Category Archives: mystical experiences

Covering the Mirror.

 

The henna tinted haircut had become oily and matted. Clothes, twice worn, and I’d missed the shower in the a.m. It was nigh on 5:37, and the service was to begin at 6.

I looked a sight. Yet, the temple being a scant four minutes from the house, my heart told me that missing their open invitation would be the greater regret. Dabbing some under eye concealer, a bit of pink powder and a neutral lipstick, I fluffed what remained of the haircut, grabbed the short raincoat, and headed for State Street.

Turning left at the top of Cherry Street, my Pontiac soon joined a steady trough of traffic. Parking at the temple’s Jefferson Society lot was limited, and street options could extend north all the way down the hill if we didn’t get all the greens heading east. I wondered how many from as far away as Fairview had also accepted the invitation?

West of the stadium, cars were already lining the curb. But, two schoolbuses were also present, next to the academy. The stream of drivers was intended for their evening football game. My thymus relaxed, a little.

Reaching the temple, I was relieved to see a spot up from the Jefferson entrance. People were still walking from lot to front, and I joined them, hugging the mustard yellow rainjacket around my jeans to cut the wet chill. Sure enough, ladies were in mid calf skirts, men in dark dress, and then Jack, looking pensive, the news cam man who’d taken my one and only career black and white decades earlier. I resumed my customary cringe. Find a seat in the very back, slide in swiftly, say nothing. Stepping past the security guard and the packing, body armored special agent, I entered the foyer. There was Charles, standing at the door.

We greeted, me offering the self deprecating reference to shabby attire and he quick with the witty retort, something about God not caring and me hoping so. He, with his hearty, reassuring laugh.

My seat awaited, one of four in the far right rear row, two fellow Gentiles on either end. I sat beside Maria, who looked as Bavarian as if she’d just arrived from northern Minnesota.

The room was filling, rapidly. I recognized several, from various stages of my own history in our ageless community. The men, in their yarmulkes. A respected surgeon, in his, plus blue scrubs. An extremely tall gent, in his, ball of the hand curved over a carved walking stick. The current Erie County Executive. A former Mayor of Erie. At least two Mizrachi, with stronger noses in profile than hardly anyone saw anymore, likely never in a fashion rag. And, me, feeling every percentage of the Persian/Turk in my Ancestry.com DNA reveal.

I missed, quietly, Rabbi Len and Faith Lifshen, and their son, Moshe. This had been their temple, prior to the move south and Rabbi’s subsequent death. Turning to Maria I made mention of them, and pointed out the Ark of the Covenant glass encasement in the center of the altar. After my lengthy paragraph, she mentioned the Torah scrolls, me realizing that, yet again, I’d presumed the role of teacher rather than learner.

One of the last to enter was a short young woman, who chose the remaining seat beside me. She was the only female in a yarmulke within my sight line, and I hadn’t remembered ever seeing a woman wear one. Just as she became settled, removing her coat, around the aisle came a slender man who extended his open palm to the Gentile on the left end. He took the hand of each one of us in the back row, introducing himself and asking our names. He was the new Rabbi up from Pittsburgh, where he lived, to conduct the Shabbat Kaddish at Temple Brith Sholom.

This was my second Jewish service. At Yom Kippur, several musical colleagues and I had been invited to the other temple, across town, by another of us who, being a Jew, was slated to play the Kol Nidre on her flute. The rabbi that night was a woman, a guest from New York, and the remaining four vocal musicians and their pianist were all Gentiles but one.

The music at this Shabbat was all vocal. It was produced by the Rabbi, and his seasoned congregation.

After an earnest and warm welcome from, surprise! Doris, a retired teacher with whom I had worked nearly thirty years earlier, the rabbi explained in detail what we as the guests could expect from the service. He encouraged us to select a prayer book from the racks attached to the chairs in front of us. The prayer book pages were turned briskly, from rear to front, as the rabbi chanted in fluent Hebrew and the congregation sang along. I was reminded that, let alone a language strange to my tongue, unless I could see the notation my ability to retain a new melody was woeful. We sat, and stood; remained standing, and sat. Stood. Turned; bowed; sat, again. At each rise and return, a room filled with slightly damp athletic shoes squeaked, in chorus.

The Kaddish, Rabbi explained, was the congregational prayer, uttered in unison aloud. Some Shabbats were mourning Kaddish; this one would have two aspects, the first for private mourners and the second for the victims of the tragedy at Tree Of Life.

Just before the time had come to offer up the Kaddish, the Rabbi spoke in short sermon. He described the innumerable traditions which were the foundation of conservative Judaism. One point in particular spoke to me, as an aspect of mourning.

He said that Jews, by their nature and by their tradition, are open. They encourage emotional expression. Crying during mourning is a given. But, he also insisted, mourning was to be embodied. There would be no preparation of fine adornment; instead, Jews were to begin by eliminating bathing. They were to immerse themselves, entirely, in grief. And, to render this practice intently selfless, they were to cover all the mirrors in the house.

My eyes opened, wide. I looked at the Rabbi.

For that moment, and in the moments later, I stood in solidarity with God’s chosen people against both the recent horror and an entire epoch of vile hatred which had wrenched their global family. Soiled, unkempt; unclean, I was right there.

Out of body, present in spirit, I no longer saw myself.

Only Adonai.

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© 11/2/18    Ruth Ann Scanzillo.       littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Anniversary.

August 14.

It’s always somebody’s birthday.

And, I think I often forget that.

Today was also the wedding anniversary of R.A. and Paul. Paul was a really fun traveling companion, full of energy and optimistic anticipation. Loved birds, and trails, and fishing and hunting. Took this body all the way up Mt Washington, on foot, in spite of itself. Always eager to face a new day.

Poor thing got stuck married to the wrong woman. Yeah. It happens. People do things, especially when they crack 35 years old. He played the oboe like a pro, with no college degree in music; but, that still never meant that he should be with me.

So, this would have been our 25th anniversary. Maybe there would have been a couple kids. Hopefully, not unhappy, neurotic kids, but there might have been one or two. And, maybe we would have finally gone to Montreal, today, like we should have on our honeymoon. But, life has moved along and Montreal, last I checked, was still intact.

People say single women should just travel alone. There’s a whole world still waiting to be experienced from that singular point of view. And, according to a couple I know who have already been around the globe, there’s a cruise line they take that always has at least one of us on board. To the pure, all things are pure; not my place to question why.

Sigh. Maybe it’s time to plan a sea faring wardrobe. Today could be a really sad day. But, given the number of people who think I have it made, might be time to prove that to them. Or, to myself.

Happy Anniversary. Happy Birthday. Happy Day.

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© Ruth Ann Scanzillo  8/14/16   All rights those of the [single, female] author, whose story it is, and whose name appears above this line. Thank you for your deference.

littlebarefeetblog.com

Carter Brey’s Cadenza.

CarterBrey's Cadenza.

On March 17, 1987, New York Philharmonic principal ‘cellist Carter Brey performed as touring soloist with the Erie Philharmonic. At that time, I was a hired member of the EPO cello section. Rococo Variations and another work on tap, his selected candenza was one written by famed ‘Slava Rostropovich, who had been his principal teacher.

After its rehearsal, I approached him in the wings with what could only be termed the vacant, simple-minded slog of a bedazzled twenty-something, who had squandered all hope of scholarly insight by daydreaming during Cutler Silliman’s music history class.

“So…! What did you think of the cadenza?”, he tried, looking at me keenly, with expectation.

My response was incoherent.

(Twenty-seven years hence, that loop would replay in my head like the Voice of Chucky.) Hell bent on redeeming myself, I’d scuttled home and gotten to work. The result: this little morsel, which he would receive from me in snail mail. A copy, of course; I’d kept the original, just in case I’d wake up, say, twenty seven years later and realize it had all been a………..yeah. Time to learn the tune.

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© 1987 lettered collage by Ruth Ann Scanzillo, presented to Carter Brey that same year.

Originally published at littlebarefeetblog.com, with accompanying caption,  © November 20, 2014; Re-Posted on March 17, 2016

All rights strictly reserved, on the artwork and the blurb. Thanks. — Ruth Ann Scanzillo

littlebarefeetblog.com