Cathedrals

This evening we had shabbat dinner with my BFF and her family. She cooks this same meal every Friday night. She does it ritualistically, not just the repetition of food, but of selections, washing, chopping, marinating, roasting, boiling, dressing, pouring and presenting. It’s meditation and it’s prayer. I am not adept in any kitchen let alone a kosher one, so I did what I could to help, I dragged her sons and our husbands for a walk by the lake. I left her alone with her faith.

What I love about being a Jew is the ritual. Also the intellectual privilege, that I can pick and choose from a tradition so old that you can divide it into practice, culture, race. I artfully avoid God except when I need God. Then I pray with exquisite enthusiasm. My daughter needs God for “his” benevolence, authority and protection. Milo thinks that God hates him.

Yesterday morning my husband, my daughter and I took a cab to the airport. We checked her in for her flights to California. When they wrapped the “unaccompanied minor” band around her wrist I swallowed hard.  She has already traveled the world with her team. She’s tough and smart and cautious. She’s not crazy. But her vulnerability is palpable. She’s a 13 year old girl. It was as hard to let her go as it was to leave Milo with the llama trekkers. When her plane taxied down the runaway, I prayed like hell for her safe travels.

I sent her to worship with her kind.  A week of sports –playing them, watching them, discussing them. The church of baseball-tennis-soccer-golf. . .the church of score boards and close calls, lucky breaks, great shots and big hits. She will win some, lose some, and spend some time with the faithful. I may not share her beliefs, but I get that she needs them. Respect convinced me to trade in my frequent flyer miles so she could have her spiritual retreat.

It occurs to me that I sent Milo off to experience my personal house of worship. Or one of them anyway. But I don’t expect him to find solace. A wise friend once explained to me that nature doesn’t console. Nature lives. It is time. Watch it and you’ll see that  beauty decays into beauty which decays. To walk a mile into the woods, build a fire, sleep, wake up and see the trees is to believe in time and in life.  I would like Milo to  forget about God and consider nature. The cathedral of trees.

Or not.

When my father died 20 years ago he was cremated, a decision I supported. But when I flew back to my home town a year later and realized there was no grave to visit, I was disoriented and resentful.  Cemeteries are for the survivors. It took an afternoon in an art exhibit — the paintings of Agnes Marin — before I realized that we have the power to consecrate our own holy ground, to say, HERE, this is my sacred place. I will meditate, pray, communicate HERE, among these paintings, or in my best friend’s kitchen, or on this tennis court, or beneath these trees. Because what we all need, crazy or not, is to feel exactly what we need — be it protection, authority, forgiveness or, in Milo’s case, quiet.

I haven’t heard Milo’s voice in days. DAYS. I don’t know where he is tonight, what he trekked through today, what he’s seen or what he’s felt. When I ate the roasted chicken and garlic scapes prepared by my best friend’s divine fingers I didn’t wonder what his dinner was, but I prayed for his nourishment.  Milo’s brain may be the nosiest space in  the world.  But please, for these days that he is away from me and in the woods, for these days, may he find a Godlike quiet.

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