Elul and New Growth

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During the last few weeks, I’ve had lots of experiences that have led to the birth (more like explosion) of new growth. I am here, embracing, facing, turning, preparing myself for the Jewish new year. What will I do with this new growth? I will add it to my ever-growing compost pile called life. And I am so very grateful for the opportunity to continue doing so. It is a gift.

In this post, I will write about a few of these experiences. And then there’s also NewCAJE6 and my 2nd Kidding Around Yoga training, both of which I will write about in future blogposts. Both were fabulous and eye-opening and part of my summer 2015 amazingness.

1. Last week, I participated in the Lab/Shul’s Storahtelling Maven training. I went into it with some trepidation, admittedly. While I’ve been studying Torah privately for 9+ years with Rabbi David Kline, would I be able to translate my love for Torah into spoken word? I’m swimming in what I learned at my maven training, in the brilliance that is this method of sharing our tree of life. As if were even possible, I’m even more in love with our holy words. I am ready to weave it into my work. I am committed to doing the work. The work. Our dearly beloved Debbie Friedman, z”l – she called it the ‘work’. Thank you Amichai Lau-Lavie and Naomi Less and Franny Silverman and Sarah Sokolic. You have gifted me with magic.

2. During the first 3 1/2 days of this week, I rehearsed for my upcoming High Holiday pulpit at Temple Israel of Greater Miami. Dr. Alan Mason, the musical director of Temple Israel, flew up to Worcester, and we practiced, practiced, practiced. We ate, ate, ate. We talked and laughed and told stories. It was a beautiful 3 1/2 days. I am blessed to be working with Alan. He is a most brilliant and insightful musician.

Alan: You’re a closet soprano.

Ellen: WHAAAAT? That can’t be true. I’m an alto. I’m an alto bordering on tenor. 

Alan: No, you’re a soprano. Now, let’s sing.

I’m a soprano. Huh?!? Who knew? I’ve told myself for years, since receiving a degree in piano performance and music education from Boston University, that I was an alto bordering on tenor. Whenever I’ve sung in a register higher than my usual comfort level, I’ve always felt like I was pretending to be an opera star, or at the least, someone who I’m not. Well, move over alto-bordering-on-tenor, my soprano is coming out of the closet.

3. Over the last few years, my dear friends Julie Silver and Sue Horowitz have been encouraging me to write more adult songs.

Ellen: Me?

Julie and/or Sue: Yes, you, Ellen.

Ellen: But wait, I write songs for kids.

Julie and/or Sue: Yes, you do. But you’ve also written songs for adults. 

At the ongoing advice from both Julie and Sue, I recently journaled. It was evening. I poured my heart onto the page. I then went to bed, woke up and wrote a song. Well, not quite like that. It took me all day to write it. I composed a verse and then did laundry, I composed another verse and made breakfast. By the end of the day, the song was complete.

It is my first love song. It is called ‘I’ve Been Waiting For You’. Yes, it is for someone special. I wrote it with him in mind. Contrary to my usual need to know, I am employing new skills. Patience. Non-attachment. Gratitude. Prayer and blessing for all that is, all that is.

Words are profound. I know that. I’m a songwriter, after all. One of the tools in my toolbox are words. What I didn’t realize, as I’ve not done much of it, is that I could write/journal the words in my heart, put them on paper, sleep on them, and then create a song from those words. Thank you, oh song muse, for visiting me and sprinkling your fairy dust into my heart and soul and hands and mouth and guitar.

4. During this month of Elul, as I prepare myself for the new year, I’ve been focusing on a different word each day. Part of my prep includes reading the words of others. Stacey Zisook Robinson and Alden Solovy are two of my muses. They each pen the most beautiful of pieces, poems, prayers, blessings.

One of Stacey’s recent blogposts is called Elul Day Four – Understand. Nuggets of wisdom for me to feast on.

Just yesterday, Alan Mason and I were talking about the art of listening. And recently another friend talked about listening to what ISN’T said. Listening. In the listening, you will understand. Maven. From the hebrew word ‘meivin’. To understand. You see? Like 6 degrees of separation, my encounters with people and love and words and miracles merge together to walk me down this path of life that I’m so in love with. Please, God, help me listen. To what is said, to what isn’t said. Help me understand.

Stacey’s new book is titled ‘Dancing In The Palm Of God’s Hand: Reflections on meaning, faith and doubt‘.

Alden is a prolific writer. One of his recent poems is called ‘Birthday, No More‘. You can read it on his website/blog, To Bend Light. I’ve read it, again and again. It helped me realize that while I’ve always observed the yartzeits, the dates of the passing of both of my beloved parents, Miriam Ailetcher Bornstein and George Ailetcher, I’ve paid less attention to their birthdates. Not for not knowing. I always acknowledged their birthdays. But I tended to focus more on the date of their passing. After reading Alden’s words, I have a whole new take on their memories. I will remember their birthdays. I will celebrate their births with much more fanfare. They were both amazing, loving, devoted human beings.

And another insight I had, just this morning, after reading Alden’s poem again. After my parents each passed away, I found myself scared of the passage of time. Afraid that with each day, I’d forget the sound of their voices. And so I would tell myself to be still, close my eyes, and listen, listen for the sound of their voices. I did that for the longest time, every day. As if I needed to practice. Over time, though, I realized I didn’t need to practice. The timbre of their voices, the endearing way they would answer my phone calls. My mom always, always said (even if it was the 5th time I called her in a day): ” Hello sweetheart!”. And my father always called me “Cookie”. I can still hear both of their voices. Crystal clear. Alden’s poem brought that memory so strongly to mind this morning. I am grateful for that and so much more.

Alden’s book, Jewish Prayers of Hope and Healing, has been on my nightstand for the last few weeks. Every single time I read it, I find comfort and joy and laughter and hope and healing.

And so, for all of us, may we embrace new growth. May we move through the world with peace and love and understanding. May our memories support every step we take. May it be so.
ellen sig aug 2015

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