Thursday, December 30, 2004

light one candle

Jan and Karen, two of our resident faeries, laid out a spiral (the Heart of Chartres pattern) in fragrant cedar boughs on the floor of our clinic's classroom, studded with smooth river rocks and sparkly marbles and tea-light candles. Then our friend Melissa, author of Exploring the Labyrinth: A Guide for Healing and Personal Growth, led a candlelit workshop, describing the way labyrinths were walked at times of transition and challenge, as contemplative practice, as moving prayer. She suggested that this time between solstice and New Year's Day is like the subtle pause between the end of exhalation and the beginning of inhalation, a point of no-time right before the effortless receiving of the new. We each made our way slowly or quickly to the center of the spiral, feeling as if we walking into the center of the earth, encouraged to bring questions for the new year, rather than a resolution or desire to change ourselves.

I am also still holding in my mind's hand the kavannot (intentions) that I brought with me on retreat. (For a thoughtful and characteristically heartful post by Ashley on kavannot, see this from last summer.) 

Rabbi Ted encourages us to light each candle of Chanukkah for the illumination of a particular quality or intention, keeping in mind that the first candle is lit anew every night during the week-long holiday, and so on, and so we make our fondest wishes the first ones. The places and qualities I wished for the lights to illuminate: that field beyond rightdoing and wrongdoing. Faith in each soul's essential good. Willingness to listen for the call to prayer/action. The capacity for quick and whole-hearted connection. Willingness to take responsibility for what has heart and meaning. A deeper remembering to bless and be blessed. To pay full attention, to slow down enough to notice the details.
One of my favorite image details is seeing several Israelis, including our friend and bus driver Ovad, turn their hand over, palm up, to cover their head during a blessing. Rabbi Ted explained that in some Jewish traditional cultures, if a man didn't have a head covering to use during a prayer, he covered his head with one hand, in which case it was important to do so in a way that wasn't just your ordinary, everyday, kind of hand-on-your-head.
Here is Ovad during Chanukkah in Tzfat, with me, and part of Helen, in the background.

Monday, December 27, 2004

"all the planet is vibrating"

Astrologer friend Eric Francis quotes Enzo Boschi, head of Italy's National Geophysics Institute, who also said that the early morning earthquake yesterday off the coast of Sumatra, Indonesia, was so massive that it even disturbed the earth's rotation.
Sitting in the face, in the holy presence, of such devastation and suffering--geographically far, but nothing's so far that it doesn't shake us all--I have the same feeling as I did two weeks ago standing overwhelmed in the Hall of the Children at Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Memorial in the hills of Jerusalem: there is no prayer big enough to hold it all, I have no response big enough. And yet, at the same time, even not-enough is essential. The International Federation of Red Cross Red Crescent Societies is gratefully accepting donations here, which can be earmarked for earthquake/tidal wave disaster relief.

World Changing has a lot more information, including links to many, many organizations mobilizing disaster relief and reconstruction efforts, including Tsunami Help and ReliefWeb

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

unpacking the treasures

Rabbi Ted asked us on our last evening together in Israel to consider what our intangible "relics" would be -- something that we would especially treasure from our journey, other than the material things we bought or found or received. 

Some of us chose particular realizations, or insights inspired by favorite teachings. Many of us selected special sense impressions, memories, feelings, from amongst the brimming-over possiblities.

Mine is a collection of sounds. 

Pausing in the courtyard before entering the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, suddenly the great noon bells rang the air and the stones, and us. 

Later that day, gathered on a rooftop overlooking the four quarters of the Old City (Christian, Jewish, Arab, Armenian), we were entranced by the Muslim call to afternoon prayer flowing from several towers, each muezzin beginning and ending at his own pace, overlaid by the murmuring voices of my fellow travelers, discussing in twos and threes King David's vision of Jerusalem as a city of peace and justice. 

Yad Vashem
The soft music you can hear even before you enter the Children's Memorial at Yad Vashem, the holocaust memorial; and then the voices inside reading names and ages of some of the children, more than a million, who were killed. 

The son of our host family in the holy city of Tsfat singing blessings like an angel, full-open-throated, completely unself-conscious.
The harsh squawking, like the sky rubbing squeakily against itself, of grey egrets rising by the dozens over the swampy fields of the far north. 

Voices laughing, chanting, whispering, singing, raised in angry argument, insistence, confusion.

All calls to prayer.



journey of blessings

(thank you to Graham at Blogger support who found and deleted a single "div" code-thing that had completely changed the whole format of this blog--the basic template's been restored now, yay!)

This is one of the ways our visit to Israel feels to me: almost 30 of us passing slowly together (unexpectedly without our Rabbi for the first two days! more on that later) through a thick translucent membrane, mostly far from the face of the earth -- a day and a night in the airport/ airplane/ airport/ airplane -- we landed and emerged blinking into a different light, where sparks were thick in the air and deep on the ground. Stirring up those microlights as we shuffled and danced through the streets and the hills and the desert, we breathed them in and out as we chanted and sang and laughed, ate them in our food, rinsed them through our hair. Marveled at their fierce/sweet dazzle in the eyes of the people we met. Then, now, out on the other side since yesterday afternoon, after an even thicker membrane, our own skin still glitters faintly even in the grey Seattle light.

Rabbi Ted describes the energy of blessing as "radical acceptance of the present moment," an embracing of what is. In Jewish practice, there are special blessings, special words of appreciation, for every possible kind of event and experience, as well as an all-purpose blessing that is a big thank-you to the holy one of being for the opportunity, the gift, of being alive in this moment right here. All meant to wake us us up to this amazing now.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

oh oh technical difficulties

Oh, dear, all of a sudden this blog's format has gotten all mixed up (and all of the Haloscan commenting info seems to have vanished, too). Since I don't know from coding, I am going to rely on Blogger Help...unless you can tell me what's gone awry?

Back later...

Friday, December 03, 2004


The Opposite of Life is Not Death; The Opposite of Life is Time  - Morris Graves, one of the four critically acclaimed mystic modernist artists whose work is known as the Northwest School of modern art.

( ...and a glimpse of continuing)  

there's a kind of hush

Rabbi Ted said tonight that there are many levels of silence, nesting within each other. And one of those levels is called "blessing."

I had time to come home for lunch today, and as I was rushing out the door to go back to work, I realized that I hadn't caught a morning glimpse of the hummingbird that flits and zzzzes to the feeder outside our dining room window. As soon as I stood still and accidentally entered the unfamiliar silence of no-thought, the hummingbird's sturdy little "chip chip chip" sound popped out from its perch on a tiny twig of the dogwood, a bright note in the continuous wild music that makes this world.

(From Louis Schwartzberg's fantastic Wings of Life)

Wednesday, December 01, 2004


My dad, Bob "Lippi" Lee, didn't cook that many different things, but he always made delicious homefries, and delicious day-after-Thanksgiving jook. Jook is the Cantonese name for congee or rice porridge, similar to what's called okayu in Japanese (that would be my mom's side of the family). Robert and I are both 3rd-generation Americans, and we haven't passed down any of our grandparents' languages to the kids, since I don't speak any Cantonese and only a little bit of Japanese, and he doesn't speak any Yiddish--but we are doing a good job of introducing our boys to their lineage of foods!

Jook is considered to be very digestible and a good food for sick people. It can be an easier way to take the less nasty-tasting medicinal herbs, by adding them to the stock. This is how my dad made day-after-Thanksgiving jook:
1. Make a soup stock from the leftover turkey bones (you could use any stock, of course--chicken or duck are also delicious, or mushroom, and this is where you'd add the medicinal herbs if appropriate), strain the broth. (A short-cut - that my dad probably would have pooh-poohed, but it's pretty good - just use 2 turkey wings, a spoonful of salt, and 9 cups of water instead of making stock)
2. Add 1 cup of short-grain rice per 9-11 cups of soup stock (4-6 big servings), bring to a simmer, then turn the heat down to a very low simmer (or use a flame-tamer under the pot). Cover it and let simmer, stirring often, till very thick (like oatmeal). It will take 1-1/2 to 2-1/2 hours so put it on after breakfast and have it for lunch (and leftovers for breakfast the next day!)
3. Hard boil some eggs for garnish (I like 1/2 egg per serving)
3. That's it for the cooking! Serve it with garnishes on the table for everyone to add their own (or not, as they like): some soy sauce, thinly sliced scallions, sliced hard-boiled eggs, diced daikon radish pickle ("takuan", which is Japanese--I like it better than the Chinese pickled radish), some sliced Chinese red pickled ginger (not the pink sushi ginger) or a little peeled, grated, fresh ginger, and some cut-up leftover turkey meat. If we remember to get some cilantro we mince that up too. I think that a little torn-up Thai basil might also be good, but I haven't tried it yet. In Chinese restaurants they give you fried bread sticks ("deep-fired devils"), which are delicious! Like crullers but not sweet.
That's what we had for lunch--and for dinner, pre-Hanukkah latkes! That recipe another time...