Entering the Moon of Av (July-August)

Time of
Mid-summer in the earth,

Arieh, the lion, in the sky,
Tisha B'Av in the soul,
time when you are, were or will enter the decade of your fifties.

Time in the seasons, time in life,
when things warm up.
The earth, the sky, our lives, all simmer.

vportrait

Heat now weighs heavily upon the land.
By mid-day all seek cover,
to rest and dream.

The lion comes into his sovereignty
in the night skies.

Ruler of the forest,
he strides confidently
into his domain.

As we enter
the seventh circle of life.

 

 

Just as summer stands in mid-reign,
so do we, in mid-life.

In this time of heat,
in this season of fire.

Cycles of the Earth, Mid-Summer

Come I will teach you my lessons.

rsfrktree

Listen to the bird's nightly concerts as they seek shelter for the evening.
As the dusk deepens, the frogs, cicadas and cricket's voices rise in crescendo,
ringing through the night.

Watch the lightening bugs float through the sky,
their pale light merging with the stars.
Take lessons from them. How they shine and shine and shine.

Rise early. Get into your swimsuit. Put on your sunscreen, smelling now like summer.
Go out to the pond glistening in the sun. Dive in.
Feel the rush of cool water encasing you, wakening you anew.
The sensuous brush of water holds you weightless.
You turn into mermaid, sea-sprite, wild, free, graceful.
Curve and arch your body. Glide, the closest thing to flying.

Sit on your towel, letting the sun dry up the beads of water.
Make tracks to the bower of emerald trees which await you.

woodsfrk

Picnic in the woods.
Pack watermelon and sandwiches.
Bug-spray and sunglasses.

Unearth that old blanket
that's been to every picnic you've ever been to.

Before you leave,
gather Queen Anne's lace,
waving in the wind,
for a take-home bouquet. 

  

Memories well
of yellow school buses and shipping off to day-camp, with metal lunchboxes and singing seemingly forever through the long ride.
Remember how your legs stuck to the seats on the days that were scorchers?
Your nightly rituals of dosing calamine lotion on mosquito bites before bed?

After dinner mount your bike and ride down winding streets under the long arched canopy of trees.
Let the quiet embrace you as you pass homes and gardens.
Drink in the air.

Take an evening stroll. Get ice cream and walk in the soft darkness.
Listen to the voices of the children shrieking in play, the soft murmurings
of conversations wafting through the air.
Laughter, someone telling a story, the creak of a porch swing.

Watch the arms of lightening streak across the summer sky,
illuminating the dark with an eerie apricot light.
Watch the storm move closer, feel the gusts of warm wind, listen for the thunder.
A downpour approaches.

Do you remember those days before air-conditioning?
How you used to strip down to your underwear,
putting a washcloth dipped in cold water across your belly and sitting in front of a fan,
a glass of iced tea in hand?
Relief.  Respite.
Some mornings the sheets would be so wet with humidity you'd rise
like emerging from the sea.

Go to the park near evening and dangle your legs in the lake.
Get a take-out pizza and picnic under the trees.
Follow it up with frozen yogurt and stick your legs back into the warm water,
watching its movement.
Do you remember that sunset that turned the rocks, water, people's bodies and paths all a
luminescent rose?

Get up with the dawn and dash out for your morning walk.
Dodge into the shadows of the houses and trees like musical chairs in your attempt to keep cool.
Run those errands now before the day heats up.

Enjoy each wave of berries.

rsblueberriesFirst, strawberries fresh from nearby fields,
then raspberries, blueberries and blackberries.

Have them plain,
bake with them,
freeze them,
make jams.

Summer treasures. 

  

As you walk, smell the roses faithfully blooming.
Admire the daisies, the black-eyed-Susan's and the not-to-be-forgotten spectacular blooms
of the clematis.
Pick rosy tomatoes and pungent homegrown basil. Snip chives and oregano for your salad
Simple summer rituals.

Bite into fresh corn, it's juices spurting.
Smell the fragrance of a sweet ripe melon.
Savor the gifts of the earth.

Move into quiet appreciation.
Of the sun. Of the trees.
All present quietly, like the air.
Gifts of this season, gifts of this time in life.

And in the land of Israel
in Jerusalem in mid-day, 
people retire to sidewalk cafes 
or whisk home for lunch and afternoon naps,

rsjerusalmapt
while sidewalk vendors hawk
heavenly refreshing bottles of orange and grapefruit juice.

The dried thistles and grasses bronze in the fields.
Heat scorches the Land.

But apartment porches glimmer
with brilliant hues of geraniums.

 

And in the evenings, the air echoes with sounds of visiting and laughter
as people sit on their balconies or promenade in the night air.

Grapes are harvested now
while the white-flowering squill, which bloom for one day only, are in their prime.

On costal shores the sand-lilly blossoms alongside yellow evening primroses.
Vegetable gardeners plant for the new season while hornets swarm.

It's time to stop scurrying.

Put down your lists.
Rest and be now, look and taste.

Let joy well up
for all the gifts that surround you.

Let wonder rise
at the beauty and abundance of it all.

In the Skies, Arieh, Lion

I too arrive, bearing gifts for you.
I, scion of royalty, now stride the earth,
surveying my realm.

frankslionrs

Filled with strength, I've no need to prove myself.
For all acknowledge my dominion.

Brave, fierce, and graceful,
I use my power only when needed,
wisely ascertaining the moment.

Golden, long linked with the sun,
I join you this moon, standing beside you
as Guardian.

 

We've tremendous vitality and energy, courage and enthusiasm.
An extrovert, I venture out and grasp life with both hands, wholeheartedly savoring it.

Be careful, when your determination moves into a contest of wills.
Be mindful of arrogance and of that edge,
when leading becomes dominating, when wanting to help, moves to attempts to control.

Rouse your daring and bold parts, that you might venture out into new realms,
widening your vistas, teaching you new lessons.

Use your power and curiosity, courage and intensity to re-examine your path.
Where it is you've come to, and where it is you need go.

Remember the power of "not knowing",
of walking in mystery,
and the gifts embedded in each day.
These will bring blessing to your worlds.

In the Soul, Tisha B'Av,
time of Destruction and Recreating


As the Moon moves towards her fullness, on her ninth day, you feel a welling of intense grief.

Your soul sees the once majestic city of Jerusalem, besieged,
the glittering sanctuary engulfed in flames,
the heart of the city, burning, the nation, fallen, bodies lying in the streets,
blood flowing, and many, many slain.

You sit on earth and weep,
and at the same time knowing within a seed lies.
Recalling the tradition
that on this day of greatest sorrow, Messiah shall be born,
that out of anguish, wholeness shall spring,
out of ashes, dearest hope rises.
For a world, whole, unified, resting finally,
in profound peace.

vickitishaJrs

So you surrender.

Releasing yourself to grief,
relinquishing to it,
Letting it wash your soul.

Knowing the importance
of marking each loss in life.
Honoring, acknowledging it.

Knowing that tears need be wept,
need run through you.

And you image them
sweeping all that lost,
all that pains you,
out to the river,
flowing to the sea.


You know, that only then,
will you be able to rise.

With new power,
with new grace, and walk
with greater vision,
presence and peace.

Cycle of Life, the Seventh Circle, Ages 50-59

Escort and Teacher, Rebecca.
Moving towards Advising

Born in Aram-Naharaim, in the city of Nahor, my father was Bethuel,
my grandmother, Milchah, and my grandfather, Nahor, Abraham's brother.

I first appear in holy text as a young woman, at the spring outside our city.
A stranger ran up to me asking for water, having been traveling.
And of course, I lowered my pitcher, giving him drink, as well as his camels.

Placing gold jewelry on my arms and giving me coins, he asked if he might stay the night at my father's house.
Amazed, I entreated him to come with me.

He came seeking a bride for the only son of his master.

The next morning when asked if I would go with this man, I said yes.
Mounting our camels, my maid and I departed, leaving all I knew, venturing off to the unknown.

As we neared what would be home, I saw a man praying in a field.
So beautiful was he. 
All alone, lit with gold from the light of the departing day.
I lost my bearings,
sliding off my camel groundward.

As he approached, I quickly veiled.
He took my hands and silently led me to the tent of his departed mother, Sarah.
Becoming his wife, I joined my life, my destiny, with his.

Time passed, and I did not become with child.

After giving offerings of prayer, I did conceive, but what misery!
Day and night I felt incessant struggle within,
constant wrestling, so unending I went to inquire of God.
Who told me, I held two within. And of their natures. And of their destinies.

And this did vividly unfold.
My son's rivalries only grew as did their differences.

My husband favored Esau, who wooed him with venison and words.
But I, knowing God's message, took action to midwife it into being.
And by so doing, turned a powerful corner.

Now, looking back upon my life, there's much I wish to pass on to you.

Do you remember this seventh circle of life?
Our bodies changing, growing fiery hot, hormones raging, one period of life ending, on route
to another we can't yet see.

Through flames of heat our gaze intensifies as we survey our lives.

Again we ask ourselves, what it is we need to have come into life?
Again we hone our learnings from where we've walked.

Meanwhile we and our parents age.

Some parents remain relatively healthy and vigorous, others require constant medical care.
Some move quickly from one stage to the next with rapid changes
in lifestyles, routines, possessions, and residences.
Others are stricken with long-term illness and/or terminal disease.
Some yield to these gracefully, mourning, yet expecting these shifts.
Others deny, resisting, fighting changes and all around them.
And some move back and forth, cross the continuum.

Do you remember that poignant feeling that just when our lives were potentially expanding to new possibilities,
the lives of our parents were narrowing?

Do you remember that increasing awareness that one day word would come
of their illness, sudden death, forever changing our lives?
Do you remember feeling those silken bonds, both strong and fragile?
Knowing that while they were yet in life, on some level, we were walking as innocents, and that that time was limited?

Questions swirl. How will this unfold, what will happen, how can we be there and care with love and presence,
yet move into the pocket of good health remaining to us, realizing dreams yet left unlived in our lives?

Some parents suffer the loss of their spouse, mate, partner, lover, intimate companion.
And we join them, plunging into mourning for our mother, our father, our step-parent,
our worlds as theirs, turning upside-down and inside out.
Shoving us onto the walk of mourner, sifting again through the wilds of our lives,
while trying to be there for our surviving parent, ever more precious, whose life is more precarious.

Concurrently our parents friends and neighbors too suffer illnesses, death,
our parents losses rolling in on them like waves.

Some rally, seeking new friends, making new circles, cultivating new interests.
Mourning, holding dear that which they do have, cherish, can do, can see.
Some becoming overwhelmed and despairing.
We watch seeing how incredibly hard it is to continually reshape life to fit with the ever-changing situations
that come into play so rapidly now.
Our parents teach us, how to age and deal with constant change, and do so with character.

At the same time, our children are launching themselves into the world, trekking off, following their routes.
Wresting out work lives, foraying into graduate programs, spinning out to travel.
Life is opening for them. And life is filled to the brim.
They're busy. Cultivating friendships, swimming the sea of relationships, creating their homes.
We hear of these, rooting from the sidelines, listening to their stories.
Watching them walking forth, making their choices. Without us.
We look on, being there, while striving to be unobtrusive. Witnessing them crossing new thresholds.
Sometimes invited into their lives, sometimes not, as strangers decorate and fill their lives.
And we are sidelined. At times, when sought, advising here and there, cautious and oftentimes our input-wisdom, not desired.

Changes unfold in this era as rapidly as the weather systems sweep through the plains.
We continually remind ourselves we need cultivate and tend our own lives.
And all this as we meet our child's new partner, dance at their wedding, watch them build their new homes.

As this cycle ripens, fantasies, heartache, joys and weariness rise.

And we imagine a time when we might be able to shape our days as we truly wish and need.
We image all the things we've not had time to do due to the demands of our working lives.

Dreams of retirement rise. Being able to bring into life things missing. Slow down, create.
We try to envision time that is our own, living with a different beat and rhythm, just as we wish, and just as who we are.
We feel as well the raw fear of the wideness of how to shape this limited time well.
As our bodies age, things no longer working as well.
We know there's a wild opportunity lying ahead, shimmering, and pray
we've the health, resources, opportunity, and wisdom to fulfill these well.
All the while, craving sleep, rest, which calls us each day, each night.

The backdrop-
how to fulfill our roles, relations, and responsibilities with honor, presence, creativity, and integrity.
How to live well in the lives we now have.

Again and again we release that which need be, that which we can't control, while
keeping our eyes on that which is priceless.
On the gifts and gemstones of our existence.

Striving to make peace with what is now.
To live well within our frame.
To bring into being that which calls to be brought into life as we are able.
While walking with grace, good heart, humility, and compassion, keeping our humor near at hand.


L'Binah, Spiritual Task

The task of this decade?
L'Ehtzah "advising",
where we transform the vintage of our lives to wisdom,
and pass it on.

We step through this doorway as we enter the gate of our jubilee year when turning fifty.
The Jubilee.
When slaves are freed, debts erased, and all return to their ancestral homes.

Concurrently we cross through the fifty gates of wisdom.
And honor the knowledge we've gleaned through years of salty inner work.

We more powerfully distinquish between that which was taught us and
that which we've learned intimately, having found our own truths.

After having made meaning of our life experiences and gaining understanding from them,
then are we truly able to move towards 'advising,'
holding out our hand to those who follow us, and aid their climb.

In this decade we learn the nuances of this task.

Who comes to us, open and thirsty for input?
Who's dear and does not ask, but where when we see things that send out warning flags,
and we need speak.
And discerning at the same time, when not to speak, but rather wait for life to teach, 
being there.
A delicate skill 'advising'.

And as we move into our fifty-eighth year,
equated with "chen," 'grace,'
we strive towards this virtue.

Advising with grace, moving with grace, living with grace, acting graciously.

An art as we move towards as we near this fall of our lives.
Key to living with beauty and dignity as we age.

Come with me to this time in your life.

Rebecca's Song, Ode to this Cycle
 
I was groomed to please.
I learned to read faces and anticipate needs.
I used myself to serve, and this gave me joy.
For a while.

I was filled with passion and adventure.
Leaving all I knew to become a bride to an unknown man in an unknown country.

I remember first seeing him
in the field surrounded by golden grasses, waving in prayer,
golden himself.
I fell off my camel.

I was his comfort.
He curled into me in his tent as does a young one.
He missed his mother.
And suckled upon me.

When I carried child
filled with thrashing and pain
I went to the holy place to speak with God, to inquire why I was thus.
And was told what would ensue.

Two were within me
in combat.
My husband unable to see
and two sons already wrestling,
their fortunes revealed to me.

To me and to no one else.

My husband and I each coupled in heart with our own child.
Trying to shepherd these powerful forces.
Trying to love, raise, and tend these very different human-beings.
Heat and coolness, power of body and power of mind, different hearts.

My husband and I each became crafty in our own ways
using the routes allowed us.

And then there came a time
when I knew as clearly as when my waters broke,
that a different type of birth was coming.

There came a time when I knew I could no longer
serve with a smile.

There came a time where I knew all that I had learned,
all that God spoke through me, had now come to be born.

I remember that moment vividly.

My inner fire grew.
It was time to do what was needed.
I needed to intervene into the story of life.
Directly.

Words flowed from me. The means came to me.
Like water tumbling down mountainside,
clear and fresh, alive and true.

I told Jacob what to do and he followed my instructions.
A seeker desperate for guidance.
And events unfolded just as I had imagined.
Just as God had wanted, intended, them to be.

A radiant power flashed through me.
Like you know it was for this that you were made.
For this you were placed here on earth.

And then you step into your own skin.
Finally, clearly, unafraid and with vigor and joy.

Ever since that is how I've lived my life.

So my daughters, this is what I wish for you.
Listen to my voice, hear my counsel.

Learn to know that fiery moment.
When to open mouth and claim your knowledge.
Not from haughtiness nor undue pride
but from having gone through the fires and emerging thence
with kind heart and deep understanding, seasoned, humbled,
bringing Your unique gift, out, and into existence.

Then trust yourself.
Trust the knowledge you've gleaned from the living of life,
through laboring in your fields, through reaping its bounty,
through transforming it to sustenance and substance.

There's a point, when you need give it out.
To those hungry in spirit,
that they might renew their bodies, strengthen their spirit, from your counsel.

You need discern
when it is time, who is ready, and when silence is called for.

It discerning that point
when it is time to share the gold of your wisdom
that you might aid in transforming this world.

So I sing a song to the God Who made me.
Who shaped my bones
and filled me with light.

I sing a song to the God Who made me.
Who enabled my waters to flow and give Life.

Lessons

Remember the clear-sightedness of this woman.
Her soul, deep, her wide-open eyes, her wisdom gleaned.

In this time of earth's richness,
may you stand as ripe in spirit as your fields,
girded with the bravery of the lion.

May you face that destroyed, that lost and once more weep.
And then rise fierce with life and vision, determination and vigor,
and rekindle your wild sense of joy.

And with all that,
then go forth and decorate this world.

Succor it. Add to it's life.
With grace.

Reclaim those qualities which your soul now needs.


For Further Reflection, Journaling

1) Mid-Summer, in the Earth

Which images evokes memories of your own?

Sounds of lawnmowers                 Smells of freshly mown grass           Crickets chirping
Heat                                             Cold drinks, lemonade                    Fresh corn
Berries                                          Laughing                                         Lush sweet melons
Relaxing, letting down                    Making jam                                    Abundance
Playing,being free-hearted              Long evenings in the air                   Afternoon naps
Swimming                                     Ice cream                                        Time enough

2) Arieh, the Lion, in the Skies

What images resonate for you?

Powerful                                      Strong will                               Presence
In control                                     Brave                                      Ruler
Lazy                                            Fierce                                      Pride
Independent

3) Tisha B'Av, in the Soul

What symbols resonate for you this year of your life?


Destruction                                      Mourning                     Ashes
Laments                                          Grieving                        Marking Loss
Fire                                                 Cleansing                     Seeds of hope
Making room for newness
Destruction of holy place, home, center
Vision of Oneness, wholeness, peace

What need die in your life, be destroyed, burn away?
What are the seeds of potential, dreams, visions that lie yet within you, awaiting birth?

4) Take out a photograph of a woman in this phase of life, ages 50-59
Yourself, your mother, your grandmother, your daughter, your aunt, a woman whom you know or
a photograph from elsewhere of a woman who appears to be in this stage of life
.

Write down words that describe a woman in this time of life.
The first words that come up for you.
Unedited. Write down the date and your age now

5)Your Personal Map of Life

Creating a personal map of where you've been in life marks your history.
You hold this in your body. In your soul. You carry it around with you every day.
This can show you more vividly where you've been in life.
Inviting you to consciously claim your route. And in time, carry it with grace.
It is yours. And precious.


For those not having traveled yet this cycle
Sit with a woman who's either in or who has passed through this cycle of life.
Ask her to reflect on the questions below: the significant events in the world, in her world, the challenges of this age, the gifts of this age, things she experienced and learned when in this decade of life, to share this with you.

Your Personal History Page, Ages 50-59

Age:  Date: Ages of Parents: Significant events in the world,in life that effected you:
50_____________________________________________________________________
51_____________________________________________________________________
52____________________________________________________________________
53_____________________________________________________________________
54_____________________________________________________________________
55____________________________________________________________________
_
56_____________________________________________________________________
57_____________________________________________________________________
58____________________________________________________________________
59_____________________________________________________________________

Thematics, patterns I notice in this time of life:

Awarenesses, thoughts I want to capture about this time of life:

6) Challenges of 50-59 years of age

What was hard about this time of life? Which words below resonate for you?

Health challenges                             Sleep deprivation                  Harder to lose weight
More wizened                                 Economic realities of aging     Job uncertainties
Harder to find work                         Impatience                            Parental illness-disability
Parental death                                 Caring for surviving parent      Re-aligning of family
Illness-death of friends                     Hysterectomy-surgeries          Hot flashes-hormones
End of periods-sporadic process of Menopause                            Stress
Mourning parts that didn't come to be

7) Gifts of 50-59 years of age

What were the gifts of this time of life for you? What words below touch you?

Loss of illusions                                 Wizened                                    Been around the block
Feisty                                                Eyes opened                              No nonsense
Patient                                               Has perspective                         Grounded
New birth to self                                Competent                                End of pregnancy fears
Moving, living with Grace                   Satisfaction of having brought good things into life
Sense of priorities                               Hope for retirement and sculpting of life
Determination                                     Marriage of child/ren                 Grandchildren coming
Becoming a Grandmother

8) Mending

The relations we chose and did not choose well.
The directions we chose for other reason's than the soul's calling: following hopes, dreams, illusions.
The qualities, gifts, aliveness of this age we may have or may not have allowed ourselves.
The decisions made for economic needs.
The juggling of work, relations, stresses.

What of these speak to you?

9) Qualities to Reclaim

What qualities of this age do you need to reclaim in an updated way for additional aliveness
in your life now?
What qualities do you need to remember as you live your life now?

Things I need remember:


My courage                                     My desire for life                       My belief, faith
My hopes                                        My power                                My dedication
My ability to learn from my mistakes                                                 My strengths
My gutsiness                                    My own wisdom                       My dreams

10) Tasks of this cycle of life

The task named in Pirkei Avot for the decade of the fifties.
50: L'Etzah: For advising

a) What have you learned about the process of giving advice or serving as one who advises?

b) What advise would you give yourself right now?

11) Fifty-eight

The number fifty-eight is linked with the quality of 'grace.'

There's the grace that happens to fall into our lives.
When we see gifts as being graced us.

There's the conscious cultivating of grace, living gracefully, responding to life with grace.

What is your relationship with 'grace' in your life at this juncture?
How has and does this touch your life?

Photographic Credits

First photograph: portrait
Second, third, and sixth photograph: Frank Dobrushken
Fourth photograph: Henning Thing, found on Picasa Web pages under Creative Commons, blueberries.
Fifth and last photograph: Vicki Hollander