Gratitude and JOY'S STORY
Written July and August 2003
- Joy Krauthammer
See JOYOUS PHOTOS at end of letter.
You may read this letter, disregard, postpone, delete, trash or answer.
Hopefully, by now, you have received my ROSH HASHANAH greetings to you.
L'SHANA TOVA TIKETEVU V'TAYCHETEMU
Update: Marcel is home, stable in his struggle and "miserable existence."
Always precarious, but he has made progess in getting used to his
surroundings, treatments, and wheelchair. He is dealing with his
tremendous tsuris/problems as best he can. Marcel is amazing and tells a
joke or two.
Aviva is busy in Boston. I am enjoying life whenever I can.
All the rest is commentary.
Again, my favorite joke:
How not to pay expensive parking fees at Cedars Sinai Hospital?
Admit one day and discharge the next. Free on both days. Just an expensive,
gas filled long driving time over the hill into Los Angeles and back.
Really not a fulfilling drive because for these last few years I did not
get to drive into Los Angeles to have a good time. Except for when I
performed, I rarely got to see friends, go to shul, teachings, theatre,
concerts, museums, beach, etc. I missed the 5 mph crawling traffic.
After long hectic, stressful days, I WAS too tired to drive into L.A. and
I RATIONALIZED TO MYSELF that I AM DOING HASHEM'S WORK BY SERVING AS
MARCEL'S CAREGIVER. That is my job so it did not matter if I did not
get to enjoy anything. I did not need to do anything else but caregive.
It was not important anymore to be "Enjoying", or to PARTAKE FULLY OF
LIFE'S ABUNDANT OFFERINGS, FULLY EXPERIENCING EACH MOMENT AS I LOVE TO DO AND DWELL IN THE PRESENCE OF HASHEM.
Receiving G*d's goodness, as is Kabbalistically our raison d'etre for
being here, was less important to me, although permissible. I needed to
be fully accepting of what I was doing, although not by choice, so that
I did not feel badly. I did not ask for this job. Resentment at having no
life of pleasure had been acknowledged by me but was not healthy to feel.
I had forgotten that I MUST NURTURE AND SUSTAIN MYSELF OTHERWISE I HAVE
NOTHING TO GIVE. Earlier, my work included producing concerts, theatre,
teaching art, being Arts Editor of a fine Jewish magazine and being
totally tuned in to how I could help others tune in to enjoy the Arts
and Judaism. I gave arts reviews on the Jewish radio. My M.B.A. thesis
was on "Strategic Planning in the Arts." Now I know nothing about L.A.
arts, and I AM READY to re-learn. I am a visual and performance artist.
My self perspective has returned to my neshama/soul. (As Marcel at this
time is not in crisis).
People mean well when they give advice to "hire help." People do not
understand that a hired aide can not be responsible for the medical
crises, drug and symptom reporting information, decisions, tests,
treatments, rehabilitation and recuperation continuity and follow-through
process involving many medical specialties. An aide or hired medical van
can not be responsible for getting a patient to how many medical
appointments in L.A. in a day and conveying properly the above
information when the patient does not recall all. Can't with a
complicated case and have the patient survive. A lot of seichal/common
sense is needed.
Yes, I did have hired help every day for several weeks when Marcel was
first discharged--to help him adjust to his new somewhat dis-abled life
style at home with his old store-study room which I painstakingly set up
like a hospital room. Even then, he was not trusting of the strangers and
called on me for many situations while he had help. And I had to
continually undo and put back Marcel's belongings left out of place by
the aide, and out of reach (even with his new grabber-reacher contraption)
and in the way of his wheelchair maneuverability, thus I was left with more work to do.
That lengthy, time consuming, beyond exhausting, painful process of
removing three decades of Marcel's medical books, journals, papers and
things which I bagged, then put into hundreds of boxes or trash, after my
going through all of them -- was not easy in order to get him home. Hired
help can not discern what is personal, important, valuable, useless, or
out of date. We are still dealing with that process. A dear friend,
Brian, continues to help while at the same time visiting Marcel.
Hired help can not do what is needed -- when even a bright patient, an
M.D. himself, gets drugged; his mind and mouth confused, disinhibited
like a runaway train, and when he's losing cognition abilities as well as
emotional and psychological equilibrium and physical well-being.
The stress of bearing witness to constant, chronic and crisis suffering
takes its toll on me.
My dear friends and family, YOU HAVE ASKED HOW I AM. In turmoil I don't
get to correspond or visit. I want you to know, if you choose to read my
long story below, that I HAVE RETURNED TO LIFE. TSHUVAH. I've returned
to loving my isolated, tranquil, evolving colorful garden, I WILL partake
of L.A.'s joyousness and dance, although planning is fraught with changes
and cancellations. "Man plans and G*d laughs". I realize that to balance,
as the Tree of Life necessitates, MY JOY CAN BE AS EXTREME AS MY BURDEN.
Too bad the traffic from this valley to L.A. is abominable. Marcel never
agreed to move away from his golf courses. My courses were with my
rabbis in L.A. The irony is that we live in L.A. hospitals how many
months each year on and off since 1988 when Marcel's rare Esthesio Neuro
Blastoma was first diagnosed and treated. He's made history and a many
great comebacks following the original brain tumor surgery and being in a
coma for a few months, and having over a dozen other surgeries. Marcel
has had five serious surgeries in the last three years for the
I can never stay late in the city because I must take into consideration
that I get tired at the wheel and this has proven to be dangerous. I
used to sleep over at my dear friend, Shira's. I place ice cubes on my
body, and sing along to sixties music to stay awake. This is why so often
I miss opportunities of learning and friends' festivities. I drove into
the City yesterday from Northridge, sat on the 405 Freeway, barely
moving, knowing that I would have ten minutes in the Fowler Museum if
lucky, to see the last day of a mystical Sengalese Sufi art show. That is
ridiculous to drive at least for an hour each way to L.A., if traffic is
moving. Luckily for me the museum closed an hour later than scheduled
because of a reception. I LISTENED TO MY ANGELS and not my practical
self. There were paintings of the Ikeda-Abraham and Isaac, also of Adam
and Eve. Amazing. And awesome healing water and writing "writuals". I
even got to add a blessing to a Hispanic designed "Tree of Life".
From there at night I went on alone again to a Japanese Festival,
admiring incredible Bonsai and Ikebana flower arranging, which I have
always loved. For the first time I tried Japanese circle dancing with
live Japanese Taiko drummers. Maybe I am clutsy compared with the pros
dressed in their kimonos but I loved it. Instead of just wanting to join
in, wishing I had, and missing an opportunity, I GOT OUT THERE,
hesitating, knowing no one and tried to follow. Slower than Israeli,
thankfully. I felt the same, when I as the only white person, joined an
American Indian Pow Wow circle dance with drummers. I greatly wanted to
experience the cultural dance and I did. Come to think of it, I did the
same at a Hindu Temple when I joined in for an Indian festival's circle
Stick Dance. Truly, in every country or ethnic community I visit, which I
greatly enjoy doing, I try to join in and experience the joy of people,
movement, of colorful costumes and instruments. I loved learning Chinese
fan dances on the Yangtze River and Polynesian Hula in the South Pacific.
Somewhat like Belly dancing; An old favorite. After initial discomfort, I
felt more comfortable and most loving, at Sufi Dances of Universal Peace
circles with drummers. And I loved meeting Master Pir Vilayat Anat Khan.
(And he even played some of Reb Shlomo Carlebach's, zt'l, music.) Hmm.
MARCEL, MENACHEM ELIMELECH BEN TOVA MATIL, my husband, was admitted to
Cedars Sinai a few days ago (July 24) at 2 A.M. after several hours in
E.R. His pain and symptoms are worse. MRI's were done. All the hospital
staff were so compassionate, bright and helpful, making it all less
stressful. After a dozen hours, scans were read and the aggravated,
excruciating painful nerve damage Marcel was feeling from having fallen
out of his wheelchair, could not be seen so he was discharged without
surgery, Baruch Hashem. Of course, the deinflammation medications make
him crazed and sleepless...
After 6 weeks at home following 3 months in hospitals with 2 major
spinal cord decompression tumor surgeries (the first one aborted because
of major blood loss), we were just getting used to the new situation with
Marcel in a wheelchair. Physical therapists and nurses had been coming to
house regularly. Marcel, although in great distress, was cooking eggs at
the stove for himself so we cancelled the occupational therapist. He even
transfers from wheelchair to shower bench himself with an unbelievable
180* turn. (No, he can not stand alone.) There were too many doctor
visits made this last week for complications and body malfunctions. I
used to complain about shlepping the walker. Little did I know the heavy,
awkward, ugly, black wheelchair was next... Why didn't the rehab people
inform me of the happier-colored more lighter-weight chair???
You should never need them, but can I guide you on what kind of $700
DE-flating air cushions, padded commodes with retractable arm pads,
padded shower benches, wheelchairs and DE-flating $4,000 air mattresses
with loud motors not to buy for hospital beds, as well as other personal
care items and yes, phones, intercoms, etc. What does one do with all the
learned expertise after making a bat mitzvah or wedding? I won't bore you
with the tediousness and fatigue of it all... Pretty amazing that all the
professional staff in rehab hospitals do not clue you into a thing for
what options you have at home. Pretty special were the compassionate
Bikkur Cholim/sharing visits to the ill, made to Marcel by Bruce, the
medical equipment dealer, in addition to just delivering items when his
driver could have done that.
I am thankful that I have a creative angel hovering about me while I
designed and created Marcel's living space. I do try to acknowledge my
angels. (The angel was even painted for me recently at a Body, Mind &
Sprit Expo as a gift from my friend Sybil.) At the Expo, I bought for
Marcel healing essential oils. With crystal bowls and the metal bowls I
brought home from Tibet, I play singing bowls for others' healing, yoga
and meditation. At the Expo I paid someone to play bowls vibrating sound
over my rainbow-colored silk scarf-covered body while watching my
meditative self in overhead mirrors.
I TOOK MY OWN SOUND HEALING MEDICING AND LOVED IT.
On discharge day, one needs to be ready, whether one is or not, to take
the patient home when he is too young to go to a nursing home. It is
called, "mke sure the wife is there to catch the patient, so we can
discharge him and give the bed to someone else." (Guess I should know
this concept since in my prior life, thirty years ago, I was a hospital
medical social worker in Brooklyn.)
Want to talk about building expensive wooden wheelchair ramps? The
carpenter whom I commissioned, used without my permission, reused, old,
dirty partially painted wood, "from a Sukkah," he said when I saw the
results and questioned him. I needed to get Marcel into the house so I
kept the four well-built but messy looking ramps. The truth is that
Marcel now at this time, really does his own chair rolling up and down so
I don't have to push or pull 200 pounds unless necessary.
I had such a good time painting the ramps myself (saving $) to protect
the wood from environment and hide the "Sukkah" mess. I could have been
Tom Sawyer and charged people to participate in painting. It was a
FREEING EXPERIENCE to slather the paint brush in wild long strokes where
ever I chose, painting even where it would not show. I only needed
one coat but I painted two coats having such a good time. I painted over
the peace signs, music notes and hearts I first painted all over, knowing
I could do it again in other colors. (My earlier decorated symbols of joy
are still visibly impressed on my cement sidewalk.) OK, maybe spray
painting would have been faster, as a friend admonished me.
Color? I did not want to be accused of purple partiality, so instead of
painting my favorite purple to match my SUV, I decided the outside ramps
in front of house would blend with the garden's pink petunias,
bougainvillaeas and oleanders. Some street salesman agreed with me, as I
had color paint swatches on my orange front patio tiles, that nothing I
wanted went with the brown house.
Result: perfect fuscia match and I smile at the shocking pink, outrageous
ridiculousness of it all with each entry and exit of my home. Sort of
what my backyard squeezable, squeaky, yellow rubber duckies (buoyant
quackers) do for me. Gotta laugh. I was not so bold indoors and after
painting ramps a boring color, bought some carpeting to go over it.
Anyone have a staple gun, glue or carpet nails so I can finish the job?
Still must water proof the paint job from rain.
About twenty years ago I finished seven pieces of large funiture and a
ping pong table. In between, I had forgotten how much I loved using a
brush. That was probably around the time I was painting (glazing) my
ceramic artwork also. I'd even painted my ceramic drum a dozen years
ago-the dumbek I'd used in performance accompanying Reb Shlomo.
Guess the secret is that I never got over the commandment I'd received
from my Queens College painting professor when he wrote me a reference
letter for the graduate art school scholarship that I received for
ceramics study. "But never pick up a paint brush again." (Since Marcel is
on a sleeping pill, I can take this diversion down memory lane.)
(NOTE: Happened already in July-thanks for blessings.) My daughter,
Aviva Leba bat Gila Rena Tzohara, is scheduled for sinus surgery this
coming Wednesday, July 30 here in L.A., while visiting from Boston. She
is helping me with Marcel for a few weeks. She drove him to many docs
while I went to Kallah. Aviva is taking a summer course here at
California State University at Northridge (CSUN) toward her Masters in
Speech Pathology and returns home in time for her Boston classes.
See more on AVIVA IN AUGUST.
So I am writing y'all (I can do this; my mom, Libby, zt"l was from
Atlanta and did not like my N.Y. accent.) about some GOOD THINGS IN MY
LIFE instead of all this medical stuff which is unwanted.
So although in some turmoil, I share with you some happy times recently.
True I did not get to my Brazilian music class or the Skirball's concert
last night or the Hammer's (no Kraut) concert the night before which I
had planned on going but...
After returning home this morning from Cedars Sinai Hospital and getting
a few hours sleep in my bed after checking in with Marcel, I went to
CSUN to purchase some theatre, music tickets for the fall. Martha
Graham's Dance Co., opera etc. I have not bought anything in advance for
several years now, because I know I can never make anything with this
medical tsuris life I am involved in. But today, with all open seating
for newly advertised shows, I optimistically decided to LOOK FORWARD TO
ENJOYING AND NURTURING MYSELF. And it is in my neighborhood, thus no
late night drives.
Baruch HaShem, I was able to get away to Washington State the first week
in July and go to my 6th Kallah/gathering, the international Jewish
Renewal spiritual retreat held every two years, under the spiritual
guidance of Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi and Aleph. The last holiday I
had was at the last Kallah. Sadly I had missed Ruach HaAretz last summer
while living at a hospital out of town. There was no way I was not going
away this time.
I needed the transition flying time and scenic bus ride to Bellingham,
Washington, TO RETURN TO MYSELF. (Two Kallahs ago-Chicago was in between
and I was able to visit my older sister, Arielle-I took a two-day Amtrak
train ride to Portland, Oregon (and onto Vancouver, British Columbia) to
distance myself from home and retreat [I left nurses in charge]. The
journey offered a thawing out, defusing or decompression process -- a
scenic accupuncture treatment.) This spring again, while caregiving
during crisis, I had been in a very overwhelming, sad, horrific, closed
off, protective-guarding myself from stress, illness and negative energy
place of being. I had tried to create psychic walls to shield myself. I
became isolated and alienated from community.
I tried consciously to leave Home at home. At home I try to remember to
BREATHE DEEPLY and using many stress-releasing techniques, I try to
remain in balance. At home I am not allowed to play or listen to music
as I like, because Marcel does not not like it and turns it off.
It was divine at Kallah sharing the joyousness of Judaism, being with my
Renewal community from around the world. Beloved friends and teachers,
familiar faces I have not seen in two years. Dearest friends I was able
to spend time with and that made me happy. I was with friends from L.A.
whom I don't get to see unless I am in synagogue. I AM HAPPILY AND
ECSTATICALLY SHARING MUSICALLY in spiritual services as a percussionist.
I met new friends, even from L.A. One, Laura, thoughtfully sent me home
with a Jewish baseball t-shirt for Marcel (a big fan) which she had
bought for "the right person".
Washington was gorgeous. I loved walking through town, meeting the
locals, being invited into and enjoying their moist gardens, smelling
fresh, healing, calming, lavender flowers (which of course I also grow
myself), and a million purple flowers I'd never before seen. I breathed
in deeply the most pliable eucalyptus leaves, and tasted the berries I
picked from prickly bushes where I found them on the side of the road. I
LISTENED TO SONGS sung by unseen birds, and saw red cardinals. Arriving
at the anticipated Puget Sound waters, I was thrilled.
The campus dorms of Western Washington University where I stayed, center
around a tiny sweet reflecting pond. Very large fascinating whimsical
outdoor sculptures are located a short walk away. I passed these, getting
some exercise, on my way to a class each morning. Each afternoon I walked
in the arboretum with my Nature class and shared the energy of the trees
and rocks. We talked about rocks found in Torah but I refrained from
mentioning that a couple years back I played in a band called Rock/Sela.
BEING AT KALLAH MADE IT EASY FOR ME TO OPEN MY HEART, shed tears for all
kinds of reasons (good internal mikveh), and ALLOW MYSELF TO FEEL AGAIN.
My senses were heightened. I lay on the ground, and pressed myself
against old trees. I RETURNED TO MYSELF, just like Reb Shlomo
Carlebach's song, "Return Again, return to the land of your soul." I
COULD FEEL THE JOY OF FREEDOM TO BE, Dancing, singing, creating,
exploring, having pleasure, enjoying and being outdoors in nature was
healing. I could touch and try to heal others in pain. SMILING, I TOUCHED
MY OWN EXPANSIVE, JOYOUS, CREATIVE SELF. Baruch HaShem. I VOWED NOT TO
LOSE MYSELF AGAIN IN MY CAREGIVING SERVICE.
This year at Kallah I absolutely loved the late night glorious banner
making for Shabbat which was facilitated by Judaic artist Nancy Katz.
Working together were creative, fun, expressive artists such as Gayle
Gale and Jane Goldberg and people who had patience to sew with needle and
thread. We used sequins, bells, beads, gems, feathers, paint, textiles
and glue; WE HAD COMPLETE FREEDOM TO CREATE. The energy was incredibly
high and productive while dozens of people shared materials. I even cut
out felt genderless purple dolls. L.A. Hebrew calligrapher, Barbara
Klaristenfeld, added her beautiful gifts of writing to the fifteen foot
long cloth banners, enhancing them with messages of hope and healing.
I was pleased to cut up my own paper HOPE collages (in tune with this
year's theme, "Creativity, Hope and Healing,") and paste the words on
the banners. It was fun for me to cut up what I had so carefully glued
together only to re-glue it in pieces somewhere else amongst others'
crafty visions. Liberating!
What a joy to see the couple dozen finished, magnificent, artistic
banners flying, swaying in the breezy campus fields inviting us into the
shared sacred space of Shabbat.
Shabbat morning was glorious. Along with my classmates in Liz Lerman's
prayer movement weeklong workshop (which I also studied two Kallahs and
four years ago), I shared my rehearsed movements as we prayed R. Lawrence
Kushner's translation of the Amidah in Rabbi Yaacov Gabriel's moving
service. "Here I am G*d, ready to begin our conversation," and more. It
felt good on that early rainy morning. In retrospect, I realized that at
every spiritual experiential retreat I am blessed to attend, one of the
two or more classes I take are in movement.
It is always a difficult choice whom to study with when so many
extraordinary Jewish teachers and subjects are available. I had
registered to study Hebrew calligraphy because I've never learned it. I
use Hebrew in my art work and I believe in Hiddur Mitzvah/beautifying
ritual objects. I switched to Nature class. It was good re-connecting
with Rabbi Goldie Milgrom (and her husband), whom I first met during my
extensive four wekks at Elat Chayyim in 1994. I knew I desperately needed
TO RELEASE AND EXPRESS MYSELF and not just sit inside, listen and take
in, after being cooped up 24/7 again for so many months as caregiver.
Malavah Malkah (Saturday night's celebration separating Shabbos from the
rest of the week), we in maestro Linda Hirschhorn's choir, got to
perform for all of Kallah. I look forward to singing in each Kallah
choir. It means a comittment, choosing to give up free time in a busy
schedule for rest or daily extra fun choices, but I LOVE THE CHALLENGE OF
CHOIR. After practicing all week, THERE IS NOTHING LIKE THE ENORMOUS
SURGE OF ENERGY FELT IN CULMINATION when we all sing our hearts out,
acappella, before 700 friends and they then get to join in for a July
4th-themed finale. Keeping in place reading notes was easy: because it
was dark in the outdoor tent, we could not read, therefore we just sang
from our heart and soul.
For this Kallah I had been elated that I had been chosen to offer a
mini workshop, "G*D'S HOLIEST #7" (my favorite current research topic),
for "The Rebbe Is In" session. It was the first time that I had applied.
Mazal Tov-So many L.A. friends were teaching at Kallah that Sarah's Tent
creative leadership was well represented. Reb Judith HaLevy has bestowed
blessings upon us to go out into community to share ourselves.
Unfortunately just before Kallah, being way too burdened, overwhelmed
and stressed with Marcel, I cancelled my long-awaited mini workshop
knowing that I felt useless for anything beside caregiving. I had also
cancelled my other California spring workshops. Sadly for me at Kallah,
not knowing I had cancelled, people kept telling me how they would be
attending. Those who knew I had cancelled wondered why and were
disappointed. With each comment I felt the sadness of my home situation
and my heavy heart. I felt badly believing that I had let Kallah down.
Finally at the end of the week when I was tremendously reJewvenated, and
on the very day I had been scheduled to share, I could not any longer
take the sadness of my earlier decision to cancel. In lieu of going to
my morning class, I found a library across campus, researched my Torah,
Kabbalah based subject on computer and felt energized and READY FOR A
COME BACK CHALLENGE. I checked with the Kallah office-my reserved room
was still available. Since it was lunchtime I took down the "cancel"
flyers, created and quickly put up new hand made flyers by the cafeteria.
In the next two hours I made new visual colorful Sefirotic Tree of Life
charts (How besherte/meant to be-I just happened to find large paper and
markers waiting for me), and also created new visualization meditations
which the group enjoyed.
For me, this was a challenge to re-create and present my meaningful
topic, and reverse and remove my self imposed Mitzrayim/narrow place.
My friends, including my dear dorm-mate AriellaShira, supported me
either way and assured me that even without my notebook of details-
history and ritual, I could come from my heart. So I did-and with my
saved old computer files and MY POSITIVE AFFIRMATION FOR SELF-CONFIDENCE-
TO SUCCEED, I was freed from the situation's negative emotions which I
was feeling all week and carrying as a burden.
While at Kallah, my globe trotting, "pink" friend Gayle, decided to join
me on my continuing voyage to Washington's San Juan Islands in the Strait
of Juan de Fuca, where I was going kayaking. I felt good that I had
inspired Gayle to try this sport and we recited a Shehechianu/new
beginnings prayer. While waiting for the ship to take us over the next
morning, we got to see more of the cute town with Liz, a resident, and
view her co-housing community.
I drummed a few hours by the water's edge with the local Bellingham
Sunday drummers. They saw me with my camera and requested that I use
their leader's digital camera to capture them for their website. This
artist won't receive any photo credit but I was pleased to shoot dozens
of photos and then watch the sun set over the water. I was a happy
I became aware of an older drummer, somewhat paralyzed, with closed
fists, sitting on the grass with his wheelchair next to him. From the
distance, sixty feet away, I could see that he was struggling to dress
himself with no results. I went over, and put on him, his long socks and
each pointy cowboy boot. Others lifted him back into his weathered
chair. Drummers share universal heart-drumbeats like prayer.
Gayle and I met people wherever we went and shared stories. It is a small
world, "separated by six degrees". After long days of water sports, we
enjoyed ice cream cones, shared good fresh fish meals, and listened to a
community country music concert in front of a 100 plus year old farming
It was so much fun travelling on the ship over from the mainland that we
went quickly back on it (after finding our B&B-that is a separate story),
to go whale watching. We did watch whales frolicking right by us. I
jolted in surprise seeing these huge black and white mammals unexpectedly
rise up next to us and I was unable to shoot the camera. I did not need
Just like when I rode the Washington State Ferry (when I'd camped out in
the Olympic National Forest), Gayle nor I ever sat down inside or outside
on our carefully chosen seats on the top deck on the ship. Rather we were
always standing at the edge, CATCHING THE THRILL of the fresh breeze and
captivating water at the boat's very cold front or back, as close to the
water as we could be. We loved it so much that we went again the next
day; we were kayaking in between the whale watching.
Kayaking in the San Juan Islands at Roche Harbor there were seals bobbing
in and out of the water. Floating atop a bed of kelp, I pulled up right
out of the water where they were floating, an armload several feet long
of smooth, thick, out-stretched hand-width wide, leafy seaweed-bull kelp
with a big bulbous form at one end, and I ate some. This kelp grows a few
feet a day. It felt so weird, and it was fun taking crunchy bites out of
the dark green multi-toned portions, leaving a defined sculptured effect.
Tasted like briny miso soup but I was not in a restaurant. A new
experience! I FELT LIKE AN ENCHANTED SEA GARDENER. I always sow and reap
and eat the fruits out of my own garden at home but this was definitely
different. Maybe I need to put in a pond. I could plant a lotus.
KAYAKING, I felt I WAS CROSSING MY OWN BOUNDARIES WHICH I HAD NEVER
CROSSED BEFORE. True it was with a guide, but Gayle and I kayaked across
four channels and under bridges to other little uninhabited close-by
islands. We tried really hard to paddle with a rhythm, in unison. It's
easy to go in circles.
This time kayaking among the San Juan Islands, WITH MORE SELF-CONFIDENCE,
I took deep breaths and paddled really quickly wanting to cross and
safely, avoiding big boats, other kayaks and rocks. Since that trip
(July--last month) I have been able to kayak alone to other little islands
and back. On my first trip alone and back to a little island from Jackson
Beach near Friday Harbor in San Juan Island, I paddled so fast (beating
time records, I was informed) because I had fear (of what?). The impetus
was not to only paddle along the not so scenic shoreline; I WANTED BEAUTY
and to enjoy the miracle of nature. I SUCCESSFULLY BROKE AWAY from shore,
and WAS ABLE TO ENTER THE OPEN BODY OF WATER to paddle out and beyond to
another enticing island. (These thoughts remind me that when I used to
snow ski, I felt similar feelings and urges, although I went to places I
was not prepared to go. (Ask the Ski Rescue Patrol.)
Following that short journey, I have since kayaked between other little
islands but with great enjoyment; leisurely turning around, LOOKING BACK
AT FROM WHERE I HAD COME, photographing, and then continuing. I even try
to paddle the kayak with my bare hands, and with my feet over the sides
or feet straddling the oar-hoping it does not fall overboard when I am
shooting scenery. I love the touch of the water and keep dipping in and
splashing water on myself. Yes, it felt cool on my warm body but it was
as if I NEEDED TO MERGE MORE WITH THE WATER even as I was above the
Since I wanted a photo of myself in the kayak, I leaned all the way back,
catching my feet, the oar and surrounding vistas. SEE PHOTOS! (I've
noticed that Aviva also takes a picture of her feet in her self photos.
My sister, Faye, tells me she also did the same. Does that make us a
foot, feat or foto family?)
One year ago I was unable to accomplish that kayaking feat; In Big Bear
Lake, on a good weather day, I was too afraid to go beyond the middle of
the lake to the other side. Several years ago in Sedona, Arizona I had
been unable to cross a stream whether walking in the water with my
camera, and tripod as a support on an Arizona Highways photo group trip
(so I missed the photo shoot). Alone on a log on another Sedona "vortex
exploration" journey I could not cross over Oak Creek. A friend
encouraged me. Yet, interestingly when confronted with a similar
situation in rainy Topanga Canyon, where I could not walk across a log at
night, I WAS ABLE TO EXTEND MYSELF and guide another concerned person
over the water. We both made it to the party on the other side.
I used to stand on the grass over the ragged coastal cliffs at Big Surs'
Esalen each August following my summer retreat week. Looking down at the
ocean, enraptured, intensely trying to "hold" the waves, ABSORBING THE
WATER in my memory, in every cell of my body so that the beauty and
healing energy I needed would remain with me. Each wave was unique. The
water is therapeutic in helpng me to SHIFT VIBRATIONAL FREQUENCIES AND
MAINTAIN HARMONY AND BALANCE IN ALL FOUR WORLDS; spiritual, mental,
emotional and physical. (Knowing from experience, that when I returned
home from a retreat where G*d has prepared me with rejuvenation,
inevitably another acute medical, emergency crisis with Marcel would
begin immediately. I TRY TO BUFFER MYSELF myself between retreat and
home, with a long slow drive down the breath-takingly awesome Pacific
I thank HaShem for sharing the waters with me. Erev Shabbat at Esalen I
would IMMERSE MYSELF and take a mikveh/ritual bath in the cold Pacific
Ocean. Lately, I have been less intent in trying to keep the moment
reachable-maybe because I have been blessed more with being immersed in
the water than only being above it. NOW I CAN MORE EASILY LET GO OF MY
NEED TO "HOLD ON." Conversely, for a few years I HAVE MAINTAINED A
PSYCHIC ARK (like Noah's), to keep me above turbulence, for smooth
sailing. I POST MY WATER PHOTOS AND DRAWINGS ON MY WALLS AND WINDOWS
at home to remind me of peaceful places. SHALOM.
End of August 2003
END OF SUMMER
After the Washington kayaking trip in July, I was transformed. I even
swam and snorkeled alone, amongst exciting, colorful tropical reef fish
of all shapes and sizes, giant purple, and blue wavy lipped clams, spiny
sea urchins and yucky deathly to me-tubular black sea cucumbers. They are
found between small coral atolls, sand islets/motus formed on reefs and
lying off larger islands in French Polynesia in the South Pacific. I
marvel at the magical underwater world.
Swimming alone off a white sandy sheltered beach shoreline from one
seductive motu to another, I would step onto the deserted motu-these once
in my mind mythical islands-with no others around, play with coconuts
under palm trees, TOUCHING AND KNOWING I had reached land. I have
read, "It is not trespassing when you cross your own boundaries."
INFINITE ARE THE POSSIBILITIES FOR SUCCESSFULLY REACHING MY DREAMS.
I AM CONSCIOUSLY CAREFUL FOR WHAT I WISH DEEPLY KNOWING THAT MANIFESTATION IS
WITH EACH JOURNEY I AM ABLE TO CROSS MORE OF MY OWN SELF-IMPOSED-
LIMITATIONS. I feel great empowerment and I am proud of myself.
To gain confidence for the solo snorkeling, I first kayaked alone from
one palm tree-fringed motu to another and back. Being careful, I did not
get stuck in coral and rock filled shallow water. I love the warm,
intense turquoise blue, crystal-clear, calm, salty lagoon waters of
Raiatea and Tahaa (sharing the same sheltered barrier reef), of the
Leeward Islands of the Society Islands. Easily floating on my back,
swimming and playing, I turn like a seal. I experience the mysterious,
mystical temple of my universe. IT IS SO SPIRITUAL FOR ME BEING IN THE
WATER AND DISCOVERING PLACES I HAVE NEVER BEEN BEFORE.
Looking upward in a sense of wonder from the water, entranced, I see
imposing high mountain rims, ridges and ranges; an extinct ancient
volcano. Clouds intriguingly float and hang within its majestic peaks. I
acknowledge from its realms, the spirits of the ancestors.
Later, hiking I enter the lush, green growth filled crater. With
anthropologists, I visit marae ruins: sacrificial, stone and coral sacred
temples-"open air platforms where gods were invoked, human sacrifices
made, rituals held and where chiefs from all over the South Pacific met."
Pre-missionary places of worship of the Polynesian ancestors:
Taputapuatea Marae in Raiatea, and Teti'iroa Marae in the Opunohy Valley
in Moorea. I loved being here because Moorea sounds to me like Mount
Moriyah in the holy city of Jerusalem; place of the Temple Mount, Holy of
Holies, and Abraham's miracle with G*d's angel.
I don't want to wear protective-from-the-sun clothes in the water; the
water and sun's warmth feel good on my body. Lately, in privacy, I have
even been standing in the rain baring my skin. It is so luscious, and
healing. It was so funny and made me laugh to feel cold lagoon water on
my right arm and warm on the other. Cold on my head and warm on my foot.
I would play, trying unsucessfully to keep myself in all warm water.
Ocean currants entered the "Bali Hai" lagoon and made me feel like an
Oreo cookie. I could not surrender completely to meditational floating as
I love to do in a pool because the currents carried me away and I had no
swim buddy. Never before had I floated away with a Mai Tai drink on my
chest, like a sea otter balancing his meal.
Have you ever, while on a beach, sucked into your mouth and eaten tender,
savory coconut meat you scooped out entirely from a whole fresh coconut
with a narrow (non-Boba) hollow plastic straw? In this style, you have a
long time to enjoy eating the whole thing.
In the healing waters of life/mayim chayim, I MADE SERIOUS
MISHABERACH/HEALING BLESSINGS AND PRAYERS TO HASHEM for those loved ones
who are suffering with illness and surgeries.
An amazing thing happened to me in Bora Bora, in the Leeward Society
Islands, so that I was filled with visceral ecstasy and bliss. It was
incredible snorkeling from a boat in coral reefs with black-tipped sharks
and rays (manta, sting?). Huge, black, several feet wide, flat, flappy,
winged fish with very long straight spiny tails are found gliding along
the water bottoms. One ray swam up onto my chest, wrapped itself around
me and embraced me for a long time. What primordial fun! Standing with my
head above water. I was laughing so hard and caressing its smooth back
while looking into its eyes, making contact. I HAD BEEN HOPING THAT THIS
MIRACLE WOULD HAPPEN, knowing it was possible. I'd like to believe that
the ray so greatly felt MY DEEP DESIRE FOR ME TO BE AT ONE WITH IT that
it gave me this awesome greeting and connection. Is this One Love?
In the Hawaiian Islands, years ago, even though I loved swimming with
large turtles, I always ran fast out of the water scared when I saw an
eel coming up through the rocks.
WITH EACH NEW EXPERIENCE I FEEL GREAT EXHILARATION. A few years ago
snorkeling in Eilat, I saw a big coral outcropping under the water in
the distance. The coral appeared dark. With trepidation I approached it.
For the first time, I managed to swim around coral to the earlier unseen
back of it and even over it. (What is hiding in there?) In Israel, my
Hebrew University archeological professor taught us to fully circle
around objects. This I can now do more easily. EXPLORING THE UNKNOWN
WHERE I AM ALONE. I felt so emotional not only with the magnificence of
it all, but that I HAD ENCOUNTERED AND FACED AND GONE BEYOND MY OWN SELF-
IMPOSED LIMITATION AND DISCOVERED TEMPLES.
As a child I was lacking encouragement from my parents, and had no
exploratory wild nature outings, so I believe this has something to do
with my needing more courage today. (My parents did take the family to many
N.Y. museums and theaters.)
Occasionally people have expressed surprise that I TRAVEL ALONE at
times. This is true. I LOVE TO TRAVEL and my travel is hindered almost
completely now. To SOOTHE AND DELIGHT MYSELF I might drive for a few
miles along the rocky Santa Susana Mountains on the local 118 Freeway to
Simi Valley, but I do prefer Malibu Canyon wending its way to the ocean.
If an opportunity would arise, I would go so fast. No time to consult
friends. In the past it has been a little lonely having dinner alone by
the ocean in Greece, now knowing any Greek, but then I am not obligated
to chatter small talk. I CAN BE WITH MYSELF. I really enjoy eating in a
restaurant where the diners are deaf. (My neighborhood hosts a National
Deaf Center. Many dear friends study sign language.) Sometimes I refuse
dinner invitations in order to eat out alone yet I'll also invite another
single diner; a stranger to join me.
Alone, I photograph a boat at night in the Mediterranean named, "Doing
It My Way." In Papeete, Tahiti I leisurely photograph a boat at sunset
called "Enjoy" after photographing a Japanese wedding and then I swim in
the dark lagoon. I get to swim and float in the Aegean water at nightfall
without having to leave earlier for another. I AM RESPONSIBLE FOR MY OWN
ACTIONS, MY TIME, AND MY OWN JOY. I LISTEN TO MY INTUITION AND AM GUIDED
BY SPIRIT AND SPONTANEITY.
Kayaking in Ketchikan, Alaska I would have been better alone because I
wanted to stay with seals and did not want to return to shore with the
group; I was last out of the water. I love a single person kayak.
Driving alone ten hours each summer trip from Southern to Northern
California to retreats at Ruach HaAretz or Esalen in Big Sur, I play
Rabbi Hanna Tiferet Siegel's music as well as Reb Shlomo Carlebach's and
Rabbi David Zeller's, over and over again. I stop midway at steep bluffs
overlooking the Pacific Ocean and play my Tibetan singing bowls. I'll sit
in the middle of a stream on a rock down from a waterfall and play a
bowl. What joy!
I love sharing experiences. And alone I mindfully love eating meals IN
SILENCE especially adjacent to the water, and potchkying in the wee
hours, empathetically watching reruns three times of "The Hours" allowing
for only a few hours sleep before I am off and running doing what I want
without leaving anyone behind. Strangers in faraway places tell me how
friendly I am and wonder why I am travelling alone. That's how it has to
I loved the thrill of walking around Beijing's main streets alone at
night, although crowds were everywhere, and discovering a lifesize
sculpture of a woman mamash/truly playing tambourine. Exuberant, I even
called my friend Shira from a Chinese phone booth and excitedly
asked, "Guess where I am?" I only walked the fascinating eerie back
streets where funny foods were being cooked in the dark of night in China
when I had a companion who knew Chinese. Alone, I saved a fish when I saw
it flop out of its bowl in an outdoors marketplace.
In Bangkok, Thailand a dozen years ago, the hotel doorman strongly
advised me on my first night to stay within twenty feet of him, "only to
the corner." I'd left my travel mate and N.Y. friend, Lillian, sleeping
in the room. Alone, I could photograph at leisure the thirty-six Torahs
in a synagogue. (Ask me about that story.) Being alone in Sibolga,
Indonesia as I was searching for a tambourine, meant I could not control
the kids pestering me. I bought some interesting tambourines in Madrid,
Marrakesh and Jamaica, too.
Alone, in Singapore I could explore a million funny food stalls, and try
a million strange drinks and not have anyone be upset by my tasting
slimy vegie green things in drinks on my own time. For as long as I
wanted to stand on the street, I could watch shark's fin being cut up
for soup, or examine strange Chinese Medicine ingredients in stores. In
Hong Kong I watched in envy for hours, the stunning pink flamingos stand
on terrific single "yoga" legs ("All the rest is commentary"). I searched
for and found a synagogue and waved a lulav for Sukkot. I can get on a
bus in Malaysia, Tahiti, Israel or Italy, having no idea where it goes,
get off at the end and SURPRISE MYSELF WITH THE UNKNOWN. I did not do
this in Jordan or Moracco having been warned. (When cemetary hopping in
New Orleans, twenty-eight years ago, I had not listened to advice, and
alone got really spooked with the ghosts and raced out. Older and wiser,
now I offer greetings to the spirits.)
With a rented camel in the Moroccan Sahara desert, I spent glorious
star filled nights. I woke up alone in my tiny tent near tall wind swept
sand dunes and IMAGINED that each of my friends was giving me my birthday
greeting since I had chosen to spend my 50th ALONE. At midnight I danced
with the Gnawas, Touaregs, Sufis and "Blue Men"-Nomadic Berbers. I ate
the giant birthday pancake made for me by the desert cook, Sahara, while
she was Mehndi painting my body with Henna. I was Tzohara in the Sahara
with Sahara. When I was eighteen and skipped H.S. graduation to go, my
parents objected to me travelling to Spain. I was Alegria/Joy with
sangria/wine in las cuevas/the caves of Madrid. (In the sixties I also
skipped Queens College graduation exercises; I protested and walked out
with Dr. Spock.)
In Israel, being alone meant I met many special people and had gevult,
awesome, holy experiences at every hour. It is where I met my beloved
Reb Shlomo and chevre/community in a totally beshert incident, although
my intention was to find him, as I did immediately. In Odessa, Russia,
when photographing an opera house alone and missing the tour bus, I
managed to find my way back to the ship without speaking Russian. Alone
in Istanbul, Turkey meant I could have eaten all the baklava I bought (A
dollar went a long way.), but still I shared it. I could follow my
artistic soulful heart in Venice with my instincts guiding me. I am glad
a tour bus waited for me in Llasa, Tibet after visiting the Dalai Lama's
former palace. I was fast when alone I jumped quickly onto a last boat in
Bali so I was not stranded. One-lane roads get clogged with accidents at
times. The truth is that I was travelling through Bali with a friend, but
because we were late and she was older, I hitched a ride for her on a
motorcycle; I ran.
Strangers thank me along the way for befriending them. The most awesome
Divine coincidences, synchronicities, happen. Buddyless, but not lonely.
THIS SUMMER'S CHAI LIGHT
Thankfully, Aviva was visiting here in Northridge, relieving me so I
could play in the waters again for a week. I was desperate for escape
from stress. How far away could I go? I forgot that WHATEVER I LEAVE
BEHIND AWAITS FOR MY RETURN. (It is not like Tashlich/casting
undesireable thoughts and behaviors (sins) away where I CAN CONTROL what
I cleanse in my spiritual alignment.)
Aviva was taking a CSUN pre-requisite class for her graduate Speech
Pathology program at Boston's Northeastern University. Aviva's boyfriend,
Brett Freedman (from Swampscott, Massachusetts), came to visit at the
beginning of July during his month-long RV cross-country journey, and
then again flew in from Boston a month later. Aviva was happy for his
company while she was painfully recuperating from sinus surgery.
I am happy to report that Brett is a mentsch and a delight to know.
Marcel and I feel blessed to have Brett in our lives. Since returning to
her Boston home, Aviva just spent the last week with his family on
holiday in Vermont, and visited his grandparents in New Haven and Boston.
She is now with her paternal grandmother in Long Beach, N.Y. so the
grandmother can meet Brett. Then they will be off to Washington, D.C.,
for more relatives, and, finally, he'll stay for his D.C. job after
finding an apartment there. A gantzah mishpuchah. My parents zt"l also
would have loved him.
The latest MEDICAL news. Dateline L.A. Aug. 27, 2003.
After an MRI reading scare last week about a cervical tumor at C2
(radiated last summer in Newport) which affects Marcel's whole body, and
more doctor visits, doctors are still convening as to ignore it or
what....Marcel was really afraid of the possible nasty surgery, similar
to the dangerous one cancelled last summer. Presently he is suffering
additionally with the painful trauma to his spine from a fall out of his
wheelchair last month, in addition to all other body malfunctions, and
metastasizing cancer complications, numbness from waist down, with
neuropathic chronic pain, sleepless nights, blood clots, lymphedema,
weakness due to stroke, muscle spasms, bi-lateral parasthesias,
propriaception, skin afflictions, infections, allergic reactions,
atrophy, as well as other negative drug interactions, etc.
So, yesterday after spending a couple hours at a neurologist (really
kind doctor), Marcel decided to try his independence. Since he had had
trouble at the doctor's doing the transfer from car to wheelchair, and a
building security guard had come running out to help me keep Marcel from
falling on the ground, I decided that we were not going out after to eat.
It was not in our plans anyway, although Marcel expressed his desire for
this as we left the doc's office. Four transfers were dayenu/enough this
day I decided, especially since he could not keep his eyes open in the
car due to his sleepless nights and many drugs.
Furthermore, pushing and pulling the heavy, non self-propelling
"transfer/companion" wheelchair distances along hallways and into
elevators was really hurting my shoulders. Some medical building
elevators close really fast! I've already injured my shoulder from an
earlier wheelchair incident and was not happy that I could not drum or do
yoga for a year. Here's another complaint: I've had to get cortisone
shots for the painful bursitis I received from lying (hardly sleeping)
sideways on hard, narrow hospital couches in patient's room while on
survival duty 24/7. (I got smart; now I shlep a special Tempur-Pedic
cushion to hospitals.)
So, upon our return to home, Marcel bent over, turned off the ignition
and took the keys. I figured he needed some control of his car and his
keys. Control was the issue. As I exited the car to open the house front
door and get his regular, heavier wheelchair for the transfer, guess who
slid over into the driver's seat, put the keys back in, drove over and
down the curb just missing the hydrant, and meandered across the street
as I yelled at him to stop.
Marcel kept going as I dialed 911 on my cell phone, knowing that Marcel
has NO FEELING from his waist down since his last two spinal tumor
surgeries this spring. Although he can not stand, he can propel the
regular wheelchair with his right foot and hands. Now he was propelling
the car for the first time since surgery. When the police and I caught up
with each other, they had me follow them to check out a "disoriented man"
on the ground in the neighborhood. I gave the cops in their car a thumbs
down signal, exited my vehicle, and gave them a full description of the
missing Marcel in his Mercury.
KEEPING CALM, thinking the worst (a good anxiety reliever), I went back
home and sat by the phone. Later Marcel called saying he had made it
across to the far opposite end of the San Fernando Valley to eat in the
Kosher restaurant as had been his desire. I called the cops at 911 again
as promised. The operator asked, "Is this Joy?" Well, it was not "Fun"
and told them of his location. Now I had to call a very good friend,
Brian, and once again he came to the rescue, and we wasted the afternoon
as we drove out to get Marcel, the keys and the car. Bonus, a Bris/circumcision was
happening right there and then at the eatery. A simcha. A joy! And we
ordered Middle Eastern food and ate also. The Israeli owner, a stranger,
scolded me for allowing the keys to be taken. Marcel assures me that the
strength in his right leg allows him to drive safely, although he feels
nothing. Marcel's mother does not know he is in a wheelchair so guess I
won't share this episode either....
*One of the greatest blessings of summer was visiting in L.A. my
Jerusalem-living friend, Liliane Ritchie, and her grandson, only a few
hours after his birth. I have sent the mom, Shira Shoshana, the newborn's
photos. How beshert/meant to be, it was that I was with Liliane's
daughter, Yehudit, to hear her family news that day, while learning with
Rav Avraham Ginsburgh and the Bais Chana chevre.
*What a treat to watch a young friend, Ben, this summer superbly weave
his own tallit (which he learned how to do from his talented mom, Karen,
for his Bar Mitzvah. Mazal Tov on reading Torah so beautifully. (As an
old weaver, I can truly appreciate Ben's skill.)
*How fulfilling it was to design a Torah based personalized baby gift for
newborn, Shira Leah, daughter of friends, and have Barbara calligraph and paint it so
beautifully. I still must frame it...
*Recalling my mask making this summer with art therapist, Jane and
Sarah's Tent, reminds me of the Divinity within, the goal of this art
project. I mamash/truly FACED MY PRESENCE PANIM AL PANIM / FACE TO FACE in
the self expressive painted and decorated mask. I moved myself when I
instinctively glued down a turquoise heart shaped bead in one eye and a
fuscia heart in the other. I did the same on the ears. The colors felt so
very different from each other in what they expressed. And together I
felt the compassion with which my eyes see and my ears hear. The project
was inspired by the teachings of Rabbi Mordechai Gafni, my Jerusalem
based rabbi and master teacher.
*I was grateful that I was the only library patron, in addition to staff,
invited to Lina's retirement party, but I sure am missing my favorite
head librarian at Porter Ranch. I enjoy creating floral bouquets from
my garden for the librarians each week. Sometimes less is more and I
re-arrange my flowers. When flowers are sparse I use some of my stranger
greens such as pineapple palm fronds (chamerops humilis grows wild in my
garden and costs $300-$600 in nursery) which are a fascinating addition.
They will also be used on Barbara's and Kenny's sukkah for Sukkot.
*This morning for healing and exercise, I went swimming as I try to do
daily with my friend, Lisa, in her pool. The WELL OF WATER CLEANSES MY
SELF and GIVES TO ME PURIFICATION and TAKES AWAY MY INFIRMITIES, as a
mikveh. I RETURN TO MY ESSENTIAL PURITY. (Sort of like a Shofar call
inviting my soul home.) Emptying myself, completely surrendering when
floating, I can receive important messages while meditating, so I TRY TO
LISTEN. Late last night we swam under the large harvest yellow moon, and
bright light of Mars, closer to earth than it has been for 60,000 years.
I love swimming and gliding along in the water, using all kinds of
different strokes I had learned as a pre-teen. Pool water feels thick
sometimes and I think I am swimmimg in jello or pudding. As a child I
loved practicing water ballet. Swimming in a pool, I fancifully feel at
times as if I am shape shifting into a seahorse, frog, lotus blossom,
lily pad, swimming dog or fish. (The first time this ever happened to me,
I was a cello being played, but it was on dry land.)
I realize the major importance of water playing a role in all my life,
and recall my experiences for over fifty years and in prior lives. When I
swim in the purposefully dark pool at night (leaving the light off), I
listen to the lapping water as if ripples of waves are meeting the shore.
Self-guided, I visualize that I am swimming in a lake at night surrounded
by verdant greenery and tall trees. I imagine that I am in Candlewood
Shores Lake in Brookfield, Conneticut with my best N.Y. childhood pal,
Theresa Lenihan McMillan. (Following fifty years of friendship, Terry
zt"l passed away two years ago, the day following dear Toby Plevin's zt"l
passing. G*D HEARD MY CRIES, MY TEARS AND MY BROKEN HEART.)
*Tonight I go drumming at Remo's for a long awaited session with the
queen of tambourines, Layne Redmond, and tomorrow I go dancing to the
live French gypsy Jewish Klezmer septet, Les Yeux Noirs, at the Skirball
Museum. It is always fun to dance with my friend Shoshana. She is truly
inspirational. (The bills can wait.)
*With the Jewish New Year approaching, I look forward to another year
of prayer and performing at my favorite shuls. When I see friends' faces
smiling at me, I FEEL MY ENERGY MAGNIFY, transferring to my hands on my
drums and tambourines and FEEL THE SHARING OF SHIFTING VIBRATIONAL
FREQUENCIES. Heart/drum beats stronger with love shared. I love regularly
accompanying Cantor Cindy Paley, Rabbi Toba August and community in song,
dance and prayer at women's services at Lev Eisha, and Valley Beth
Shalom. I can't wait until the holidays, any day now, when I once again
accompany Cantor Debby Friedman, Rabbi Stan Levy and all the incredible
uplifting B'nai Horin musicians at the services held on the mountaintop
at Brandeis Bardin Institue. I love accompanying the Makom Ohr Shalom
musicians and singers at Chanukah. It is difficult to get to my other
shuls when I have committments to play. It is a gift granted that I
requested from HaShem.
*It is now Elul, the last month of the Hebrew calendar, and I need to do
some serious soul-searching work/cheshbon hanefesh, recording my journey
of T'shuvah and transformation preparing for the High Holidays--before the
Days of Awe arrive. I am fortunate being affiliated with several
synagogues, all different, meeting my needs in separate ways.
*After weighing my thoughts, I have consciously decided not to
automatically renew one of my long-time synagogue memberships. A dozen
years a member, but it is time to make a financial statement about what I
think is not right. I believe that when a member's spouse is ill, as is
my situation, the synagogue leadership can send blessings, inquire about
how the family is, and ask if any type of assistance is needed. It does
not feel good to know people do not care when you are "down and out." At
times I really needed a hand to help spiritually lift me. I suggest that
if one administrator is "very busy", another member can be asked to offer
chesed/kindness. BIKUR CHOLIM is very important to the caregiver.
*I am thankful for the prayers you have given us. I am grateful for my
mitzvah/good deeds driven, generous, humanitarian true friends, assisting
in Tikun Olam / fixing the world, excelling in chesed/loving kindess, who continually
support my family in their own giving ways of Bikur Cholim: Barbara,
Shelly, Brian and others. These friends have gedulah/greatness in their
heart's capacity which reveals itself in their actions, expressing
tremendous chesed in their deeds. From others I am thankful for prayers
received, offerings, and communications especially regularly from loved
ones, Toby, Yda, Suzanne and Torah-sharing Reb Moshe. They are blessings.
Rabbi Yitzchak Adlerstein, also still calling, would give over confidence
in Marcel, every single week (as other friends do) since we met him a few
Pesachs ago when life was less difficult and ask, "How's the
I am appreciative of my supportive devoted sister, Faye. She once again
gave her expertise and time to proof this long writing of mine. Too bad I
kept writing after her proofing. But Faye, it takes so much space to
spell out "Massachusettes".
THIS IS THE FIRST TIME I HAVE ADDED PHOTOS TO MY E-MAIL. Thank you Joe
Rudy for graciously and artistically creating the collage greeting of my
kayaking photos viewable at the bottom of this letter, and for helping me
to begin "excavating the mountain".
*Daily I sound my shofar. Daily Marcel, with impressive breath blows his
*Mazal Tov to Faye and Jim on the purchase of their first home. And in
*Running into my cousin, Cantor Michael, at Trader Joes a few days ago, I
felt badly when I realized that I'd neglected to ask about his father.
So I visited my cousin, Cantor Herman, the next day in the nursing home
and sang him some Hebrew prayers as he quietly rested. (The first time
I'd ever had Shabbat was in his Reform Jewish home when I'd come out to
California to be with his family when his first wife, Rhoda, zt"l was
killed by a drunk driver.) I hoped I was not disturbing the sleeping
stranger in the bed next to my cousin and hoped my cousin, the Cantor,
could withstand my singing. A young looking woman walked in introducing
herslf as the "Forty year old's mother." She wanted, "no pity", as she
pulled out nail clippers. "That is all I can do for him."
I do believe she appreciated it as I compassionately stroked Mark's
forehead and held his closed hands as I talked to him. Comatose since
February from an allergic peanut reaction, she explained, as she showed
me the photos of his lovely wife and two cute young children. I showed
the woman all the photos of our family which I had suggested be copied
and hung up for Cousin Herman: His wife, Carol, their combined nine
children and spouses, siblings, and relatives. Lots of fun photos.
*Small aftershocks from the '94 Northridge earthquake woke me last night
as I wondered how I would get Marcel out of his hospital bed and out of
the house. However, I also had sweet dreams. "Summertime and the livin'
*In my garden splendid wind chimes are playing, birds are chirping and
feeding, and a slight breeze is helping cool the daily 100*+ temperature.
With a CHANGED CONSCIOUSNESS I am sitting at 7 A.M., not inside as usual
but wisely outside, writing in the shade under my grapefruit tree. I
observe how next year's green colored crop is getting larger while this
year's yellow crop, still clinging, are also rotting and falling down,
I love sharing my delicious fruits. A nest sits above my head. I am
grateful. A hawk glides incessantly in circles overhead. Where are the
other two? I hear the squirrels scampering through my tasty fig tree and
watch them enjoying their meals. With chutzpah they drop chewed pieces on
my head as I too am eating my sweet purple figs from the tree. Chasing
each other, I hear them rustling from bough to bough, where before there
was only a horizon of distant mountains visible without grown trees. The
neighbor's trees have grown tall partially blocking my view of the
mountains encircling the Valley.
Pruning, I always get scratched when I break off the trees' dead twigs
and branches. I have not worn gloves when I weed and prune the roses so
my fingers, hands and arms are scratched. A friend, Carol, just gave me
some gloves. I am allergic to the fig's sap or leaves but I don't wear a
long sleeved shirt either. The soles of my feet are allergic to the
fallen pine needles but I refuse to wear shoes in my garden, or as I
climb the slippery steep slope to pick fruit. I do not like the huge
green irridescent flying beetles in the fig tree. They follow me because
I must smell of fig. And I run fast from the buzzing beetles.
I wonder if this fat beetle was also in Italy. My friends from the North
Valley Jewish Community Center, the Leonardises, gave me a small branch
twenty-three years ago from his grandpa's fig tree in Italy. It is from
this descendent tree that I give out branches each Tu B'Shvat / birthday of
the trees which bear fruit for the new owners.
As I do with the grape vine, I weave long Hardenbergia vines through the
bars of the wrought iron fence. I hope for the small purple flowers to
re-appear, which I have never seen elsewhere in LA, only at friend,
Marcia's home, in Berkeley. Gardens got confused this year. I am upset
that my artichokes seemed to have died. I rarely eat them because they
transform into purple thistle flowers which are fascinating to see.
An occasional butterfly visits, as do hummingbirds and lizards bringing
me great delight. I was startled when a giant intruder lizard was in my
house. I don't like the slithering snake nor gophers living in my garden,
the hawk soaring overhead and sometimes landing, nor the
rats, snails, ants, spiders or webs. Neither opossums, racoons or coyotes
or worms have shown up lately, and I still miss my disappeared cutest
quail family and cat. My rubber duckies, sculptures, broken coral, and
seashells found on many far away morning sandy walks, accent the garden
borders. With Marcel sick, for a long time I only took time to weed which
was very healing. Digging into the earth with my bare hands I COULD
ELIMINATE THAT WHICH DID NOT BELONG. Now I make sure to
SPEND MORE SERENE TRANQUIL TIME ENJOYING THE GARDEN.
With the dozens of huge, black, noisy, foreboding ravens not in view
this week, all species of smaller birds are becoming more visible and I
am thankful. I put out birdseed but the squirrels devour it and destroy
my birdhouse. My gardener was with me so many years that he has finally
retired. I need to find a new one. I was hoping that my neighbor's gopher
wouldn't come here but I am seeing constant damage. Wonder if squirrels
like gophers? Twenty three years ago gophers ate 300 gladiola bulbs that
Aviva and I had individually hand planted adjacent to my new sod lawn. A
survivor gladiola peeks up its body on the slope each year and I await
*In addition to enthusiastically looking for and finding in Tahiti the
Noni fruit (growing on trees) with curative powers, I learned from a
Tahitian woman familiar with healing ways, that long life is partially
attributed to walking on the night's damp beach sand each morning.
Mindfully (as I was taught by Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk Thick Nhat
Hanh), I walk now with more kavannah/intention on my moist, dew tipped
morning grass, as I say my prayers, and weed. Rebbe Nachman of Bratslov
believed in the power of every single blade of grass. (Interestingly the
Tahitian word for spiritual "power" is manna. G*d's gift of daily bread
to us in the desert was manna and I think of the power G*d gave us in
I AM BLESSED TO HAVE THIS EVOLVING GARDEN I planted and cared for since
1977, when Aviva was born (a "Valley girl"). I AM ALWAYS EXPLORING AND
CREATING IN THIS SPIRITUAL GARDEN, MY SANCTUARY.
Very few people have flowers dwelling in their green gardens here in
Northridge. To nourish growth and tend the earth (Gan Eden) and our
planet takes constant effort, planning patience, peace and love. Sharing
that spirit of possibility in our gardening passion, those caretakers-my
friends, who do manifest these attributes; Harriet, Edith, Karen, Diane,
Rena, expatriate Barbara (and Leslie, the Enchanted Gardener in San
Diego), continue to PARTICIPATE AS PARTNERS IN THE UNFOLDING ASPECT OF
CREATION and the great inter-connectedness of life and G*d's holy
presence. It is always time to plant seeds....
So, I began this note, just to let dear family and friends know, that
YES, THERE IS SOME NON-CHAOS IN MY LIFE-good times. I take better "care
of myself" as friends advise. I find light and laughter in the
darkness TRANSFORMING IT as I do often, and G*dliness in my "Hours".
For the first time, Marcel has taken a wheelchair accessible taxi
van ride R/T alone to his accupuncturist. Of course, at first, the wrong
van showed up and the driver had to send for the right accessible one. It
is INDEPENDENCE DAY FOR MARCEL (and me.)
How are you? How was your summer? I would love to know.
If you would like an E-mail copy of either my HOPE collage, or my
anguished piece on "The Hours", let me know. I'll know at least that you
read the end of this lengthy letter to you.
Ah, here, you don't even have to ask, I've given it a site along with another essay,
but do please comment on The Hours if you do read it.
SHANA TOVA U'METUKA Gemar Chatima Tova
May you and your loved ones be inscribed and sealed in the Book of Life.
One love, shalom and abundant blessings of health and joy to you always,
"Serve G*d With Joy"