Pale Blue Dot

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Last night’s humble dinner, just the preamble.

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We have a wonderful back porch that is not heated. This means that sometime, late in the fall, the weather gets a bit too cold and we abandon the porch until the following spring when temperatures get warm enough. From the back porch we have a terrific view of our urban backyard layered with twenty-five years of compost-making and landscape decisions, creative gardening and rich stories about those plantings. We can watch the birds (with bird book at the ready) and other stray animals; we can watch the maturing of the flora and the declination of the sunsets (earth turns). Yesterday was the first meal we had on the porch since the late late fall of 2013.

My husband and I have often discussed whether we should get the porch winterized so that we can sit here all winter long as well. The house is old and the foundation a bit tilted. The windows are not airtight. One is even cracked. We have many other needed repairs which have taken priority over the years over the winterizing of the back porch.

Each winter the back porch becomes a kind of gathering of odds and ends of those cold months: clothes and books to be donated, items we want to forward to friends or family, things that are going out to the garage or the garbage, empty glass jars we will use for dry herbs that we will harvest and dry. In the cold months, the back porch is simply a passage from the icy outside to the cozy inside. Many things we don’t know what to do with just get tossed there. In the spring, we have to make commitments about those items of winter’s indecisions.

That was yesterday’s project: the detritus moving on and other items organized for supporting summer.  Swept. Mopped. Polished. There is always something almost sacred about the opening of the back porch. If we had the experience all year, it would not seem as sweet. There is a feeling of liberation, being released from the dining table in the innards of the house into the full view of the external, a coming out, if you will. The back porch being reopened is our annual celebration of moving from darkness to light, from inside to out, from the domestic to the reconnecting to nature. Last night’s humble dinner (pictured above) was just the preamble.

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Three Passover poems shared by three friends

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On the second night of Passover, three Passover poems shared by friends:

The first by Jane Hirshfield:

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In a Room with Five People, Six Griefs

In a room with five people, six griefs.

Some you will hear of, some not.

Let the room hold them, their fears, their anger.

Let there be walls and windows, a ceiling.

A door through which time

changer of everything

can enter.

 

A second by Irena Klapfisz:

Bashert


These words are dedicated to those who died

These words are dedicated to those who died
because they had no love and felt alone in the world
because they were afraid to be alone and tried to stick it out
because they could not ask
because they were shunned
because they were sick and their bodies could not 
resist the disease
because they played it safe
because they had no connections
because they had no faith
because they felt they did not belong and wanted to die

These words are dedicated to those who died
because they were loners and liked it
because they acquired friends and drew others to them
because they took risks
because they were stubborn and refused to give up
because they asked for too much

These words are dedicated to those who died
because a card was lost and a number was skipped
because a bed was denied
because a place was filled and no other place was left

These words are dedicated to those who died
because someone did not follow through
because someone overlooked and forgot
because someone left everything to God
because someone was late
because someone did not arrive at all
because someone told them to wait and they just 
couldn’t any longer

These words are dedicated to those who died
because death is a punishment
because death is a reward
because death is the final rest
because death is eternal rage

These words are dedicated to those who died

Bashert

These words are dedicated to those who survived

These words are dedicated to those who survived
because their second grade teacher gave them books
because they did not draw attention to themselves 
and got lost in the shuffle
because they knew someone who knew someone
else who could
help them and bumped into them on a corner on a
Thursday afternoon
because they played it safe
because they were lucky

These words are dedicated to those who survived
because they knew how to cut corners
because they drew attention to themselves and
always got picked
because they took risks
because they had no principles and were hard

These words are dedicated to those who survived
because they refused to give up and defied statistics
because they had faith and trusted in God
because they expected the worst and were always prepared
because they were angry
because they could ask
because they mooched off others and saved their strength
because they endured humiliation
because they turned the other cheek
because they looked the other way

These words are dedicated to those who survived
because life is a wilderness and they were savage
because life is an awakening and they were alert
because life is flowering and they blossomed
because life is a struggle and they struggled
because life is a gift and they were free to accept it

These words are dedicated to those who survived

Bashert

 

The third by W.S. Merwin:

 

Variation on a theme

Thank you my lifelong afternoon

late in this season of no age

thank you for my windows above the rivers

thank you for the true love you brought me to

when it was time at last and for words

that come out of silence and take me by surprise

and have carried me through the clear day

without once turning to look at me

thank you for friends and long echoes of them

and for those mistakes that were only mine

for the homesickness that guides the young plovers

from somewhere they loved before

they woke into it to another place

they loved before they ever saw it

thank you whole body and hand and eye

thank you for sights and moments known

only to me who will not see them again

except in my mind’s eye where they have not changed

thank you for showing me the morning stars

and for the dogs who are guiding me

 

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Drinking games

IMG_3746IMG_3759Every Friday morning we have an extended advisory. One of the students brings breakfast treats for us all to share. There are usually a variety of activities, discussions, tasks, and announcements with which we are involved while we munch. Advisory is a place where students bring their concerns and issues, questions and stories. I am their advocate in the larger context of school and in the personal context of family.

Yesterday was the first beautiful sunny Friday after this very long and intense winter. The students were filled with the high energy of spring and clearly wanted to just hang out. One of the boys in the advisory decided to encourage a “drinking game,” something he said he saw on Jimmy Fallon.

Four of the boys each filled three glasses of orange juice and set them on the table in front of them. The idea was to drink one, then strategically flip the empty glass until it stood right side up. They would then move to the second glass and then the third. The point was to be the first with all three glasses standing upright. The rest of the advisory gathered round, cheering them on. The energy was fever pitch. The competitors out for blood.

It was odd watching the spirited competition. I suddenly saw them all in college, five years from now, playing this very game late at night with glasses filled with beer or some other adult beverage they were required to chug before flipping the glass. I imagined them all older, far away from Chicago and from the small, hopefully meaningful, community we have built this year. I imagined them all fully formed (are we ever?) and wondered what possible long-lasting impact we have all had on each other. What pieces of our experiences together would sustain time?

When DN won and JK followed barely a second behind, the advisory was laughing and celebrating. The boys called for a second run-off. Zesty, gendered, loud, and focused, the championship continued enthusiastically, the boys and their audience filled with contagious exuberance.

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“A Strange Impulse” by Lydia Davis

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Passover 2014: gefilte fish substitute, seder snow, blood moon, karate-kicked matzah piñata, death of the first-born

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IMG_3631IMG_3688(Blood Moon photo by JB)

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“You” by Louise Ma

 

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