Okay, I'm finally going to succumb and write about what's really on my mind these days. As many of you know (in brutal detail, any of you who have talked with us), Mickey and I bought our first house a few months ago. But we didn't just buy a house and move in. Oh no! We hired a contractor to add a couple of rooms and then tore apart the original house and have been furiously caulking and sanding and replacing rotten boards and searching the universe for claw feet for an old cast iron bathtub and painting everything red (except the bright orange kitchen.) In order to save $$$ on the new construction, we've been doing as much of the labor ourselves as we possibly can and roping our friends into helping us. The process began nearly a year ago and escalated dramatically in the beginning of February, when we started building and un-building. And slowly but inexorably the modest grey matter in my brain has been completely colonized by linoleum and paint chips, the difference between grout and mortar, and a million other details about things I never knew existed until a couple of months ago. I just keep telling people, when their eyes glaze over mid-chat, that I'm really sorry, but my brain has been taken over by space aliens. I'm just hoping that one of these days they'll fly away (leaving us an intact home) and there will once again be room for thoughts of a higher, or at least more generally interesting, nature.
I'm writing this partly as an apology. It's absolutely true that I've been even less attentive than usual to many of you that I love and want to connect with. It's usually my pleasure and privilege to spend time with people in our community as you go through life's various adventures and passages. Fortunately in one sense, I suppose, I've never been the best at keeping in touch. (Usually I think about you while I'm washing dishes or driving along the highway and then don't remember to pick up the phone or stop by...) And so I have to trust -- now as ever -- in the connectiveness of our community. I can't tell you how often I hear from someone that they just visited with so-and-so, just called, just brought some food by. And, on the one hand, I think guiltily, "I could have done that..." But I also think it's wonderful that love and support are widely disbursed in our community. So, even if I am abducted by space aliens for a period of time, the really important stuff continues unimpeded.
And I also write this with a kind of marvel at the beauty and intensity of the material plane. That's not usually where I live. I've been watching my amazing friend Donna Feiner for hundreds of hours as she plumbs and wires our new house (and does us a thousand favors in her spare time...) How does she know where this hole goes? Where that wire from? Why one kind of pipe is different from another? What different tools can do? Its' all such a mystery to me! And that's because it's a realm I've paid minimal attention to throughout my life.
Today as I write we are in the eighth day of the omer, the period of counting between the second day of Pesach and Shavuot. The kabbalists have a beautiful, weblike system of counting which takes us through the various sefirot, divine emanations. Every week begins with "yesod," the "foundation." Oh, I've heard that word a million times and never, until now, really knew what a foundation is. It's the material plane, the grounding influence, the part that bears the weight of the higher structure and distributes it evenly into the ground. It's the least ethereal of the sefirot, but absolutely of equal importance to all the "higher" points. Even though I complain about my brain being occupied with all these material concerns to the exclusion of more important thoughts, in truth this is a huge, crucial education for me about the ground that holds me up and the walls that shelter me -- which I should not treat with derision or lack of fascination.
And finally I just have to express the mix of gratitude and -- not quite guilt, but awareness of inequity -- that I feel at owning a home. There is a desperate shortage of housing around here that local people can afford, whether to rent or to buy. For us at times, the struggle to find housing has felt almost hand-to-hand. There ought to be enough housing for everyone who lives here, and there isn't. By buying a home we've moved one notch up the food chain. Hopefully our new home will be as permanent as anything in life can be. But even if our own situation is settled, others of our friends and neighbors still need what we now have. People often ask, "Why me?" at moments of loss. I feel a bit of "why me?" at this moment of gain.
But there is a lot of plain old joy in our new home too. Our house was built by our beloved Harriet Bye and then lived in for years by our friend Silver as well. Every timber tells a tale. Silver planted much of the garden, and her gifts keep poking their heads up as spring comes. Susan Hofberg lives next door, and Sandy Berrigan across the street. Friends keep stopping by to check the progress. Lots of you have helped as well. I've gotten to do things I never knew I could, like nailing down roof shingles or replacing the panes in a window. I now, courtesy of a bunch of my friends, own my own cordless drill. Mickey and I are looking forward to many a gathering at our house in months and years to come and hope that lots of you will be our guests. A house is a material thing, but it is also a thing full of dreams and aspirations, and hopefully a thing full of love.
"To everything there is a season." For us right now, it is a time to build up. So many thanks to all of you who have asked how it's all going and listened patiently as I've babbled on, to those of you who have been understanding when I've been even later than usual returning phone calls, when I've lost papers and books and forgotten what I said I would remember. I thank you, and the space aliens in my brain thank you too. They promise that they will depart soon. In the meantime, let me give you my new coordinates:
My "rabbi line" will be: 937-5653 (for mnemonics fans, that's YES-LORD! You can thank Mickey for that...) Our mailing address will be: P.O. Box 97, Albion 95410. All this will be in place, God willing, by May 15.
Copyright 2001 Rabbi Margaret Holub
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