Today is a hard day. It's bright, stunning autumn, almost equinox, and it's Rosh Hashonah, the Jewish New Year, which is always about new beginnings, starting again. The tradition is to eat sweet, round foods--apples and honey, pull-apart challah--to evoke a sweet year to come. The sweetness also ushers in the Days of Awe, the period of reckoning and making amends for wrongdoing, leading to Yom Kippur, when the gates of heaven are fully opened for 24 hours.
And this is the day when Ruth Bader Ginsburg died, and there is so much grief and fear and panic arising in the collective. I have also just finished watching a moving, heartbreaking film, "My Love Awaits Me By the Sea," made by Mais Darwazah, a second-generation Palestinian documenting her first trip to the homeland. It's heartbreaking, for oh so many reasons, including my helplessness at watching the people I "belong" to--the Jews--continuing to oppress another people ever-more deeply. This ability to keep building walls and seeing "others," rather than seeing our essential unity and oneness, is running through the whole world, and is shown in shockingly stark contrast these days. It is truly overwhelming. Whatever we believe, whatever "side" we are on, we are all tasting the poison and suffocating. One of the Palestinians in the film who is living in the West Bank said that whatever happens, it will take many many years for his people to undo the walls that have been built inside them. Yes, there's the truth. We have to keep dreaming the new world we want to see, to transcend the limited story we are all caught in, and to really make amends. Build--create--something really new, stripped of old assumptions.
So it's a day of the sad and bitter, although there's also some sweetness. I must go out to a beautiful place to help soothe my heart and give me comfort and hopefully strength. I do still believe what I wrote early on in the pandemic experience, about holding on to and remembering the joy (see April 2020 blog post), and I do, although the sadness has to be allowed in beside it.
It's true: after several hours outdoors with the land, I feel refreshed and lighter. More sweetness, and much more space to hold the sadness. I want to share some of that here, and since much of the feedback I've received about this (he)artspace blog comes in response to my descriptions of the natural world, I know that instinct is a good one. Here are some impressions from this afternoon and other recent autumn explorations. (Remember: click on the images to see the whole view, and you can easily scroll through with the arrows from there.)
Cup plants (silphium perfoliatum) are amazing. They are one of the tallest plants of the prairie, frequently 8 and sometimes 10 feet tall, standing up against the sky. (And for those unfamiliar with prairie plants, the roots may go down equally far under the ground.) The plant is perennial and long-lived. Its stem is square (yes!) and pairs of leaves emerge from it, across from one another, forming a kind of cup that insects and birds happily drink from. The yellow flowers that appear at the top of the stems are daisy or sunflower-like and cheery, and their seed heads are exquisite little mandalas. The plant has many medicinal properties as well.