Are you still there?

I’ve basically abandoned this blog. I have more on my plate than I can keep up with! Here’s the downlow:

* I have a serious partner who I’ve been with for a year. We’re moving in together this weekend… in another NJ. Whoa.

* Hoping to be a full-time student in the fall.

* A bunch of new projects I’m working on. Organizing things, writing things, creating things. Cool stuff.

More than I could ever write about really… But I wanted to just give a little update to let you know I’m still here. Hoping to write more when I have the chance. In the meantime, here is the view from my window the other day:

Photobucket

Photobucket

They were frolicking near my garlic patch. And let me tell you, that fawn sure was cute… Too bad it’ll grow up to be a garden-wrecking monster like it’s mommy.

Yesterday I saw a fawn about that size galloping down a sidewalk in the village. Hope it found its way home.

Speechless

Under Water

It’s November. I haven’t written in ages. I apologize if some of you might have gotten re-sent some old posts because I went in and edited them. I haven’t been writing because I’m not sure what I feel comfortable talking about this publicly. And most of all, because I’ve been really busy with school and work and life and dating and…. life. I am in a state of overwhelm much of the time, not just because of being busy but also lack of sleep and poor time management. Things are good, though. The fall here hasn’t been particularly spectacular, because it didn’t get cold enough early enough. So the colors have been muted, but still beautiful.

Here are two photograph froms the Ashokan Reservoir which is about a 30 minute drive from here. I took them when my dad and I went hiking a few weeks ago. I find it so haunting that under all this water lies the remains of several towns that were flooded to to provide New York City with their drinking water. If you live in New York City and want to know where your water comes from and how it came to be, definitely check out that link. According to one source, “nine villages were either removed or obliterated forever. These included West Hurley, Ashton, Glenford, Brown’s Station, Olive Bridge, Brodhead, Shokan, West Shokan and Boiceville.” I also found a page that’s a memorial to the towns that were sacrificed for New York City. Just one of many little-known ways that people in rural areas have always paid the price for city living.

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Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Gratitude

One way I deal with days when I’m bitter and sad is by forcing myself to grudgingly write gratitude lists. Here’s mine for today:

  1. I am so glad that it’s almost Shabbat. This week has sucked, and now it’s almost over.
  2. The pinched nerve in my shoulder has resolved itself, sparing me more sleepless nights, expensive copays and stressful doctor visits.
  3. It’s fall! Really and truly fall – The trees are golden and red and orange and I’m so happy to be in the northeast right now.
  4. The Small Farm & Rural Living Expo is this weekend and I have someone to go with.
  5. I don’t have to go into town to the post office and deal with all the fall tourist traffic, because there’s now a tiny little rural post office just a few miles down the road in the other direction. I don’t have to go through town traffic to buy last-minute Shabbat groceries either, because there’s a farmers’ market on my way to aforementioned post office.
  6. My trip to CA was hard, but it was also really good. I have wonderful, wonderful friends.
  7. I passed my first Biology exam.
  8. I ate my first balance meal in days today. Collard greens make me feel like I’m going to be okay.
  9. I am a lucky fool.
  10. I think I’m joining a book club.
  11. I adore Grace Jones. Especially the song “Breakdown.”
  12. My garden is still producing like crazy. I grew this beet and it’s really pretty:
  13. Thirteen is my lucky number.

August.

Other things that have been going on:

  • My birthday came and went last week. My parents took me out for a fabulous dinner and I found myself able to relax and enjoy it enough to stop feeling so bummed out that all my Oakland friends weren’t here to celebrate with me.
  • My friend E and her lovely boyfriend M visited from Oakland the day after I got back from the National Havurah Committee Summer Institute. It was so fun showing them the Hudson Valley and seeing them enjoy some time in the country after their hectic week touring New York City.
  • E and M and myself hiked around Lake Minnewaska. That was a huge accomplishment for me, because it’s been several years since I’ve been able to do any significant hiking due to my constant physical pain. It was triumphant, and due in no small part to the fabulous care I’ve been giving my body and the miraculous medication I have been on for 6 months now. I hope this is only the beginning of my getting back into hiking and enjoying nature in a more active way.
  • I am getting ready to go back to school on Monday – For the first time in 8 years, I will be a student in a significant way (i.e. taking more than one class at a time).
  • Cherry tomatoes and swiss chard are the major harvests right now, with some cucumbers thrown in there. My edamame are doing well – I am actually going to be able to harvest a few soon. I also need to get out there and harvest some collard greens. I have been sadly neglecting my garden but I’m getting ready to put in fall crops, which will be fun.
  • Spent Shabbat with Chab*d here. It was nice, until a guest (not the Rabbi or Rebbetzin) went on a homophobic tirade. I almost walked out, but chose not to. Homophobic assholes suck, but I won’t let them ruin my day. I found the Rabbi and his wife very warm and kind and more open-minded than I expected, and the food was wonderful. I will probably return at some point.
  • Found a synagogue that I think I like – A Conservative congregation that was very warm and welcoming. I don’t want to get too excited since I only attended once, but it seems like something closer to what I’ve been looking for than any of the shuls I’ve attended here yet.
  • Today I am going to try cooking gluten-free, kosher Jamaican-inspired meat patties! The weather has been so cool that I’ve gotten excited about cooking again.
  • People who know me will be surprised and/or amused to know that I put on a skirt for the first time in about 11 years on Friday for my dinner at Chab*d house. It was a real head-trip, gender-wise. It was also kind of fun, and less uncomfortable than I’d anticipated. I am trying to be less scared of gender fluidity, and more comfortable expressing both the masculine and feminine parts of myself. It was a fascinating experiment for me that showed me a lot about myself. And OK, it was also just plain bizarre.
  • My newest time-waster is looking at Hudson Valley real estate listings online. Especially listings for cheap land in this area.

Mmm… leafy greens (dinosaur kale, with rainbow chard in the background):

Havdalah: Marking the Difference

I love that my parents like joining with me in doing Havdalah on Saturday nights. They do not observe Shabbat the way that I do, but since moving back they have enjoyed marking of the ending and beginning of the week with me. They share in the wine we bless and my mother has taken to giving me her own improvised blessing for a good week. I love how happy it made my mom when I first invited her to do Havdalah with me when I moved home. She loves the (Debbie Freedman?) tune that she knows for the prayers, so we do that one. I showed my mom how to hold her hands up to the light of the candle, to notice the shadows of our curved fingers on our palms, and the glow of the light through our fingertips, acknowledging the contrast of light and dark just as we mark the difference between Shabbat and the rest of the week week, and the separation of holy from secular. My folks have had a Havdalah candle they bought in Israel hanging on the wall for years and never used it – Now it gets shorter and shorter every week. “I knew we bought it for a reason,” my mom says.

Living with my family is challenging at times. Mostly it is hard on my self-esteem, that as an independent adult who has been living on their own since the age of 16, life put me in a position to have to make the choice to move in with my parents. I can’t stand needing anything from them. I take it too personally and at times assume it means I have failed in some way, despite the fact that rationally I know that the health problems that made this necessary are out of my control. There are also familial conflicts, and as is to be expected, some frustration with the lack of privacy and personal space. But I am also trying to find the small joys in living in a house as a family. One of them is rituals. When I move out in a few months I will miss having people to do Havdalah with. I wonder if my parents will hang the Havdalah candle back up on the wall or if they will occasionally find the time to do this ritual together, marking the ending of Shabbat and the beginning of a new week.

A Dispatch from New Hampshire

I am writing from Rindge, in beautiful New Hampshire. I wrote in an e-mail to a friend the other day that “New Hampshire is the whitest place I’ve ever been… and I’m not just talking about the people. Even the buildings are all painted white!” And so it is. “Live Free or Die” is this state’s motto, and in this libertarian spirit there is no sales tax in New Hampshire – A boon for out of state visitors and a major contributor to the lack of funding available for anti-poverty measures to alleviate the quickly growing child poverty rate. Meanwhile, I’m in the midst of a week spent with 300 other progressive Jews on a college campus in the southern part of the state. This is my first time attending the National Havurah Committee’s Summer Institute. The classes alone make the cost more than worthwhile. I’m studying Talmud and Torah, and engaging in dialog about creating and sustaining independent Jewish communities.

The hardest thing for me here is listening to the way some people speak about Palestinians and about the Israel-Palestine conflict – The racism, the entitlement, the apologetics. I am reminded of how much the frustration and anger around this stuff adds an underlying tension, bitterness and distrust to my experience in Jewish spaces (though a good bit less here than other places). Yet I try to listen, and to let go of the need to always have my voice heard.

I have gotten some good feedback about how to take the first steps in creating a havurah in the Hudson Valley, if I end up choosing to remain there. Met some of my favorite Jewish bloggers. Learned a lot about text study, inclusiveness and plurality in Jewish community. Been reminded of the chasm between the experience and world-view of young, childless, well-connected and well-educated urban Jews and…. well, everyone else in the Jewish community. Appreciated the ingenuity and commitment of this same demographic. Davened (prayed) in a grove of pine trees, overlooking lush mountains and valleys. Gained clarity about what kind of services I feel comfortable with, and I have pushed my own boundaries. Appreciated my generation. Felt judged for being an “affiliated” Jew. Was accepted and even felt “normal” in my personal expression of my faith and my own balance of traditional/halachic and non-traditional religious values and practices. Been reminded of the importance of intergenerational community. Reflected more clearly on what I sacrificed when I moved back to my (small) east coast hometown from the city I was living in on the West Coast, and what I have gained.

I have made some new friends and acquaintances as well as spending time reconnecting with a good friend who’s been in my life for 8 years now. I’m looking forward to spending Shabbos here, but I’m also looking forward to going home and sleeping in my own bed and eating my own food on Sunday. I heard people talk at the beginning of the institute about coming here to get “recharged” for the rest of the year. Now I know what they’re talking about!