Category Archives: On My Mind

Home Is

Home is people, not places. Home is joy and laughter and learning and love. In our homes we hold and care for one another, explore the world hand in hand, lift each other up. We can cry together because it means we can grow. We want to understand those around us and we work together to do whatever it is, whatever it takes.

When we’ve made a home, things matter. We, the human beings, matter. You, me, them, all of us, a family.

Home is an idea more than a physical environment. Home is together in security and in friendship. Friends are not born, they are made, and in homes we make choices. We can walk side by side, we can chase one another with glee. We can play. Look at the sunset, look at the trees. Feel the sand, the grass. What a world we can choose to build. What homes we can make.

Homes with an s.

And so they are, by necessity, but also because we dare. Because our hearts and minds grow larger as we live, and our connections to people near and far grow with time. When we are willing to live, to love, to be with others, we find homes. And in living, loving, being we share. We share hopes, dreams, anger, despair. For we are, all of us, mere travellers on this earth.

The idea of home is intrinsically tied with nature. Throughout history, we have navigated by stars, moss on trees, rock formations, sunlight, shadows, wind. Across time and space, people gather around the hearth. We find warmth and conversation around the fire, connection with others, connection with food. Where there is water, there are animals. With animals come people. People plant crops. Shelters are built. More people come. We create communities and in those communities, we make homes.

When all else fails us, the world itself is left.

Yet sometimes, we grow weary. We lose our way. We forget the signs or we search and search and can’t find them. And so we wander, wander in ceaseless patterns that we only recognize once we lie down to rest our minds. We stretch out our hands, pleading, but there’s no one around who sees us.

Yes, sometimes we work and work and are lost. I am searching but I can’t find you. Listening but I can’t hear you.

Breathe. And then.

In the morning, the fog clears. The mist lifts from the endless road, the path, the journey, the adventure. And isn’t it just?

There are mountains in the distance. They sing.

Welcome home.

Doi Inthanon National Park – Chiang Mai, Thailand – January 2018

What I’ve Learned from Plants

We had a beautiful rain Saturday night, a rain that I caught just at its hinted beginning while on my bike, a rain that I felt even while safe on the balcony. The rain cooled the earth, soaked into the soil, and was then gone from the sky, moving across vast oceans.

The following morning I was delighted by some new shoots from the seeds that I planted last week. I watered them, noting how the plants closest to the edge of the balcony were still a tiny bit damp from the rain. After a trip to the nursery for fertilizer and potting soil I cleaned up some dead leaves, planted new seeds, and basked in being part of the cycle of life. 

I used to get upset when my plants dropped leaves, used to ask what I was doing wrong. But I have learned a good deal over three years with this little garden of potted herbs and leafy, occasionally flowering plants. I have learned through the experience of people who have brought plants to life for much longer than I, and I know now that plants are hardy and wise. It is a pleasure to watch as older leaves fall to make room for new ones and to know that when herbs go to seed, they grow again. 

Sometimes the plants need more water or more space, but sometimes it is less water and bit of coaxing. They have taught me to be patient, to watch, to listen, and to look. These are active processes. Plants require that we care and cultivate and nourish. These are verbs. Verbs are actions.

And I wonder: If we cared as much for people as we do for our plants, if we cared as much for the Earth herself, what kind of world could we build?

These are the reflections brought to my mind on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement that comes ten days after Rosh Hashanah, the New Year, on the Jewish calendar. This new year is one that needs us to take action, to care, cultivate and nourish, to love. Many of us need to heal, need this year to be better than the last. 

What if we gave more to the people in our lives than we took? What if we expanded this awareness to acquaintances, or people we know only by sight, or simply the people we pass by in our daily routines? 

Do we dare go further? 

Could we act with awareness of people we’ve never met in places we’ll never see, people who have names we’ve never heard and speak languages we didn’t know existed? 

And further still, to the Earth herself?

A new year can be seen as an opportunity for deep introspection of who we are, who we want to become, and the world we want to create. My dreams for this world are simple in the sense that they exist in color and are textured with wind and water, mountains and stars. Any child could draw this, and then might add the people that I see smiling and holding and loving. 

But these dreams are impossible if I’m dreaming alone.

The solemnity of the Jewish calendar at this time of year, the emphasis on the collective and on one’s responsibility within it, reminds me that every time we water a new seed, smile at a stranger, hug a loved one, or share food with others, every time we partake in creating a better world, we are no longer dreaming alone.

Shalom aleichem, peace be upon you.

Some of my plants – September 2020

5781

Tonight is Erev Rosh Hashanah, the eve of the Jewish new year. We are celebrating 5781 journeys around the sun. These are 5781 journeys of love and loss, peace and war, fear and joy, hopelessness and solace.

Perhaps it’s because we’ve had such a strange six months that I’m not feeling the familiar ache to be with my family that I usually experience around the High Holy Days. I felt that ache acutely for weeks and weeks and perhaps I’m just accustomed to it now. I think the unprecedented life we’ve all been living is what has actually left me quite calm about my plans to welcome the new year quietly and with reflection rather than attending socially distant religious services in a normally communal environment.

Given everything, it seems fitting to begin a new year taking explicit action at making the world a better place – the world needs it. This is why I decided to go to the blood bank right after school. The queue both inside and at the door indicated that I was not the only one feeling the need to act and it was heartening to be in the company of so many strangers.

As I walked slowly home from the bus stop, I felt the strength of my heartbeat and I felt it working hard. The world needs us to work hard – it will not heal on its own.

As this year flows into the next my wish is, as always, for peace. Peace among friends, among strangers, with the earth, water, and air. And my commitment is to take actions to achieve it. I welcome all to join me.

Shana tovah u’metukah.

Auckland, New Zealand – December 2018