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Travel Blog 4

Back in August, I did a few smaller hikes. Little did I realize that the problem would be, not the walking but the recording. I refuse to give up though. Somehow, I will find the time for both despite a busy schedule. I have a country to cross! In this particular hike, I left work and hiked for half my lunch hour in one direction. Then I walked back. Small – but I did it.

You might notice this from the time I walked to Hamilton. This is where I started. This time, I went the other way, choosing the quiet Burlington streets towards Toronto. I had hoped to walk along the water, but that wasn’t a thing. So I turned to the streets.

I really appreciated the city-hike nature of this little adventure. While it wasn’t exactly woodsy, after the “ahem – route verte” of Montreal, pretty streets covered in greenery and nice houses were a real joy to walk by.

It was obvious this was the abode of the wealthy. Some of those lawns… let’s just say I’m glad I never had to mow them. I loved the hanging baskets. How very thoughtful of you, Burlington. Although this wasn’t a long hike, it was part of my journey and so I noticed where I was when I ended. Some day, I’ll get back to that self-same spot.

Now at 17 km. Yay, me!

Click on link for real blog with pictures…

Trip 4 Blog

 

 

 

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#BlogElul – Elul 2

Elul 2 – Seek

(Psalms 27:4) “One thing have I asked of the Eternal, that will I seek: that I may dwell in the house of God all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Eternal, and to seek God in God’s temple.

In my head, I’m always see my daughters singing this to a tune written for them by their Cantor and it makes me smile. The tune is gorgeous and it’s moving and it really helps the words be felt. ’s kind of confusing though, with lots of contradictions. What is this one thing? Because three things are listed. And is this something I’m asking for, or something I’m doing? If I ask for one thing, why am I seeking it? A mess, right? So, how to reconcile it all?  What does this person want?

We’re supposed to read this psalm during Elul, so it’s topical to discuss the meaning of this verse, which to me seems like the best one in the entire psalm (no enemies being murdered.) So, this isn’t supposed to be some other person, this is supposed to be me reading it and so me doing the asking, the seeking, the dwelling, the gazing.

What is the one thing I have asked of the Eternal, then? If I follow the words of the psalm then the one thing is to dwell in the House of God, to seek God there, and to gaze on the beauty of the Eternal. Listed in that way, it’s easier to see it as one thing – and since I talked about Temples in Elul 1, it only makes sense to have temples again today.

What would it mean for me to live in God’s temple and seek God there? I’d always be encountering beauty, wouldn’t I? Temples are beautiful. I’d be doing my best to look for the beautiful and Godly in everything – to change how I see the world so that I’m gazing at the beauty of the Eternal. That would be a way to seek God and to live in a temple of God, to see the world that way.

It wouldn’t be easy – the world can be very ugly and every day living can feel nothing like a temple. For me to be living in a temple means that I see the beauty of the everyday. I can see how beautiful the world is and appreciate it. It means I treat the world the way I would a temple – I am careful and gentle and polite and I participate fully. A temple is a place where I know I need to be engaged. So, I am engaged, interested in the things I do every day.

I am actively working when I see the world as a temple, to be engaged, to perceive the beauty, to find the divine in everything – to seek God. That’s why this is a seeking – it requires work from me. But it is something I pray for too, because I know that I need all the help I can get in this task, so it is what I ask for.

That perspective – the world as a temple – changes everything. It changes relationships, landscapes, activities. It’s the right pair of glasses to wear to see the world with and it’s the one thing I need to help me live happily. I ask for and I seek this perspective this Elul, so that everything I see and do may be my looking for God in God’s house and perceiving the beauty therein.

Omer 20

Barukh ata Adonay, Eloheinu, melekh ha’olam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu al sfirat ha-omer.

Blessed are You, Adonay our God, ruler of the universe, who makes us holy with mitzvot and gives us this opportunity to count the Omer.

Today is day twenty which is two weeks and six days of the Omer. Hayom yom esrim she hem shtey shavuot ve shisha yammim laOmer.

Today is Yesod be Tiferet, connection within beauty, intimacy within grace.

How can I connect to those around me? One way is through loveliness. Now, I am not always lovely – but the more I see myself as beautiful, the more I work to look and sound and feel full of grace and beauty, the more likely it is that I’ll be someone desireable for others to connect to. Today, I focus on ways I can embody the beauty of this world, whether that is through my appearance, or through my actions and words, and the kindness and closeness I embody and the harmony and grace I exhibit. When I do so, connections and intimacy simply happen, as is their nature.

Today, I project the beauty in my world and I embody it to build connection.

Omer 19

Barukh ata Adonay, Eloheinu, melekh ha’olam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu al sfirat ha-omer.

Blessed are You, Adonay our God, ruler of the universe, who makes us holy with mitzvot and gives us this opportunity to count the Omer.

Today is day nineteen which is two weeks and five days of the Omer. Hayom yom tisha-es’re she hem shtey shavuot ve hamisha yammim laOmer.

Today is Hod be Tiferet, gratitude within beauty, humility within grace.

I am grateful for the beauty I have been offered, in this lovely world. I find the beauty in everything I see and touch today. How can I best express my gratitude? I can spend my time trying to add to the beauty. Whether through planting or singing, praying or playing piano, caring for my friends or caring for the someone in the community, I can try to make the world more beautiful. When I do, others respond with gratitude – and with attempts to create beauty. Just through gratitude for what there clearly is, we can add to the loveliness of our beautiful world. That’s pretty fantastic.

Today, I am grateful for the beauty that surrounds me. I express my gratitude by helping the world to be even more beautiful..

Omer 45

Barukh ata Adonay, Eloheinu, melekh ha’olam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu al sfirat ha-omer.

Blessed are You, Adonay our God, ruler of the universe, who makes us holy with mitzvot and gives us this opportunity to count the Omer.

Today is day forty five, which is six weeks and three days of the Omer. Hayom yom arbaim ve hamesh she hem shisha shavuot ve shlosha yammim laOmer.

Today is Tiferet be Malkhut, beauty within majesty, harmony within nobility.

Today I enjoy the beauty of things being as they should be. Today is a day for beauty, not only because the flowers in my garden keep being stunning, but also because it’s the 1st of Sivan and there’s a chance we might sing Hallel. I enjoy those psalms – like the cornerstone made out of the rock that the builders abandoned, like God answering with more breath, more width – opening. Today, I am wide open to the possibilities offered by God’s wonderful dominion. Today, I have the easy comfortable beauty of a queen, when I recognize the amazingness of the world and of the noble gifts I have been given.

Today, I am a queen graciously accepting God’s gifts of beauty, offered through flowers and song.

 

Omer 38

Barukh ata Adonay, Eloheinu, melekh ha’olam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu al sfirat ha-omer.

Blessed are You, Adonay our God, ruler of the universe, who makes us holy with mitzvot and gives us this opportunity to count the Omer.

Today is day thirty eight, which is five weeks and three days of the Omer. Hayom yom shloshim ve shmone she hem hamisha shavuot ve shlosha yammim laOmer.

Today is Tiferet be Yesod, beauty within family, truth within intimacy

It’s nice when the little things work out. When you are thinking something and suddenly, your friend says that very thing. When you start a sentence and your friend finishes it. When you want something – and your partner brings it. It’s wonderful to have that connection that goes beyond words and into love. It’s nice and it’s real and it’s beautiful. It takes years of hanging out, of just doing thte next thing, of thinking of each other and truly listening to what the other person says to have it happen. It’s rare – and sometimes huge periods of time happen where it isn’t there or at least I don’t notice it – but it’s totally worth while.

Today, I notice the beauty in the the comfort and fit one can have with true family.

Omer 31

Barukh ata Adonay, Eloheinu, melekh ha’olam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu al sfirat ha-omer.

Blessed are You, Adonay our God, ruler of the universe, who makes us holy with mitzvot and gives us this opportunity to count the Omer.

Today is day thirty one, which is four weeks and three days of the Omer. Hayom yom shloshim ve egad she hem arba’a shavuot ve shlosha yammim laOmer.

Today is Tiferet be Hod, beauty within gratitude, grace within thankfulness.

Manners are completely useless. At least so said the twelve -year-old me as I proceeded to dismiss the need for manners. They don’t convey any new information – my request for the butter is just as accurate with the please as without, and free from irritating extra verbiage. The same held true for thank you’s. There was no purpose to them – they conveyed no net-new information that I could see, and weren’t always that genuine (I mean, how grateful can one be about butter).

It was only years later that I realized manners had an entirely different purpose. They aren’t for conveying information – that can be done, well and efficiently inmany other ways. They are for beauty.

In much the same way, a dance isn’t for getting from one place to another. Running and even walking is a way more efficient way of getting from one point to another. Dancing is beautiful, though, and a great way to express emotion and connect to others.

Today, I can use gratitude and other polite words and phrases to turn my conversations into dances of words that do that very thing – express emotion and connect to others.  It’s not that I’m conveying more information about the butter. I’m conveying emotions about the other person, I’m conveying a sense that the table is a shared place that we want to keep civil, I’m conveying the dance.

Today, I say ‘thank you’ and remember that good manners can be beautiful.

Omer 18

Barukh ata Adonay, Eloheinu, melekh ha’olam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu al sfirat ha-omer.

Blessed are You, Adonay our God, ruler of the universe, who makes us holy with mitzvot and gives us this opportunity to count the Omer.

Today is day eighteen which is two weeks and four days of the Omer. Hayom yom shmona-es’re she hem shtey shavuot ve arba’a yammim laOmer.

Today is Netzakh be Tiferet, power within beauty, conquest within grace.

Sometimes, one just doesn’t feel beautiful. One has come in from a long day of doing something and one feels like yuck and one just doesn’t care how one looks but suspects it’s probably not very pretty. And oddly – it makes one feel less capable, less powerful.

Then, there are other days, when one looks in the mirror and says, “I am beautiful”, and even if one looks exactly the same on both days, one suddenly feels beautiful, attractive, and so more powerful. Those words, applied to a person can make a huge difference. They turn around what beauty is and allow the beauty that people think or feel they have to shine through.

It isn’t easy to project looking good over the course of a day – people use makeup or special hairstyles, stylish outfits and nice shoes to do so. But the underlying secret remains to know that one is beautiful and let that beauty be in charge.

Today, I acknowledge that I too can be beautiful and access that power.

Omer 17

Barukh ata Adonay, Eloheinu, melekh ha’olam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu al sfirat ha-omer.

Blessed are You, Adonay our God, ruler of the universe, who makes us holy with mitzvot and gives us this opportunity to count the Omer.

Today is day seventeen which is two weeks and three days of the Omer. Hayom yom sheva-es’re she hem shtey shavuot ve shlosha yammim laOmer.

Today is Tiferet be Tiferet, beauty within beauty, grace within grace.

Today, I think of home. Sometimes, the most beautiful thing imaginable is home. And home is different for different people. For some people, it’s the decorative possibilities – a home can be made truly beautiful, full of nice things that have been put exactly where I like them to be. That is a home that can be really beautiful. For others, home is a balancing act of compromise and relationship – knowing that they have put the spoon away exactly where their partner needs it to go. The decorations are more eclectic and may include a bird’s nest in the fancy china cabinet, but they are lovely. For some, it’s clutter and cosiness, and the fact that someone loved is usually nearby or at least will be soon. For others, it’s the space and privacy that they crave, a place where they can truly be alone. For everyone, it’s a place of rightness and it’s a feeling of safety and security, knowing that there is an anchor to one’s life. That rightness, that feeling? That’s beautiful.

Today, I appreciate the beauty of home.

Omer 24

Barukh ata Adonay, Eloheinu, melekh ha’olam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu al sfirat ha-omer.

Blessed are You, Adonay our God, ruler of the universe, who makes us holy with mitzvot and gives us this opportunity to count the Omer.

Today is day twenty-four which is three weeks and three days of the Omer. Hayom yom esrim ve arba she hem shlosha shavuot ve shlosha yammim laOmer.

Today is Tiferet be Netzakh, beauty within power, grace within victory.

Today I hand in exam marks for students, and that is a great deal of power. It’s a matter of their whole entire future for them, who they can be and who they can become. They tell me about how that 1% will make the difference between getting into university and becoming a respected lawyer or being a homeless bum with no education. It feels like I have all the power. But I’m just the marker. I really can’t make them learn something they don’t want to learn. I can do a lot but I can’t make a person do their homework, study for a test, know more than they do. I can’t undo years of poor study or actual intellectual difficulties. There is a limit. At some point, I concede that I’ve done my part.

For many students, that’s that. I push, cajole, pray, suggest, advice, persuade, threaten, bribe, tease and otherwise try to get them to learn. They choose what they want to learn. I put in their marks. I have power, but it’s not very pretty. In some cases, though – magic happens. God intervenes. A student who couldn’t add suddenly puts in the extra work, askss the additional questions, approaches the test with a new look and suddenly – succeeds beyond either their expectations or mine.

Now, that’s a victory. That’s real power. That’s my changing an “I’m stupid” kid to one who can think, who can work, who can learn. It’s never my victory – like I said, mostly, it has little to do with me. It might be their parents, might be themselves – but when it happens, that feels like victory for all concerned. I know I’ve played a part in that success that I’ve helped to make this difference. I continue to do all I can, and I live for these victories. I feel that then, there’s beauty in victory – the beauty of helping someone else win.

Today, I win when I help others achieve victory and that’s beautiful.