February 2015


I wanted to use the entire page and paint broad, graceful brush strokes.

But of what? What colors? What scene?

Nothing came to mind. So Glenna and I mined the photos and pictures in her studio. I looked at colors – some bold and striking, some muted pastels, and others were dark browns/black. I saw shapes, designs, abstracts of natural forms, and photographs of ocean scenes. We even found Arthur Dove’s paintings of George Gershwin’s music in abstract! Now that was playfully fun!

I wasn’t going to paint music…not just yet.

I wanted muted color. I wanted ocean and sky…and a little beach. And possibly try a new technique. With a broad brush, and of course purple, I began painting sky. Soft, wispy cloud-like sky. Adding water to the paint softened the color, making some of it transparent.

Relaxing a bit, and feeling a bit adventurous, I looked for orange. But what shade of orange? Not ORANGE, but orange…quiet, subtle orange; an orange that would mix gently with the purple.

Feeling bolder still, and playful, I added arch-like strokes – reaching upward toward the heavens. And then blended the orange with a pastel yellow. The flowing wispy colors opened my lungs; I could breathe now.

Moving down the page, on a low horizon line, I found the ocean. Blue – aquamarine blue – with gentle waves. And as the water reached the brown beach, the waves kicked up a bit. White crests against the blue and brown.

Wispy strokes created soft sky and ocean breezes.

Anyone for a walk along my beach?

ocean and sky 02242015

Today, 29 Shevat 5775 (Feb. 18, 2015), was the 30th day since my father’s burial; it’s a turning point in my mourning. I move into a different level of mourning with some of the limitations lifted. This journey is gradual, slowly moving me from intense grief to less intense grief. I’m gently guided through the process of feeling pain, conjuring up warm memories, learning, and growing.

This morning I thought of Dad’s essence – who he was at his core. Some of the key lessons called out: do the right thing and love family and friends. His warm, radiant smile that lit up his face. And yes, his struggles. Toward the end, he struggled with faith. During his life, he struggled to make sense of the challenges he faced. He never did make peace with the war experience…I don’t know how he would have done that, given what he saw (which he never discussed in detail).

What can I emphasize in my life because this man was my Dad?

  • Live ethically and morally
  • Love my family for who they are
  • Focus on the solution
  • Don’t give up on someone you love
  • Stay focused on a goal that’s worthwhile

And I add this premise: Keep Hashem in the picture as I work toward the goal.

  • Always grow…emotionally, spiritually, and in learning.

For me, “growing” means learning more about Hashem and His Torah and applying the lessons to my life.

**

May these words and my studies over the past 30 days be merits for the elevation of my father’s neshama (soul) – Yoel Meir ben Simcha.

With tremendous gratitude to Rebbetzin Lori Palatnik and Rabbi Yaakov Palatnik for Remember My Soul (K’hal Publishing, ©1998, 2006 & second printing July 2013). This inspirational sefer (book) guided me – and continues to guide me – through this process.

 

Water flows gently from the fountain outside the studio window. Methodically, rhythmically the water cascades down the fountain. Inside mirrors the calmness I hear outside. I’m surrounded by vibrant paintings of red and deep pink flowers, boats with white sails on blue-purple waves, and blue-green ocean views.

I want to paint the ocean…but not an exact replica of the ocean. I envision blue, teal, aqua, and light versions of those colors. I want the calm and cool, soothing blue and greens.

So I begin to paint. Tentatively experimenting with a blue-green, I add more water to see the effect. The color turns light blue. When I leave the brush on a spot, that spot turns dark. I’m fascinated by the effect of water on the color, on the page.

I relax. The boxes aren’t perfect shapes…they are perfect colors. My mind wanders to the ocean and my brush paints arching strokes like big waves. The experiment is perfectly relaxing.

**

Before my Dad passed away, I had started the painting lessons and shared that new venture with him. He told me about a cousin we had who was an artist. Dad always tried to connect the current event with some event from the past. This was a cousin I’d never heard of who had come from Europe during WWII. Through art, I learned a new piece of family history. Dad smiled while we chatted – that encouraging broad smile.

Dad – this one, inspired by the ocean – is for you!

watercolor-ocean inspiration

**

Yoel Meir ben Simcha, may these words be a merit for the elevation of your soul.

**

And with gratitude to my instructor, Glenna Rosansky – See us at GloriaArtStudio @ Etsy.com

Today was one of those days that lots went not the way I would have liked it.

  • Woke up late.
  • Consequently, didn’t get to write in the quiet early morning; no early morning check-in with myself.
  • Dumped half the cereal from the bowl the floor (gratefully, that was before I added the milk).
  • Spilled the portion of peanut butter on the counter instead of into a bowl.
  • Took too long to drink my coffee, so it got cold.
  • Confused about work assignments.
  • Went to the local grocery store and forgot what I needed.
  • Somehow muddled through the rest of the day without major catastrophes, typos, or hurting anyone.

So here I am at almost the end of “one of those days”, all these hours later, I have a different perspective.

  • I woke up late which means I have a comfy bed to sleep in and a roof over my head.
  • I’m writing now; it’s a late night check-in instead of an early morning meeting with myself – so what?
  • Dumping my cereal and spilling the peanut butter mean I had food to eat! (I ate my lunch and dinner very neatly, thank you!)
  • Cold coffee for half the cup means it was hot for the first half of the cup!
  • Confused at work? That means I have a job, for which I’m grateful – I can save some of the income, pay my living expenses, and even use some of it for fun activities.
  • So I bought some things I didn’t need at the grocery store! Not a big deal – I still bought healthy items. (I walked right by the chips!)
  • No catastrophes – even minor ones – is a cause for celebration!

What a great day it was! I’m grateful for the little things and the wonderful friends and family in my life!

**

Yoel Meir ben Simcha – may these words help elevate your neshama (soul).

 

Deep purple, painted in graceful, soft lines that swirl down the page. Light purple uneven dots and dashes move in between the soft airy lines. The purples join the blues at the top of the page. Then soft, deep, contoured blue lines move gently down toward the deep purple. Parallel uneven blue dots and dashes slide in between soft blue lines.

We hold the painting at different angles, my teach and I. We explore the possibilities, the concepts represented.

The lines are paths – sometimes deep and full of underbrush; we need a lot of energy to navigate those paths. Sometimes we get stuck in the fallen branches, or have to climb over large rocks. Other paths are shallow and light. We traverse those paths easily.

And sometimes we come to a respite with a calm cool lake full of blue-purple waters. The walking path is clear, surrounded by tall pungent smelling pine. We walk in circles, enjoying the view and relaxing.

When we’re ready, we choose the next path.

Is it the easy, light blue one? Or the thick purple road?

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference!” (from “The Road Not Taken”, Robert Frost; see my first blog post)

Yes – I took the thick purple path…the one less traveled by.

 The road less traveled

**

May these words be a merit for the elevation of my father, Yoel Meir ben Simcha.

 

It’s Thursday night and I’m painfully aware that I can’t call Dad and hear him say, “Good Shabbos.” For close to a decade, we had a Thursday night routine – we rarely missed a week, even when I lived in Cleveland or travelled.

“Hi, Dad. How are you?”

“Sherri – where are you? Aren’t you traveling back from Mobile, AL?”

“Yep. It’s Thursday night, though, and while I hang out in Dallas for my connecting flight, I wanted to wish you ‘Good Shabbos’.”

“Dallas? Right – that’s your favorite airport for connections! Good for you. Fly home safely and have a good Shabbos! Love you!”

“Love you, Dad!”

It’s Thursday night. I have a hole in my soul…there’s something missing, something profound isn’t there. And I don’t know how to fill it.

Dad…I’m thinking of you. I hope you have an inspiring, uplifting Shabbos up in shomayim (“the heavens”).

Good Shabbos, Dad. I love you!

Ready for Shabbos

May these words be a merit for the elevation of the soul of Yoel Meir ben Simcha.

 

Let me connect the dots. Tu B’Shevat is the 15th of the Hebrew month of Shevat, the new year for the trees (February 4, 2015). The sap – life force – begins to flow in the trees on Tu B’Shevat. How does this connect with my Dad?

Rooted in the ground, the strength of the tree depends upon the depth of its roots. Roots are the source, and as long as a tree is connected to its source, it grows. Like trees, we humans need roots, something that anchors us. When we’re given the foundation, we grow into healthy, strong adults. Eventually we send out branches, and sometimes drop a few acorns along the way. Like the tree’s branches, we continually reach upward.

Tree at lake-Lakewood, NJ

Tree at lake-Lakewood, NJ

Dad’s tree started in Brooklyn, NY – yes, a tree does grow in Brooklyn! His family nurtured him and he sent down deep roots. Those roots anchored him through the storms of WWII (European theatre), his college days, marriage, fatherhood (we were easy kids, right?), businessman, and community leader. Dad kept reaching higher educationally, socially, and spiritually.

He studied with his Men’s Torah Study group, even from his wheelchair. He enjoyed the visits from his family and friends, even when he could only sit in his recliner.

Dad could always make conversation and continued to be curious about the world – even when he couldn’t get out an enjoy it. A week before he passed away, I read him a business riddle from the newspaper. He thought about the clues and worked hard to solve it.

About a month or so ago, the roots shook and threatened to topple the tree. It almost keeled over prematurely. One if its branches (you know who you are–and thank you!) helped right the trunk. The tree remained attached to its roots for another few weeks.

Then slowly, perceptibly, the trunk severed itself from its roots. The core of the tree didn’t make it to Tu B’Shevat this year. But the essence did. Now it’s those acorns that need to deepen their roots, send out branches and reach to the heights.

Thanks, Dad, for showing us how!

Dad and Ari - Jan 13 2015

Dad and Ari – last night of conscious sharing

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May these words be a merit for the elevation of the soul of Yoel Meir ben Simcha.

Information about trees and Tu B’Shevat from teleconference with Rebbetzin Tehila Jaeger, Feb. 3, 2015

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