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The Christmas Day service at First UU ("It's the Most Jewiful Time of the Year") included a dramatic reading of Lemony Snicket's The Latke that Couldn't Stop Screaming, led by the sabbatical minister with audience participation (congregants waving their arms and going "aaaaah!" on cue); a Dr Who reference (Rabbi Rami: I was hoping to watch the special tonight but my wife is insisting that we go out for Chinese); an extended Star Trek benediction in both Hebrew and English; and substantive theological points to consider, with the rabbi comparing closed systems (salvation-based) and open ones (hope-based). The quote I repeated to several other people later in the day : Johanan ben Zakkai's "If you are planting a tree and you hear that Messiah has come, first finish planting the tree."

Also: The thrill of hearing a professional soprano several pews behind me warbling through "Silver Bells" and other standards. The pleasure of petting my friend Victoria's therapy dog through the first half of the service. The hugging of friends and acquaintances and the talking about plans for dancing, performing, volunteering...

For champagne tea with my honorary mama, I baked potato wafers. The BYM and I heard someone very, very good playing the piano in the assisted living lobby when we arrived, and it was indeed her son, who'd brought along sheet music for several super-silly, wildly virtuosic seasonal pieces.

I was not feeling well enough to join the late-night crowd at Lipstick Lounge, but I did stay up to sort out a few things and to say a few more blessings...

second night

And, speaking of blessings, my thanks to all who responded to my Feast of Stephen appeal. I am full of gratitude. See you in 2017.

This entry was originally posted at http://bronze-ribbons.dreamwidth.org/407370.html. I see comments at DW, IJ, and LJ (when notifications are working, anyway), but not on feeds.
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The subject line is from a Yiddish poem by Bella Schaechter-Gottesman titled "Harbstelied" (Autumn Song): "When autumn offers baskets full of gold."

Extraordinary selichot service at Congregation Micah earlier tonight. Before the service, I talked briefly with one man who said repeatedly that his partner had "dragged" him there, and a woman who had been a member for 14 years. The rows became full and more chairs were added. Some of the elements:

Havdalah, with the spice jar passed around.

Rabbi Laurie speaking about mature faith, the ability to endure uncertainty, traveling from fear to faith, the bar mitzvah earlier Saturday morning of a young man who had gone through two stretches of leukemia treatment.

The musical "dream team" of Lisa Silver (guitar), Michael Ochs (guitar and accordion), and Batsheva (guitar).

Andrew, a member, speaking about his parents dying within weeks of each other earlier this year -- one from a terminal illness, one suddenly -- and of his midnight-snack rituals with his daughter, who has left for college, as well as the networks developed and cherished by all three generations through their commitment to Judaism. He choked up within a few sentences into his remarks and gestured to his wife, who joined him at the bimah and held him throughout the rest of narrative.

Rabbi Laurie telling part 1 of a tale about a king distraught over a crack appearing in a previously perfect diamond. A craftsman takes it away for a week, promising to make it perfect again...

Batsheva animatedly speaking and then singing "Harbstlied," and later her setting of Robert Frost's "The Road Not Taken" (apparently composed during a stay in Israel where a collection of Frost's poems was the only book in the house).

Angie, another member, speaking about her work at Alive Hospice, about beloved people taken away by cancer (including the wife of the founding rabbi, whose earrings she wears and whose seat she often sits in at the synagogue), about surviving other transitions (including menopause), and about five things one should be able to say not only at the end of life but every day: Forgive me. I forgive you. Thank you. I love you. Good-bye. (I may be misremembering "thank you.")

Rabbi Laurie: what happened to the diamond.

The service ended with what is apparently a Micah tradition -- the congregation holding hands and singing "Hallelujah" in Hebrew:

Cohen's Hallelujah in Hebrew

Cohen's Hallelujah in Hebrew

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[Inspired by a typo-line in Mary's entry: "I don't know, really, want to do with it." And by the fact that I can't find the sexy sufganiyot poem I thought I'd published 12-15 years ago but perhaps simply sent during an e-mail exchange with a friend that has since disappeared, what with friend and I both moving on to other accounts and machines. Oh, and yesterday would have been my mother's 72nd birthday. That might be on my mind as well.]

I don't know, really, what to want about them,
the doughnuts I was sure I'd brought along.
Did they fall off the roof of the car, my
forgetfulness feeding birds or strays
or sweeten the tires of a semi? How
the ghosts growl, the ones who couldn't
forgive the other lapses of attention:
the textbooks and sneakers and cups of coffee
inadvertently littering Lancaster,
Kimbark, Burns -- all those streets
and avs anointed by my distraction.
How wasteful. How pointless -- and
perhaps a rebuke? for I confess
my plan to give was flavored with
the hope of gaining points: pastries
paving the way for projects in need
of green lights, grease, goodwill -- you
know, the unwritten blessings
that separate the inn-mates
from those consigned to the barn. Yes,
a reprimand: see the servant candle
sharing the night with ones expressly
saved for the sameach, that light no others
because they were cast for the holiday.
So why do I long -- aye, pray -- that those donuts
met with the fate of loaves rather than lilies,
I who sit with my thermos of coffee
amid the waiting ledgers and lists?
I don't know what I'm ready to want
beyond the age-old cravings --
one more night, one more meal,
one more story, one more hug
--
that always and forever were an asking too much
and yet, oh wondrous world, were sometimes answered.

Night 4

This entry was originally posted at http://zirconium.dreamwidth.org/123095.html.
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Upper Rubber Boot's 100 Untimed Books prompt 36 is "nails." I brought Donna Karan's new memoir home from the library today (along with a Pilates manual and a collection of Szymborska poems from the sale shelf for the grand total of $1), but this is the book that first came to mind:

36 - nails

I met with one contractor last week and will interview another this week. The sunroom will get built eventually. In the meantime, I hauled inside one pot of rosemary, four of peppers, and two tomato vines ahead of the weekend's second frost warning. Another vine was too far gone to bother with, but I plucked the two tiny tomatoes off its tip before chucking it over the rail:

tiny tomatoes in a sushi dish

(Diameter of dish = 3.5 inches)

Prompt 37 is "joyful."

37 - joyful

The holiday prayerbook is from West End Synagogue, where I've celebrated Simchat Torah a couple of times. The glossy guide to Tel Aviv was purchased during a stay there, prompted by the wedding of a college friend in Jaffa. That was indeed a joy-filled occasion, as was the wedding celebration I attended in Austin this past weekend (which also featured some Jewish elements, and during which I chatted with the woman next to me about New York and Houston synagogues and community centers). The bride is a librarian, so one of the cakes was decorated with the outline of a book, and the centerpieces were pop-up books with photos of the couple pasted into some niche or tab. Focal points during the gatherings the following day included a restored player piano and hundreds of silvery bats and an Irish band rocking through Elvis and Johnny Cash as well as more traditional-sounding tunes. (I can't hear "Ring of Fire" without remembering the contra dance mashup someone at Christmas School devised for an after hours session, which had a title like "Walking the Line of Fire" ...)

This entry was originally posted at http://zirconium.dreamwidth.org/120517.html.
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Between work and nerves, I considered heading home instead of going to synagogue tonight, but I'm glad I made the effort. The gathering was not large -- maybe three dozen people? -- but it was more diverse than the last time I was there (back around 2007), including some South Asians and an African American, and at least two languages in play besides English and Hebrew, and an elegant older woman who reminded me of my honorary mama cheerfully and graciously pointed out to me the woman who is this year's president, the new junior rabbi, a future Hadassah board member, and other notables.

I danced with the Torah as well as around it, sometimes hand in hand with others and sometimes hands-on-shoulders, and yes, I thought about the message I'd received from Women of the Wall last week as a prayer shawl was draped over my shoulders. The senior rabbi whirled around with a little girl in his arms during some verses, and playfully bopped some heads with a stuffed Torah at another point. Someone brought Glenlivet to share; there was conversation about bourbon casks during the walk from the sanctuary to the social hall. A Torah was unrolled in its entirety, the rabbis gesturing to the grown-ups to make the circle larger and larger so that all of the text could be seen. A father handed his own shiny teal-emerald kippah to his son, who'd lost his somewhere in the hall during all the running around. A mother collected her girl from a minor scrum; other little girls hopped and shrieked and shushed and eventually gathered under a canopy-shawl, giggling when the rabbi later dramatically swooped the shawl over his head. The man to my left was holding up the section containing the Ten Commandments. More than one person caught themselves drooping to the point of almost dropping their part of the scroll -- I'd forgotten how services can seem so rushed and at the same time so long within the same evening. And yet I got home early enough to call a friend on the East Coast, to reconnect briefly with another part of my life that is likewise no longer central but still beloved.

And it is good to wind down the evening thinking about the silent prayer that spoke loudest to me tonight, Guard my tongue from evil and my lips from speaking deceitfully ... As for all who plan evil against me, swiftly thwart their counsel and frustrate their plans. Thousands-year-old rebuke and comfort, ever ancient, ever new...

This entry was originally posted at http://bronze-ribbons.dreamwidth.org/394991.html. I see comments at DW, IJ, and LJ (when notifications are working, anyway), but not on feeds.
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From the July (I think) issue of Elle:



Sarah: We had no religion at all, but we were Jews in New Hampshire, and my sister--who is now a rabbi--said it best: We were, like, the only Jews in Bedford, New Hampshire, as well as the only Democrats, so we just kind of associated those two things together. My dad raised us to believe that paying taxes is an honor.

Judd [Apatow]: How does your sister talk about Judaism?

Sarah: It's funny because sometimes I'll get cunty with her, and I'll be like, "Oh, so you believe there's a man in the sky?" And she'll go, "Well, I like to live my life as though there is one." And I'm just like, "Oh, you're beautiful."


Judd: I wish I could convince myself to believe the way your sister believes because I'm so exhausted from not believing.

Sarah: I actually don't think that she believes in God, necessarily. I think she just loves the ritual of religion and finding meaning in every little thing. She loves living her life that way.

Judd: She doesn't believe in a God that is actively involved in people's lives, making choices?

Sarah: She doesn't believe that God is rooting for the Giants and not the Patriots. She's not fucking ridiculous.



This entry was originally posted at http://bronze-ribbons.dreamwidth.org/392115.html. I see comments at DW, IJ, and LJ (when notifications are working, anyway), but not on feeds.
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From Sophie Appleby, via Kat McNally:

In the busyness of the everyday, taking time to nourish the soul doesn't reach the top of the 'to do' list as often as it should.

What nourishes your soul? How would you like to incorporate more of this into your life in 2015?


Night 2


This year, there were a handful of Fridays where I was able to stay offline from sundown on Friday to sunrise on Saturday, and sometimes even until sundown on Saturday as well.

I'm a happier woman when I can manage it. It can be time for reading. Time at the piano. Time with crayons and pencils and markers. Time with my plants and seeds and my plans for them. Time ironing -- which is, yes, a chore, but also a pleasure, in wearing clothes and using linens that look and feel better when cared for in that fashion. Time with the dog. Time sifting through old papers and keepsakes.

It sharpens the saw, to borrow Franklin Covey terminology. It brings a bounce back into my brain. It forces me to wait for answers instead of racing toward them, and insists on my enjoying slices of the "someday" ("someday I'll read that book..." "someday I'll get the hang of sight-reading pieces with umpteen sharps in the key signature..." "someday I'll expand those eleven words into a full sestina...") that I would otherwise not get around to anytime soon.


my hanukkiah at work


Tuesday night, I was so dead on my feet that lighting candles was out of the question. Tonight was nice, though. It was a long day at the office and there was yet more work-related stuff to deal with when I got home, but once that was out of the way, it was time for light and for some writing and wrapping.

I sketched this hanukkiah a couple of weeks ago during a visit to Martin ArtQuest Gallery at the Frist Center (where, full disclosure, I'm currently working as their interim editor). Earlier this week, I spent the end of my lunch break at another crafting station stocked with metallic crayon-pencils and translucent bookmark, the better to add a chalice to my bulletin board:

my bulletin board (detail)

(Yes, Michigan tweeps, that's a Zingerman's postcard. I dig the moose and waterfowl.)


On a related note, here's what's happening at the Center the rest of the year, narrated by the newbie: http://fristcenter.org/calendar-exhibitions/detail/at-the-frist52

This entry was originally posted at http://zirconium.dreamwidth.org/93944.html.
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From Sophie Appleby, via Kat McNally:
In the busyness of the everyday, taking time to nourish the soul doesn't reach the top of the 'to do' list as often as it should. What nourishes your soul? How would you like to incorporate more of this into your life in 2015?
Night 2 This year, there were a handful of Fridays where I was able to stay offline from sundown on Friday to sunrise on Saturday, and sometimes even until sundown on Saturday as well. I'm a happier woman when I can manage it. It can be time for reading. Time at the piano. Time with crayons and pencils and markers. Time with my plants and seeds and my plans for them. Time ironing -- which is, yes, a chore, but also a pleasure, in wearing clothes and using and linens that look and feel better when cared for in that fashion. Time with the dog. Time sifting through old papers and keepsakes. It sharpens the saw, to borrow Franklin Covey terminology. It brings a bounce back into my brain. It forces me to wait for answers instead of racing toward them, and insists on my enjoying slices of the "someday" ("someday I'll read that book..." "someday I'll get the hang of sight-reading pieces with umpteen sharps in the key signature..." "someday I'll expand those eleven words into a full sestina...") that I would otherwise not get around to anytime soon. my hanukkiah at work Tuesday night, I was so dead on my feet that lighting candles was out of the question. Tonight was nice, though. It was a long day at the office and there was yet more work-related stuff to deal with when I got home, but once that was out of the way, it was time for light and for some writing and wrapping. I sketched this hanukkiah a couple of weeks ago during a visit to Martin ArtQuest Gallery at the Frist Center (where, full disclosure, I'm currently working as their interim editor). Earlier this week, I spent the end of my lunch break at another crafting station stocked with metallic crayon-pencils and translucent bookmark, the better to add a chalice to my bulletin board: my bulletin board (detail) (Yes, Michigan tweeps, that's a Zingerman's postcard. I dig the moose and waterfowl.) On a related note, here's what's happening at the Center the rest of the year, narrated by the newbie: http://fristcenter.org/calendar-exhibitions/detail/at-the-frist52 This entry was originally posted at http://zirconium.dreamwidth.org/93944.html.
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Virtual: Hena Khan's Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns: A Muslim Book of Colors, illustrated by Mehrdokht Amini. While I prefer picture books on paper, I do like checking them out (so to speak) via my library's online lending program, especially when said program recommends books to me that might not otherwise show up on my radar, like this one. It's a beautiful book, and I now want to look up the other books the author and artist have produced.

Physical: Elisabeth Kushner's The Purim Superhero, illustrated by Mike Byrne. This one was brought to my attention by someone on my Twitter feed, who pointed to an essay expressing disappointment with PJ Library's decision to make it an opt-in selection (rather than an automatic delivery, as all its other selections have been) because the dads in the story are gay. I didn't save the link to that column, but these comments are in a like vein, and Keshet reports that subscribers opted in in droves.

This Tablet article covers a lot about what I like about the book, including the line that made me stop and sniffle: the hero of the story is feeling pressured to choose a superhero costume for Purim, even though, left to his own devices, he would rather be an alien.


"Max said I need to pick a superhero."

"Is Max your boss?" Abba said.

"All the boys are going to be superheroes," said Nate.

"You know," Abby said, "not all boys have to be the same thing."

Max thought about how most kids had a mom and dad, not a Daddy and an Abba.

"Abba?" Nate asked. "Do you ever just want to be like everybody else?"


Do you ever just want to be like everybody else? Oh. Oh, my heart.

Also? The cast includes a dad who sews and a woman rabbi. Yes!

This entry was originally posted at http://zirconium.dreamwidth.org/77800.html.
pondhop: white jointed mannequin in glass door (paris opening)
When I arrived in Paris about two years ago, the day coincided with Kehilat Gesher's celebration of Simchat Torah, which is pretty much my favorite religious holiday since it is about beautiful words and lively dancing. Getting to celebrate it in Paris was a highlight -- and I had meant to post about it before now, but I was exhausted when I got back to the flat (as I wrote to my husband before turning in -- around 10 p.m. Paris time -- "I'm so tired I can't even bring myself to open one of the beers my hostess left in the fridge"). On the upside, it has been nice to make a point of gathering back together the various notes I jotted down (as well as sifting through other souvenirs) in between Elul readings and everyday errands.

In my handwritten journal that morning, I recorded that 7:30 a.m. is a beautiful hour to fly into Paris -- the sky different shades of navy blue, the lights of the broad city below. Ninety minutes later, I was still waiting for my luggage, but not as anxiously as the French musicians who'd had to check their guitars. A woman across from me was reading Twilight, and I'd managed to converse in French with a luggage handler and a ticket agent.

The tiny flat I rented for the night was in the Latin Quarter, in the southern half of Paris. The view from the window:
From paris day 1


The synagogue alternates between two locations, one in a suburb and one in the 17th arrondissement. 17e is a ways across town from the Latin Quarter, but still a much easier shlep than getting to/from St.-Germain-en-Laye would have been. I allowed myself enough time to walk to the Métro stop at Place Monge (pink line) and take it to Chatelet, switch to the magenta line to get to Réamur Sebastopol, and change one more time to the green olive line, diréction Pont de Levallois Bécon. The stop for Kehilat Gesher is at Wagram.

From paris day 1


Kehilat Gesher is a French-English congregation. The handouts for the service were in Hebrew (with transliteration provided for some parts), French, and English:

Simchat Torah at Kehilat Gesher

The rabbi wore sneakers and jeans, as did a number of other people there, as well as folks in dressier garb. The other songleader was a young woman who reminded me of my mentor from Borders, looks-wise; she worked around Europe as an opera singer, but hadn't lost the ability to sing sans vibrato. There were frizzy-haired older ladies, and families with young children (including one from Britain), and younger women who danced unselfconsciously and later formed a conga line. A grizzled older man reminded me of the president of a Nashville running club; I noticed someone androgynous in a blazer, and someone else in crocheted gloves.

Some people carried the scrolls readily, and others visibly balked when asked to take a turn. They were handed to me a half-dozen times and the singing (all a cappella) was lively enough that I could truly kick up my heels without feeling out of line. During the faster (and at times near-frenetic) numbers, the rabbi danced arm-in-arm with the congregants -- which reminded me of contradancing, except that it didn't matter where one ended up.

Simchat Torah songsheet

It was the smallest space I'd ever celebrated Simchat Torah in, and at the same time, the most festive in feel once it got going (even compared to the one in Nashville where a man near me was sharing swigs from a flask). The Torahs in circulation included one that was 30 years old and one that was 70 years old, and at one point an arch was formed for the children to wriggle through. Since nothing had been rehearsed, the energy level in the room surged and dipped depending on how familiar the group was with any given song ("Frère Jacques" in Hebrew was a new one for me; classics such as "Hava nagila," "Hineh ma tov," and "Siman tov ou mazal tov" brought out the liveliest, lustiest renditions; there were melodies familiar to me from services elsewhere -- and then there was the Shema, where the notes went in an unfamiliar-to-me direction).

closeup of the siddur

As it turned out, though, the most magical stretch of the evening to me didn't involve voice or feet at all: there was a point where instead of singing -- in large part, I think, because many of us were out of breath by then -- the songleader and some other congregants started clapping in complementary patterns. That is, she started varying her rhythms and others did likewise, but without stopping, so you had maybe twenty people (including me) all clapping rapidly and confidently in a spontaneous, wordless, percussive chorus of hands that became its own song.
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It's a touch dated (published in 1982), but I am thoroughly charmed by The Philharmonic Gets Dressed, a picture book by Karla Kuskin and Marc Simont. (The link should take you to the publisher's website, which has a "look inside" feature.) There's a cat watching its owner reading in the bath. There are various performers showing, powdering, hunting for socks, pulling on boots, waiting for trains, tuning tympanis, etc. Sometimes I just want a book that revels in the process of getting ready. This fit the bill.

[It is perhaps not a coincidence that preparation has been much on my mind lately. Among other things, it is the month of Elul...]

[ETA: the books listed on the back jacket include The Dallas Titans Get Ready for Bed. That one is totally going on the someday list...]

This entry was originally posted at http://zirconium.dreamwidth.org/59101.html.
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It's a touch dated (published in 1982), but I am thoroughly charmed by The Philharmonic Gets Dressed, a picture book by Karla Kuskin and Marc Simont. (The link should take you to the publisher's website, which has a "look inside" feature.) There's a cat watching its owner reading in the bath. There are various performers showing, powdering, hunting for socks, pulling on boots, waiting for trains, tuning tympanis, etc. Sometimes I just want a book that revels in the process of getting ready. This fit the bill.

[It is perhaps not a coincidence that preparation has been much on my mind lately. Among other things, it is the month of Elul...]

This entry was originally posted at http://zirconium.dreamwidth.org/59101.html.
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As I wait for "Voodoo Blue" to set, a few notes:

Signal boosting, because she asked: JJ Hunter's How Are You in Haiku

I have resumed my (somewhat-out-sequence) listening to various episodes of the Moby Dick Big Read, thanks to 7.5 hours on the road today. Melville is both ridiculous and hilarious. I am so glad that I was not his copyeditor.

My friend Donna has a fine riff about the book over at Radish Reviews. In the meantime, here's one of the passages that cheered me along I-81 today:


The skeleton dimensions [of a sperm whale] I shall now proceed to set down are copied verbatim from my right arm, where I had them tattooed; as in my wild wanderings at that period, there was no other secure way of preserving such valuable statistics. But as I was crowded for space, and wished the other parts of my body to remain a blank page for a poem I was then composing--at least, what untattooed parts might remain--I did not trouble myself with the odd inches; nor, indeed, should inches at all enter into a congenial admeasurement of the whale.


Also? Praise be for the recording app on my phone. Listening to Moby Dick sparked some poem ideas (both original and found), as did just having to concentrate on the road (i.e., not having the luxury of scribbling out the simmerings in my head) for 441-odd miles.

Also? I haven't managed to memorize Modah ani yet, but my thoughts drifted to it a lot during the drive. Sorrow is a sharpener, and so is simply being away from my usual groove. The clouds looked unnaturally picturesque -- there was a weirdly clean upper border to them, as if someone had drawn an exacto blade through part of the sky. There were yellow wildflowers (for whatever values of "wild" you want to ascribe to anything along the highway) near the Tennessee-Virginia border. My thoughts skittered from my parents' ashes to shape-note singing to wondering if I'll ever get to experience an Enfoirés concert in person to my personal boycott of ATP-only tennis tournaments, to sketches of poems I want to finish drafting by September. This wild and precious life. So much to ask about where things are going, including the beloved creatures that have ceased to be on this plane.

This entry was originally posted at http://zirconium.dreamwidth.org/56387.html.
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I just received two of my contributor's copies for Overplay/Underdone, and it is as cool as it looked in the preview photos. Spending more time with it will have to wait for some Friday night in the future, but there is so much to look at -- and take out of pockets, and unfold, and thread through holes...

...including Elliott batTzedek's "The Rebbe's Synecdoche," which was written "for Rebecca, my most favorite ever utterly resistant to being a rebbe rebbe" and features a mass of colorful threads. They are knotted to a list of concepts in a column (beginning with "sleep," "Shabbat," and "dark chocolate"; the reader is instructed to use the threads to "draw lines between the concepts and their corresponding ideals." Nifty!

a page from Overplay/Underdone

This entry was originally posted at http://zirconium.dreamwidth.org/53774.html.

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