November Have I Loved

 

Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Photo by Mary Hurlbut

The very last day of November.  November with its welcome chill air. November of strong winds and wild leaves.  November forests the color of flames and sun and cinnamon. I love November as the arc of the year braces into winter. As our bodies crave warmth beneath bundles of clothes. As we take note of home, hearth, heat.  Our spirits too reflect inward. A time to guard the flame of our being.

Many people I know are searching. Searching for guidance as we pursue dreams and ideas. Searching for answers when the wisdom lies hidden. The paths are unknown. Forerunners searching in open country, we wonder if we wander. Or are we exactly where we’re supposed to be?

Many I know are afraid. We are afraid to admit we are afraid.  Systems revealed as corrupt. People armed with weapons, words. We hurl them at each other, but I feel the enemy is not the other. The enemy is in all of us.  In our capacity to betray ourselves and all humanity.  The enemy is our capacity to forget; our incapacity to forgive. Our capacity for cruelty, deception, ruthless self-promotion.  Much easier to point the finger at all the evil in the world and say: die! Be removed foul contender! So much harder to place palm over my own heart and say, “Be truthful. Be open. Be cleansed.”

My heart says: “Pray. Pray for your enemies. Pray and bless and do not curse.” My Teacher taught us this and it is a hard teaching. Pray for the ______________? Fill in the blank. Who seems the great opponent? You can hear it in how we talk these days.  The enemy is the other party, the opposing ideologues, the systemic injustices, the invading hordes, the intricate cover-ups, the outrageous bribery, the ostensible ignorance. Whatever it is, my Teacher says pause. Cease plotting and pray. He says, “in this world people tell you to love your neighbor, hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

November. Thanksgiving. Hoarding. Fear. Courage. Hatred. Love. War. Peace.  Goodwill. Can a soul travel from one end of the spectrum to the other? Is it possible to love those who oppose and oppress you?  I will try. And may humble prayer, like the kindling of a nascent November hearth, begin to warm the cold places in my heart. May prayer release currents of wisdom, compassion, liberty, justice and every good thing, toward every man, woman and child, in this land, and everywhere. On this good earth.

 

 

 

 

A Song for Shabbos

The creek by Geronimo Park, a wonderful playground in our new neighborhood

The creek by Geronimo Park, a wonderful playground in our new neighborhood

It has been eleven days since I left Laguna Beach, and California, my beloved native land.  But I find myself in a high place surrounded by trees and birdsong, and I am home.  Our new address in the Austin hill country is like a cross between Bluebird Canyon in Laguna and Mount Hermon, in the Santa Cruz mountains.  We’ve been baptized by a mighty southwest thunderstorm, and we are home.  The kids are playing with Brio trains on the floor (well, Aaron plays and Tovah sits and watches on) and we are home.  My mother in law Mindy is preparing a delicious meal while I stand at the breakfast bar and type, and we are home.

To all of you who touched my life in California, I miss you profoundly and think of you often.  To all of you who have blessed our move with strong arms and warm welcome, thank you, you are so wonderful!  Most of all, to God my Savior, thank you.  You have always been my Guide and you have brought us safely to this new haven.  Your presence is the joy of my life.  No matter where I go, You are the One who makes hearth and home.

The last Friday I was in Laguna, Pastor Jay Grant of Church by the Sea organized a beautiful send off.  In the little “upper room” where so much of my life in Laguna began, Pastor Jay and others surrounded me with prayers and affirmations of love.  I was moved by the remembrances of these dear people.  Pastor Jay even brought forth a poem I wrote years ago – and forgot!  What struck me was the way that the Upper Room and the people of Church by the Sea had been the catalyst for a whole period of my life in which I wrote poetry and plays, participating in the creative life of worship of a truly artistic church.

It seems fitting tonight, as we enter into Shabbat in this our new home, to share this poem with you.

Come East, Come West

(a psalm for the Bridegroom)

Come East, Come West

Sister Water, Brother Fire

Ageless stars, Eternal ones!

High above our planet floor.

May I sing with you tonight?

May my mind perceive these thoughts 

Too beautiful for me

Heaven is your throne O Everlasting Father

Your Voice is the speed of Light

Your passion undoes the grave

O King of the Mysteries

Be extolled, be exalted, be blessed

By every creature here below

From this earth I cry to You

Maker of Sea and Stone, Glass and Fire

The thundering speed of the Stallion

The graceful leap of the Doe

The spirited songs of Sparrows rising

The noble strength of the Bear

You are the Poet of the Universe

The Father of Night and of Day

You shall train my hands for war

You shall teach my heart to fear

You shall speak such love inside me

And I will love you here:

With all my Mind, with all my Soul, with all my Strength

Blessed be your Name in all the Earth.

Hibernate – Activate

This blog has been hibernating.  A season of change since we were in Florence unfolded across our lives like a map to the pirates’ trove.  Ben and I have found treasure, challenge, and new life in the intermission.   All the while, I questioned the validity of this blog.  Lacking a clear focus, the default subject becomes my moods, my life observations.  I dislike self-publishing as a vehicle to vent, or to sing my own praises, so when I’m feeling insecure or über-excited, or too busy to reflect on what I’m up to, I just want to stay quiet.  But in the apparent quell, I’ve been an active dreamer.

Dreams–those subconscious goals and desires of the heart–arrest the dreamer.  Though she sleeps, insight dawns.  In hibernation mode, this blog cried out with the original intent: but what color is love?  Artist Marc Chagall knew that love is a color of hope and vivacity, a color that triumphs despite pain, evil regimes, and cruel death.  Ever my hero, Chagall’s words remind me to press through the indecision.  Weave the story.  Hook the reader.  Edify the hearts.  Any of you who write, paint, compose or choreograph know what I’m talking about.  Your art form will compel you to awaken once again.  Your mission will resurface.  Your dreams will direct you to complete the path you started.

Sometimes delay – whether caused by hibernation, procrastination, or the vagaries of life – is the path.  It is key to the mission and lends depth to the message.  A bear hibernates to conserve energy.  At the threat of life’s “winters,” humans prioritize.  A new baby demands our full-time care.  A husband’s career requires relocating and reorienting.  A step-child needs to be schlepped hither and thither.  Someone is ill.  Financial pressure puts us in survival mode.  Whatever the cause, delay happens.  But the dream will not stay dormant forever.

This past weekend we celebrated a full-circle story.  It was the story of a women who dreamed of becoming an artist.  A beautiful girl who married young, loved much, and birthed three amazing people into the world.  A lady so skilled with her hands she can weave tapestry, craft intricate jewelry and cleverly cook up almost any cuisine.  All in one day.  Her paintings adorn our home and countless others.  Oversized watercolors that speak of skill and secret knowing as she has honed her artist’s eye for many years.

On the wall of my bedroom, one of her recent works tells of Aaron our son, me his mother, and the interwoven lines of a 16th century Da Vinci drawing.  The image inspires me constantly.  A visual reminder that we are surrounded by a cloud of unseen witnesses.  An emblem of the spiritual strength we can impart to others younger than us, and receive from those who’ve gone before.  It’s a portrait of generational blessing, of tenderness and fortitude.

Watercolor by Mindy Faubion, 2013

Watercolor by Mindy Faubion, 2013

The artist, the heroine of this story, is my husband’s mother Melinda.  I am indebted to her for choosing the delay of her art-school dream, in order to care for her firstborn Ben.  If it wasn’t for her choice, perhaps Ben and I would never have met.  Interestingly my own mother also took about 30 years to complete her art degree, finishing in 2004 at the Laguna College of Art and Design.  My mom’s choice, like Mindy’s, became key to the story of how I met my true love.  Adding depth to the delay, theirs was the fruitfulness of apparent dormancy.   New generations and restorations arose from their journey.

If Ben and I are about anything in common, it is our conviction about art, faith and creativity.  We were raised by women who imparted their dream despite the delays.  As a result, the dream multiplied.  Now there are children, grandchildren and spouses who each love art and creativity in their own way.  Writers, photographers, a cosmetologist, entrepreneurs, painters, educators, tech-design artists, musicians.

Ben and his mom, Mindy, during Ben's BFA program at LCAD

Ben and his mom, Mindy, during Ben’s BFA program at LCAD

We are creative mothers and fathers ourselves now.  Passing on the legacy of our brave moms and dads.  Like them, we carry the seeds of our dreams on life paths that may seem indirect.  Wisdom prompts us not to judge success or failure too early.  Let the journey unfold.  Embrace the twists and turns.  And no matter what, don’t bury the treasure of your dreams.  But even if you do, trust that God has a map to guide you back.  As they say, X marks the spot.

Shalom.  Merry Christmas.  With lots and lots of love, in whatever color you feel it.

 

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Entreat the Muse

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Sometimes I get overwhelmed by my own ideas.  There is so much I want to do.  So much to live for.  So much to get creative about.  And there are days when I don’t know where to begin.  Today, finding myself in that place, I decided to just start drawing.  I worked on a demo I am making for my students in the Saturday Kids’ Atelier art classes I teach.  Tuned into some Brazilian jazz by Toots Thielemans  and tuned into my inner artist.  This is better than wine.  Better than chocolate.  Not quite as good as one of Ben’s kisses, but an OK second being as he is far away at work.  Anyway, to all my artist friends out there (and you writers too) please drop a line and let me know how you ‘stir the soup’ of your consciousness when it’s hard to focus.  I’d love to see any of your creations or best lines that came out of such a space.  Peace to you today.  And much love.

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Aaron helped me stay inspired

Aaron helped me stay inspired

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Dream Big: Dream with G-d

What does a woman do when it’s Saturday night and suddenly, for the first time in longer than she can remember, she’s alone?  No Ben.  No baby.  Just the summertime sound of the neighbors socializing over margaritas in their adjacent backyard.

And the sound of silence.  In the quiet that permeates the house I find I hear odd things.  Like the hum of the fridge.  And the sound of my own breath.   I bask in this quiet although it’s tinged with loneliness.  In this pause I didn’t know I needed, I still miss my boys.

I eat a simple meal and leave the dishes unwashed.  Let the water run, fill the bathtub, and slip into the comforting warmth of it.  I want to listen.  G-d as I lay in this water and stare at my toes, I want to offer up my life to You once again.  All the dreams in my heart.  Dare I to dream all the dreams that You might dream through me?   For the first time since I can remember, I believe that You want me to be me.  Just me.  It’s a really wonderful feeling.  To think that You just like people for who they are.  Does anyone out there besides me ever struggle to lay hold of that?

If there’s anyone out there reading and you ever struggle with being OK with yourself, I want you to know that I do too.  I have for most of my life.  But I think it’s a terrible waste of ourselves.  I think if we could only grasp how much we are loved and how much we have to live for and how unique each one of us is, we’d be unstoppable.  We’d be boundless. Forces of love and light in a cold dark world.

So here is my heart’s prayer, here in the wonderful quiet of this lonesome weekend: dream BIG. Sketch and write down what’s in your heart.  Dream and invite G-d to dream with you.  Invite Him to breathe life into you so you dream again.

My dreams come from G-d and G-d has the power to accomplish them.

–Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way

Dreaming with G-d is like play ... I learn a lot from Aaron's unbound laughter

Dreaming with G-d is like play … I learn a lot from Aaron’s unbound laughter

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Integrate

Artist: Adolf Mentzel (1815-1905)

Artist: Adolf Mentzel (1815-1905)

Have you ever felt like you were on a train and the view is great but suddenly it starts moving so fast all the colors of the view swirl together?  Now you see life like a Renoir painting.  Everything is bright but out of focus.  The pace of change makes it hard to put boundaries around time and space.  You can’t name what you see anymore.

The train of my life has been moving.  There’s beauty in the view, but I haven’t felt like putting words to it, and I certainly haven’t felt good about airing my thoughts in this semi-public arena of blogdom.  I have wondered, should I close this down?  Shall I simply declare (or, let my silence say it) that I’ve abdicated What Color is Love?  I don’t know what color love is anymore.  It is a blur of grays and reds and vermillion, aqua and ultramarine and phthalo blue.  The colors are vivid but my tongue sticks to roof of my mouth.  No, my keyboard sticks to my fingertips.  I feel dull and insignificant.  I feel alive and happy.  I feel energized and tired.  I feel sexy and invisible.  I feel like a woman.

I say this last bit because I think there are seasons of our lives as women that are particularly hard to make sense of.  Although we specialize in multitasking, in having all four of life’s burners going.  Although we’re accustomed to preparing the exquisite “meals” of life with every pan in the house.  Nevertheless there are seasons where the juggling act truly feels like I’m a circus performer and I can’t sort out the thoughts and emotions of my head.  In this chaos how can I try to put words into the blogosphere?

This isn’t a lament.  I like being a woman and I like my life.  But I’m not sure if my voice is on this fast-moving train where the colors blur and the contours disintegrate. As if my voice were a thousand meters behind and I want to call to her and say run, you can do it, catch me!  I’m here.  With my voice back in my body I’ll be able to speak kind and comforting words to my soul and maybe then, to yours too.

But today, I break the silence and surrender to the speed.  Because today is Sunday.  A world at rest.  The train is in it’s station, blowing off steam.  My eyes blink and I can focus.  The sun glows warm and the sea sparkles.  My child sleeps while canvas curtains billow softly.  In the calm I recollect myself and feel my voice again.  Inside my chest, she’s a bird come home to the nest.  Later, I will ask her softly, Voice, what lands did you discover, what truths do you now see?   Shhhh…rest now awhile.  Take time.  Tomorrow you can tell me your tales.

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Self portrait made with my fingerprints on vellum

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Recovering a Sense of Wonder

View from Heisler Park this morning

View from Heisler Park this morning

See the long shadows from the palm trees?  Long shadows and crisp salty air means a special morning in Laguna.

I am on a walk with my son.  It’s been one of those rare moments when awe strikes me.  Unexpectedly, fleeting as it is, but real awe all the same.

I was lying on the couch between 6 and 7 am, hoping to eek out a few more minutes of sleep.  Aaron toddles over and stares at me with these curious eyes, so full of his own personality now.  Tracing my nose, thinking his thoughts.  Amazing.  I get to thinking: two years ago you barely existed!  You were a tiny embryo, woven together in perfect structural order, cell by cell.  Now here you are, running, walking, climbing, choosing, delighting.  Talking fluently in your distinct form of proto-English.  You are a miracle!  A downright miracle!

Now we are strolling by the seashore.  Morning mist recedes over crisp, blue-grey tides.  A flock of gulls rests on the surface of the water about a hundred feet out.  Two treasure seeker comb the sand with their metal-detecting devices.  Aaron cries out gleefully at some kids playing in the “Tidepools” (Laguna Beach’s newly built playground).  Soon enough he’ll be running about here himself, climbing up the kids’ version of the iconic lifeguard tower, or playing pirate as he scampers over a crustacean encrusted rope bridge.  But for this moment, in the clear air of morning, I’m exceptionally grateful for Aaron’s chilled out vibe.

If I were a bird I would burst into a love song right now.  I love you Laguna Beach!  I love you life!  I love you Today!  Blessed Friday!  Blessed breath!  Blessed heartbeat!  I’m alive today and I feel it.  I cannot summon words to express all this joy.  Thank You Abba, Father, Creator of Life!  Shabbat comes tonight…may Your whole creation rejoice together with you as we enter into this Restful Delight!

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View of the new playground, with downtown Laguna Beach in the background

The Dinner Party, a Poem

I do not have any photograph to remember the scene by

So words will have to suffice

To render what love it was to be with you, All

Around a table served with color, lights and spices

Where the candles of christmas glinted back to us

through life-sized figures, drawings framed in glass

And water filled our wineglasses but chai spiced our lips

And dreams after long drought lifted on wings of words

Hope sprung like fish flying over the mismatched dishes with gilded rims

And we believed in this, again: humanity, camaraderie, hospitality

Making room, like a womb, it’s such a wanted tune

A melody to make glad the soul, lost amid modernity

My Peace I give to you, but not as the world gives

Says Jesus at a table with His friends

Such peace as we might find on this winter night, despite

Tragedy that wracks our land like a calloused demonic hand

I know.

There is such a thing as light, and dark

And the two contrast each other and frame the door

The door filled with light

Come inside I say to my soul

Outside in the cold, my soul is weary of the youth-glorying facade,

the numbness of innumerable vanities,

the shallow trade-off for an illusion of power

For true art must always have true humanity

Let fall the mask, your voice, your face

Is beautiful in this light

Tonight, says the door leading to you all

We will see each other as a painter might

And this our palette, filled with myriad color but all is one

One color: the color of love

 

Brooklyn Morning; Manhattan Afternoon

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I slept in as best I could while flanked by a little wiggly toddler and woke to a fine clear day in Brooklyn. Around 11 Rebekah (that’s my sister-in-law) and I put our little boys in their strollers and walked along streets like Prospect Ave and Windsor, past two story brick houses with curved glass windows, and colorful wood houses with small enclosed gardens. We dined on savory miniature pies at Dub Cafe and bought crisp-as-heaven, sweet-as-honey apples from the farmer’s market. Then onto a walk in Prospect Park.

I kept thinking as we were walking how grateful I was to be having this experience. For one, I am inspired by my sister-in-law and glad for the chance to get to know her better. For another, I am in a lovely section of Brooklyn, the weather is unusually mild for November, and my 13-month old son is cooperating brilliantly.

For lunch Rebekah made the best grilled cheese sandwiches I’ve ever had, made even more memorable by freshly-sliced gala apples on the side.

And then I took off with baby Aaron to try finding my way into Manhattan.

Whatever the reputation of New Yorkers as being rushed and unfriendly, I certainly met many kind strangers today. At the subway entrance a young guitarist helped me carry the stroller downstairs and offered pleasant conversation for most of the ride. Every time I got off the train, someone if not more than one person, kindly offered to help. And with the aid of a fantastic free app (Embark NYC), I had super easy-to-follow instructions for each step of my uptown journey.

My destination: 25 Central Park West. A beautiful gallery on the corner of 63rd and Central Park. As I approached my beautiful friend Lisa Raineywas visible in the rear of the gallery, hanging works of art.

Lisa is working to arrange and install a special exhibit which opens tomorrow night. As implied by its title (Converge: Where Classical and Contemporary Art Collide) the exhibit features painters of today who work at the intersection of refined, classical technique and contemporary content and themes.

Lisa will never admit to this, but she really is a genius when it comes to hanging a show. A brilliant painter herself, she’s also a kind of a visual choreographer. Her work of art tonight was the poetic interaction of the various paintings next to each other.

As I joined her for a few hours to offer what help I could, the passersby began to take note.

First one, then two, then as many as 12 different people, all of them residents of this part of Manhattan, came in for a sneak preview of tomorrow’s opening. All were amazed and in awe. Something beautiful was happening. We were witnessing busy, wealthy New Yorkers compelled off the street and face to face with art that was edifying them in some profound way. I was thinking about Isaiah’s words: oh you afflicted city, tossed with tempest and not comforted, I will build you with stones of turquoise, your foundations with sapphires. Could it be that in a city still shaken by the rage of a hurricane, 30 artists bring a balm of hope and healing? Oh let it be so.

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