Where to begin?
In the woods.
I went to the woods to think about the things I was leaving behind. To think about stillness, about self-ness, about wild-ness. I also went to the woods to live with 54 other people who were all also thinking about self-ness and wildness and stillness. Needless to say, it wasn’t very still.
But in the woods I sang and taught songs. I read and I wrote. I baked sourdough bread, made cultured butter, yogurt, and mayonnaise. I shared my food rhythms with a community and I saw those rhythms blossom. and I spent time alone, on docks with earplugs in stillness. plunging into icy water. in parking lots with computers at night. in a cabin in the woods by the water. looking at stars.
Then, suddenly, I left the woods. I put myself and my belongings back into a car and I drove the car down the coast and I ended in a traffic jam in NYC which I experienced with a glowing sense of calm. I brought a little bit of the woods with me.
And NYC became about yiddish, a wilderness and a wildness all its own.
I people power myself to and from school, winding through cars and people on my bicycle and marveling at the motion and the enormity of it. The world looks best from the seat of a bicycle.
and I’m finally learning the language of my ancestors. The funny immigrant concoctions are enlightened by the grammatical constructions of the mame loshn– the mother tongue. we sing songs from bund-ist schools/camps, folk songs, and school songs. We debate the merits of cats vs. dogs in a (supposedly) dying language. we breathe life into something that is full of stories. full of magic.
the days of the week: sunday, monday, tuesday, midweek, thursday, friday, shabes.
night time: day by night. friday night: friday by night. (it’s special because it’s erev shabes)
the fact that there are 7 names for potatoes.
that one of my teachers records a yiddish cooking show (!!!) for the forverts.
that a viable response to “what’s new” is, “what should be new?”
and peanuts are called moishe rabeinu nuts because when you split a peanut in half a small notch is left that looks like the face of a bearded man.
So my days are full of yiddish now. and cultural context for yiddish. and then hours spent wondering how in the world I’m going to transport the things I love about this swirling existence back with me.
Is there room for this in Detroit?
In school, the conversation is: why preserve/what is jewish difference/separateness? we think about eastern european jewish communities, choices and non-choices, and the same questions simmer constantly. what does it mean to be an other. what does it mean to want to be an other. and why do jews take comfort in otherness. what lessons to learn, what things to consider.
so, for now, I ride my bike to school listening to contemporary yiddish music mixed with old, and I think about the ways that my city (read: detroit) is hungry. what am I going to bring home from here? what food, what morsels.