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I’ve loved this poem for a long time. Linda Pastan’s idea of an almanac of last things inspires me in a way that a “bucket list” does not!

The Almanac of Last Things
From the almanac of last things
I choose the spider lily
for the grace of its brief
blossom, though I myself
fear brevity,

but I choose The Song of Songs
because the flesh
of those pomegranates
has survived
all the frost of dogma.

I choose January with its chill
lessons of patience and despair–and
August, too sun-struck for lessons.
I choose a thimbleful of red wine
to make my heart race,

then another to help me
sleep. From the almanac
of last things I choose you,
as I have done before.
And I choose evening

because the light clinging
to the window
is at its most reflective
just as it is ready
to go out.

I know there are folks who don’t want to contemplate the end of life, or any sort of loss, before they get there. For them it drains joy from the present moment.

For me, it’s the opposite. Every reminder that there will be a last this and a last that — including a last moment — deepens my gratitude for this moment and helps me “be here now.”

So a “last thing” has several meanings for me. It’s among the last things I want to give up. It’s among the things I want to be holding with gratitude and grace when my last moment comes. And it’s among the things I will need to let go of at the end, so it’s important that I appreciate it fully right now.

P.S. The ocean and the full moon are in my personal Almanac of Last Things. Both of them say life in a big way to me. And both are on the long list of blessings for which I can only say a heartfelt “Thank you…”

Rabbi Will Berkovitz is the senior vice president of Repair the World, a national organization that seeks to make service a defining element of American Jewish life. (RNS) On the eve of the Day of Atonement, the story goes, when the house was quiet, the tailor went to the closet and took out a ledger.

“Master of the Universe,” he said, “the time has come for You and me to reckon up our sins for this past year.” He began by listing the sins he had committed. Then he went back to the closet, took out a thicker, heavier notebook and said, “Lord, first I listed my sins, and now I will list Yours.”

When he was finished, he said, “To tell the truth, You owe me more than I owe You, but I’d just as soon not keep strict accounts. We are commanded to forgive the wrongs that have been done to us. Why don’t I just forgive You and You forgive me?”

So much of what we do during Yom Kippur is a recount of our sins — great and small. The tradition teaches: For transgressions between individuals and God, Yom Kippur atones. We ask God for forgiveness.

But increasingly, I am feeling like the tailor, that we are not the only ones who need forgiveness.

I have lost friends and family to cancer this year, and I feel outraged at God. I have been sickened by the images from mudslides, hurricanes and earthquakes, not to mention the suffering we humans bring upon each other in the name of religion, politics or just vengeance.

There are times when I feel like washing my hands of this abusive relationship. I want to scream into the whirlwind, into the void I was once sure God filled. I want to scream: “I don’t believe in you! We are alone in the universe. There is no master plan. There is no Power or Creator.”

God may not ask for my forgiveness, but yet I feel a need in my soul to struggle, like a drowning man, to forgive God for all God’s sins against humanity. If I do not forgive God, how can I believe in God? How can I stand and tell others to ask for God’s forgiveness?

When Ebola orphans thousands of children in Africa, I find it very difficult to stand, bow and recite the Barachu — a praise of God. What brings a mother to stand and recite the Kaddish — a declaration of God’s greatness — over her deceased daughter? Yes, I believe in the great and small miracles that surround us every day. And I believe God is present everywhere if we only look.

But that does not absolve God. I am demanding God take responsibility. I demand an accounting.

After I have listed the places where I was not my highest self, the places where I fell, after I continue that hard uncompromising look into my soul, after I ask for forgiveness, I will leave a silence. And then, like the tailor, I will list God’s sins against humanity. The places where God has tested the limits of my faith, those crevasses filled with doubt, anger and disappointment. The vast wasteland of uncertainty and frustration.

My religious life feels like one epic struggle to believe there is some Higher Order in the universe. When I am standing in a place of prayer, I bring my confusion and my doubts. But I ultimately strive to believe God is El Elyon, God on High. I may at times feel like I am talking to myself, but I struggle to believe I am standing before Ha’ribono shel ha’olam – the Master of the Universe. I want to believe there is a God to serve. And I believe that God needs forgiveness. If not for God’s sake, then for my own.

By forgiving God, I make God relevant in my life. By forgiving God, I can allow room for my doubts, my struggles, my confusion. By forgiving God, I maintain my relationship and a connection with God — no matter how tenuous it may be at times.

It is not easy to forgive, but I will.

Because I do not want to write off the relationship.

Because there is too much to be lost by simply walking away.

Because I want my young children to develop their own relationships and come to their own conclusions.

Because despite the pain, sorrow and suffering, I want my universe full of miracles, not devoid of them.

Because I do not want to be one more angry, old cynic in the world.

I want to believe a voice still calls out from Sinai, from heaven.

I want to engage in the eternal conversations with the ancestors and sages. Despite it all, I want to live my life in praise — and awe — in wonder and hope. Even if I am wrong, even if at the end there is nothing but darkness. Despite my overwhelming desire to walk the other way, I will strive to forgive. Despite it all, I want to surround myself with the people of Jacob, of Israel, with those who struggle with God.

That is why I will forgive God.

And as the final shofar blasts and the gates of heaven close, I want to feel I am forgiven by God. I have faith in the power of that two-way forgiveness. When I forgive God, God becomes a force in the world, not some dusty ancient relic. When I forgive God, God reigns. And God regains some exalted place in the universe and in my life.

So, I will take the lead and forgive God. I will shout forgiveness into the whirlwind. And please God, forgive us. Please God, forgive me.

(Rabbi Will Berkovitz is chief executive officer of Jewish Family Service of Seattle, a 122-year-old agency that delivers essential human services.) 

KRE/MG END BERKOVITZ

Robin and Linda Williams with Garrison Keillor and Richie Gorski on the synthesizer…

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Across the Blue Mountains

One morning, one morning, one morning in May
I heard a married man to a young girl say
“Go dress you up, Pretty Katie, and come go with me
Across the Blue Mountains to the Allegheny.

“I’ll buy you a horse, love, and saddle to ride
I’ll buy myself another to ride by your side
We’ll stop at every tavern we’ll drink when we’re dry
Across the Blue Mountains go my Katie and I

“Well, up spoke her mother, and angry was she then
“Sayin’ daughter, oh dear daughter, he’s a married man
And there’s young men aplenty more handsome than he
Let him take his own wife to the Allegheny”

“Oh mother, oh mother, he’s the man of my heart
And wouldn’t it be a dreadful thing if we should have to part
I’d envy every woman who I’d ever see
Go ‘cross the Blue Mountains to the Allegheny”

(Well the last time I saw him, he was saddled to ride
With Katie, his darling, right there by his side
A laughing and a singing and thankful to be free
To cross the Blue Mountain to the Allegheny)

We left before daybreak on a buckskin and roan
Past tall shivering pines where mockingbirds moan
Past dark cabin windows where eyes never see
Across the Blue Mountains to the Allegheny

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Past dark cabin windows where eyes never see
Across the Blue Mountains to the Allegheny

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river rock collection spot near harrisonburg

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My last travel in life with my husband was across these mountains to a new home together.

It lasted for another twenty-five years.  I am so glad we made the trip and took the chance.

We did it about the same time that this recording was made and I much remember going with him to hear Robin and Linda sing together in a lovely Virginia venue.

One of our many cherished memories.

Most of these photos were taken on our travels through the Allegheny Mountains and through the Shenandoah River area which is also captured here.  The first photo were taken in the Allegheny mountains in May and the two river pictures were taken of the Shenandoah, also in May.

Photo: WORD FOR THE DAY - www.gratefulness.org<br /><br />
Sunday, Jul. 6</p><br />
<p>You do not need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith, and hope.</p><br />
<p>Thomas Merton<br /><br />
(photo by André Rau)

WORD FOR THE DAY – www.gratefulness.org
Sunday, Jul. 6

You do not need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith, and hope.

Thomas Merton
(photo by André Rau)

 

 

Photo: WORD FOR THE DAY - www.gratefulness.org Tuesday, Jul. 1 I try to remind myself that we are never promised anything, and that what control we can exert is not over the events that befall us but how we address ourselves to them. Jeanne DuPrau The Earth House (photo by Werner Orac)

WORD FOR THE DAY – www.gratefulness.org
Tuesday, Jul. 1

I try to remind myself that we are never promised anything, and that what control we can exert is not over the events that befall us but how we address ourselves to them.

Jeanne DuPrau
The Earth House
(photo by Werner Orac)

petrolyths

 

WORD FOR THE DAY
Wednesday, May. 28

My brain is only a receiver; in the Universe there is a core from which we obtain knowledge, strength, and inspiration. I have not penetrated into the secrets of this core, but I know that it exists.

Nikola Tesla
(photo by A.T. Mann)

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Joan of Arc

I know this now. Every man gives his life for what he believes. Every woman gives her life for what she believes. Sometimes people believe in little or nothing yet they give their lives to that little or nothing. One life is all we have and we live it as we believe in living it. And then it is gone. But to sacrifice what you are and live without belief, that's more terrible than dying.--

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Beannacht

On the day when
the weight deadens
on your shoulders
and you stumble,
may the clay dance
to balance you.

And when your eyes
freeze behind
the grey window
and the ghost of loss
gets in to you,
may a flock of colours,
indigo, red, green,
and azure blue
come to awaken in you
a meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays
in the currach of thought
and a stain of ocean
blackens beneath you,
may there come across the waters
a path of yellow moonlight
to bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow
wind work these words
of love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.

John O'Donohue, Echoes of Memory