Elixirs of the One God

11752425_10206558222810853_6052729574801626937_n“I thought you were going to sit and write,” she says.

“I am. But I need to clear this space first,” I say.

I climb across the bed to reach for her. Bury my face in her neck for a moment, inhale deeply.

Enjoy the chance for rest this Shabbat brings.

For the past hour or so, I’ve been in motion. Breaking down cardboard boxes from Ensure deliveries and the new bright yellow desk chair I’m now sitting in. A few days ago, I moved my desk from the living room — it was serving as a table for the old keyboard we use in lieu of my beloved piano, which lives for now at my parents’ house — to our bedroom, flush with my dresser, facing the bay windows that face the overgrown wild behind our house.

I wanted to be able to write in here, since here is where Mani spends 99% of the day, and being near her, being able to glance over and see her resting or coloring or watching Netflix or whatever she is doing, settles me. Brings us both an inexplicable feeling of peace.

I broke down the boxes and then tackled the piles on my dresser, figuring out which papers to file and which still need my attention. I moved the unfolded laundry from on top of the typewriter where I dumped it last night, too tired to deal, to the end of the bed. I folded and put away the clothes — hers, mine, so much of it actually shared as our wardrobes seem to merge more and more.

I emptied the trash cans, pulled the paper bags filled with recycling from the pantry to carry down to the garage, grabbed the way-overdue library books from my night table and put them by the door, to return when I go running a bit later. Ran my hand over the other books and felt a thin film of dust, noticed my impulse to get out the vacuum and a damp rag and start cleaning for real, and knew I was walking that line between clearing space in order to write and simply putting off writing.

For as much as I write during the weeks, I still put off writing sometimes when it comes to coming here.

Because there is so much to say, and when I don’t know where to start, it’s tempting not to start at all. Easier to clean house. Easier to putter. Easier to scroll through Facebook.

And then: Aaaaaaaaah. This. This quiet. This diving in. This swimming in words.

Enjoy the chance for rest this Shabbat brings.

The relief of it. Of sitting down in the new yellow chair facing the wild through the windows, listening to the birds, seeing what comes. The freedom not to write a killer blog post, but just to write.

Man, that voice! It’s incredible how persistent it is, despite all of my walking and talking and walking the talk about showing up. But I show up anyway, sprinkling these seeds around, mixing metaphors, opening my palms and inspecting them, getting really close up and curious about which ones I’m holding, what kinds of flowers are these?

Yesterday morning, Aviva took her math assessment at her new school while I completed a bunch of paperwork. As we were getting ready to leave the house, she did something that struck me. It was so normal and simple and ordinary, you might be surprised that I even noticed or that I’m bothering to mention it here.

She folded a blanket.

She folded up the orange blanket in the living room, where she does most of her camping out during these unscheduled summer days. She was straightening up before we went out. Without my asking her to.

So simple. So easy to overlook. And yet — I noticed. I’m noticing. That she is growing up, and that she has been paying attention all this time, consciously and not-so-consciously, to all of my tidying and clearing space and folding and cleaning…

It’s also entirely possible that I’m reading way too much into the fact that my daughter folded a blanket, picked up a bit without my asking. I’d say, what’s the big deal, except that this evidence of maturing is popping up a lot lately, like in her self-declared feminism, surprising me after years of rolling her eyes at my words and my ways. Wow.

Enjoy the chance for rest this Shabbat brings.

A female cardinal landed on a branch outside my window just now. I paused to watch her stand there for several seconds before she flew away.

It feels good to slow down.

While I was going through the piles on my dresser, I came across this quote, something I scribbled down on the back of whatever piece of paper had been stashed in my purse several Friday night ago:

“Consider your own creative power. Think about the work you have done in the week that has passed, and feel your own pride and pleasure in that work. Try to set your work aside. Try not to think about the work ahead next week. Rather, take a few long, deep breaths, slow down, and enjoy the chance for rest this Shabbat brings.”

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Actually, I think this might work.

Today marks ten days since I stopped smoking cloves. This is not the non-sequitur it sounds like.

(A quick aside: Clove cigarettes have three times the tar, tobacco, and nicotine of regular cigarettes, disguised by the sweet oil that tastes so good and that also happens to anesthetize your lungs when you inhale, making it easier to take deeper drags, hold the smoke in longer, and basically get more of the drug. Quitting these is akin to quitting heroin, though it’s legal and on the face of things does not appear to fuck up your life completely.)

Anyway. The bald-faced, no-shame-because-enough-of-that-already truth is that I have quit smoking seven times, for durations varying from three weeks to six years, since taking my very first drag of a Camel Light at age thirteen in 1987. Thirteen. THIRTEEN. My daughter is almost thirteen. I would like to meet my grandchildren when they are thirteen. Needless to say, I’m taking a lot a lot a lot of long, deep breaths these days.

Enjoy the chance for rest this Shabbat brings.

Coming back again and again to this words, this refrain, I think about Aviva folding the blanket and texting Mani to recommend feminist documentaries and telling me the other day that she is “…kind of coming out, but as myself.”

I think about the relationships that form in my writing groups, some over just two weeks and others over the course of months, the surprising depth of sharing and trusting and stories that emerge. The incredible beauty of sometimes wrenching pain and always the magic of this kind of connection with others. Others who I know have not appeared in my world by accident, who come as inadvertent teachers and healers.

I think about Mani getting better. How we both know it in our bones without knowing how we know.

I think about how sometimes everything is not going to be ok. This is part of life.

Enjoy the chance for rest this Shabbat brings.

There’s a bottle of Stag’s Breath Liqueur from Scotland on my dresser, a gift from my parents’ recent trip to the Highland Region. Aviva opened it to see what it smelled like, making a disgusted face. Not much of a drinker myself, I haven’t even had a nip yet, but I like the way it looks, all honey-colored in the morning light.

My elixir of choice lately has been water. Straight-up, drown the cravings, flush the system.

And then there’s the Holy Water from Lourdes on my dresser from Isabel, next to the whiskey and my glass of tap water. Between the three, I figure, I should be golden.

Oh, yes. This is what happens when I sit down after all that busying about. After the laundry and the recycling and the scrolling and the tidying, I type away while she sleeps, her morning meds having kicked in, knocking back her pain which remains erratic, hard to predict by patterns. What happens when I sit down is this circling. The naming of gods and elixirs, the breathing. Considering my own creative power and allowing for a moment of pride and of pleasure. Realizing that I still spend so much time rushing, and the rushing feels habitual and false, untrustworthy. Remembering: This is optional.

And that slowing down, way, way, WAY down, is the best nectar ever of every God that ever had a name.

Sh’ma Yisrael, Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai Echad — Listen, O Israel, the Lord is Our God, God is One.

Each night, as she closes her eyes, I sing this prayer to Pearl. I imagine it seeping into her subconscious and filling her cells with memory, with something soothing perhaps she’ll be able to call on someday when she needs it and I’m far, far away.

God is One and has many, many names. I sit and write, and it seems that so often, maybe not every time but damn near close, this is where my writing leads. This is why I sit here in the yellow chair and feel my way through the seeds and the not smoking and the surprises and what always feels like total rambling.

It IS total rambling. I just reread this post and could not follow it myself. No matter. It does not matter. It’s just a flush of the system. A cleansing downpour of words. A maze, a puzzle, a moment. A prayer, a landing pad, a thank you, a question, an answer, a breath.

Quiet now in the room. Relief. No rushing. Just being here, with myself. With her. With you. Enjoying the chance for rest this Shabbat brings.

Shabbat Shalom.

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