It snowed last week. Here in New England. In the Berkshires. In Otis and Monterey (where I am renting my amazing farmhouse) and in Great Barrington. It snowed. Even though it is (was) October still. And it snowed a lot. Like A LOT. Like my car could not make it up a hill and I had to pull into a driveway and knock on a door and ask to leave my car there overnight. The guy was so nice and his dog played with my dog and he just had a baby...like four days before. A BABY!
Anyway. It snowed. And though it was very beautiful, as you can see from the photo I am sharing, it was not the most happiest of moments for me. Because I do not like to be cold. I moved across the country not to be cold ( which is a whole other story since where I moved gets cold in the winter...like 35 degrees cold!!). And yes, I know that coming to New England in the fall means there is a chance that I would experience cold, I just did not think I would experience snow this early on. I was not ready. And I did not miss it. The snow.
I am not nostalgic for snow.
Which brings me to the point of this writing today. The idea of missing things. In the past - as in nostalgia: a longing for a time that no longer exists. Or in a wanting for things in the future. And so missing the present and all its beauty.
This concept, of being in the moment and not, instead, wishing for the past or planning for the future, has come up a lot lately. And so...I thought I would share a writing that I wrote last year at this time. I love that the theme that is here now matches the writing that I wrote then. Not that I am in the past...
Ok, here you go:
You Can't Repeat The Past
We were in Indiana this weekend. Not usually a destination location for us but it was the final weekend performances of The Great Gatsby, at the Indiana Repertory Theater, and our daughter was Jordan Baker. And I say was in the most intentional way, as watching her metamorphosis on stage, well... it was fantastic. As was the show. The set. The story. The other actors. And my daughter. Simply fantastic.
And now she is coming home. Back to California and all the intricacies and unknowns that being an actor in Los Angeles will offer her.
And as I was thinking about this, and wondering what her next best role will be, the quote that Nick said to Gatsby, came back to me. You can't repeat the past.
Now my daughter knows this. With each new role she has, she jumps in new. Never trying to capture the experience she had with the character she was before, but instead tackling this new person with a clear and fresh mind. It must be an actor thing. Along with Meisner and Stanislavski, students of acting must also get a huge dose of let it go so that they can approach each new opportunity without expectation and open to the possibility that anything could happen. This is a lovely way to be.
Because usually we don't do this. And I say we, meaning me. But chances are, meaning you, too.
We want things to be as great as they were. And so we're always disappointed. You can't repeat the past. Now, that's not to say that you can't make things even better, but that also takes you out of the now. Because while you're still looking back, your planning forward. And that causes disappointment, too.
My daughter in law (to be) said it brilliantly just recently, when she reminded my husband to enjoy the journey as he builds a company that we all know will be incredible. You're almost at the top of the mountain, she said, but don't forget to pay attention to the end of the hike. (or something like that, but you get the idea). And she is right, too. (Does it make sense that she is also an actor like my daughter. They joke that acting training is really just intense therapy. I think they are right!) For when we rush to get to where we think we are going we miss the beautiful flowers along the path. And perhaps we may miss some other path, too. That we'd only think to walk along if we were paying attention to where we are rather than looking to where we are going.
So we miss things. A lot of things. Either because we are wising that what is is a lot like what was. Or because we are planning that what will be will be fantastic and so miss the wonder of what is happening now.
It takes practice to be present in each moment. It has to become a habit in just the same way as letting our minds go to that wonderful past that we want to repeat or that unknown future that we want to control, is a habit. And so we need to practice it. Remind ourselves to be aware of the moments we are in. Take deeper breathes and slow down and pay attention. Enjoy what is unfolding without worry that it isn't something other than what is, right at the moment that it is.
In my own practice of this, there are three stages.
Stage one is just noticing when you are doing (thinking, wishing) something other than enjoying what is unfolding for you at that moment. It's being aware. And taking note of that. I'm good at this stage. Oops, I say, I'm not quite in it. But then it gets tough.
Because my mind, it's a multi tasking mind, and so while I am trying to connect to stage two, settling into the now of things, my minds becomes two minds. One that is present and one that is watching me be present and thinking about it and wondering how long I can sustain it and still jumping around to the past and the future a few dozen times just for fun.
I think I need to meditate.
And that brings me to stage three. Which is the stage that my daughter is in when she is on the stage. The being right there, as an actor, present in each moment. Listening to her cast mates so that she is not just repeating the lines that she learned for the role, but speaking authentic responses to the dialog around her. Letting the story unfold in each moment and having it be different each time. All the world's a stage. But, unlike Shakespeare's script, she is not just merely a player.
And neither are we.
We can make it real. We can experience all the nuances that we will likely miss if we look behind ourselves or struggle to see what's coming in the future. So let's do it. Let's not miss the life that we have, but instead be in the moment, in each moment. Be aware. Be honest. Feel each feeling and taste each flavor. The opportunity is right here.
I went walking last week in Callahan State Park. With my dog. You know her. The perfect and smart and beautiful Doberman who is now one and three quarter years old but still a puppy. You know her but I do not believe you know Callahan State Park. Well, some of you may, if you live in Massachusetts, specifically in Framingham though perhaps in other, close to Framingham, towns. And definitely if you live in Framingham or close to it and have a dog. Because this park, as parks go, is a fantastic park for dogs.
There are miles and miles of trails that circle the park and intersect each other that can take a dog and their person on some really great walks/runs/hikes/wanderings. And there is this huge pond that is near this huge open space that is truly a dog-on-dog-let-us-all-play-together-place for any dog that wants this.
My dog does not.
She is not a let’s get together and play kinda gal. And so we do not go to the pond area. Instead we walk the trails. Specifically the trails to the right as I walk into the park from where I left my car. Specifically the trails that take me to the home we once had when we lived here. In Massachusetts. In Framingham Massachusetts to be specific.
We lived in a beautiful home. But more, this home was on this most incredible land. Land that filled me. Land that I belonged on. Land that it broke my heart, truly, to move away from. And this land, the lovely thing about it was that the very back part of it, down the back drive and far from the house, pressed up against Callahan State Park.
My land pressed up against this park and so this park, it became my park.
I love this park.
And so, last week, when I was in Framingham, after spending the night with my youngest child/second daughter, at her home (not in Framingham) where we made yummy taco meat which we ate with kale and beans and which she added humus to though I did not - which is surprising to anyone who knows me and most certainly to my daughter-in-law who thinks that my son is so awesome because I raised him on humus – I took myself and my beautiful dog to walk in these woods in this park of mine that I love so much.
I captured certain places on this walk. So I could share them with you. Places deeply familiar. Places that I ran along, navigating the roots that littered the paths during those many years that running was what I did best. And these trails, that I walked on last week, they held still those same roots and dips and curves where I tripped and stumbled as I and my dogs, back then, worked our way through the trees.
I walked up the inclines that would feel so steep after an hour plus run and which would signify that I was almost home. Something my dogs back then knew so well and were just as thankful for as I was.
I lingered on the wooden bridge that, to me, signified the end of my land and the beginning of the park even though the park was actually much closer to my property than that. Still, it felt like this was a dividing place because it was a bridge whereas the rest was just trials even though the ones that ran up against where I lived were much narrower and less traveled and so, sometimes when the leaves had fallen off the trees or the snow was on the ground, were almost impossible to see.
This was especially true last week. I think that the people who live in my home now likely do not travel along these paths from the land that was my home to the land that is this park as often as I did back then. Because the trails were hard to see, and the plants around were grown and full and for a few moments I was not sure I was walking quite right.
But then I was. And found my house. And I stood, just inside the woods so as not to bother the owners who bought this place from me. It is funny that I stood there like that as I remember so many times looking out my back window and seeing faces of hikers and walkers and runners peaking out from the trees, lost in the woods and hoping that my home may have been a way out of the park. It was not.
Standing just inside the trees, so as not to be seen, I captured an image of the pond that stood at the back of our land, against the park that my land pressed up against. The pond, to me, was not the best part of the land. It was lovely. But it did not pull me like the earth did. Like the grade of the slope that ran from our home to the park. Like the open space of the lawn and the trees of Callahan in the distance.
It was lovely being here this last week. Walking through these trails and up onto the edge of my home with Nava. Sharing this walk with her, journeying along these trails that cushioned the pads of my other dogs that I once had, this was very important for me. I would not have walked this walk without my dog. So that I could have this memory now of this walk with her, to close the circle and honor the space and take into my heart new moments in Callahan State Park. Even as my visit was about the moments past
(There will be a lot of links to look at in today’s literary log)
As many of you know, if you have been reading my writing lately, I really do love being naked. I wrote about it here. And also here. There is a freedom in this. And a beauty of this. And, for me in this tree, an alignment to this. To the nature of it. To the stripped down, it-is-what-it-is, power in the roots that allows the tree to grow independent and strong. To the branches raw and uncovered and my arms and legs, skin and body uncovered, too.
I love this photo. It is the last of a series of many that were taken. I love them all. And I loved taking them. Rather having my dear friend take them after I dropped off my clothes in a pile on an outdoor yoga floor and climbed up onto the great and wild branches of this incredible tree.
I did this in Nicaragua.
I was in Nicaragua for five days. On a yoga retreat that was offered and honored by the extraordinary Tasha Marvin. She is also the dear friend who took the photo. You can find her here. The retreat was in partnership with an equally extraordinary organization called Paso Pacifico. You can find out more about them here.
I went on this yoga retreat in partnership with this amazing organization with my mom as my partner. I have no links for her but I do have a deep link to her. As her daughter. And also as her friend. And most recently as a supportive piece of a complicated puzzle that is stripping away her ability to remember language. Retrieving it and understanding it. It is an awful disease.
And so my mom went with me, on this trip. Rather, we went together on this trip.
There were many pieces to navigate on this trip with my mom.
There was the deep and necessary desire to immerse in the intention of this trip. To embrace the quietness of the beach and forest. To settle into the rhythm of yoga and breath that Tasha offered up to us with honestly and love. To stand, open and receiving, in nature. To take in the connection of soul and spirit that was so present in this beautiful country. To connect deeply and internally with self - separate from all other me’s that I am.
And along with all of this was the relationship with my mom.
Being in this space not just as just me but as me with her. The interaction as mother/daughter and those patterns that have been there for a long time. The interaction as adult women, together. And with these layers, the explaining where we were going and then where we were, again and again because part of the loss of language is a loss of comprehension and so where we were was not always clear. And where we were going and where we had just left was often times lost quickly. With this comes a shift away from mother/daughter and woman/woman to caring for my mom in a new way.
There was beauty in the repetition of it actually. Which I see more clearly now looking back at it, but which I felt in the rhythm of the words that were restated and then restated again. Whether as explanation of what was to come or as a reminder of what was right there in front of us, the words I often spoke, I spoke again and again and again.
This was most evident to me on our first night.
Paso Pacifico is an environmental not-for-profit organization and one of their main priorities - and the focus of our trip - are the sea turtles that would come up from the ocean and lay their eggs. Which they did on this first night that we arrived.
It was late. And we were tired. But still, after settling into our rooms, we took a long drive over uneven dirt roads to witness thousands of mothers, full with their babies, work their way up a dark and night beach to lay their eggs. And when my mother asked me, over and over again, what these creatures were called, turtle became a mantra for this moment of such power of focused intention that these mothers had for their task at hand.
And a reminder of all that mothers do, whether they are mothers or daughters or just women together.
There were many more times like this. That took me away from my just being in the moment so as to explain the moment to my mom. And again, this became part of the trip and of the relationship with my mom in this new place called Nicaragua and called Primary Progressive Aphasia, both.
For, just as I was in this space of connecting with source I was in this place of caring for my source, for the woman who made me. The juxtaposition of this is not lost on me. The bitter-sweetness of it was there even in those moments that were the hardest.
When this photo was taken of me in this tree my mother was not there. It was a time where she had chosen not to engage in the yoga that was offered but instead to be by herself in this now familiar place. Where once the walk from our cottage, set high above the ocean, to the main lodge where our meals were served, was challenging and difficult, as we neared the end of this trip my mom was able to move through the resort easily and with confidence.
And so we were not together for this photo of me in this tree.
She was off feeling the strength of her own roots of independence while I was here, nestled in - me in this tree.
Fall in New England corresponds to those most sacred of Jewish Holidays, the High Holy Days. I have been back here, to this east coast, for the last three years to share in the holidays with my parents at their temple in The Berkshires. The falling into Fall, the coolness of the air and the changing of the trees from deep greens to the softer reds and oranges and yellows and browns is one with the changing of the year that is first the New Year's celebration of Rosh Hashanah - the beginning of the holiday honoring this time of year - to the ending of this time, Yom Kippur.
Yom Kippur is my favorite holiday. Not so much for the meaning as for the music. Though I do find myself sitting deeply in the introspection and self-reflection that this day of remembrance brings forth, it is the resonance of melodic tunes that echoes in. My heart and my soul remember these deeply laid melodies from when I was young and from before I was myself in this lifetime, both.
And so, to share in this honoring, I wrote an honoring of this holiday when I was here another year. I am sharing it again today. For just as we bring forth into our new year those parts of our life that are true and right and sit in alignment with ourselves, this writing captures what I think and what I feel and what I know in just that right way about this special time of year.
A Sea Of Movement And Song. A Collective Consciousness From Ancient Times - written 9/21/2015:
I do not first think of myself as Jewish when I defined myself. When I think about myself I am a mother. I am a dancer. I am a partner and a lover and a sister and a daughter and I am a friend. I am a writer. I am a mediocre piano player. But I do not think of Judaism. Of my Jewish self when I think about myself.
And yet each year I go to temple on these most holy of days. The New Year. A time of rejoicing and repentance. Of reflection and rebirth.
Often I go because I am with my family but just as often I go on my own. I find that I take myself there. A pull to be in this place during this most sacred time.
And I find that I am bored. I find that I am distracted. The words that are said aloud and whispered in silent prayer they do not resonate with me. The service starts and my mind, it instantly wanders. Because I just do not love this so much.
And so instead I will notice beautiful baby sitting across the aisle from me and this will entertain me for a few minutes. I will whisper and laugh with my niece and nephew, or my own children if they are with me, too. And definitely with my sister, when we are together to take in this day. And often I will wonder how many others in the synagogue have a wandering mind, as I do now.
But then we sing, nearly as beautifully and with as much spirit as the brilliant Barbara Streisand, this: Avinu Malkeinu.
Avinu Malkeinu. Our Father, Our King. The meaning of these words, they hold no power for me. But that we sing together in tender spirit, a resonance in minor keys, this is what I lean into.
I, once and often, sang this to my babies and they know this song before they knew it truly. Passed through my womb and more. I would sing to them as I rocked them to sleep, dancing slowly round the living room. Their sweet, soft breath just a whisper on my neck. My voice, melodic and whispered back in a response that settles in their heart. My babies know this song as I do.
And as I sing again each year I feel and see, in this room that we all come to be in, the constant sway of music that burst forth from everyone around me. A sea of movement and song. A collective consciousness from ancient times. A remembering.
Not of just the year before or many years before that, too. But of a deep past and a history connected together by verse after verse.
My soul knows this music. And it recognizes these others that are here with me on these days. In flesh and ghost. And this is why I go each year. To this place that I do not really like to be in. Because here I find that familiar spirit that lives in bones and fibers and ash. And here I find the longing to connect, even for this once a year time, to each other through these notes. Through the music in these chords. Through the stories in these chants and songs.
And it is with this spirit that springs alive in my heart that I wish a most happy of new years to all who celebrate these most holy of days. And love and kindness to all my friends and my family. L'shanah tovah. A good year.
The practice of speaking our truth is not just the outward manifestation of what we say but the inner workings of our souls breath. The alignment of our spirit with our minds and our hearts. It is not the words we speak out loud that carry the fullest weight and move us forward but the gentle mantra of our knowing when we feel it ripe in our bellies.
When the way we journey on our path is right and good and full with the truth of us the tension that often will seep into ourselves shifts away. Sometimes for just moments, often times an instant that we stand in true form as one with that cosmic energy we call knowing. It is here that our power reigns free. Here that we call forth our wisdom and our teachings. Here that our essence, the one that we truly are, shines fully.
It is here we must honor and nurture so we can return to this place until it is the only place we are.
Mother, Wife, Friend, Sister, Daughter, Dancer, Dog and Cat lover.