Sunday, January 30, 2011

969. Pluck

Serves me right (in an entirely good way) to have asked about more opportunities to chant. Yesterday I read haftarah, and have lots o'aliyot coming up next week and the week after. Yikes (in a good way). I've also discovered I have no idea how long it takes me to learn a section. I'm faster than I think, mostly. But I always dwell on the exceptions, and so say no when it comes to adding an aliyah or two. I need to be a little more brave.

As I walked over to the bima, the rabbi leaned over and said, sotto voce, "Go for it!" Exactly what I needed to hear. (I wonder if he noticed my big, nervous intake of breath a minute earlier before chanting the blessing.) So I threw caution to the winds, and tried to sing with everything I had. Not that I hold back, especially during the High Holy Days, but am at times more decorous than others. The rabbi's words in mind, I let more of myself through than nerves had allowed me in awhile. It was fun. Much easier to do this for haftarah, when I can clutch my own piece of paper, complete with notes and vowels, rather than when maneuvering the sea of letters that float above the dizzying cliff of memory required to read Torah--but perhaps some of my pluck will last until next Shabbat.

(I learned to chant exactly nine years ago! Why am I still nervous? But I am. And I think it's a good thing; those nerves make me look beyond the obvious, with respect to myself as well to the act of singing and reading. The answers, like Torah, change over time and are sometimes inscrutable.)

Friday, January 14, 2011

968. Finally: chanting!

Yes, believe it or not—and right before Shabbat, to boot—a post about chanting. (Not that I don't have more to say about the stem cell donation. I finally got my act together last week and answered my recipient's note, accompanied by extensive musing about how she is now a part of me as much as I am of her. Whenever I feel overwhelmed, which happens more often than I'd like, I just imagine her life, struggles, strength. They trump mine many times over; acknowledging that, I shrug and pick myself off the floor. I'm beginning to think the donation worked both ways, a little bit of her spirit flowing into me in exchange for the cells.)

But back to chanting. I did so last week, just one short aliyah, for the first time in two and a half months—my longest leining-less gap in years. No particular reason for the silence, although I did get paranoid for awhile there (and successfully talked myself out of it). The current crop of b'nai mitzvah are more amazing than ever before, and generally cover the entire reading each Shabbat between the two of them. In some instances one child reads the whole thing his/herself, as will my brilliant student in September. The relatively few chances for adults to read went to people who asked, or (it seemed to me) hadn't read much in the recent past, so it was their turn.

My short section was to fill in for someone at the last minute, and I took the occasion to ask the cantor, hmm, it's been awhile, any more opportunities coming up? So I'm reading again next week, which feels very good. I mean that literally, physically: singing, breathing for singing, is more refreshing first thing in the morning than jumping into the ocean on a hot day. (Or inhaling a mug of soup on one of these recent freezing days.) Learning an aliyah becomes an aliyah in the truest sense—my soul feels lifted up with every word. I ran into one of my b'not Torah students at services last week, who acknowledged that it was really depressing to have stopped singing after that intense event. And I realized these past 2 1/2 months took the same toll on my spirits, as well. The break was good, in many regards; I re-channeled that creative energy to a bunch of new and previously neglected projects. But I'm very happy to redirect it back home, especially since those other ventures are starting to take flight.