, and some returned— but they all were indebted for their language and geography— which worked its way into their insides.

He mentions Faulkner, Welty , Richard Wright, Shelly Foote, Lewis Norton, Willie Morris, Barry Hannah, and Larry Brown. Certainly there were and are more, but those Mississippi writers nurtured him as a writer.

Had it not been for my next door neighbor Anna I might not know anything about cotton mouth snakes hanging down from Cypress trees. And that those trees sat in the swamps buried feet deep in the swamp. I wouldn’t know about taking out a boat on the river and watching out for snakes or how hot it was almost every summer afternoon.

I remember taking a short story course and Anna read a story about listening to the older folks sitting around a front porch on a hot humid afternoon spinning tales—supposedly all true. One story in particular had such arresting details that I can still recall the refrigerator that rocked and rolled whenever the wind picked up. That refrigerator was in the backyard along with a washing machine.

I learned that details-particulars made a story come to life. And I learned that listening to a tale from Mississippi.

I found myself being open to the details that filled out a story, gave it life, drew a picture.

Thursday, August 02, 2018

You Don’t Say Open

Incredible. Delightful

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

Go For It

According to Rick Bass the iconic editor Gordan Lish had as one of his dictums : “ ...write the one story you are most afraid of or ashamed of.  (A variation on this assignment was to write the one story you’d write if you knew you could write only one more in your life.)”

What a challenge? Am I open to this challenge?