BLESSING THE SEA – ISSUE 20, February 2023 “Back to the Sea”

The coming storm, Long Beach, Calif. © Lane Igoudin, 2023

The sea refuses no river
And right now this river’s banks are blown
The sea refuses no river
Whether stinking and rank
Or red from the tank
Whether pure as a spring
There’s no damned thing [that] stops the poem
The sea refuses no river
And this river is homeward flowing

Pete Townshend (1982)

Dear Friends,

This is the 20th issue of my newsletter which started in the middle of the pandemic. I’ve been asked a few times about the title, “Blessing the Sea” – sounds poetic, metaphorical, but what does it actually mean?

It came from a little known, but deeply meaningful, traditional Jewish blessing upon seeing a large body of water, like the ocean near where I live. Does seeing the sea – its grandeur, its moving vastness, its immeasurable unknown – make you catch your breath?

And that’s just the sight of it. Add in the sound of crashing waves, or, in northern climates, the blue, frozen silence, our senses and heart are thrown open to the divinity of creation – an experience which encourages one to exclaim:

Blessed are you, Lord, Majesty of the world, who made the great sea.

Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheynu Melech ha-olam, she-asa et ha-yam ha-gadol

Like the pewter-gray waves of a stormy sea, the earthquake in Turkey and Syria, the midwinter weather here in the US, the political winds here and abroad arouse much grief and uncertainty these days. Zen Center LA recently circulated a video of an interview between Stephen Colbert and Anderson Cooper on appreciation of grief.

The conversation is insightful. To me, it revealed Colbert, usually an acerbic comedian, in an unexpected light.

“I want to be the most human I can be,” he told Cooper, “and that involves being grateful for the things I wish I didn’t have.”
Well said.

A powerful metaphor from the recent earthquake. In one Turkish town, it killed, among many, the head of the Jewish community and his wife.

Yet, out of its rubble emerged a timeless scroll – the Book of Esther, which we will read in its entirety at Purim a week from now. We pass on; our heritage lives on.

About those chilling political winds: January 22, 2023 marked the 50th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Since its overturn last June, bans on abortion have taken effect in 13 states, and courts, for now, have blocked abortion bans in 9 others.

I proudly support Cobalt, a Colorado organization, which has been assisting hundreds of women streaming in from Texas and other states where abortions are now illegal with things like plane tickets, lodgings, and child care.

For many of them, Colorado is their closest destination. Here is also a recent NPR story about Cobalt-supported clinics.

A couple of recent speaking events I participated in.

Nov. 29, UCLA panel for graduate students on careers in community college teaching. More than 50 students came, and we stayed talking for almost 3 hours!

Dec. 10, California Writers Club, Long Beach – reading “Out of the Dark Depths,” which just came out in Parabola (Winter 2022-23), at our annual reading. Love this wonderfully supportive group of writers.

And finally, speaking of photos, are you good at guessing the year a photo was taken?

If you think you are, try ChronoPhoto, a free online game where the only clues are fashion, hairstyles, and maybe cars, like this photo of Long Beach, my hometown, in 1952.

Warmest regards and see you again soon!


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