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L’Shana Tova

Posted By Gail Ostrow on September 24th, 2014

It is September, a time of harvest and a turning from summer to fall.  Vacations are mostly  over, the children are back in school, and the promise of time off and trips away fades into memories and photographs.  It is also the  month of Elul, a time of reflection and repentance, which prepares us for Rosh Ha-Shanah, Yom Kippur, and the new year.

I love this time of year: the change from hot to cooler, the fresh breezes, the changing light, the bountiful harvest from the garden.  And I always loved going back to school—I still do.  The new binder, paper, markers, books—the look and feel of possibility, of new beginnings.  I also love the heightened sense of the holidays approaching.

And yet, even as the season changes and my spirit calls me to reflect and repent, I am struck by how “stuck” I am in my old patterns of behavior, thinking, and feeling, and expectations both of myself and of others.   Still walking down the same street and falling in the same holes, and only sometimes getting out before I do too much damage.

So, once again, I prepare to let go of that which does not serve me or others but to which I am wedded, either by fear or habit or ignorance.   I think about who I have harmed this past year.   Am I truly sorry?  Is it time to make amends?  And what about forgiveness?  Am I ready to forgive myself and others for our human weaknesses?

The High Holy Days are a sacred pause—a time to make public what each of us faces every day in our interactions with others.  We hurt and are hurt.  We are all wounded.  We are all in need of forgiveness.   In the spirit of Rosh Ha-Shanah and Yom Kippur, I seek to forgive and be forgiven.   The Talmud teaches us that every minute we begin again.  Let us begin.

In honor of “I’m bossy!” I revised my “Golden Child” poem

Posted By Gail Ostrow on April 22nd, 2014

I must have been born willful,
strong, independent
maybe defiant
looking like my Dad
such a disappointment

How else to explain
the beating down
the not encouraging
the relegation to
Jewish Cinderella

Clean the house
cook the dinner
wash the dishes
take care of my brother
and then my sister

who was the golden child
blond curly hair
just beautiful
loving, like the doll
my mother wanted the first time

My brother cowered
when they hit him
I hit back and ran away
even in my sleep
I was always running away

At night, in the summer,
in the Catskills,
they nailed the windows shut
and locked the door, but
I still ran down the country roads

Away from them
toward my own
willful, strong,
independent,
maybe defiant, self!

© Gail Ostrow, revised 2014

 

Posted in Poetry, WISDOM
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L’Shana Tova

Posted By Gail Ostrow on September 5th, 2013

It is September, a time of harvest and a turning from summer to fall.  Vacations are mostly  over, the children are back in school, and the promise of time off and trips away fades into memories and photographs.  It is also the  month of Elul, a time of reflection and repentance, which prepares us for Rosh Ha-Shanah, Yom Kippur, and the new year.

I love this time of year: the change from hot to cooler, the fresh breezes, the changing light, the bountiful harvest from the garden.  And I always loved going back to school—I still do.  The new binder, paper, markers, books—the look and feel of possibility, of new beginnings.  I also love the heightened sense of the holidays approaching.

And yet, even as the season changes and my spirit calls me to reflect and repent, I am struck by how “stuck” I am in my old patterns of behavior, thinking, and feeling, and expectations both of myself and of others.   Still walking down the same street and falling in the same holes, and only sometimes getting out before I do too much damage.

So, once again, I prepare to let go of that which does not serve me or others but to which I am wedded, either by fear or habit or ignorance.   I think about who I have harmed this past year.   Am I truly sorry?  Is it time to make amends?  And what about forgiveness?  Am I ready to forgive myself and others for our human weaknesses?

The High Holy Days are a sacred pause—a time to make public what each of us faces every day in our interactions with others.  We hurt and are hurt.  We are all wounded.  We are all in need of forgiveness.   In the spirit of Rosh Ha-Shanah and Yom Kippur, I seek to forgive and be forgiven.   The Talmud teaches us that every minute we begin again.  Let us begin.

On Labor Day, honor everyone who works…

Posted By Gail Ostrow on September 2nd, 2013

All work should be respected and valued. There is no job too small or dirty or messy or hidden away that doesn’t deserve to be respected and valued.

Include the people who cut your grass, clean your house, tend to your elderly parents in the nursing home, work as aides in your children’s classroom, take care of your children while you are at work, mop the floors in the schools, hospitals, train stations, government buildings, sweep the streets and pick up the garbage, wash the dishes in your favorite restaurant, and work in sweatshops to make the cheap clothing we love to buy.  We/they are everywhere.

And don’t forget all the moms and dads who work at home and don’t get paid and don’t get benefits for doing the most important work of raising children.

I am the daughter and granddaughter of union workers.  I belonged to the ILGWU when I worked as a bookkeeper in the garment district.  I belonged to a teachers union when I worked in the public schools and at Housatonic Community College.  I am proud to be from and in the working class.

The Dove by Yehuda Amichai

Posted By Gail Ostrow on August 13th, 2013

The dove brought news
of the end of the flood, an olive leaf
in her mouth, like a man holding a letter
in his mouth as he searches for something
with both hands
or like a girl holding pins
in her mouth as she repairs her dress.

Translated from Hebrew by Bernard Horn

Posted in Poetry, WISDOM
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a found poem from Enders Island: “on the water”

Posted By Gail Ostrow on April 14th, 2013

Before I went on the water,

I lived on concrete, a tree here and there,

a field of poppies behind our house that

mysteriously appeared every spring and

was burned off in summer, spreading its

musky euphoria through the neighborhood.

I understood only this about nature:

it was either day or night, raining or not.

After I went on the water,

I felt the nuance of every breeze,

how moist or dry it was, how cool or hot.

I tuned my self to the tides,

and saw how the water moved in and out and up and down.

I slept, rolling on the waves, moving in my dreams back to the womb,

feeling water all around me, holding me, soothing me,

sending me for my swim upstream into life.

What is and what was…

Posted By Gail Ostrow on January 11th, 2013

Dark Charms by Dorianne Laux

Eventually the future shows up everywhere:
those burly summers and unslept nights in deep
lines and dark splotches, thinning skin.
Here’s the corner store grown to a condo,
the bike reduced to one spinning wheel,
the ghost of a dog that used to be, her trail
no longer trodden, just a dip in the weeds.
The clear water we drank as thirsty children
still runs through our veins. Stars we saw then
we still see now, only fewer, dimmer, less often.
The old tunes play and continue to move us
in spite of our learning, the wraith of romance,
lost innocence, literature, the death of the poets.
We continue to speak, if only in whispers,
to something inside us that longs to be named.
We name it the past and drag it behind us,
bag like a lung filled with shadow and song,
dreams of running, the keys to lost names

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Darkness always gives way to light…

Posted By Gail Ostrow on January 4th, 2013

Something to remember as we live these cold and often gray winter days.  Enjoy the invitation to nest, to curl up with a book or magazine, to cuddle with your pet, to sit close with loved ones, even when they are miles away.  Light candles and make fires in the snow.  Burn up all you don’t want to keep in this new year.  Make space for all that is your true nature to come forth and blossom.  And above all, be kind to yourself and everyone you meet.

2013 Shiva resolves

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Thoughts on gratitude…

Posted By Gail Ostrow on November 15th, 2012

Barn burned down, now I can see the moon.  Basho

My family taught me, in word and deed, about tzedakah (charity) and tikkun olam (repair the world).  But I came to gratitude, hikarat hatov, much later in my spiritual development, while exploring Hinduism and Buddhism.  I now understand my life’s purpose to be one of both service and gratitude–to be grateful every day for the biggest and smallest things, and to be of service to others.  One just naturally leads to the other; the more I feel gratitude, the more I am moved to serve.

My husband and I end every day telling each other what we are grateful for.  Sometimes, I can only say how grateful I am that we have a house, heat, and food on the table.  Other times, my list goes on and on.  But always, there is gratitude.  Viktor Frankl reminds us in Man’s Search for Meaning that even in the camps there was gratitude, often for the absence of things:  a work camp without a chimney, a cook who doesn’t look up when he serves the soup so plays no favorites.

As Rebbe Nachman of Breslov writes, “Gratitude rejoices with her sister joy, and is always ready to light a candle and have a party. Gratitude doesn’t much like the old cronies of boredom, despair and taking life for granted.”

“Love,  Serve, and Remember” sung by John Astin

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Post-election awareness…

Posted By Gail Ostrow on November 7th, 2012

“Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone. You are the one who gets burned.” ~ Buddha

Posted in PEACE, WISDOM
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