Live always at the edge of poetic possibilty, even in the face of severe prose. - Walter Bruggemann

Friday, September 28, 2007


I'll be off line for a while so that I can get settled in Israel. Please check back soon. I'm sure that there will be plenty to chat about. Shalom, Suzanne

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Introducing....Ethel Smith

One of the greatest Hammond Organ players of all time is Ethel Smith. She is the Grande Dame of the Hammond Organ. She tickles the plastic ivories like there's no tomorrow. In fact, maybe there is no tomorrow! Oh well! Better be ready.

At the lowest point of my Bahamian vacation one day melted right into the next. When one sunset receded into the archives of life and sunrise appeared just as wonderful as the day and night before....when you get on your "noodle" to traverse the Bahamian turquoise, and all is well with the universe. When you think that nothing, NO NOTHING will bring you back to the rhythms of your normal, every day life... Ethel appears.

Thanks to my friends, I've been a fan of Ethel for a couple of years. She's great. She's a must. I've got a CD with 24, yes, 24 of her masterpieces.

Check her out.

What are your greatest 24 hits in life so far?

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Journey

One day you finally knew

what you had to do, and began,

though the voices around you

kept shouting

their bad advice --

though the whole house

began to tremble

and you felt the old tug

at your ankles.

"Mend my life!"each voice cried.

But you didn't stop.

You knew what you had to do,

though the wind pried

with its stiff fingers

at the very foundations,

though their melancholy

was terrible.

It was already late

enough, and a wild night,

and the road full of fallen

branches and stones.

But little by little,

as you left their voices behind,

the stars began to burn

through the sheets of clouds,

and there was a new voice

which you slowly

recognized as your own,

that kept you company

as you strode deeper and deeper

into the world,

determined to do

the only thing you could do

--determined to save

the only life you could save.

~ Mary Oliver ~

(Dream Work)

Monday, September 24, 2007

Monday Countdown? Who's Counting! Today is Moving Day.

Twas the night before M'day and all through the house,
Not a creature was stirring 'cept the dryer and louse.
The dust bunnies snuggled 'hind sofas and chairs,
Just waiting for movers whose brawn is laid bare.

And what? to surprise there arose such a clatter,
the tape on the boxes unraveled and shattered.
"Oh no we won't go", screamed the sheets and the towels
"Shut up" said the dishes, done deal so don't howl.

Your whining and crying, they really don't matter,
Her mind is made up and it will not shatter.
You think I have nothing else worthy to do,
then blogedy blog at this moment to you?

Geez, will someone help, I can't get out of rhyme land.

Four Down and NONE to Go

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Greetings from the Dump

What a place. The dump, it's great, it's cleansing, it's spiritual, it's fun, it's smelly, it's a haven for scavengers. Too bad they won't let you scavenge. To heave the crapola of your life over the wall and see it smashed into smithereens, is cleansing and spiritual. I always feel happier and lighter after a good dump trip.

Today it was sunny and the dump was humming with activity. I had six bags of garbage from packing and cleaning, some old tattered baskets, a resin yard table that had melted holes in it from fireworks, and a few cracked clay pots from summer's end. One of the bags was so laden with junk that it took all my strength to heave it over the wall. But I did and what a thrill it was to see it land and commingle with everyone else's junk. I love to see other people's junk. Somehow you can catch bits and pieces of their stories in just a piece of wood, or a broken high chair, or old pots and pans.

The guy next to me was getting ready to throw a sweet little wooden chair over the wall. All it needed was to be refinished and it would have made a fantastic addition to my eclectic yet tasteful decor that I am now dismantling and packing up for storage. I almost said to the guy, "wait, are you throwing that away?" Like, what else would he be doing with it at the dump heading for the pit? That' a no brainer. Then, I almost said, "can I have it?" until I saw the NO SCAVENGING signs posted in some key locations? Why the heck can't I scavenge? It's so natural. People are getting rid of this valuable stuff right?...correct me if I'm wrong here. They say one man's trash is another woman's treasure. The dump is a human treasure chest just waiting to be opened.

But then, I came to my full senses once again. It's not that I needed that chair, I wanted it. There's a difference. That's what makes the dump such a introspective and spiritual discipline. I came to cleanse and rid myself of all the things in my life that had collected and caught dust. How quickly I slipped back into and old habit. The sign was my salvation.


Sunday, September 16, 2007

Monday Countdown

What does any self respecting mad woman do only thirteen days before her departure to Israel for a year? Why not venture a guess....

a) Go out for the day in the beautiful autumnal weather?

b) Shop her brains out?

c) Pack, worry and fret as the house is becoming dismantled before her very eyes?

d) Drive to the Boston area to visit some friends for the day?

Let's see. If you choose (a) you are only partially right. It is a gorgeous day filled with the promise of renewal. If you happened to choose (b) you are totally off base, go back to go and DO NOT collect. If you chose (c) well, we'll see, perhaps I'll pack a box or two this evening. If you chose (d)...ding, ding, ding, ding. You are correct!

I spent the day in Newton, MA which is right outside of Boston. Andover Newton Theological School is in Newton Centre and I took a drive up to see my old stompin' grounds, have lunch with a friend and then coffee with another. This was the first time that I had gone back since graduation in 2002 and it was great to drive up on the hill - used to be called Institution Hill, and to see the campus with different, wiser eyes. Not a whole lot has changed but in many respects a lot has changed. There is a new chapel, Wilson Chapel, that has been opened now for only a few months. It's bigger, more light, and very serene. Hopefully it will be a sacred place for generations of seminarians to come.

The condo's that were so hotly contested by the envirofreaks back in the day have been built on the backside of the hill. I wasn't one of them, hey progress is progress, but, admittedly, I did miss seeing the mysterious wooded area that always seemed a little unkempt except for a rusting barbecue pit or two. I felt as if the "build it bigger, build it better" mantra of modernity had invaded my haven of theological bliss.
But there is good, no great, news.
After so many, almost 200 to be exact, years of being the only educational institution on the hill, ANTS now shares the hill with Hebrew College. HC had just opened it's door when I graduated. It sounds like there is some very good interfaith dialogue happening. Who knows, maybe they will be the first two religious institutions that will produce reverends and rabbis respectively, as a model for healthy understanding of tradition and theology, and for non threatening and respectful dialogue between Jews and Christians. Mazel Tov. Blessings.
So, what did you do today?
Three down, One to Go

Friday, September 14, 2007

L'Shanah Tovah

Rosh Hashanah began on Wednesday evening at sundown. It is the Jewish New Year. L'Shanah Tovah, in Hebrew, means to a good year. Friends from my Hebrew class invited me for dinner on that evening; my friend said Kiddush and many other blessings and then we ate apples sweetened with honey. Honey dipped apples, a hope and prayer for a sweet new year.

Rabbi Dan, at the Synagogue where I study Hebrew, invited me to services during this very important Jewish season, from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur. The days in between Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur are called the Days of Awe, or repentance. The Synagogue was packed, the Torah scroll covers in the ark had been changed to white, the cantor ready to go, and the service began.

The service began but really, the difficult work of repentance is just beginning. Three times the shofar sounded. "Tekiah", the Rabbi called and the shofar answered back, "Shervaim" and again, another sounding of the shofar. "Teruah" and the final sounds. The shofar has a way of calling you to attention that is quite different and visceral experience. How profound it was to hear the collective cries of a congregation for forgiveness.

For me it was a wake up call that said, hey, it's time to stop what you're doing. Think about this past year, my life and make some changes. Turn off the old path and walk down a new one. Repentance and cleansing of our soul is hard work. It's not only to acknowledge errors and ask forgiveness it is also, and more importantly, a time to amend those destructive ways, the ways that strike discord in life. Now is the time to turn toward God's commands and realign myself with the divine way. That's a pretty tall order. But what a sweet new year with all kinds of creative possibilities can unfold when repentance has been made

As a Christian, to live in Israel is to live not as a majority but a minority. My days and weeks will be ordered around a Jewish year, not the Christian year. I suspect that it will take some getting used to. It's an opportunity to widen my theological and cultural blinders that I've worn for years. I didn't intentionally plan my departure to Israel for this important time in the life and faith of Jewish people. It just sort of happened to turn out this way. But I can't help but think that God's providence played a big part in it. So for me, it is a new year, a new time and place, a new experience, a new way to give thanks to the God of Israel.

It's said that on Rosh Hashanah God opens the book of names and records all of our deeds during these days of awe. Then, on Yom Kippur just ten days from now that God will seal the book for another year. The blessing follows, May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year.

May the peace of God be showered upon Israel and all of those who love her. May the year ahead in all of our lives be filled with grace and hope, goodness and health. L'Shanah Tovah.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Monday Countdown

Here it is, another Monday. The reality of my move is beginning to set in. You see it's just not my calendar and glasses any more, it's my calendar, glasses and paperwork. There are half packed boxes, and a food cabinet that I'm slowly depleting. To live amidst chaos and remain at peace is a Zen thing. Om, Om, can 'ya hear me now?? OOOMMMMM.

Everything is falling into place nicely though. I had a thanksgiving dinner for the family over the weekend, turkey, dressing, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie - the works. I broke my vegetarian regimen for a spiritually and physically nurturing feast. The thanksgiving meal is good for the heart and for the soul. It brings up the past year's not-so-great moments so you can be thankful that you have arrived to a new a different place in your life. The thanksgiving meal helps you to stop, come to a halt amidst the craziness of life itself and take account of the goodness of creation. Because God is present in every breath we take, every bit we chew, every box we pack.

Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist monk and author says in his book, "Peace is Every Step", "...we can realize peace right in the present moment with our look, or smile, our words, and our actions." Peace is in every step. The thanksgiving meal brings inner contentedness and peace. There is something very visceral about this delicious soul food. So, in the 80 degree, humid day Saturday, I made thanksgiving and enjoyed watching every one devour and savor the moment.

Here are a couple of weekly/monthly items to watch for on my blog in addition to my general musings. 52 Shabbatot: a weekly theological reflection from the Holy Land. Israel Blooms: a photo of what's blooming in Israel for the month.

What's that? I can hear the wrestle of packing paper. I think it's calling my name. Suzanne, Shoshannah (in Hebrew), you've got work to do. Blog later, pack now and for the sake of peace take a break for leftovers.

Two down, two to go.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Ya gotta love Nepal

Yesterday Reuters News Service reported from Kathmandu, Nepal a story about Nepal Airlines. Seems that they were having some trouble with one of their planes so they sacrificed two goats to the Hindu sky god, Akash Bhairab. It worked. The plane was on its way after the smoke cleared. How come the FAA doesn't come up with something like? Except for the life of two goats, it seems to me like a simple way of fixing a problem. That's faith, isn't it?

Sacrificed goats were not my experience. I flew in and out of Kathmandu in January but no goats were sacrificed to get my rear in the air. Well, at least, not that I know of. Could'a been, but I saw no evidence of smoke or a pyre or goat hairs in the air. I have to admit though that Nepal is not one of the easiest places to get in and out of. When I arrived in Kathmandu we deplaned onto the tarmac and were directed onto a smelly, hot tram that drove us to the terminal. Not knowing the language or the culture I just followed along hoping that I'd eventually end up where I needed to be. I found myself in a dark, unattractive terminal where upon I was directed to stand behind the yellow line by the immigration officer. These guys were serious. There was no welcome mat, nothing. So I didn't dare stick even a toe over the line and stood very quietly and still.

Once I was able to pass over the yellow line, there was a lot of talking and looking at my passport and looking at me. What they were talking about??? I have no clue. Finally the man wanted to see my airline ticket because he wanted to make sure that I was leaving Nepal. Some welcome mat that was! Finally he stamped my passport with a huge three day visa, had signed it and motioned me on. And so my visit to Nepal began.

I found Nepal to be a beautiful land. The people outside of the immigration office were friendly and warm. I was greeted at my hotel with a shawl, a Buddhist sign of hospitality. You often see Buddha's around Kathmandu with a shawl draped around their shoulders.

What I came to appreciate the most is the devotion and love of the people for their religious beliefs. In Nepal Buddhism and Hinduism often converge in the tiniest nooks and crannies. God's (with a small g) of every variety and purpose were poised each day to receive sacrifices from passersby. And they did. Marigolds, candles, fresh fruit, coconuts, all different kinds of sacrificial love was layed at the foot of the gods. As a lover of God (with a capital G) I realized that faith comes in many different forms and that the divine speaks to people and is made manifest to people in ways that we cannot always comprehend. That is the mysterious and redemptive nature of God and grace.

We here in the western world could learn a few things from the Nepalese gentle people. We might have the technical knowledge as to fix a jet but without faith and a humbling of oneself before God we might not fully appreciate nor reach our human potential. Killing a goat to appease the gods seems archaic and certainly animal rights advocates would detest this. But sacrifice itself is not a bad thing. We don't sacrifice so that we can get our way...I hope. We sacrifice because it has all the potential to show God (as if God doesn't already know) our human foibles and dependency. It cleanses and brings us back to the basics once again. Yeah, who doesn't want to keep God happy?

Getting out of Nepal was an equally humbling moment. I had already gone through security, which by modern standards was also archaic. They checked every little thing in my carry on and my purse. I was frisked from head to toe. After waiting in the terminal, one kind flight attendant let me know when it was time to board. I got on that smelly, hot and crowded tram and got to the plane. But, before anyone could board we had to go through another security check. Yep, they went through all my things once again. I was frisked up and down again. What's with that??

But me and the security guard got a little chuckle, well I did. As he was examining all my belongings he opened a small, covered, straw container that I had bought off of a street vendor in India. Much to his surprise, when he took the top off, a fake boa's head jumped out at him. The guard jumped back, cracked a smile, shook his head and said something to me in Nepalese. I think he enjoyed the joke. He put the top back on and off I went flying the blue skies of Nepal.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Ya gotta love Israel

Yahoo's headlining story yesterday - a 3,000 year old beekeeping industry was discovered in northern Israel. Archeologists found evidence that there was quite an industry as they examined 3,000 beehives and some wax stuff. I LOVE IT!
Really - you just never know what you're going to find in Israel. The land of the Bible! I was talking with Yael, my future roommate in Israel. We discussed what was essential for me to bring and what was just extra baggage. Shampoo, nah. Umbrella, nah. I can get all of those items over there, why weight down my limited baggage allowance on that?
I said that I was going to bring some books with me. She sort of laughed. Well not laugh, she said, "what books do you need, we have books here. Novels?" she asked. I said, "no, of course not, who plans on reading novels in Israel?" (secretly, I did think of bringing at least one novel to read but at that point it seemed sort of silly). I said, "well, a book with all my numbers in it, passwords, accounts, telephone, addresses, etc". That book made the cut. Then I said, "I'm bringing a photo book that I've put together of family and dog photos". That too, made the cut. Then I said, "I'm going to bring my Bible". That one threw her over the top. "YOUR BIBLE!??, Israel IS the Bible!!" "But my Bible has all of my notes written in the margins." I pleaded. "I am your notes." she said. You see Yael is an excellent tour guide and, for a secular Jew, knows the Bible historically and archaeologically, inside and out. I told her that may very well be but I still needed my Bible with it's familiar dog earred pages.
Who knows what those archeologists will discover next. Maybe I'll even dig up and discover a few things in Israel too.
PS: Blog question....I uploaded the image with the left format and began my text. In the compose stage the formatting keeps my spaces between paragraphs. When I preview and then post it will loose them. What's up with that???

Monday, September 3, 2007

Monday Countdown

There are only four Mondays left now until my departure date for Israel. It's Labor Day and I'm torn between doing nothing, panicking, or packing. Blogging is always a good distracter so I guess blogging it is.

I spent the weekend in Rhode Island getting Tina and her fiance moved into their new little home. Quite sweet. So, it's official, I am now an empty nester and damn proud of it. I think I did my job well and they are all off on their own. (for now I'm told). I don't know why this empty nest ever got a bad rap. You've just gotta prepare for the day. Me? I'm fleeing the nest too. Israel, yikes, ISRAEL.

How does one pack for a year in Israel. What do I do with all this #*!!? Those mommy robins and cardinals never seem to have a problem. They just fly off and leave a feather or two. I've got 28 years of junk to get rid of, donate, burn, whatever. Lord, help me, really, I'm not kidding this time.

The curious thing to me is deciding what to actually bring to Israel for a year. I'll pick up a vase and think I can't live without it and then put it down and realize that I can. I pick out 15 books that I'd like to take and read and then realize that wouldn't leave much more room, weight wise, in my luggage. So my clothing and a special photo album that I have prepared is what I'm going to take.

Other than that, Salvation Army will be delighted, I'll have some very spiritual experiences at the dump heaving my life's clutter over the big wall, and the rest of the contents of my life will be stored in a 150 square foot storage unity at Westy. Now that is either scarry or sad, still deciding on that one. I'll let you know as the Monday Countdown progresses.

One Down, Three to Go

Spider Lily