Yesterday during my favorite part of Shabbat, the nap, I had a very interesting dream.
I dreamt I was living in boxy, modern, concrete and glass building, and my mother was visiting for Shabbat lunch. (My apartment, in reality, is a venerable pre-war, and my mother passed away in 1985.) We were looking through dusty boxes and crumbling leather albums of cracked, sepia-tinted photos, serious people from the Old World posed in formal tableaux. Hundreds and hundreds of photos. I was astonished; I had seen a few, but this treasure trove--who knew? We couldn't identify most of the subjects, but tried to guess.
And then one of the rabbis from my synagogue came over to visit. We invited him to stay for lunch. He saw the photos, was intrigued, and asked for more. Together the three of us combed through dozens of piles spread out over tables, chair, sofas, as the sun reflected through big windows onto a white floor.
My mother took me aside. "Why don't you do something artistic with these?" she asked.
"Well, I already do a creative thing about being Jewish by writing in my blog--the rabbi doesn't know about that, please don't tell him," I added quickly. "And I'm working on a personal design project along the same lines." (Which I am, not a dream, although it's big and involved and may never see light of day.) "Maybe I should combine that with the photos." I headed to my shiny, brushed-steel kitchen to make lunch.
Then I woke up, wondering for a second where the Sub-Zero refrigerator had gone.
I know why I had this dream. The rabbi (a different one than in my dream) spoke yesterday morning about Jacob's legacy as he prepares to die and offers blessings to his sons. They weren't really blessings, though, but more like character reflections, some rather harsh. He had planned to truly bless and reveal the future, explains Rashi, but at a critical moment was abandoned by the Shekhina, the embodiment of God carrying those truths. What will our legacy be? asked the rabbi. The Shekhina will never tell. So we must look for that wisdom within ourselves and act in ways that will become blessings for our children, rather than leave them with a divisive and crumbling world.
I thought about what my forebears passed on to me, all those unknown relatives in the photos, and what I'll have for the strangers who follow. I came to no conclusions as I sat there during the Torah reading and Musaf; we can't plan such things in a few hours, let alone a lifetime. But I think the dream was telling me to continue to create, to question, make art, sing, and everything else I know I'm supposed to do. If I follow my heart, what remains is bound to be right and good.
(At left: one of a bunch of old photos I scanned last year for a CD cover. More to follow. I have no idea who these people are, nor are any members of my family still alive who do know.)
I always feel slightly sad about old photos of unknown people. It's so sad. They had no idea that the photo would still be around, long past anyone's memory.
Agreed...they're like ghosts. I have a bunch more of these to post--maybe no one in my family remembers who they are, but it's kind of amazing that people all over the world can now look at their faces.
I have a drawer full of photos like that -- old black and whites, and posed sepia tones. I have decided what to do with them. It just seems so sad to have them shut away, yet I don't want my walls covered with strange faces. I have a huge desk - about 6' by 4'-- it is a large pine table, actually. I am going to get a thin sheet of something (maybe MDF) in the size of the desktop and decoupage the pictures to it. Then I will get glass cut to go over the top. So when I work, I will be working with my whole family as a backdrop. The thought brings me pleasure.
What an excellent idea. Maybe I need to frame my old photos somehow, as well...maybe hang them in a long row in my hallway, so my family can watch over me coming and going...
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