When I created this image of Daniel and me as Janus (the Roman god of beginnings) for our 2013 New Year’s newsletter, it had been a toss-up whose face I would set to look back on the previous year and who would be looking forward to the future. But now that Daniel has been gone six years, I see an unintended symbolism in having him nestled in the back of my mind, forming an essential part of who I am.
In many ways, the past defines and shapes us, helping to prepare us for whatever awaits us beyond today. I wonder what that means vis-à-vis our future as we move forward into the year 2022, given that the unrelenting rollercoaster of crises that was 2020 and 2021 is at our backs?
That question filled my mind today, when Shayna and I embarked on our afternoon walk along the dirt road on the other side of our stream. It’s a stroll that Daniel and I had shared innumerable times, inevitably with a dog leading the way. At one of the many bends in the road, the image of a rearview mirror came rushing at me, and I couldn’t shake it. Soon it was joined in my mind’s eye by the picture of Daniel and me as Janus. Read More
Happy New Year and Welcome to the (soon-to-be, I hope) New Roaring Twenties
What a rollercoaster ride we’ve been on since my last new year’s newsletter. I hope you and yours are well, and finding reasons to smile despite the strange and difficult times we’re experiencing.
Since the initial March lockdown, I’ve been sheltering in place in my comfortable bunker (as I’ve come to call my home), alone with my dog Shayna. While I had some bad spells (who didn’t?), I managed to keep a somewhat even keel by choosing to treat the whole episode as an extended writing retreat. Up until last Wednesday, the words were flowing rather well, including making a decent dent into the first draft of a new novel Women of a New Moon.
Throughout my isolation, I often fantasized about what it will be like once I’m released. I imagined all of us being freed from fear by vaccinations, so that we can safely gather with (and hug!) family and friends, dance to live music, and mix with strangers in theaters, restaurants and art gallery openings. As I had written in a previous newsletter:
I crave the fellowship of artists, writers and all kinds of creative thinkers…. I need them almost as much as I need air and water and chocolate…. It helps me see beyond my here and now, and inspires me to reach deeper and wider in my own work.
It’s this craving that gave me hope. I was sure that others must Read More
As the sun sets on Yom Kippur — a day set aside for reflection, to evaluate our past deeds and failures, to seek forgiveness from those we have wronged, and to rededicate ourselves to a better future — I’ve decided to share this poem that evolved out of my meditations this morning.
On this day of awe,
when I turn my mind
to the blessings of my life,
and to my failure to treasure,
to honor and nurture them,
when I count my sins
to what must be done,
what should be done,
My father often told me a story about his older sister Rose and the neighborhood sprecher.
In 1918, my Aunt Rose lay feverish and weak, barely aware of her mother wiping her brow with a cool cloth. Even my Grandma Anna was beginning to lose hope. That’s when they called in the sprecher.
At this point in the story, Dad would explain that sprecher meant “speaker.” I never learned Yiddish, but some of his words stuck; this one particularly. And it has influenced me in more ways than I’d realized.
The sprecher’s role in the Jewish immigrant community was to sit by the bedside of a seriously ill loved one, to hold her spirit within her body with his words, to not let it fly away, to fight death itself with his own spirit.Read More
When Shayna isn’t by my side, I can usually find her sleeping in the nearest bright circle of sunlight wherever it might be as it travels across my rugs. I believe it’s more than instinct that drives her. She knows – in her flesh, in her spirit, in the way she sees life as a series of nows – how to seek (and give) pleasure and comfort even on cloudy days.
I was very gratified how many folks sent me emails and notes in response to my most recent newsletter, in which I invited people to share what inspires their creativity. I’m reprinting the cover letter below and providing a link to the full newsletter (please click the image to the left), in the hopes that even more of you will share the experiences that helped you “reach deeper and wider” within yourself.
“A couple of weeks ago, I spent Wednesday evening wandering around the Philadelphia Museum of Art with a new friend, sharing some of our favorite works of art as a way to get to know each other. So we visited a few of my old “pals” — Cezanne’s Bathers, Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, Duchamp’s Nude Descending Staircase, the chapel-like room of Brancusi’s sculptures, and other works of art that are my current points of reference. These are among the artists whose pieces I visit when I need to be pulled outside myself, to find new paths into my own creativity.
“I crave the fellowship of artists, writers and all kinds of creative thinkers, the many who came before, as well as those who “walk” beside me. I need them almost as much as I need air and water and chocolate. Read More
This past Tuesday, I attended my first Rosenbach lunchtime talk. The Rosenbach museum and library is one of Pennsylvania’s hidden treasures, though it is open to the public and is now affiliated with the Free Library of Philadelphia. The elegant Delancey Street double townhouse contains a remarkable collection of rare books and documents originally assembled by the Rosenbach brothers, famous dealers in books, manuscripts and art. It’s also the site of frequent public discussions, readings and lectures that fill the intimate rooms with interested and interesting people from near and far – such as the monthly lunchtime talks.
I didn’t know what to expect, except that the topic was one of my favorite authors – Toni Morrison – and the speaker would be Philadelphia’s Poet Laureate Trapeta B. Mayson. I was sure that it would be a hour well spent. Besides, I needed to get away from my writing for a bit. I’d been struggling with the first draft of my new novel’s second chapter, and the more I fought the words – the more I wrote, edited and deleted – the more frustrated (and, yes, self-doubting) I was becoming. Perhaps, I had finally bitten off more than I could chew with this ambitious project.
Throughout the hour, Trapeta interspersed Morrison quotes and her own poems, a weave of words and ideas that illuminated the ideas she shared, until they shimmered with energy and life that could not be denied. She spokeRead More