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The Hope of Atonement

Today is Yom Kippur. It is a day of reckoning, which is the most demanding form of love. This ceremony of atonement sprang from a time when the ancestors felt so abandoned by Gd that they began to worship false idols out of desperation. Thus a mystical ritual evolved in which sins of faithlessness—which at heart are all sins—were purified through repentance and fasting so that divine light might return.

Typically I avoid fasting, but this biblical practice seemed right for these biblical times. Thirsty and hungry, I spent the afternoon by the river praying and meditating. Atoning for how, over these last months of upheaval and unrest, I’ve abandoned myself and others—have shut down and obfuscated due to overwhelm.

By her banks I reflected on how, throughout history, my line–many lines–have survived times far harder than these by staying present and toiling hard. By keeping the faith. And so I asked the river to teach me to model her love—steadfast, strong, eternally flowing, beautifully boundaried. Tonight, after breaking fast, I will revisit her beneath the nearly full moon to wash away my remaining fear and faithlessness. To return my tears.

I do not expect to feel instantly saved. But I do expect to feel lighter. And I invite you to join me in the release of true reckoning in whatever way works for you. Because as long as we are still gifted with life, we are also gifted with divine light and love, and must meet it halfway. There is nothing more hopeful than that. G’mar chatima tova.

Art: Marc Chagall

The Feast and Famine of Being Green

Lumet’s Emerald City (lit by Oswald Morris; costume-designed by Norma Kamali).

It’s 7:30 am Sunday morning, and I’ve been up for hours.

That I rose before dawn is not uncharacteristic. But I’d planned to sleep in this morning. To bask in a morning of quiet stillness, quiet comfort after returning from a wonderful week alone in the woods of Columbia County and jumping head-long into the clamor of New York.

I spent so much of this busy weekend activated by the presence of others—in sessions with clients, then walking and dining and bedding my beau—that today I was pulled out of sleep hours before dawn, the need to process my interactions more powerful than my need for rest.

Mae Sarton has a wonderful passage in Journal of a Solitude about shutting the door to the world.

Begin here. It is raining. I look out on the maple, where a few leaves have turned yellow, and listen to Punch, the parrot, talking to himself and to the rain ticking gently against the windows. I am here alone for the first time in weeks, to take up my “real” life again at last. That is what is strange—that friends, even passionate love, are not my real life unless there is time alone in which to explore and to discover what is happening or has happened. Without the interruptions, nourishing and maddening, this life would become arid. Yet I taste it fully only when I am alone…

I find that last line less ironic than simply factual. Because I do not just absorb other people’s realities. They absorb me. For me to spend time in the presence of anyone is to climb inside them, so that I am regarding the world through their senses, processing information through their nerve-endings and brain synapses. Continue Reading →

Redgrave as Metaphor

What happens when a materialist film critic has an anxiety dream:

Shoes—shoes lost, shoes gained, shoes lost. I’ve lost my own and don’t have another pair with which to safely exit this terrible claustrophobic party thrown by a celeb hostess in a gentrified section of Brooklyn. Others (the hostess’s assistant!) keep stealing my original pair, bringing me five more pairs that are impeccably beautiful and whisking them away as soon I get ensnared in another vapid starfucker conversation. We’re talking perfectly soft and shined loafers and boots by Prada, Miu Miu, Marc Jacobs, Louboutin—God, labels seem so pre-Covid. I find myself longing for such refined empty luxury.

Vanessa Redgrave—even longer and blonder and more displeased than she seems on screen—turns out to be the hostess. Grand-dame sociopathy masquerading as cool calm collection. She sweeps and droops around, getting drunker and drunker on perfectly rendered martinis–lemon not olive–as her guests wax and wane. At one point there are people crammed into every corner of her too-white house. Someone does the math and declares it 2012 guests, which is a 1:1 ratio for every square inch of the living room. White furniture white rugs white walls white chandeliers. Her house is hoarder-stuffed but with the most beautiful things: Chagall paintings and Brancusi sculptures and 70s Dior so it’s hard to register the same disdain as if it were plastic angels from Home Shopping Club. More a mixture of envy and disgust and judgment that I meta-judge within myself. I feel as if I’m a poor kid in Newton again. I’m stuck because, oy, no shoes so end up sleeping on a very white couch, my red lipstick leaving a crime scene on a cushion. Continue Reading →

"All, everything I understand, I understand only because I love."
― Leo Tolstoy