Sunday, December 10, 2023

1023. Back again

 This old blog is about chanting, which I haven’t written about in… years and years. So a few words to catch up, if just for my own amusement and writing practice (a muscle has been unused for way too long). (And if I want to actually WRITE and maybe publish something before I’m 103 I need to, like, write.) Due to dispiriting circumstances beyond my control, the High Holy Days service-leading journey is over. For a brief while I then flirted with leaving the community, but my friends, the deeply spiritual and music style of prayer, and the overall mission of this great group of people convinced me to stay. And, of course, the opportunity to chant Torah. I’m still learning—I still have so much to learn. I continue to get better at it (I think), and feel more confident and less stage fright-hobbled as a result, and it becomes even more fun.  For the last two months I’ve read almost every week, not a whole lot at a time, mostly the same stuff as when this 2nd year of the triennial last came around in the cursed year of 2020 when I was often one of 10 people in an empty, freezing sanctuary, a large camera in my face and the gabbaim on the other side, which seemed to be same distance as  across the Red Sea, yelling out corrections as needed and unable to help if I got lost, as once happened to my great distress (I lived to tell the tale).

Although my brain seems to have mostly erased the memory of those actual verses, it’s comforting to see my old markings on the printout and realize that the words and tunes are somewhere in there and helping me re-learn without too much trouble. 

Saturday, July 22, 2023

1022. Covid and chanting

 I finally got it last December, a mild case. It was almost a relief, no more waiting to see where on the Wheel of Ill Fortune I might land. The Pandemic Era for me consisted of three years in a fever dream, time not really time and normal activities, like going to the store, pixelated and in saturated color. 

It was awful, every moment.

My synagogue moved immediately to Zoom for services, now three times a day like the most traditional of congregations. I joined every one (because: what else was there to do?). I grew to love the little community of praying faces in squares, and the unique privilege of seeing, rather than backs of heads, the beauty of faces focused in prayer. (It was almost too intimate to watch; sometimes I turned away from the screen.) For months the only people I saw in actual person were the terrific barista down the block each morning for about a minute, a vital part of maintaining my sanity, and a friend that I walked with on Sundays along with her dog, always keeping a sensible few feet apart.

Since my synagogue straddles the border between progressive and traditional, we refrained on Zoom from the parts of the service that required a minyan. So Torah wasn’t chanted from a scroll during all those awful first months, just read from a chumash. I soon figured out a new Shabbat morning ritual for myself in the courtyard of my building, which is equipped with Adirondack chairs with and occasionally reliable WiFi. I’d get dressed in just a slightly fancier T-shirt than usual to mark the day and head downstairs with my laptop, siddur, and headphones. Through the gap between buildings I’d watch the sun dance around clouds as two rabbis and a hazzan prayed at each other, and the invisible rest of us, from opposite ends of a sanctuary that seats 800.

After nine months of this weirdness, our medical advisory board said it was safe to have a few more people in the sanctuary so that we could make a minyan and read from the actual sefer Torah. I volunteered. I missed chanting, and what else did I have to do, really?

Friday, July 21, 2023

1021. Three MORE years later

 aaaand… it’s been another 3 years.

I barely see the point in noting that the world has changed. It would be like putting up a billboard proclaiming that the sky is blue. I’m still here, healthy, sometimes happy, always grateful, distinctly older, and still often praying.

But not, as of the last two years, like I used to write about in this blog. It’s been a source of sadness for me, and big disappointment in some people I loved—still love—and respect—still do, but with a little less of my heart. But the situation is what it is (how I hate that phrase, but it fits). I want to be happy, not sad, and learn to place this thing in the small box where it belongs, rather than the big dump truck in the middle of the road of my life, cars honking “Get out of the way!” Sometimes the thing is so small that I barely see it. But other times it looms larger than the eyes of my cat when they’re 12 millimeters from mine as he wakes me with a paw on my cheek for food at 5AM.

I’ve been trying to write about what happened to help me understand, and feel better. Now that I’ve finally recovered the login info to this blog, don’t ask, and was also inspired by this beautifully introspective blog, it occurred to me that some kind of audience—probably no one, but even a theoretical audience—might motivate me to craft a few sentences to help me work out my issues. Recommitting here might also jumpstart another writing project that I’m determined to finish before I depart this earth at age 120 (or older).

So, a start. Maybe, maybe I’m occasionally back.