Nearing the Solstice

As I enter the woods, a few days before the winter solstice, I am greeted by a dramatic sky.

At this time of year, the fungus really stands out.

And so do the bits of green (and red).


I can't get enough of the reflections.

Or that rapidly setting sun.


It won't be long until the days get longer again!

#BlogElul 21: Change

Change is the name of the game around here this month. Both kids are at new schools, and we're working on getting used to new routines. Big changes are coming for me too as I make transitions in my work life. 

Over the weekend, we had an unplanned trip to the beach where I watched some gulls stand in the breaking waves. They stood steady for long stretches but also floated easily when larger waves came in. And of course, they flew to another stretch of beach when pesky people got too close.

I took some photos of one of the gulls in the waves by setting my camera to shoot a whole series in quick succession.  I've been having fun staring at the photos and the subtle changes from frame to frame. Sometimes I can hardly see the change, but when I scroll quickly through the photos, the motion is completely obvious. 

Something about paying close attention to the waves is so reassuring to me. Constant change can be lovely and welcome. And maybe I can be like the gull, agile and purposeful, alert yet completely at home amid both the subtlety and the relentlessness of change.


#BlogElul 20: Judge

I've run out of steam here. I am tired and words escape me. I lack inspiration.

My internal critic, that resident judge, isn't comfortable with not finishing what I started. It nags at me to write every day, post every day. It is worried about skipped posts. It is already planning how and when I might return to them, to fill in the holes.

Even more insidiously, the inner critic is wondering why on earth I am letting its voice be so loud. Haven't I learned anything about how to be more gentle with myself already? Sigh. 

I let that sigh turn into a deep breath. I uncross my legs and sit a little taller in my seat. I let my shoulders drop and my jaw unclench. I follow some breaths up from the base of my spine and down again. I listen to the slow sound of the crickets on this chilly evening.

I invite the judge to take on a different personality. I envision a kind and wise judge, smiling at me, encouraging me. We laugh together about how silly I can be.

#BlogElul 16: Understand

Understand. Under stand. Stand under.


Sometimes when I am willing not to understand, when I let go of the need to make sense of things, when my mind rests and I feel my feet on the ground, when I sit up straighter and find a sense of alignment, when I close my eyes and listen, when I notice the rhythm of my breath, when I breathe a little more deeply, when I feel the sensations in my body, when I let images flow by, when I let thoughts be as fleeting as the late summer breeze...

In those moments, I experience what is under my standing, and what I am standing under.

#BlogElul 14: Remember

I keep hearing about the traditional Elul practice of reading Psalm 27, and today I finally remembered to try it myself.

As with many psalms, I want to love them. And often I do, mainly through familiar melodies. Psalm 27 is no exception. The lovely melody for Verse 4, Ahal Sha'alti, is an all-time favorite. When I dive into the text, though, I feel myself tighten and resist. So much of the language hits me wrong. In those moments, I remember my teenage self in synagogue reading psalms and thinking, "Too much God." I simply could not relate all that God talk. Here in Psalm 27, there are 14 verses, and I count 13 mentions of God. No wonder it was too much for me, but that's no longer the problem. Now I am fascinated and drawn to any appearance of the name of God in a text.

So why do the psalms still give me trouble? I will continue to ponder that question because I feel sure it has something to teach me. In the meantime, I highly recommend Rabbi Yael Levy's beautiful translation. It was the fourth translation I read today, and it allowed me to move past my tight places and sink into the beauty and wisdom of this psalm.

In Rabbi Levy's interpretation, I remember to relax, to open, to seek solace and find hope. Psalm 27 challenges me and soothes me. It encourages me to be here in Elul.