I wanted to post a poem on 9/11 and found “For Our World” by teen poet Mattie Stepanek. Though my memories flooded back and I wrote “Who Can Forget?”, Stepanek’s poem is as relevant now as the day it was written. The poem addresses strife in our world while, also, speaking to anguish on a personal level. On Yom Kippur, the most solemn day of the Jewish year, we ask G-d and our loved ones to forgive us for our sins as we contemplate our mortality.
And. And, this year is the 5th anniversary of my mom’s and, three weeks later, sister-in-law’s passings. My mom would have been 80 and Sharon would have been 60. When my mom thought, for a brief moment, that she might live, she talked about what she wanted to do with her future. Up until her diagnosis of lung cancer, she’d spent most of her time working, with some time for reading and gardening. Granted, she had an amazing career as an award-winning investigative journalist and editor, but she lamented not finding something else besides occasionally spending time with friends and grandchildren that brought her joy. My mom said she wanted to volunteer at Stella Maris, a long-term care facility where she’d interviewed the nuns.
My mother-in-law, an 86 year old Holocaust survivor, whose health has recently declined, has also been talking about what she’d like to do in her future. When is the right time to add into our lives “the blessing of songs that grow in our hearts?”
The culmination of the Days of Awe is the fast day of Yom Kippur (The Day of Atonement). This is the day…according to tradition, God seals the Books of Life and Death for the coming year. The day is devoted to communal repentance for sins committed over the course of the previous year. Because of the nature of Yom Kippur and its associated rituals, it is the most solemn day in the Jewish calendar.
Mattie Stepanek was 11 years old when he wrote this poem on the day of 9-11. Sadly he passed away in 2004 after a long battle with Dysautonomic Mitochondrial Myopathy. You can learn more about his brief, amazing, inspiring life at his website: http://www.mattieonline.com/
The recent variety of immersive Van Gogh exhibits have received mixed reviews. One of my daughters said that the one she attended in CA was in one room, poorly executed, and left her sorry to have paid the ticket price. But, I found the Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit at Pier 36 in Manhattan that Hubby, another daughter and I attended very cool. The same floor-to-ceiling images play on a loop in three rooms. In the first room, vertical, mirrored columns reflect the moving images. In the middle room, huge mirrored, geometric shapes do the the same. In the enormous third room, there’s space to sit, recline or sprawl out.
I really enjoyed being surrounded by floor-to-ceiling art, vibrant colors, spectral music, and the illusion that the room was moving. After a pandemic year of living insular, isolated lives, sharing a space with people all seemingly enchanted and contemplative was, in itself, what made the experience one-of-a-kind.
Bmore Energy is a place to share ideas, inspiration, creativity, and moments of beauty and levity in everyday life. Call it positive energy with time for contemplation.
Rarely do I share my political views, but in light of the palpable tension apparent in every single person I know, if you’re uncertain why our nation is on the precipice, read Isabel Wilkerson’s researched, insightful, and devastating book, an accounting of race in America, Caste, The Origins of Our Discontents.
Still don’t know why an angry, violent, weapons-laden mob stormed the Capitol on January 6, 2021? Or why a police officer was killed when he was hit in the head with a fire extinguisher? A woman trampled to death? A gallows set up to lynch the Vice President? Or why, if the color of the people’s skin in the crowd was different, the outcome of the day would have been vastly different? Consider who supports Auschwitz sweatshirts, Nazi insignia, Confederate flags, and gallows. And why. Do I need to spell it out?
On Wednesday, January 20, 2021, the world will be watching the transition of power. Even if that transition is peaceful, this country is home to over 70 million people who voted for a person and his political henchmen who promote racial, religious, and ethnic superiority, polarization, divisiveness and violence. What’s become of basic human rights, natural resources, the environment, foreign relations, trust, healthcare, education, decorum and civility, not to mention the ability to discuss and debate opposing political views? And, how will we look back at the response to a global pandemic that’s, so far, killed over 397,000 people in the U.S.? How many citizens are willing and ready to let the U.S. devolve into a racist regime? I feel ill thinking about it.
This year, MLK Day falls during an historic Inauguration Week. Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech is as powerful and important today as it was in 1963.
Peace to you, hon, wherever you’re from, whatever religion you practice, and whatever ethnicity you are, and hoping and praying the same humanity is extended to you that you extend to others.
Transcript of speech by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. August 28, 1963. Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C.
I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.
Five score years ago a great American in whose symbolic shadow we stand today signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beckoning light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.
But one hundred years later the Negro is still not free. One hundred years later the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination.
One hundred years later the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity.
One hundred years later the Negro is still languishing in the comers of American society and finds himself in exile in his own land.
We all have come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to change racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice ring out for all of God’s children.
There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted citizenship rights.
We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.
And the marvelous new militarism which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers have evidenced by their presence here today that they have come to realize that their destiny is part of our destiny.
So even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal.”
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its Governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places plains, and the crooked places will be made straight, and before the Lord will be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.
This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the mount with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the genuine discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, pray together; to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom forever, )mowing that we will be free one day.
And I say to you today my friends, let freedom ring. From the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire, let freedom ring. From the mighty mountains of New York, let freedom ring. From the mighty Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!
Let freedom ring from the snow capped Rockies of Colorado!
Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!
But not only there; let freedom ring from the Stone Mountain of Georgia!
Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain in Tennessee!
Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill in Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.
And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God almighty, we’re free at last!”
The week after Labor Day feels like the start of a new year when it means Back-to-School, back to work and, sadly, the end of summer. Even though summer’s not officially over, and sunny, warm days may last through fall, I often sense a switch has been flipped and the atmosphere knows the date.
This year, that after-Labor-Day-feeling is one of uncertainty, anxiousness, and worry. How is it almost Fall and we’re still in the midst of a global pandemic? What will happen when it’s too cold and snowy to socialize, study, and exercise outside? So many questions and no clear direction has left me searching for beauty, color, patterns, humor, and cuteness (any small animal video will do). When I find them, I have to share them. Maybe the small joys will soak into our pores and in some way cleanse the filth that is our politics, divisiveness, inequality, race relations, antisemitism, economy and, yes, the virus.
Ever since quarantine started and a need for masks became apparent, one of my daughters (shout out to Hannah) and I have spent weekends sewing. With two sewing machines, piles of fabric, elastic, notions, and scraps littering the floor, our dining room has been turned into a sweatshop! We’re working with a group called The Mask Makers for NJ Workers, and we’ve been sewing and donating to local medical workers, restaurants and businesses.
This has been a huge learning experience because, hon, sewing straight lines was the extent of our sewing machine knowledge! Hannah and I have broken many needles, ripped out dozens of seams, made tons of mistake, and required boxes of Bandaids. We’ve spent a lot of time cursing the thread which seems to have a mind of its own.
At first, the group agreed to sew masks with elastic that goes around ears. Then, we switched to four, adjustable straps. And now, we’re working on a cinched version with straps that adjust with toggles. All in the name of comfort. But, since Hannah and I aren’t seamstresses, every time we switch to a new pattern, we need a whole day to get it right. Some days everything hums along nicely, and some days it doesn’t!
Once Hannah started posting our finished products on social media, we received requests to purchase. We bought separate fabric and notions, and only use our own machine (as opposed to the borrowed one) for any sales. Click here to learn about the masks we’re selling. They’re lightweight, breathable, comfy, and washable.
I joined several mask maker Facebook groups, but there’s a proliferation of posts like, “Woohoo, just completed 1,ooo masks!” or “Yay me, I’ve reached my goal of 500 masks!” Those posts put our efforts to shame, so I’m unfollowing them asap because Hannah and I can’t compete and, well, we don’t have to. She works full-time, and I’m working on my long-term writing goals. Last week, one of The Max Challenge trainers said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” I love this quote! Just thinking about the energy and emotion I waste feeling bad comparing myself to others, especially when it comes to my writing journey, is enough to make me weep.
Who knows how long this situation will last, and who knows what it will look like when it’s done?! In the meantime, we’ll continue stitching–ripping out–pleating–pricking fingers–ironing–burning fabric–sewing–dropping pins–and donating and, overall, enjoying the process!
Want to know what patterns we’re using? Check it out in Part 2.
After a The Max Challenge Zoom workout, the trainer read Shel Silverstein’s poem “The Voice.” The poem spoke to me on several fronts: trying to get through quarantine with a hopeful outlook, helping others with my particular skills, and focusing energy on long-term goals which seem, during this strange and unsettling time, to be floating on waves washing out to sea.
Wishing you a peaceful day filled with beauty in small moments, like noticing how droplets cling to tulip petals.