shallow focus photography of sunflower with bee
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The sunflowers in our garden were enormous. They blocked out the sun for the rest of the patch. In the shade, with so many days of rain, everything grew, overgrew, wild and tangled. A mess of morning glories ravaged nearly everything in its path.

When we pulled the sunflowers out, after they died, I couldn’t believe the stalks, how thick they were. The bulk of them. “All this from a seed!” I kept saying. “Since May!” No one else seemed as impressed as I was, as surprised by the fecundity. The huge growth in a short time.

They were so tough, those stalks. Unpleasantly tough. You could build a treehouse out of them. I worried about putting them into the compost bin. They would take forever to break down.

There is a little bit of sadness in the end of a project. Even a shaky, uneven one. We didn’t post twice every week as planned. And for the past several months – more? – it has been mainly just me posting. This didn’t become the place for conversation and collaboration I had dreamed it might. One wants to write “but” and offer something to offset the disappointment —a lesson in self-reliance, a glimmering metaphor about finishing a hike alone. But no, I’ll let it stay as it is. I’ll sit with the disappointment and not spin it into something that attempts to obscure it.

Yet this ending is a beginning too, as all endings are.

Here we are at the start of the school year, and the start of the Jewish New Year, even as the days are growing shorter and the light is leaving.

With writing so often things grow, overgrow, wild and tangled, not what you intended. Maybe you hack away at the mess and find a treasure, or maybe there’s nothing there but emptiness, a patch of dirt, the chance to begin again.

Of course I’ve always known Jewish holidays begin the evening before, but until attending my first ever Rosh Hashanah service last week, I never stopped to think that the Jewish day itself begins in the evening.

The birds ate the sunflower seeds, the remains of the flowers and stalks are now part of the compost bin, ready for metamorphosis into dirt for the garden next spring. The light is gone, for today, this project over, but in the evening, on our way soon to sleep, the day is also beginning. Let’s dream it into something worthy of all the growth from this past year, and the many others we’ve already lived and bid farewell.




women s white top and orange floral skirt
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Though I came to this project as a daily writer and sporadic yoga-practitioner, I would say I often find it easier to practice yoga than writing. Not well, but I have no expectation of flexibility or coordination or strength, so the poor quality of my yoga poses is not particularly frustrating. I almost always feel better after a sequence than I did before.

Not so with writing. No matter how many years I’ve been doing it for school, for work, for fun, stories, songs, personal essays, evaluation reports, blogs, a thousand different journals, the process on any given day can be intensely aggravating.

It was aggravating tonight. I began this blog four different times. I tried for a list of Lessons Learned. They sounded a forced, and unoriginal, all “lessons” that had already been described here.

I tried writing about a wonderful book I recently reread Unlikely Teachers: Finding the Hidden Gifts in Daily Conflict by Judy Ringer. I needed to give it more thought.

I started to write about how tomorrow is the Day of Atonement. Okay, and?

We’ve had a run of fevers in our house recently and I’m intrigued by the rhythms of the fevers, how they spike at night. Why is that? How is that natural rhythm so strong? But, these were all half-thoughts, scraps of beginnings, possible entry-ways into little essays, but nothing more than that.

What to do? Push forward. Try again. Open a new post. Turn to a notebook and write be hand. But all these attempts made me feel like I was forcing something (and I suppose I was). Wait. What if I stop forcing this? What if I stop. Pause. Take a deep breath. Think again about why I came here. When I paused, I realized I should try some yoga poses. Why not—right in the middle of the writing process—see if a warrior pose and crescent lunge could help me loosen up in my writing.

After a few poses, it’s not like I make a breakthrough or have an “aha!” moment. Yoga flow doesn’t translate to writing flow. But it does make me think that if we pull back a little, stop trying so hard to control things, pause instead of press forward. we can sometimes gain a better perspective. The idea was to see how writing and yoga go together, and yet, until now, I’d never really tried a sequence that combined them. The energy changed. The frustrated feeling was gone. The practice continues.



End of Summer

End of Summer Checklist

  1. Walk barefoot in the grass
  2. Get an ice cream cone
  3. Listen to music outside
  4. Make a dish using zucchinis, tomatoes, eggplants, peppers from the Farmer’s MarketWP_20180916_14_10_29_Pro.jpg
  5. Watch the sun set
  6. Make one last pitcher of Sangria
  7. Hold tree pose
  8. Take a Saturday afternoon nap
  9. Flip through a magazine sipping iced tea
  10. Ride the carousel even if you’re way too big for itWP_20180822_15_40_23_Pro.jpg—Rachel

On the Move

action blur car child
Photo by Nubia Navarro (nubikini) on Pexels.com

I began something on a recent I hadn’t done in well over a year- kids yoga in the morning. I did it mainly because the wild energy of Wally (my 5th grader) was driving me crazy. It’s an electric charge that’s always on him, especially in the mornings. He wants to wrestle, he can’t stop chanting, bumping into me and Petra, catapulting from room to room. For the first few years, I just did my best to get him out of the house as early as possible. I think it has always made me feel stressed, but now that he’s older and easier to talk to it suddenly occurred to me that maybe there’s something I could do to address it.

Today I decided to try a kids’ yoga routine. It didn’t help all that much, although Wally was able to stay focused during it (Petra too – for her, it’s never been as hard, she’ll even—drumroll—sleep in on days she doesn’t have to go to school.)

Afterward I asked them how they felt. Neither answered. I asked if they felt calm. Petra didn’t really answer—still practicing downward dog. Wally said he doesn’t like to feel calm, that it makes him feel sad. I suppose that is true for many people. They don’t put it exactly that way. It’s talked about more in terms of staying busy, or being a work-a-holic, or needing constant stimulation and distraction. But the way Wally put it was simple and clear. Perhaps it can made me more flexible, in how I respond to him being always on the move.

light sunset people water
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September 11

I visited the World Trade Center site today, as I have all but one of the past seventeen years.

The one-year anniversary was filled with events, music, messages, reverence, and remembering. I went to a service with Kristin, the friend with whom I had watched in horror from a rooftop in Brooklyn as the Twin Towers burned. After the service we went to an installation, left messages of peace somewhere, sang songs. Other years I caught part of the recitation of names. Twice I went to St. Paul’s Chapel. Now, finally, there are the water memorials to visit, with the names engraved along the sides. Today someone had placed flowers all over the names. Calvi, Cisneros, Muvoolo, Schneider, Jeffers, Hoffman, West, Armstrong, Swaine, Leo, Sullivan, Buckley, Levine. I realized being there today that, while the memorials give us place to honor the lives lost there, and pay tribute to the disaster in a beautiful way, they also remove the visitors from the event. Those years where you stood looking at the hole in the earth, a gaping wound, allowed access to something of the rawness of the ground. It is a different kind of site now. A different kind of pilgrimage.

Here’s a little piece I wrote, years ago.


September again

fashion woman notebook pen
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It’s clear I haven’t posted here every day as was my stated intention on August 3, when I thought about how to end this project, looking back at how we’d begun.

I liked trying to post every day at first, for a while in the middle of August. It drew out the days, marked them, protecting them from simply flying away. I don’t share the feeling that I’ve heard from so many around me that the summer flew by. For those of us lucky enough to live in a land of abundance, it always tries to fly. If we want to hold onto it, we have to be intentional about slowing down, not just intentional about reading articles about it, dreamily gazing at photographs about it. We have to really think—What makes the weeks feel like they are fully lived, not racing by, not getting away from us?

Yoga and writing, and within those practices, deep breathing, music, meditation, those are the best ways I know how to accomplish that pacing that feels closer to what I remember from childhood. Practices that help us returning again and again to the moment we are in.

I think looking past and forward can help too, though a Buddhist would likely disagree.

Throughout the summer I would stop and think about how many weeks had gone by, what we had done during them, what plans still lay ahead. During bouts of insomnia, I would sometimes think down to the day and the hour since summer began, trying to remember everything. It’s not that I’ll be able to, but even the attempt made me feel more deeply rooted in the season.




Through a Glass Quickly

It is easy to be attentive alone on the beach, with a journal, a pen, and an old black & white book on the history of Long Island in hand.


While racing, pushing, rushing through the streets of New York City, it is harder. Before our schedule returns to early mornings, hectic afternoons, while the days still feel long and somewhat shapeless, I am trying to soak up all the chances to be attentive, to take note of the infinite opportunities the city offers to pause and admire the view, no matter how big or small.

Here, for example, in Chinatown, on Grand Street, Di Palo’s Fine Foods.


All the reasons to love life in the city are here, but after a stay away, by the quiet of the lake, it can feel like a treasure hunt, full of obstacles, to try to find them.