Counting the Omer 5781

The Counting of the Omer takes place in the seven weeks between Pesach (Passover) and Shavuot (Feast of Weeks). It is a counting of days leading up to the commemoration of when the Torah was given to the Israelites at Mount Sanai. Jews have been observing this tradition in various ways for many thousands of years, often using it as a time for self-improvement. Kabbalists use the time to study the sefirot (emanations of the Divine), specifically the lower 7. The study gets pretty meta, with the relationships between each of the sefirot studied one by one throughout the 49 days. For my daily ritual practice this year, I will be filming 49 short visual meditations/poems of these expressions/relationships. For a better understanding of this practice, I love love love the graphic and info from the Open Siddur Project.


Day 1: Chesed sh’b Chesed (Love within Love) – reciprocity, how we tend to each other, giving and receiving love in all the ways


Day 2: Gevurah sh’b Chesed (Strength within Love) – boundaries, how we teach others how to treat us, how we untangle our selves (again and again) from others with love to grow and interact in a healthier way


Day 3: Tiferet sh’b Chesed (Beauty within Love) – compassion, how we are kind to ourselves, how to love with a broken heart, care without judgment

I think we need to talk more about sorrow and heartbreak within the relationships that *aren’t* ending, how to sit with those feelings, how to feel compassion without judgment for ourselves and our loved ones during difficult times, how to keep the heart open even when it feels raw and vulnerable.


Day 4: Netzach sh’b Chesed (Eternity within Love) – commitment, in it for the long haul, how we relate to love over the course of time

How do we stay committed? There’s always the white knuckle approach, but when considering the hard work of marriage, parenting, self-development, and social justice, there is an ingredient that softens the rough edges: joy. I’m thinking of pleasure activism and all its manifestations.

"That self-connection shared is a measure of the joy which I know myself to be capable of feeling, a reminder of my capacity for feeling. And that deep and irreplaceable knowledge of my capacity for joy comes to demand from all of my life that it be lived within the knowledge that such satisfaction is possible, and does not have to be called marriage, nor god, nor an afterlife. This is one reason why the erotic is so feared, and so often relegated to the bedroom alone, when it is recognized at all. For once we begin to feel deeply all the aspects of our lives, we begin to demand from ourselves and from our life-pursuits that they feel in accordance with that joy which we know ourselves to be capable of. Our erotic knowledge empowers us, becomes a lens through which we scrutinize all aspects of our existence, forcing us to evaluate those aspects honestly in terms of their relative meaning within our lives. And this is a grave responsibility, projected from within each of us, not to settle for the convenient, the shoddy, the conventionally expected, nor the merely safe…"  – from Uses of the Erotic by Audre Lorde

Day 5: Hod sh’b Chesed (Presence within Love) – acceptance, being fully here and now, letting go of shoulds and yearnings to see the beauty in what is

(Sound on if you want to hear a quiet niggun.) Magnolias belong to a plant family that dates back to at least 95 million years. 95 million years. Sit with that for a moment. And here it is now, blooming as it does every April. I smelled these before I saw them.


Day 6: Yesod sh’b Chesed (Foundation within Love) – centeredness, rootedness, loving from the core of our being

The loving-kindness metta meditation from Buddhist tradition is the first thing that came to mind when reflecting on Yesod sh’b Chesed. It’s a beautiful and simple practice in which we extend well wishes to ourselves, then to someone we love or care for, then someone we feel neutral about, then someone with whom we have some difficulty. It’s a practice that extends love to ourselves and then out from our center to others. It has always struck me how similar the metta meditation is to the birkat kohanim (priestly blessing):

Metta Meditation
May you be happy.
May you be well.
May you be at peace.

Priestly Blessing
May God bless you and keep you.
May God shine their face upon you and be gracious to you.
May God bestow favor upon you and give you peace.

My practice today involves using the birkat kohanim as a metta meditation. I grappled with this idea all day as I was grappling in parallel with the Hebrew, converting the second person masculine language into first person singular and plural, and second person feminine and non-binary. This is all highly heretical for a number of reasons, but I refuse to be silenced by internalized patriarchy and dogma. Here is the transliterated Hebrew using various names for the Divine:

 (First Person Singular)
 Y’varekh’i HaShem v’yish’m’ri.
 Ya'er HaShem panav eli v'khuni.
 Yisa HaShem panav eli v’yasem li shalom.
 
 (First Person Plural)
 Y’varekh’einu Elyon v’yish’m’reinu.
 Ya'er Elyon panav eleinu v'khuneinu.
 Yisa Elyon panav eleinu v’yasem lienu shalom.
 
 (Second Person Masculine)
 Y’varekh’kha Adonai v’yish’m’rekha.
 Ya'er Adonai panav eleykha v'khuneikha.
 Yisa Adonai panav elekha v’yasem l’kha shalom.
 
 (Second Person Feminine)
 Y'varekhekh Shekhinah v'yish'm'rekh.  
 Yaer Shekhinah panav eleikh v'yekhuneikh.  
 Yisa Shekhinah panav eleikh v'yasem lakh shalom.
 
 (Second Person Non-Binary)
 Y'varekhekhol Elohim v’yish'm'rekhol.
 Ya’er Elohim panav elekhol v’yihunekhol.
 Yisa Elohim panav elekhol v'yasem lekhol shalom. 

I don’t have capacity to write out the Hebrew today, but may circle back at some point. Or feel free to do it and send to me! :D


Day 7: Malkhut/Shekhinah sh’b Chesed (Kingdom/Queendom within Love) – divinity, agency, how we lead in our lives and by example

Today was a difficult day of the Omer for me, and in general. Multiple people crossed established boundaries and I felt deeply hurt, while knowing I also have agency within these relationships. Every difficulty is an opportunity. I am the queen of my own life.

A few centuries ago, Rabbi Simcha Bunim of Peshischa suggested carrying two notes, one in each pocket. On one should be written “For my sake the world was created” and on the other “I am but dust and ashes.” The first phrasing makes me squirm, so for today’s practice I rewrote it a bit. “I AM MAGIC” is the other side of the “I AM DUST & ASHES” coin. These sayings were also helpful in granting perspective, not just on my place in the world, but also on these issues that feel so big today.


Day 8: Chesed sh’b Gevurah (Love within Strength) – discipline, boundaries, limits, the tension between expansion and restraint, maximalism vs minimalism

Even without the Counting of the Omer, discipline was already the theme of the day as I grapple with a parenting issue. I’m still figuring that one out, but in the meantime there’s other work to do. The yarrow in my herb garden is so tough and eager to spread that it has found a way outside of the walls of the raised bed. My expression of Chesed sh’b Gevurah is plucking and transplanting them so they can grow in a more appropriate way. (It’s worth mentioning that yarrow is an herb associated with boundaries and protection.) Sometimes the best course of action is to get rid of the plant completely, sometimes it’s better to redirect/establish a boundary (as I did here), and sometimes it’s fine to go with the flow. I’m not only talking about plants.


Day 9: Gevurah sh’b Gevurah (Strength within Strength) – doubling down, discipline without love or kindness, harsh restraint, or perhaps restraint of harsh discipline

My sister invited me to spend a few days at the beach with her, so here I am. I can’t explain how much I needed this, and I need it more this week than a few weeks ago. I’ve been carrying what feels like a lot of emotional weight and responsibility, so this is a welcome break. But it’s also not a break, because (a) I’m still working and (b) I have important things to assess and recalibrate while I’m here. Major props to sister for inviting me and to my partner who has done nothing but encourage me to take this break and made this possible (even though he needs and deserves a break, too). I’m not doubling down today. Instead, I am reminding myself to B R E A T H E.


Day 10: Tiferet sh’b Gevurah (Beauty within Strength) – shifting perspective, zooming out and in and out again, softening focus

Mitsui Collective shared a really impactful embodied practice for the Omer today. It involved adjusting, shifting, and softening focus with a few different exercises, while also serving as a powerful metaphor for making space for both detailed and big picture awareness. A few hours later, I went to the beach and began sifting through the sand for shells. Over time, I was able to notice smaller and smaller shells within the sand. If you look for small miracles, you will find them.


Day 11: Netzach sh’b Gevurah (Eternity within Strength) – endurance, perseverance, holding both the eternity of the present moment and the ability to see beyond current circumstances

I planted okra seeds a couple days before my trip. Since I water them 2-3 times a day, it didn’t feel right to leave them behind or burden my partner with that hassle. (Hassle for him; pleasure for me.) So here they are, on the balcony facing the Atlantic Ocean, basking in the morning and early afternoon sun. All of the seeds have now sprouted, an affirmation of life and perseverance.

Today is also Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, a day of mourning and honoring the 6 million Jews killed by the Nazi regime during WWII. We do this year after year. Never Forget. Never Again. As Mark Horn points out in Tarot and the Gates of Light, each day during the Counting of the Omer contains the shadow aspects of the sefirot. We say Never Again, while knowing injustice and cruelty endure. The day “calls for Perseverance on our part to work to establish Justice, even as we know it will never be perfect. . . . regardless of the fact that perfect Justice is unattainable, we are commanded to always seek it out.”


Day 12: Hod sh’b Gevurah (Presence within Strength) – humility, how to receive and be, how to hold and pour out (like a vessel)

"The quality of light by which we scrutinize our lives has direct bearing upon the product which we live, and upon the
changes which we hope to bring about through those lives. It is within this light that we form those ideas by which we
pursue our magic and make it realized." – from Poetry is Not a Luxury by Audre Lorde

Day 13: Yesod sh’b Gevurah (Foundation within Strength) – connection, alignment, grounded, how to be flexible and strong

Just thinking about trees, how connected they are to earth and water at the bottom and to air and light at the top, how the flexibility of their branches and the solidity of their trunks are why they are able to endure so many trials.


Day 14: Malkhut/Shekhinah sh’b Gevurah (Kingdom/Queendom within Strength) – rituals, channel, medium, how to be of service

It’s been a bit of a struggle for me to maintain this practice and also parent this weekend. Even though I decide what to film each morning, I’ve been leaving the actual filming until rather late in the day. I’m trying to give myself space while still maintaining some kind of discipline/consistent practice, but mostly I’m feeling rushed. Tomorrow is a new day.

This is a somatic practice I learned from Resmaa Menakem via the On Being podcast. It’s one that I engage with regularly to help me settle in place. It enables me to really be in my body and take in my surroundings, which activates my psoas muscle, stretches my back, and soothes my animal instincts. Highly recommended.


Day 15: Chesed sh’b Tiferet (Love within Beauty) – self-care, self-love, compassion, how to notice beauty

I’m a Taurus and self-care is my home turf. I don’t think much about “taking care of” my skin and rarely wear makeup, but I really love the experience and ritual of washing/scrubbing my face and applying argan oil. It just feels so good to me. Even though I love it and it is a common act, I feel really vulnerable sharing a video of me doing this. So weird the things we consider private vs the things we share, and how dramatically that differs from one person to the next.


Day 16: Gevurah sh’b Tiferet (Strength within Beauty) – boundaries (that’s my life’s work), agency, rest as resistance

One of my favorite ways to set a boundary with the world is with sleep. (And yes, I actually fell asleep. It was yummy.) If you aren’t already familiar with The Nap Ministry, what are you waiting for?


Day 17: Tiferet sh’b Tiferet (Beauty within Beauty) – pure gorgeousness, magnolia blooms, all of nature, perfect balance

The shade of the magnolia tree paired with the scent of the blooms (not to mention the mild breeze cooling the air) were calling to me today. Fortunately we put up a rope swing in that very tree during the lockdown last year, so I was able to enjoy all of those wonderful things today. Shooting in slow motion was an accident, but a happy one. I love how it’s so dreamy and surreal.


Day 18: Netzach sh’b Tiferet (Eternity within Beauty) – solidarity, commitment, holding the long view

I’ve had what I call a pre-migraine all day. It’s not at the level of migraine (which is completely debilitating for me), but it’s beyond headache. My entire skull throbs, my eyes feel like they’re trying to escape from my head, and there are frequent feelings of nausea. Anyone who lives with frequent headaches or migraines knows a thing or two about endurance.

The Florida Senate passed an anti-protest censorship bill today. It’s a little unclear how this bill will be enforced, but it paves the way for protesters to be charged with felonies (and lose their voting rights), denies us bail, makes damaging confederate statues punishable by up to 15 years in prison, protects people who kill or hurt protestors from civil lawsuits, and allows the state to override police budget decreases. This just one day after the Florida House passed an anti-trans bill. It’s really disheartening, but I can also feel the surge of solidarity across the state. I don’t know how much headway we can really make as long as most people continue to choose comfort over change, but I am more and more inspired by the possibilities of emergent strategies and decentralized/collective action.

I had to use a ladder, but there was a magnolia more or less within reach that I decided to cut and bring into my home. The fragrance fills the room it’s in, and the big soft petals make this bloom one of the most Venusian flowers you can find (along with peonies). With Venus in Taurus right now and Venus being my ruling planet, I’m feeling pretty good about my choice. Eternity exists in every moment, every decision we make. Which is to say, each moment builds on the last, creating our individual and collective futures.


Day 19: Hod sh’b Tiferet (Presence within Beauty) – awareness, focus, how to notice small miracles and beauty in the every day

Yesterday there were a ton of these Mimosa strigillosa in bloom, while today there are only a handful. They are commonly called sunshine mimosa, or powderpuff (because of the bloom) or sensitive plant (because of how the leaves fold when touched). These guys have a mechanical nervous system, which is quite unique. They are also native to Florida, and there are pollinators buzzing about every morning.

Last year, when there were more people going for walks and bike rides around my neighborhood each evening, I remember seeing a child who was wearing pink head to toe, and on a pink bicycle (with pink training wheels) to boot. This child was maybe 4 or 5 years old, and they stopped mid-ride when they saw the sea of pink powderpuffs. Maybe kids have that kind of awareness because they are closer to the ground and don’t have heads filled with worry and plans, but that level of awareness and being in the moment is something adults can cultivate if we choose.


Day 20: Yesod sh’b Tiferet (Foundation within Beauty) – interconnection, symbiosis, reciprocity

Deadheading the marigolds helps the plant direct energy towards creating new buds and blooms. Over time, if marigolds are not deadheaded, they produce fewer blooms. I’m collecting these and drying them in a paper bag, with the intention of eventually using them as a natural dye.

All flourishing is mutual.” – Robin Wall Kimmerer

Marigolds are a foundational plant in many raised beds. The plant acts as a natural pest deterrent for the kinds of insects that like to eat herbs and vegetables, and helps control nematodes in the soil. It also attracts beneficial insects like butterflies, bees, and other pollinators.


Day 21: Malkhut/Shekhinah sh’b Tiferet (Kingdom/Queendom/Majesty within Beauty) – dignity, origins, identity, truth, history, a sense of place/time/purpose

origin myths

 i.

 if we could peel back the years
 find our beginning
 would it be
 the glowing orb i remember
 all the magic and fate and joy and
 nothings that were something
 or would it be
 only vaguely familiar
 there are so many stories
 and who knows which one is true
 the fun house mirror version
 might be the real thing
 and the perfect orb
 the distortion

 ii.

 i can't find it now
 but i read about a tribe
 visited by anthropologists
 every few generations
 years elapsed and stories morphed
 historical alliances completely altered
 no trace of prior versions

 iii.

 we are living documents
 always updating
 editing
 shifting to meet the moment in which
 we find ourselves

 iv.

 at what point does the
 start stop
 no longer matter

 v.

 i was looking for you
 in the house the
 other day
 i couldn't find you
 and then i heard music
 coming through the air
 vents in all the rooms
 filling the space with you, you, you
 and me
 eavesdropping
 wondering why
 you keep all that beauty
 so well hidden

 vi.

 with pride or shame
 we define ourselves through origin
 but what others see is
 now
 past or future
 they can only guess or
 assume

 vii.

 truth offers only
 so much protection
 think of the golem
 'emet' on their forehead
 truth on a rampage
 growing bigger
 stronger
 and in the end
 little distinction between power
 and brutality
 viii.
 the questions we ask
 shape the answers
 we find

 ix.

 we all need something to hold on to
 if we are living documents,
 then it is only the current version that
 really counts or matters
 am i wrong? is there something
 i am missing?
 of course i'm wrong
 these are the games we play
 with ourselves
 with others
 be honest
 when you say 'i love you'
 how much of that is now and
 how much is habit
 something rooted in history
 how much of that is what you feel
 what you believe
 versus what you want the other to believe
 how much of it is theater

 x.

 bravery, the greatest resistance
 honesty, the greatest activism

Day 22: Chesed sh’b Netzach (Love within Eternity) – true love, the test of time, love beyond measure

In addition to having a very full day, I’m struggling with the relationship of these two sefirot. For some reason, Netzach sh’b Chesed was not so difficult. Maybe it’s just today and the busy-ness and not being able to get inside this idea.

I’m cheating a little with this video. I didn’t film it today, and while it doesn’t represent the relationship between today’s sefirot, it does represent my relationship to this concept. I’m able to grasp it about as well as I can hold onto smoke.


Day 23: Gevurah sh’b Netzach (Strength within Eternity) – discipline, endurance, the only way out is through

It is raining here today, and I am having a difficult time concentrating on my work as a result. I’ve been falling down a lot of rabbit holes. For example: I started thinking about the rain, and then I thought about Linda Perhacs’ song Chimacum Rain, so I listened to it and read the lyrics and wondered who or what Chimacum might be, and it turns out it is a place in Washington state named after the indigenous people who lived there, so then I was reading about the history of those people and how even though they have descendants they have been absorbed by other tribes and their language is extinct, which had me thinking about DNA and lineage and ancestry, and how is your day going???


Day 24: Tiferet sh’b Netzach (Beauty within Eternity) – enduring beauty, how to age with joy and grace

A poorly shot video, but this is a tour of my orchids – or the ones in bloom, at least, so it’s just the phals. They can seem a little overrated sometimes because they’re a typical gift, but if you take the time to really look at an orchid, even a common phalaenopsis, they are quite stunning. It’s a special thrill when they rebloom.


Day 25: Netzach sh’b Netzach (Eternity within Eternity) – endurance training, baby steps, stretching, how to expand capacity

Today we are halfway through the Counting of the Omer and it is Earth Day, so I am stretching outside and connecting with the land in some small way. But the main thing for me was the stretching today. Really being in my body. Feeling how it feels to be halfway through this practice, which seemed so long yesterday and today seems to be rushing by.


Day 26: Hod sh’b Netzach (Presence within Eternity) – ancestral lines, belonging, self-acceptance

My hair (which has never been dyed) makes me feel rooted in my family. My hair isn’t quite the same as my parents (my dad has almost black hair and his beard was red before it was white, and my mom has stick-straight hair), but I know that it is inherited from some ancestor(s) and my son has the exact same hair color as me. Hair is an identifier and a signal to others. When we lived in Estonia, my son was one brown-haired child in a sea of yellow in his kindergarten. I enjoy the dual sensation of playing with my hair – I can feel my hair in my hands and I can feel my hands on my scalp.

If you can spot it, I’m wearing my grandmother’s pendant.


Day 27: Yesod sh’b Netzach (Foundation within Eternity) – bonding, connection, commitment

Sometimes the best thing for a relationship is a game of Mario Kart 64. I’m in serious dork mode here, which is pretty cute. I came in first place for the first time ever because Jonas thought he had already won and stopped playing. This is that moment, and his subsequent realization after I called him cocky.


Day 28: Malkhut/Shekhinah sh’b Netzach (Kingdom/Queendom within Eternity) – leadership, the long arc of justice, using hands and body to create change, how to be a good ancestor

Malkhut is the sefirah at the foundation of the Tree of Life, associated with earth, so it seemed appropriate to (once again) be gardening. But this isn’t my garden. It’s a garden maintained by Infinite Zion Farms, a Black-led organization addressing Orlando’s food desert in Parramore by providing the community with fresh produce and hands-on gardening education. I’ve been coming out on Sundays (and my son, in the foreground, sometimes joins me) to assist Prince (in the red shirt in the background) for the last six months. He always has a smile ready, assumes the best, and never misses a teaching opportunity. In addition to his full-time work, he’s out here volunteering evenings and weekends. His dedication to this work is inspiring. Prince is a prime example of enduring leadership.

Last year I was listening to an On Being podcast episode with Resmaa Menakem in which he spoke of “white body supremacy.” White-skinned folx can try to “other” white supremacy, but our bodies are privileged in this world. It’s increasingly important for white-skinned people to use our bodies (not just our minds or mouths) to visibly and publicly oppose white supremacy and racism. Not in a white saviorism kind of way, but in solidarity as allies in Black-led movements. We inherited this legacy, and if we are not active in changing it, we are complicit in its continuation.

Infinite Zion Farms has a gofundme to raise money for vertical aeroponic towers, which is a new endeavor. Please donate if you can!


Day 29: Chesed sh’b Hod (Love within Presence): feeling what is, finding a way to love, how to be patience with yourself and others

I’m involved (peripherally) in preparing for an event for Jews of Color. Today I spotted a registration from a self-described white ally who utilized the scholarship (free) option, and it ticked me off. I looked them up and their spouse runs a law firm that they also work for. At this point, my blood was boiling. Tickets cost $9, so for this person to reserve a free spot for themselves for an event designed for JOC… Ugh. I don’t think you can call yourself an ally if you pull shit like that. I know I don’t have all the info and maybe it’s all kosher, but when I sat with the feeling I was able to identify how it was playing out in my body. My chest was tight, I had stopped taking deep/full breaths, and I felt a lot of tension in my gut and fists. I know it sounds dramatic, but I am pretty invested in this work and I hate white entitlement. Anyway, I knew I couldn’t continue in that state, so I decided to shake it out.

There are a lot of ways to get back to love. This is just one.


Day 30: Gevurah sh’b Hod (Strength within Presence) – toughness, endurance, gratitude

This little tree is a moringa or Moringa oleifera. Native to India and able to thrive in subtropical locales like where I live in Florida. I planted a stub with no leaves just three weeks ago, so I’m amazed at its fast growth. I planted it with some planting medium and fertilizer, but this spot is otherwise almost completely sand. And I only watered it for the first two days after planting. That this guy is able to grow and thrive so soon is astounding. I visit it every day and have a little nibble from its foliage. It tastes green and is a little nutty with a spicy kick in my throat.

It’s called the Miracle Tree and has been dubbed “the most nutrient-rich plant yet discovered.” As a food source, it contains 7 times the vitamin C of oranges, 10 times the vitamin A of carrots, 17 times the calcium of milk, 9 times the protein of yogurt, 15 times the potassium of bananas, and 25 times the iron of spinach. It’s little now, but in a year’s time it should grow to ~10 feet, at which point I will harvest it by cutting it down to half that size. I will powder the leaves and the tree’s growth process will begin again.


Day 31: Tiferet sh’b Hod (Beauty within Presence) – enjoying nature, how to step out of your routine to rest, tending plants

I find a lot of calm and a sense of reset when doing mundane things like hanging or folding laundry, sweeping, watering plants, etc. I have to step outside of my usual pace (i.e. slow down) to do these things. I have four “groupings” of plants: the ones in the house, the ones on my back patio, the ones in the yard, and the ones in raised beds or containers. The plants in the yard are watered with an irrigation system (and rain), the ones in the house get watered ~1x per week (there are a few I need to keep an eye on), and the ones on the back patio vary by season but I am mostly still watering only 1x per week. This is just one corner of the patio, where most of the smaller plants reside (and a varying population of lizards). Thanks to these plants, the patio is my happy place.


Day 32: Netzach sh’b Hod (Eternity within Presence) – endurance, getting shit done, how to find beauty in the banal

Are we the last family in America washing dishes by hand? Probably not, but it feels like it sometimes. We have a dishwasher that literally just takes up space. Toward the end of a long day, washing dishes isn’t always what I want to be doing, but it does help me transition from one part of my day to another. I like the repetitive motions, the warm water on my hands, the jenga-like stacking, and that feeling of being done. And to be clear, I’m not the only dish washer. The cook (usually Jonas) washes everything used for cooking, and the devourers each wash their own plates, silverware, and cups. My son wipes the table clean, and whoever is last to wash their dishes also wipes the counters. That was me today.


Day 33: Hod sh’b Hod (Presence within Presence) / Lag b’Omer – meditation, pause, deep breath

Lag b’Omer is a minor holiday that involves celebration, bonfires, weddings, and haircuts. The Counting of the Omer is a time of semi-mourning, so when Lag b’Omer occurs on the 33rd day of the Omer Count, it is a welcome guest.

While I didn’t create a proper bonfire, I did take the opportunity to burn some of the letters to ancestors written by guests visiting my installation in the joint show I put on with Mär Martinez at Parkhaus15 in March titled, Remembering the Words to Our Song. The ritual of burning letters either invokes or releases, depending on the content of the letter and the intention of the writer. Both the sight of the flame and the sound of the crickets were mesmerizing.


Day 34: Yesod sh’b Hod (Foundation within Presence) – intentionality, mindfulness, how to practice rest daily

This is Noodle Louise Vandebar. (Sound on for maximum effect.) We can take a lot of cues from felines about making presence/mindfulness/awareness/intention a foundational element of our lives and days. We live in a chaotic, demanding world, so anything connected with rest or mindfulness or full presence has to be intentional, planned for — or it will not happen. The Hebrew word for intention is kavanah, which in itself feels like a rest. Say it: kah-vah-nah. Repeat it: kah-vah-nah. Breathe it: kah-vah-nah.


Day 35: Malkhut/Shekhinah sh’b Hod (Kingdom/Queendom within Presence) – discernment, wisdom, self-awareness

I was out gardening with Infinite Zion Farms again this morning, this time thinning the carrots. It caused me to reflect on the difference between thinning and weeding, how weeding is more about removing “undesirable” plants that compete for resources while thinning is removing healthy and desirable plants so that those left behind have room to thrive. In our lives, weeding is removing activities we dislike or don’t enjoy or are even harmful for us. Thinning is saying no to good opportunities because we simply don’t have capacity to do everything. When we don’t say no and our schedules become overly-packed, it’s a guarantee that something is going to fall through the cracks or be downshifted in priority, resulting in hurt feelings or poorly done work. It is always better to say no than to just not show up. Saying no is the kind option. Saying no creates space for someone else to step up and complete the task. Saying no also gives us more breathing room and self-care time. Who knew we could learn so much from carrots?


Day 36: Chesed sh’b Yesod (Love within Foundation) – self-love as daily practice, caring for the body, healthy habits

After a couple years of working in a garden center, on my feet for quite a few hours in a day, I am back to working at home on my computer. I was determined to do it differently this time because I had a lot of back pain when working a desk job. I’m putting in daily effort to move my body, get away from the computer, eat and drink regularly, get good sleep, and in general take better care of my shell. To counter back issues, I ordered a set of Chirp wheels. It was awkward at first, but after a couple days I really enjoy the rolling and stretching process. This isn’t intended as an ad, but more of an encouragement to find the daily thing(s) that will help you take care of yourself. Ritualize those activities. Find a way to love your self-care.


Day 37: Gevurah sh’b Yesod (Strength within Foundation) – regular maintenance, surrender, what is shaped by practice

For today’s Omer pause, I decided to do a little sweeping. As my work schedule has become fuller, things like housecleaning have fallen by the wayside. To be fair, it’s never been a huge priority for me, and residing in an equal opportunity household means everyone does their part so no one person bears too much responsibility. That said, it’s possible I haven’t been doing my part lately. Or, I haven’t been doing it quite as often as I’d like. Foundation for me is about systems and routines. Here’s to my first step (again) toward creating better systems.


Day 38: Tiferet sh’b Yesod (Beauty within Foundation) – dress for success, morning routine, beauty secrets

It is May 5th, and here in Central Florida it is 89.6F/32C, i.e. HOT. Considering I installed some new plants last week that are not yet established, I have to take care to water them twice a day so that they can survive the heat and eventually thrive. Two of them are Mimosa strigillosa (Sunshine Mimosa, and you can see established ones in the foreground) and one is Clusia rosea (Autograph Tree, the one you see me watering closer to the house). The Mimosas are in full sun all day, and the Clusia gets full afternoon sun (which is the harshest). These are both drought-tolerant Florida natives, so they will need minimal irrigation once established. But for now, these babies are getting lots of love and attention. Also, check out those bees!


Day 39: Netzach Sh’b Yesod (Eternity within Foundation) – contemplation, spiral time, milestones


Today is my 40th birthday. Thus far, I’ve liked getting older. What Patty Smith said – “We go through life. We shed our skins. We become ourselves.” – really resonates. I’ve been enjoying becoming myself, especially these last few years.

This (from Rabbi Yael Levy) also resonates: “Everything that has ever happened has created this very moment. Everything that will ever be unfolds from here.” This is true every day, of course, but I’m especially aware of its truth today.

One of the gifts from Jonas is a record by Kay Gardner called Mooncircles. The second song is called Changing, and these are some of the lyrics:

changing
changing
ever changing
like the river and its flow
changing
changing
life is changing
giving time to grow

Day 40: Hod sh’b Yesod (Presence within Foundation) – open to different experiences, staying in the present moment, how to engage the senses

My birthday was spent engaging all of my senses in many of my favorite ways, and I capped it off with a nightswim to appeal to my sense of touch. The light in the pool wasn’t working, so between that and not wearing my glasses, my sense of sight was very limited. This heightened my awareness of the feeling of the water, which was warm and soft and freeing. I’m not sure where this fits in with my senses, but there was a duck standing by the deep end of the pool staring at me the ENTIRE TIME. It was equal parts disconcerting and funny.


Day 41: Yeshod sh’b Yesod (Foundation within Foundation) – childhood, parenting, self-parenting, re-parenting

There are a lot of things I wish I’d been taught or figured out sooner in life, even things I’m learning now, so that I could have laid a better foundation for my son. I’m also in the process of re-parenting myself, a painful but necessary step in my own growth. I read something the other day about how when we heal ourselves we are able to raise children who don’t have to recover or heal from their childhoods. There’s truth in that, certainly, but it also sounds arrogant and naive. Who gets to that level of healing before their kids are out of the house? This boy turns 13 in a week, and it already feels like the door of my influence is closing.

One of the things I’m trying to teach him is the importance of consent, so I did ask (and received) permission to post this video.


Day 42: Malkhut/Shekhinah sh’b Yesod (Kingdom/Queendom within Foundation) – sovereignty, right relationship with land, land back


It’s mother’s day, and I visited a local botanical garden with my mother and son. It’s nice to be around all the plants, but it bugs me how many non-native plants they have and continue to add. I’m not a plant purist, but it doesn’t seem balanced. The colonizer mindset of dominating the land felt very present.

I’ve been feeling pretty terrible (physically) all day, so this isn’t a full post or the regular format. I’m in bed because sometimes a queen’s gotta rest.


Day 43: Chesed sh’b Malkhut/Shekhinah (Love within Kingdom/Queendom/Sovereignty) – social justice, racial parity, respecting the land and earth

What’s happening in Sheikh Jarrah and Gaza right now is the opposite of how things should be. The endless layering of injustices against Palestinians and the absolute perversion of Judaism to justify this treatment leave me feeling enraged one moment and heartbroken the next.

I had a dream last night in which I was flipping through a book of photographs of queer socialist skateboarding Jews from the 60s and 70s and I spotted a guy wearing a t-shirt that my partner Jonas has (although he doesn’t have this t-shirt in real life), and I took the t-shirt to Jason to authenticate (in my dream he specialized in t-shirt art/design curation). I’m pretty sure this was all sparked by Sam’s recent post about his Sheikh Jarrah t-shirt. What does it all mean?

After dropping my son off at school, I’ve been stopping by Mead Botanical Gardens because it is free, on my way home, and basically empty in the mornings during the workweek. During my stroll, I spotted two large and closely growing trees that looked to be dancing. One was an Oak (malkhut energy) and the other was actually a Queen Palm! I joined their dance, hoping in my own silly way that we humans could learn to share space like these trees.


Day 44: Gevurah sh’b Malkhut/Shekhinah (Strength within Kingdom/Queendom/Sovereignty) – discernment, wisdom, be the leader of your own life

Here’s a video in which I am strategically removing glaze from a small sculpture (and later I will apply a second glaze and fire it). I don’t even know what else to say about today. Big sighs.

Take care of yourselves, babes, even and especially when things are heavy or dark or stressful. Channel that New Moon in Taurus energy into some good self-loving. Who knows how to love you better than you?


Day 45: Tiferet sh’b Malkhut/Shekhinah (Beauty within Sovereignty) – receiving the gifts of nature, protecting the sacred, how to seek out wonder

Today I specifically sought out an elderberry tree (stage left). The lacey white blossoms are so lovely, and this tree perfectly combines beauty and protection. When I spotted the majestic palm nearby shielding its fallen fronds and the oak with its mossy roots, I knew this was the spot.

This is a dance of struggle, and I kept the people of Palestine in my thoughts as I moved. At the end, when I looked up and saw the canopy above me, I think I briefly forgot about the dance and just drank in the beauty.


Day 46: Netzach sh’b Malkhut/Shekhinah (Eternity within Sovereignty) – perspective, values, meaningful work

Three days left before Shavuot. One day before the JOC Virtual Shabbaton. This video is literally all I could muster for today. I didn’t even think about shooting until sometime after 7 PM because this has been a day of reacting. I’ve been tying up loose ends for the Shabbaton and responding to emails and texts non-stop. I’m not complaining, but boy am I tired. And I’m not done! I’ll be back at it as soon as I finish this post. Stay well, make time for rest, and drink some water.


Day 47: Hod sh’b Malkhut/Shekhinah (Presence within Sovereignty) – say their names, black lives matter, mourner’s kaddish

Eric Greene reciting the Kaddish for Black Lives during the JOC Shabbaton tonight. Yesterday was the yahrzeit of George Floyd’s death.


Day 48: Yesod sh’b Malkhut/Shekhinah (Foundation within Sovereignty) – home, placemaking, bond

Jonas’s studio is a room off the garage, so it is separate from the main house but connected by the air ducts. Whenever he plays guitar or drums or whatever (which is pretty much every day), the sound comes through the vents in each room. I love it. It causes me to feel calm, relaxed, grounded. I’d be interested to see how my brainwaves respond to his music, because I’m pretty sure my alpha waves get a boost.

My childhood home is long gone, and I don’t feel the same sense of belonging that I used to with my family after living apart for so long. I think I’ve lived in close to 20 homes in my life, but that feeling of “home” hasn’t been tied to a place since I lived at 97 Emerick Street in Kingston (where I lived until 1998). Now, the only time I feel really at home is with Jonas. 


Day 49: Malkhut/Shekhinah sh’b Malkhut/Shekhinah (Sovereignty within Sovereignty) – reflection, discernment, cultivation

It’s the last day of the Omer count, and we have arrived at the mountain. This last week of the project has been the most difficult for me, due to my busy-ness and some computer issues. I usually visit my plants around the yard every day, but it’s been maybe 5 days since I last did that. I noticed some of the tomatoes burst because I waited too long to pick them. That’s the thing about harvesting. It’s not just to feed myself and my family, it’s also what’s good for the plants. When I’m determining which ones to pick and which to leave, I’m balancing my desire and appetite with what has ripened sufficiently with what the plant needs to continue thriving.


Shavuot has come to a close, and I’m reflecting on what I have learned these past seven weeks and what new Torah has been received. There are a lot of things on my mind: reparations, abolition, social justice, Land Back, state violence, liberation, solidarity. Shavuot is often referred to as the wedding day of God (the groom) and the people of Israel (the bride). Solidarity, union, harmony, peace. Not a peace that primarily benefits one side or peace for its own sake, but peace that stems from wholehearted cooperation. I always return to Robin Wall Kimmerer’s wise words: “All flourishing is mutual.” This is my understanding of liberation and peace, that it benefits all of us. And until all of us have it, we are all prevented from our full flourishing.