The Head of a New Year

Pomegranate on the first day of the New Year 5775; the day of the first rain. This week marks the beginning of the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, or "the head of the new year," an important holiday on the Jewish calendar. It's the third day of the High Holidays (or High Holy Days), a ten-day period that ends with Yom Kippur—the holiest day of the Jewish year.

A time of reflection, we look back on the events of the past year, and our actions. Have we harmed anyone or anything? It's time to make amends, to forgive and to ask forgiveness. We remind ourselves, in a gentle way, not to repeat those mistakes.

It's also a time to open our hearts, to grow, even when the opening and growing is a bit tough. What an amazing thing; this holiday that aims to make us bigger hearted people!

In that spirit, I share this poem/prayer by Rabbi Ariel Levy.

As we stand on the edge of this New Year -- readying ourselves to cross over to what will be -- may strength and inspiration rise up within and around us.  May the skies inspire a vast perspective that opens us to new possibilities.  May the fires of devotion turn us toward each other with love.  May the waters remind us that all things change and we are part of the continued unfolding.  And may the earth shine its beauty encouraging our gratitude and dignity. Each of us is here for our short time.  May we live well what we love, offering our gifts and blessings for the well-being of all.   May this year show us the way to live in harmony and peace with each other and all the earth.   And may we help each other believe that this is indeed possible.  

Wish best wishes for a sweet and fulfilling year. May we live well what we love.

In Praise of Journaling

Monoprints based on recent journal ideas. Not long ago, I rediscovered my journal. I can't say that I ever really left it, but I was definitely peripatetic. What a great word! Peripatetic means traveling from place to place, especially working in various places for relatively short periods of time. Well, I travel all right, but for a number of years, my journal stayed home.

In a recent art class, the teacher emphasized the value of writing in order to process ideas about artwork. "I know, I know," I thought to myself. I say the same thing to the art therapy groups I facilitate; "journaling is an excellent way to process grief."

Upon hearing this truth again, I felt resistance. "I process what I'm working on in the studio as I walk back and forth along the corridors of the hospital. It's a great place to sort out ideas," I thought.

The thing is, whenever I feel resistance, I know there might be something good and juicy hiding behind my resistance.

I began journaling at age 16 in a poetry class, and I took to it as a tool of comfort during the storms of late adolescence--then the trials of graduate school--then the late nights of early motherhood. Later, as the kids got older, the kind of non-stop thinking it took to keep them on track and still do my artwork didn't leave a lot of time for writing.

Do you remember Dr Seuss' "Oh the Places You'll Go?" Here's my moleskine mini, ready for travel.

But the yearning to journal never left. I needed to find my way past, through, around my resistance. Recently, on the Jewish holiday of Shavuot, I saw my opportunity.

In her excellent blog, Rabbi Yael Levi says of Shavuot: "The journey began with Passover and the acknowledgment of our narrow places—the habits of mind, body and spirit that kept us bound and unable to move forward into our lives.  Passover implored us to imagine a leap into the unknown, to find the willingness to leave behind what had enslaved us.

This journey continued into the Counting of the Omer. For 49 days we counted each day calling forth the healing and discovery that comes through awareness...How do we live from the experiences of this time?

As Shavuot ends... we are urged to take on practices that will keep the fire burning. So we listen and wonder: What is a commitment to practice I can make?"

Journal in situ

I leapt and decided to write in my journal each day. And I noticed when I did that, things began to fall into place in unexpected ways. For me, thinking by itself cannot produce the multiplicity of solutions needed when I try to solve a problem of imagination, creativity or technique. It is the physical act of writing that enables my brain to connect from one thought to another and from there, to a whole cluster of ideas.

I haven't kept my resolution perfectly--but I've kept it enough. Enough that I now recognize my worn black Moleskine as a friend and confidant. Enough that I now invite my worn, black Moleskine over a cup of tea and a talk.