My Days of Awe, 5776

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAImpatience. Anger. Wastefulness. Restlessness. Desire. Haughtiness. Greed. Judgement. Pride.


I’ve been paying attention, especially the last few days. Now it’s getting serious. It’s the morning of the eve of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.


Yesterday, just after I walked into the house after ten-and-a-half hours at the university, before I dropped my heavy book bag on the floor, I spotted a bowl of chips and an open container of my favorite salsa. But before I was able to crack the first of forty chips in my mouth, my wife said, it arrived crushed.

She was on hold, forty-five minutes waiting for a customer service rep. The post office. How to file a claim. A box of wedding gifts. [Read more...]

Becoming Food

By Elizabeth Duffy

13430047155_25a7d296d1_zAt five a.m. this morning, my husband woke me while taking money from my wallet to buy donuts for himself and our fourth child who was to accompany him to the lumberyard. He was buying wood to build a picnic table and a couple of porch swings.

My husband shouldn’t be driving a car. He shouldn’t be making things with wood yet. He had shoulder surgery several weeks ago, and at this point, his arm should be immobilized ninety percent of the time. He’s on short-term disability, home from work for an entire month, and he’s bored silly, so immobilization couldn’t last. It barely lasted a week.

Now he’s making furniture and renovating the storm windows. If he gets on a ladder, I’ll scream. And that should stop him. I think it really will.

It’s been interesting having him home all day. For the first week I gave him sponge baths, made him eggs, brought him entertainments, and took leisurely walks with him in the park. It was heaven. I thought I might amputate his legs, and keep him here with me all the time as my special patient. How delightful it was to serve, to experience his gratitude and dependency. [Read more...]

For the Newlyweds

18428477633_f488b3dd41_zMay you have the courage to let go of everything you know about yourselves—everything you have learned about yourselves up to this moment—that you may discover and create, invent and define new selves, a new braided Self. Like Sabbath candles that, at the start of Shabbat, stand side by side, each its own brilliance, its own accomplishment, may you move toward each other until you become like the braided Havdalah candle, its individual wicks joined to create of several a single, strong flame that is lifted into the sky at the end of Sabbath.

If I were called upon to offer a toast to the newlyweds, this might be the toast I’d offer.

Who dresses in the costumes of their ancestors, who signs the ketubah with the broken healthcare system and the cruel economy and anti-immigrant culture as their witnesses, the groom who is delivered to the mandap in a horse-drawn carriage, the bride who is walked down the grass aisle by her father and mother, divorced and united in love as they deliver their daughter to the huppah, the bride and groom who stand under the huppah-mandap where they vow and circle, circle and are blessed, these newlyweds. These newlyweds whose courtship was complicated by religion and love, politics and love, history and love, America and India and love, personal convictions and love. [Read more...]

Happy Pride Parade

imageI was in tears watching my city’s Gay Pride parade go by this year. Yes, tears. Here’s why.

In the late 1960s, a friend in my graduate school program was gay. But at that time, there was no such thing as “in” or “out” of the closet. There wasn’t even a closet…or there couldn’t have been one huge enough to hold all the gay people who had to keep their sexual lives secret. Not even a barn would have been big enough. Maybe a stadium…

Instead, there were the baths. I don’t know if these gay baths were really baths, or pools, or what. All I know is that this is where my friend Mark would go every evening, picking up each evening a different man to spend the night with. [Read more...]

Dancing for My Life, Part 2

Continued from yesterday.

elegant-barn-decorating-ideas-with-barn-dance-decoration-ideas-10Traditional dance is, by modern standards, inherently misogynistic. The man leads, in most basic arrangements, by stepping forward. The woman must step back to make room for him. In some dances, the couple maintains a squared frame with their arms, so the woman can sense when the man is going to turn her, or shift direction. In others, like swing, they hold hands, and he alternately sends her away and tugs her back again, or pulls her into his embrace to send her twirling outward.

They’re at odds with the mood of the age, but the dances we’re learning are certainly less misogynistic than what passes for dancing these days. Gulya will never instruct Maggie to bend over and twerk while I pretend to spank her.

Still, I suppose we could follow in the steps of feminists trying to strike a blow for equality by having their male ballroom partners learn the traditionally female, back-stepping role. I wish them well, but I’m having a tough enough time learning one set of steps per dance.

And no matter who’s stepping forward, you can’t escape the fact that someone has to lead. You can learn a thing or two about marriage when you’re dancing. Like how frustrating it is for the other person when you don’t signal your intention. How you can walk your partner directly into a curtain, or a chair (I’ve done both) if you’re indecisive about when to pull her into the ninety-degree sidestep that allows you to turn a corner during a waltz. That if you keep not deciding, your partner will start deciding for you. [Read more...]