land, water, sky, flame,
they flow endless to
the single consciousness,
their confluence makes whole,
my blood is thick and shiny as sap,
my feet rooted, reach down through the cool, rich soils.
i go on forever,
from all dimensions, spaces luxuriant in their ardor for breath,
from my head that becomes part of the universe,
my hair sparkles like the stars,
i go on forever,
my body a tube like hollow flower stem,
the winds, the voice of nature,
whips through me,
my spirit whistles with the rush of itself,
and the act of naturalness flows,
i go on forever,
even when i, my shell is no longer whole,
when my illuminated outline like an old manuscript that’s letters,
of brilliant color, detailed and filigreed have faded,
i will go on forever,
in the flowing air and smooth seas of time,
joined with all in infinite grace,
i go on forever
The Deep Serene
Each step a journey,
I am held by the ancestors.
and I become tranquil like the feel of the granite stairs under my feet,
and serene like the waiting water soon to surround me.
This place: a dynamic still heart.
Words echo in the silent and accepting chamber
The water’s voice,
Sweet pitched waves formed by my movements
become the harmony to my prayers.
Like the kissing waters of the rain offered and the earth contained,
this private,singular ceremony is where the presence of all times converge
It holds our souls,
and our spirits become bound.
I offer my prayers
to join in time the ones already here and the new ones to come.
There Was This Time
When the oceans wrapped themselves around the shores,
They stretched in languorous shine in a place for their swath of self.
Now storms brew, are stirred like a witch’s cauldron that was stolen by gluttonous hands.
Waves become bereft of forethought and are flung by unnatural force.
And the trees breathe labored by tears.
Their hearts heavy with the mottled air.
But there was this wood-strong time.
Running in place,
up toward the sky
feet beneath, unseen.
holding light translucent,
they charm us with
the way they dapple sunlight.
We reach within.
Dancing droplets twirl,
and pirouette down stems,
along veins that hold life.
Breathe breath that smiles,
slumbers in the dark,
tendrils of dreams serene.
All come in circle
like monoliths of time.
Different ages stand swift.
Trees are a preamble to eternity.
Their roots, so entrenched in time.
When stillness appears,
oh, there is the touch
that is so ingrained like the bark.
I want the winds to blow blissful, natural,
Unencumbered by the thoughtless disconnected,
The ones who do not feel the ground when they walk because it is covered by profit dreams,
Not the soft cushion of moist autumn leaves.
I want the snow to fall,
Landing on trees, and tongues of children
And knowing when to grace the outline of things,
Not to meander questioning as in somnambulant dementia.
I want Earth, Nature and Elemental companions
Not to feel betrayed by greedy hands and selfish minds.
I want those of clear and open soul to move gracefully like seeds that reach
toward their full nature to dance the change.
I want those of sight and action to be deft as a polar bear
who is silken smooth when gliding through ocean to
transform the water that has become tears.
I want us to become the we,
who will become a voice
that will become peace.
Passover Seder 2015
Everything is in order.
The ancient sea looms in its depth
Its waves are steeped with memory
Everything is in order.
Heart-the plate to be filled with history
Words-the utensils used wise or ill
Intentions-the wine glass reflects visions
A goblet for Elijah is filled with our hopes.
Walk toward the water.
Let the past fall behind you like a robe that’s fibers dissolve in a sea drenched balm.
Walk across the sands.
Feel the blaze with each step as it burns away what is time to let go.
You cannot be free until you know your truth.
Call the true essence of your spirit forward.
Join with the heart path of the ancestors.
They walk from slavery of body.
We walk from the slavery of mind.
Fingers move like playing notes of freedom with each flick of the air.
There is no bondage but with what we surround ourselves.
We have the power to summon.
We have the courage to create.
We have the right to unencumbered breath.
Passover in Vermont
The seasons are a present force. Weather is a being who circles around our lives and we are tethered to its moments. The song, the breath of nature infuses us with its soul…in Vermont.
These are not words I would have written while I lived in NYC; but being a Vermonter now, they feel spot-on. When I moved to Vermont I had no idea what I was in for. I had gone to boarding school just a half hour away from Brattleboro and got to know the town a bit when I did an internship at the Brattleboro Retreat my senior year. But being in school and sheltered from the everyday machinations of what sustains us, as I was basically just a visitor, is quite different.
I loved the mountains, yearned for them while living in Manhattan. And there could never be too much snow with its footprints left for others to follow on the way to the subway; or better yet, through Central Park. And how autumn, with its own magic of light and color show on the trees that made the sky more present than other City seasons, was my favorite time. But this was not enough.
Something inside me hungered to go back north to the intensity of snow infused winters, more outrageous autumns, and summers that were not endlessly beating down upon my spirit. Sweating in a park surrounded by traffic that spewed forth vapor just sent me inside. No playing in the sun for me, although, truth be told, no matter where I live, summer is not my dream date. Have I forgotten about spring, which was just the short, almost unseen prelude to summer? Well, not anymore.
And so after 911 I moved to Brattleboro. While that was the catalyst that helped me make my decision, I had been in Brattleboro a few weeks before September 11 with eyes toward relocating… maybe. The realization that I was supposed to be in one of the towers that morning and the only reason I wasn’t was that I had overslept, something I never did, was the final proverbial pot thrown on the wheel, to use a Vermonty vernacular. Yes, Vermont has a lot, as in many, with a capital ‘M’, potters; hence the comic inference is based on quite a clay-laden truth. And yes, now I am known to occasionally oversleep.
I looked forward to becoming part of the fray of life in the ‘rural’. But some of us take a little longer and stick out a little more. It is not that we want to; it is merely that we are perhaps odd, even in a city. Maybe because of that a fondness between me and older born and bred Vermonters developed. They have seen it all and accept that it takes all kinds. One wizened ice fisher taught me that even when a lake is frozen in the deep of winter the ice will still creak when you walk on it. This was especially helpful when a certain person, any guess as to whom it might be, was having a fantasy of being some ice pioneer. She did not panic and run back to terra firma; but rather stood solid and rode the sultry moans beneath her brand new snow boots: her heavier than expected snow boots.
That fact that I never thought I would say the words metalbestos and Carhartt and actually know what they mean is another thing entirely. But knowing what a Carhartt is does not mean I am going to don one. Might this be why some friends still joke and tell me after 13 years I still look like a tourist?
Yes, I wore the reversible, poofy sleeved winter coat that I bought at Filene’s Basement on Broadway and 72nd Street to accompany a friend to purchase a boar for her 3 sows. We drove an hour north in the snow and lured Truffles, she let me name him, the big red porcine pooch, into the back of her Subaru Outback with large dollops of yogurt on a ramp. He snoozed on the way back as I pet his snout. I took the day off from work because when else would I ever do this?
One year later I helped her build a shelter for Truffles and ‘the girls’. My second first experience of the porky kind occurred when Truffles snuck up on me and stuck his snout between my legs and threw me up in the air. I landed flat on my back. I wondered if this meant we were dating. But I am Jewish and kosher, so what is a girl to do?
Being an active participant and sometime teacher in the Jewish world of the Upper West Side of Manhattan I assumed that my spiritual life would go on as usual, as there is a Jewish population here, although it is small. Again, I had no idea what I was in for. Rural Jewish practice, like much else here, is dictated by the often inclement weather that deters easy transportation and merry making for months on end. An ages-rich instilled early to homestead nightly calling and lots of outside pursuits which run the gamut of serious farming and gardening, to recreational interests can also take precedence. So only having been here a few months before Passover, I found myself on my own. I had spent a few Seders by myself before but that was by choice unlike this time. So determined not to be alone, I happened upon a very different type of Seder, but one I would not trade for anything.
It was the first night of Passover; the night of the first Seder. It was also the first night of the annual crossing of the salamanders when they go to the vernal pools to mate. In an effort to save these creatures, BEEC-Bonnyvale Environmental Education Center, organizes groups of volunteers to protect the salamanders and their attending frogs as they cross the unpaved roads to these springtime vernal pools. I was one of those organized. A group of us met with raingear and flashlights in tow. Our task was to slow the oncoming cars so all make the long journey across their muddy desert safely.
Recalling the luminous sheen of the salamander’s skin, the darkness vaguely lit by what the sky could offer and the scent of nature’s abundance still deepens my breath. My heart glimpsed the endlessness of time and its fire spark that night. Archetypal images rendered themselves in my mind’s eye. I was filled with the presence of this ancient event that was whirling around in every sense I had. Just as I could feel the deep paths of my ancestors’ exodus laden with slavery’s heaviness; I felt the salamanders’ primal urge that propelled them toward their equally long journey across their dirt road desert. The vastness of each resonated.
One side of the road had just a few houses each spaced a distance from one another. Their various grasses and plants came to the edge of the road to meet the dirt and small stones that served as pavement. Beyond this lay the vernal pool, the land of milk and honey, or rather water and algae that was their promised land.
The woods from which the salamanders and frogs emerged were on our other side. We kept vigilant eyes on the slope of the road that held the forest at bay, so as not to miss even one. We walked slowly, always with our flashlights pointed toward the ground. What took us just a few seconds to cross, took these beautiful spotted beings many times more. What respect and awe we were all in at the determination and strength we were witnessing. There were times when it was too much to take. Our feelings got the best of us and we would gently pick one up, and with reverence, place them in the grass across the way. We stayed for a few hours, adults and children, and ferried our charges.
The sound was all encompassing. While salamanders are silent, almost other worldly; the frogs sing in different tones; some fast and high, others long and low. There were different species each with their own song. I could see my ancestors crossing the Sea of Reeds and almost hear their song. The many trees curved their branches above us forming a canopy that looked almost like stained glass as the moon dappled them with its light. The rain was gentle and added its own harmony as it landed on the leaves and grass. The sounds of the earth and the animals were music of the highest kind.
It was not overly cold; it never is on Passover, but the light rain offered an edge that made the importance of this night sharp with focus. We were there to help sustain the ecosystem and, as far as I am concerned, a culture; a lifetime that spanned eons of the same behavior with the same expectations each time. The winter had melted away, the lushness of nature was awakening, and the rains had come. The pools appeared from under the ice and snow that created them. It was now time to emerge and continue life while the land is verdant and moist.
All the salamanders that were going to cross that night had already done so. Their exodus ended until the next rainy evening. How poignant that on the first night, my Seder was one that had become animated and played itself out right in front of me. When the last person left for home and to warmth, I stood on the edge of the road that led to the vernal pool where I had placed so many to forge their way through the grass. The mist of the night and continuing songs of the frogs and rain filled the air. I breathed in the deepness of the night. The frog’s dulcet tones began to sound like prayers. I stood still and softened my vision. My feet were grounded to the earth but my head moved slowly back in time. I began, softly at first, to sing Eliyahu’s song. The longer I sang, the more I felt nature and history meld together. This was the embodiment of the Passover story and I felt taken to the center of the energy, the pure essence of this holiday. The connection to history past, the present and the future wrapped itself around me. This was a true Seder. This night was about freedom. The freedom to express one’s true nature, the freedom to express one’s true spirit, and the freedom to feel that there is truly a place for each of us. I made my prayers and went home to have a cup of wine with Elijah.
My garden was different this morning. It felt like I was walking into a wind tunnel without the physical manifestation. My hair was not being tossed about my face. My eyes were not feeling the touch of the airy swoosh that makes them close. But there was a wind in my garden this morning. I almost fell over from the rush of its energy that put pressure on my head and whirled through my spine to my feet. I felt myself going down into the earth along with the garden. We were descending to the primordial underworld. When I finally got my bearings I understood what was happening. My garden is transitioning. It is moving toward the Fall. I was experiencing the turning of the earth in a most intimate way.
This garden is a refuge, a place for thought and pleasure. It is a reverent place. It holds my heart and nurtures my spirit. It allows my often earth-greedy hands the chance to feel the world that is beneath our feet from where so much of our sustenance comes. This place also allows my design and magical aesthetics to share the beauty and healing way for anyone who is in need. It holds my sweat lodge as it holds my soul.
And now the time becomes shorter when the days are above and longer when the nights are below. I can sense the tendrils of the coming season undulating in the depth of what we cannot see. They are making their way toward the openness of the surface. They come to claim my flowers, my herbs and my vegetables once again. I can feel the coolness of the furrow down beneath in the gravitas of where the earthworms burrow. It is time for the season to change.
But I must remember that my, as if I really ‘own’ them, plants are reaching toward the earth’s grasp. They want to turn downward and rest and replenish. They are in my charge, so to speak, when the air is warm. Nature has allowed me to be part of this great feast for my eyes and my dinners and every other part of me. It has been an honor to be witness and caretaker to so much. Nature has been generous.
So what is Nature? Nature is not just a tree or a bird flying through the air. Nature is the embodiment of the genuineness of the push of the creative force that encompasses the entire realm of existence. Nature is what enlivens being on all levels. Some would call that force Goddess/God, higher spirit, the great mysterious; but it is this naturalness of being that is the underlying framework of existence. Nature is also what we see and relate to on a physical level. So Nature is twofold. There is, what I will call, the Upper World Nature and the Lower World Nature to borrow Kabbalistic lingo.
Unfortunately, our relationship and understanding of Nature has been devolved by our mechanistic culture that has created a chasm between the body and soul, people and the rest of life. What some may call the supernatural is actually part of Nature. Perhaps we might call it the supra-natural as it seems to be beyond, or above some of our understanding and experiences; but for those who are familiar with these worlds, there is nothing more natural than feeling energy or sitting with a spirit.
Nature, on both levels, is the unifying force of the cosmos. We are not separate from ‘It’. We can communicate with nature. Although we have a different mode of communication, we can learn nature-speak, or might we call this spirit or deva–speak or even complete-speak which will create wholeness and connection. This will help us live comprehensively fulfilled lives as it will change and heal our way of relating to each other and the world.
Nature expresses, nature does not judge, nature is neutral, nature is itself, nature is connected and cannot thrive without those connections being intact, nature attracts and repels. These are all qualities that comprise an ideal human ecosystem which is a part of Nature as well. Nature is and holds a quality that Rudolph Otto called the ‘numinous’.
As there is a numinous spark in each of us, there is a numinous spark in each stone. The numinous speaks each time that feet imprint on the bare dirt road. Its impression guides the connection between the numinous in earth and the numinous in us. The spiritual Higher Nature aspect of the Great Mysterious, the Divine, in the souls of both; coupled with the Lower Nature that we hold, calls forth the numinous of spirit that is creation. It encircles from the inside out and from the outside in. This is the energetic dance, the energetic webstring of life. This is the juncture of joining.
And so I sit with the pansies, smell my roses and gather my herbs. These are the end of the season. I feel thankful for our time spent and know they will return; but my eyes well up despite this. It is time to say goodbye as they begin to fade. There will be no more new growth this season; for these are my lastlings.
What would it be like to fly?
To have the fluid of flight careen down your throat
and lift you off the ground.
What would it be like to fly?
To spread arms of feathers
that shine with the sun
and take the moonlight
like a lotion of reflection.
But like the beat of a wing that pushes forward,
do we not, in our footed way,
soar like the birds when we unfurl ourselves
toward our gathered dreams?
Our paths are paved with our soul prints.
Our lives reflect off one another.
And if not a thing of flight, what is it when
two meet and have a dialogue of soul?
This is our nature’s flight.
It is like drinking birds.