Thursday, 22 January 2015

Routine Is Not An Ugly Word

One of the many things that I had hoped to accomplish following my retirement was to dispense with daily schedules. I really wanted to let my life choices dictate the clock and the calendar, rather than allowing the clock and the calendar to dictate my life choices. I certainly didn't have any grand notions of existing within a "Freedom 55"  commercial at the still very youngish age of 52. Me sail away on a schooner? Yah...not with my motion sickness. Instead, I saw the the future as a giant tabula rasa that could only be limited by personal preferences.

Naïveté is a peculiar circumstance.

While it is true that part of my mind knows that there is nothing stopping me from staying in bed until late morning on occasion to luxuriously read the newspaper, another part screams obscenities at me if I laze around for too long. My reason says "Relax. Take your time.", while my body yells "Enough already you lazy arse. Get your shit together and let's get moving." And so it is that I find myself back into an early morning exercise regime. 

While I am comfortably ensconced in The Southern Home, the majority of that activity consists of a lengthy early morning walk, either around the neighbourhood or down on the beach. After all, we have all been told that sitting is the new smoking, and since I have never so much as taken a puff, I figure that I need to get some real value out of my $99.00 FitBit Flex. 

It's funny. Even though my schedule has become much more fluid and flexible, the world around me, both human and natural, obviously still adhere to theirs. During those walks, I have encountered the same school children waiting for their buses, the same landscapers going about their business, the same locals exercising their dogs, and the same customers at Starbucks purchasing their morning caffeine injections. That's normal and to be expected. What was gloriously unexpected was my encountering of the same wildlife, in the same locations, doing exactly the same things every single morning. There is the squirrel in the park who actually responds to my mother's call and expectantly waits for bits to be dropped. (I won't allow her to give in to her better urges simply because he is a squirrel and I consider his northern cousins to be mortal enemies.) There is the large orange iguana who has taken up residence with his family in the mangrove trees abutting the Intracostal near our home. But I am most totally engaged with these White Ibises who cross my path daily.

As you can see, they are unfazed by human involvement and they are just quietly going about their morning routine, which usually consists of breakfast and crossing the street. Note to self: Resist urge to tell Ibis crossing the street joke.

They are awkward looking creatures who are as ubiquitous down here as sparrows are up north, but there is something about their patterns that has me mesmerized. I see them every single morning on my walk, and then miraculously, every single evening at dusk, an entire flock (I'd like to think it is the same birds) flies in perfect formation low in the sky right in front of my balcony. I could swear that they are dipping their wings in a familiar salute to me as they pass. (I have tried on several occasions to grab a photo or video clip, but they simply move too quickly and I am simply not that great a photographer.) I know it seems crazy, but it feels like my own remarkable interspecies moment. I have actually taken to parking myself on the balcony for an hour or so before dusk waiting for my friends to arrive. It is a magical moment that I now joyfully anticipate.

Yesterday as I watched my new friends perform their evening ritual, it struck me that schedules aren't the evil notions that I had made them out to be. Rather, it is how and what we choose to fill them with that truly matters. So far, mine doesn't suck.

Friday, 16 January 2015

Everything is Connected

I am continually amazed by the power of camp. At least the one that I attended. It seems that no matter how far we have all travelled, how diverse our journeys, we all remain interconnected by that cow patch in Indiana. It has been a long time since I was there, and yet events keep popping up that somehow wield a magical force which transports me back to those days of sweltering heat, Shabbat walks, and sugar-laden bug juice. That confluence of happenings is occurring once again this Shabbat in Washington D.C.

This weekend, NFTY-The North American Federation of Temple Youth, is celebrating their 75th anniversary with an alumni concert, featuring my old GUCI buddy Dan Nichols. GUCI's Avodah '82 took it upon themselves to arrange for a reunion using the concert as the centrepiece of their weekend festivities. I was not a part of that Avodah crew. I was a counsellor and songleader that year, but their festivities did get me thinking about that summer, the summer of '82. That was the summer of "Everything is Connected."

Now if any of you have ever been inside of the GUCI gates, have had any connection to GUCI campers or staff, or have even been to a Dan Nichols concert or seminar, you will have heard about "Everything is Connected." It is one of those urban legend-type stories that is hardly believable some thirty plus years later. But, for those of us who were there to witness it, it remains one of the singular defining moments of our camp experience.

It all began with the legendary and remarkably gifted Bonia Shur. Bonia was a great composer and an unbelievable force in Reform Jewish music. His compositions are performed around the world, and he was a deeply respected professor of liturgical arts at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati. In the summer of '82, Bonia and his wife Fanchon came to visit GUCI for a Shabbat to act as a sort of scholar/musician in residence. This was long before any of us immature teenagers truly understood what a gift it was having Bonia in our midst. Bonia was brilliant, but eccentric. He had a wild, unkempt look about him, a sort of shlubby-looking Beethoven, and he was so far ahead of his time in trying to convey new age ideas on liturgy and prayer circles, that most of us really didn't know what to make of him. We tended to giggle a lot and we were wholly unimpressed that Fanchon wanted to introduce movement into our prayer experiences. We had no idea what was to come.

After lights-out on Kabbalat Shabbat, the staff was directed to attend a special Oneg. Bonia and Fanchon would be leading the program. He had the entire staff stand in a large circle in the dining hall. Bonia then proceeded to take a long rope and asked everybody to grab hold of it. Fanchon insisted that we move the rope together rhythmically as one community. Now, just picture it. A group of sweaty, awkward teenagers and young staff standing in a circle clutching a rope and moving it forward and backward. There was a lot of laughing and a lot of mocking. But Bonia was undeterred. He just kept it moving. Finally, he asked somebody, anybody, to shout out a phrase as to how this made them feel. I honestly can't recall who said it, but somebody yelled "Everything is connected!" Bonia began to chant a melody. "Everything is connected. Everything is connected." Over and over again. It went on and on and on. We convulsed in giggles. He asked for another phrase. "It will work out!", another person yelled. Bonia began to chant. And he kept chanting. And he kept chanting. "Everything is connected. It will work out!"

Most of us had never heard the phrase 'mantra' before, and even fewer had ever been to a yoga class. But Bonia knew. He just kept chanting and kept the rope moving. It went on for what seemed like an eternity. I don't remember when it happened or even how it happened, but suddenly I realized that I was chanting too. And so was every single person in that room. "Everything is connected. It will work out." The laughter and mocking gave way to spiritual involvement. The discomfort at trying something new melted as we found relaxation in the prayer. There was serenity in the interconnectivity. Later that weekend, Bonia and Fanchon introduced our new GUCI mantra to the entire camp. Everything is Connected became the watchword for the summer.

I don't think that any of us could have foreseen social media and how intertwined we would still be in 2015. That Shabbat evening in Zionsville united us all in a way that can still be talked about, but never truly felt unless you were there to experience it. But, Bonia knew it all those years ago and he insisted that we share it. Interconnectivity is vital to everything that we do in our lives. We all have an impact and an import on those around us; those with whom we live, work, and love. We cannot and should not neglect those relationships, because in the end we are all we have. 

It has been an incredibly challenging start to 2015. Perhaps if we all just take a step back, breathe in and out rhythmically, and chant Bonia's mantra, we might find a bit more peace on this Shabbat. Have fun Avodah '82. Everything is still very much connected.

Thursday, 8 January 2015

A Text Conversation from This Evening

This is an actual text conversation between The Husband and me that is still ongoing while I am typing. I will set the scene.

He is headed home this evening on an Air Canada flight, or as I like to call them..."Hell's Airline." Aside from the Fort Lauderdale airport being a nightmare due to increased security, (Paris, anyone?) he has no luggage and no carry-on baggage with the exception of a small computer bag. His seat was already pre-chosen and he is travelling alone. His flight was scheduled to leave at 9:20pm. The first texts arrive at 8:50pm. These texts have not been altered at all.

The Husband: This zone boarding thing doesn't work for Air Canada. Started boarding 20 minutes ago and it's chaos.

Me: That's because they're a moronic company.

The Husband: Massive lines

Me: They are never easy. Have no idea how to run an airline.

The Husband: Pretty funny to stand back and watch this. It will take another hour to board.

Me: You have your seat and no carry-on. Wait until the end. Don't fight.

The Husband: I am. Not in line. But something is definitely not working properly.

(We say goodbye thinking that is the end of it. HAH!)

The Husband: (9:16 pm) In seat. Still boarding. 50 minutes already. Just paged...(A person we know. We share an emoticon laugh.)

Me: Almost on your way.

The Husband: No!

Me: For real?

The Husband: Too many cabin bags.

Me: Assholes! (Directed at Air Canada staff who never ever ever properly police such things.)

The Husband: The overhead bin above me just got busted with people trying to stuff it.

Me: F***

The Husband: Calling maintenance

Me: Assholes. If they would just police it properly.

The Husband: Maybe I will get home Saturday.

Me: I love you!

The Husband: SNL Sketch.

Me: But too late at night to be funny.

The Husband: The still haven't finished boarding plane. Over 50 min so far.

Me: And they only have this one job right now!

The Husband: Airline is a joke. 15 minutes before maintenance gets here. Maybe I'm destined to stay here with you.

Me: There are worse things that could happen.

The Husband: Already 20 minutes late taking off after boarding 50 minutes before the schedule.

Me: Assholes.

The Husband: (9:37pm) No maintenance yet.

Me: Flight Aware has you leaving at 9:51pm

The Husband: Not happening. Ha ha....some hoody wearing "dude" walks on, looks for 10 sec, and says "It's broken. I need to make some calls." It is right above my head.

Me: You should be blogging this. Want my account?

The Husband: Nah...just enjoying the entertainment.

Me: Good attitude. I'd be furious.

The Husband: Dude back. On his phone.

Me: What now?

The Husband: Duct tape!!!

Me: Get out??

The Husband: Kid you not!

Me: You're shitting me?

The Husband: Nope. Hold on...maybe not...not happy with that.

Me: Let me know when they break out the WD40.

The Husband: Little Jewish guy behind me is an engineer and wants to help.

Me: Can I blog this? Too funny.

The Husband: Back with the duct tape.

The Husband: Good job, dude!

Me: Holy!!

The Husband: The engineer approves. Had to get special aviation grade duct tape. They now say 5 minutes because pilot and maintenance needs to complete paperwork. Can't make this shit up!

Me: I'm blogging it. Check when you land.

The Husband: Too late now, but I should have live tweeted it. Love you! Bye.

Me: Thanks for my evening's entertainment.