The influence of gaslight or electric light on the growth of paraheliotropic trees

bonebrushing the edges of the res interna (upper transcend)

I got a name for the newborn child

When we brought our son home, he was nameless.

Untimely ripped from my sweet wife’s womb, my wife feeling the pain of them stuffing her back together, screaming to take him away so he would not hear her cries, me calling for relief, the doctors shooting her with a dirty cocktail of narcotics and benzos and disassociates, the three days in the cell of the hospital were dark for her, and we–not having a name when we went in, two weeks early–did not have a name coming out.

Little and precious he rested on my chest, ventral to ventral, joy and love and happiness flooding my brain like no drug I have ever taken–little and precious, having to call him something, I called him Squirrel, and it was enough, enough for a day, enough for another, enough for one more after that–nameless, but loved. My boy. My son. My love.

He was born on a Friday, at 10 or so AM (all Caesareans are born in those golden hours between a doctor’s arrival and a doctor’s lunch), and we came home on a Monday, me trembling, sitting in the back, next to our boy, Margaux driving, still on a mild opiate–a coward I was, failing her, but maybe I’ve held her up in other ways, maybe–

Anyway, Lady Digression, we came home on a Monday, and we planned to circumcise him on Friday, and the Ritual Cutter, he asked us for a name, and then he asked us again, and Wednesday came around, and I said to my sweetheart, I said to my love–

“Margaux, we have to name him.”

And my mother watched him, while we sat upstairs and tried to name our newborn child. And we compared our lists–names like Wyatt and Ezekiel and Jed–but nothing was working, so I said, well, how about meaning? Perhaps we can find a name in some meaning?

And I had been reading the weekly Torah portion since my father died, and the weekly portion for the Sabbath that the boy was born into was Jethro, named for Moses father-in-law, who, after the Exodus, came with Moses’ wife and children and found Moses in the desert with all the Children of Israel. And when Jethro arrives in the camp, Moses leaves his tent, and bows and does homage to his father-in-law, and Moses’ brother, Aaron, bows and does the same, and the entire nation, they come, and they do the same–not knowing who Jethro was, but knowing that if the Redeemer would honor such a man, well, such was a man who must be honored–

And I picture Jethro, seeing the stranger shepherd who had come from foreign lands and married his daughter, gave him grandsons, now at the head of a nation–

And then Moses tells Jethro of all that had happened, of the Plagues, and the Exodus, and the Sea that Split, and Jethro said, Yours, Yours is a Great God, the Greatest God, and Jethro went with them on, onwards to the Mountain.

So I tell my love this story, and she says, Ok, let’s name him Jethro, and I say, No, not Jethro–

And my father died the day before Pentecost, the day that commemorates the Revelation on the Mountain, and Squirrel, Squirrel was conceived on Pentecost, in the house of my father’s spirit, and would not have been conceived except that my days of mourning and withdrawal from my love were shortened because of the joy of the Festival, the commandment to take joy in the Festival, even in our sadness and our grief–

And after my father died, I prayed most days, most mornings, I could not go to the House of Assembly and say the Kaddish with the Ten, but I could pray, and I could say psalms, and there is one psalm, Psalm 30, and it says, You turned my Mourning into Dancing, You Removed my Sackcloth and Clothed Me with Joy–and I would say that Psalm near everyday, and think of how, even while my father slept his dreamless endless sleep in the bosom of the Earth, my son was growing, sleeping his dreamless sleep in the ocean of my true love’s womb–and I thought–Oh, World, Oh, Universe, Oh, Time, You have Turned my Mourning into Dancing, You Have Removed my Sackcloth and Clothed me with Joy–

But back to the story, me, and her, me, telling her again, the story of the Mountain, of how the Sages say that every Jewish soul was present at Sinai, every Jewish soul that ever was and ever will be, those born to the faith and those who come to it, like my father, and if this was true, it would mean that I was there, and she was there, and our son was there, and my father was there, and her mother was there, all of us, all of us together at the Mountain, there, to experience the Revelation–the Undeniable Revelation–

But what were the names of these souls who stood there, at the foot of the mountain–I wanted to name him for them, not Moses, standing apart, at the top, not Joshua, halfway up, not Aaron, watching the people nervously below–not them, but the people, those who witnessed–

And I thought back to a lesson my friend George passed to me that he had learned from a professor at Penn, Will Harris, that the New Testament was simply the Old Testament told again, but whereas the Old Testament was the story of a nation, the New Testament reflected that same story through the story of an individual–and if the Passion and Easter was the Exodus, then the Pentecost, well that was the Pentecost, the Risen Son appearing to the Apostles forty-nine days later–

Who among them, who among them was a witness to revelation–

Thomas the Doubter.

And the lightbox in my pocket told me that Thomas meant twin, and some said that he was Jesus’ Twin, and I smiled to think it, twelve apostles, two who looked the same, who are they, that’s Jesus, and his Twin Brother, and Thomas, when the reports first came that Jesus had risen and was not dead, he denied it, he said, I will not believe, not till I put my hands in his wounds–and if Thomas was his brother, well, then I can understand that–Don’t tell me, Thomas says, Don’t Tell, Me who Loved him more than Anyone, Don’t Tell He’s Not Dead, and then, then, Jesus came, and said, Oh Thomas, Oh Thomas, Touch My Wounds–and Thomas said, No, That’s Ok, I believe.

And Jesus said “Blessed is Thomas, who sees and believes, and blessed are those who have not seen and still believes.”

And my wife and I, we were doubters, skeptics both, skeptics of everything, skeptical of God, skeptical of love, skeptical that this world, this hard hard world, has any comfort in it–but our boy, our boy before us, our love that made him, our love for each other, our love for our dead parents–such love–we cannot doubt it. We cannot doubt it anymore.

I see my father in my dreams. I often remember to hug him. When I wake, I see my son, and hold him as often as I can.

Thomas the Doubter. Who Believes What Cannot Be Denied.

In my dream, I can hold you

In my dream last night, I was in an attic–mine?–with my father, and we were going through things, picking up things, and looking at them, and talking, I think, and then, I looked at him, and went to him, and hugged him, hugged him so tight, and said, “I’m sorry, I’m trying to carry this–”

And then I woke, and remembered he was dead, dead now for fourteen months–and sad again, and grateful, to have seen him, to have held him, one more time–and I think, how lucky I am, that in these dreams, these dreams I have of him, I always remember to go to him, to hold him–

And I’ve been thinking lately about how after he died, my mother moved, my brother moved, I moved–all of us are in different places, but, like him, we are all not where we were–

I think about him, and how, if he were a ghost, would he be able to find us?

I know where he is, where his body lies, in a field, thirty miles to the north and east of where I sit, typing these words.

I love you, old man. I love you.

The Travails of Time

by Judah Abrabanel

Time with his pointed shafts has hit my heart
and split my guts, laid open my entrails,
landed me a blow that will not heal
knocked me down, left me in lasting pain…
He did not stop at whirling me around,
exiling me while yet my days were green
sending me stumbling, drunk, to roam the world…
He scattered everyone I care for northward,
eastward, or to the west, so that
I have no rest from constant thinking, planning—
and never a moment’s peace, for all my plans.

The 44rd Day of the Omer

My father had a grand mal seizure on the 1st day of the Omer last year, and he died on the 48th Day. This year, I have been counting, and I have been growing my beard. At first, I looked like him–he who was nearly always bearded, for as long as I knew him–now, the beard is longer. I look like nobody. A fierce barbarian; a homeless depressive–hiding in plain sight. Hiding in plane site.

I remember being a small child–visually and viscerally–being in the gym of my elementary school, waiting for the bus, when a beardless man in the suit came in and said he was here to pick me up–it was my Dad, but he had shaved his beard, and I didn’t recognize him–he, like, had to really convince me.

And as I type this story, and smile, and smile at it, I realize that I am now the only witness to it. Oh, how desperately I want to share it with him–to ask him, “remember that time,” and laugh at it–

My little son, Tom, three months old, thinks I’m funny. And I stood in the hallway yesterday, looking in the mirror, looking at my bearded face, thinking that I might only live another twenty years (since my father only outlived his father by twenty years, and he was not so much older than me when his father died) and that this would mean I would be leaving Tom when he is only 20–

Oh, I hope not. I’m sorry, Tom. I’m sorry I didn’t give you more of my time. I’m so sorry.

As part of getting the house ready, I have organized my library according to the Library of Congress Classification System, which unfortunately tends to privilege geography over subject–and in so doing, have identified gaps–books I have lost, and books I never had–though some measure of the gaps makes me think there is a missing box of books somewhere in the house, and in it, a copy of Dune and Gravity’s Rainbow.

Regardless. A new box of books, from the World’s Bookstore, is arriving today, to replace and supplement and complete. Piers Plowman, and Dune, and Gravity’s Rainbow, and many others. And one book for Tom, an early 20th century Mother Goose, illustrated by Arthur Rackham. Online, in the preview, the third rhyme calls Jane a dirty slut for selling her bed and sleeping on a dirt floor. Oh well. We cannot judge the past by the standards of the present (?)

Tom stirs. He is beautiful. I love him.

This is what the website I am reading says about the Seventh Week of the Omer, which is the Week of Malchut, Sovereignty:

Sovereignty – the last of the seven attributes – is different than the previous six. It is a state of being rather than an activity.

Leadership is a passive expression of human dignity which has nothing of its own except that which it receives from the other six emotions.

On the other hand, malchut manifests and actualizes the character and majesty of the human spirit. It is the very fiber of what makes us human. When love, discipline, compassion, endurance and humility are properly channeled into the psyche through bonding – the result is malchut. Bonding nurtures us and allows our sovereignty to surface and flourish.

Malchut is a sense of belonging. Knowing that you matter and that you make a difference. That you have the ability to be a proficient leader in your own right. It gives you independence and confidence. A feeling of certainty and authority. When a mother lovingly cradles her child in her hands and the child’s eyes meet the mother’s affectionate eyes, the child receives the message that I am wanted and needed in this world. I have a comfortable place where I will always be loved. I have nothing to fear. I feel like a king in my heart. This is malchut, kingship.

My father dreamed of climbing a mountain. He was born in Tokyo, in the land of the Rising Sun, and he died in Philadelphia, in the fullness of May, with the sunset. He died on the day of Bonding in Sovereignty. The way that Bonding contributes to Belonging. He wandered all his young life, a nomad with his family, servants of the nation, and then rested for a time in his teenage years on the cusp of manhood in the City of St. Peter on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico, until lonesome and restless, he traveled north, to a cold and mean industrial city which bitterly and ironically proclaimed itself the City of Brotherly Love, even as it besieged and dropped bombs on its brothers, even as it was a cold and hard place to emigrate too, even as it took part in the same Rust Belt decline and retrenchment that was the dark-side of the Reagan Revolution–

And he spent his life here, with a young girl who became a young woman, and they became the parents of three, raised in a little twin house with a little yard and just enough space to grow corn, unusual, unreal, and he became friends with his brother-in-law, who lived around the block, in a similar small house, and he went to work, riding the bus to the El, and taking the El into the center of the city, the bright lights, and sitting in offices, and coming home, to regal his oldest son with tales of business and office politics and bad bosses and daily frustrations–and he became an author, and his full bookshelves had a few books with his name along their spine–a good name–and his children grew up, and great success never came, and he struggled, and they struggled, and they succeeded, and while his sons were somewhat trackless, his daughter was strong and amazing, and after nine long years in love with the same man, who bore a spiritual resemblance to him, she married, his daughter, this man, in a carousel house by the sea in Connecticut, and he was there, and when his first granddaughter was born, a few years later, he was there, and when his second was born, a few years after that, he was there, and being a grandfather was the joy of his life, the great great joy of his life, and he had everything he had ever wanted, and then, one day, while out picking pumpkins in anticipation of the Hallows, he went blank, and his daughter, his wonderful, observant, brilliant daughter, saw, and got him to the hospital, where they found the little pumpkin in his head, the bullet-flower that was going to kill him–and I got the news the way a trackless son gets such news, after three missed calls from my mother, his wife–and I saw him that evening, in a hospital bed, scared but strong, but most of all, worried, so worried, for me, and he asked me how I was doing–

Oh Dad. Oh Father. I cried warnings to you, I cried pain to you, of the Great Fear of the Future Day, the Day in which I would sit next to you in a room and watch you die. And when the day came–after 47 days of struggle, and confusion, and tumult, as we watched your body fail, as we watched you age, and get weaker, lose your legs, and lose your continence, and then consciousness, but as you stayed strong with us to the end–oh, I thought we had more time–I thought we had more time–and you, having to make decisions, while failing–to go into hospice and discontinue treatment–

I didn’t know how little time you had. Until closer to the end. And then I wondered if you would go with the Omer–

Through it all, I chose not to fight it, I chose not to deny it, I chose to accept this bad and terrible reality, and deal with it, put my shoulder to the grindstone and push, do what needed to be done, as best I could–

But in so accepting, I was denying something else–denying my shock, denying my rage, denying the injustice, denying everything I had ever written in this long scroll, this long screed, the what, the what, the Rage Against the Dying of the Light–

We were told by the hospice nurse you were actively dying. I did not care, other than to know how we could help you be comfortable–we were told prior to that we were nearing the end; I did not care, I knew it, and I wanted to know what we needed to do. I watched you die, and I did not care, other than to be with you, and hold your hand, and let Sarah speak, and say kind words to help ease your passing away—your dying.

I guess the hardest moment for me was not the final vigil, but the day before, when following the advice of hospice, we increased your Ativan, knowing that would mean that you would never really wake up again, and we each had a moment, alone, in the Sun Room, with you, and I don’t remember it perfectly clearly, but I remember weeping, and looking at you, and I’m weeping now, as I type this, trying to remember, remembering the room, remembering the light of the setting sun, remembering your face, puffed somewhat with steroids, but still strong, your beard, your strong beard, finally, finally white.

Yesterday, Tom, two months old, discovered physical agency (at a distance, no less), kicking at the floor and wall of his bassinet and then delighting in how it made the mobile objects shake.

Good Friday

It is Good Friday. A year ago, Good Friday was on April 10th, and my father–with his brain tumor accelerating and changing and moving into its final form–had a gran mal seizure in the room in his house called the Sun Room. Last year, it occurred on the 1st day of the Omer–Chesed beChesed, Lovingkindness in Lovingkindness–and began for him the period of his illness which the literature refers to as End of Life.

I had deliberately avoided reading about the End of Life during his disease, which he had now had for about a year and a half–I think once, early on, I had read about it. Then, at some point during this period–after Good Friday, I think–as he got, in the words of Warren Zevon, “all fucked up,” I read it again. The literature was concerning–for many people with glioblastoma multiforme, End of Life typically meant just more and more sleep–

And as I type this, I think of my newborn son, Thomas, upstairs, who, now, seven weeks since his birth, is beginning to sleep a little less each day–a year after the death of my father which was the culmination of a seven week period in which he slept more and more until finally his eyes closed forever–I am looking at my son’s blue eyes widen and waken more and more–

As I said, the literature was concerning–while most with GBM had relatively peaceful Ends of Life, others had more troubling experiences–hallucinations and the like–it was upsetting–

At this point, however, on Good Friday, we did not necessarily see this as the Beginning of the End–we had been told that as the disease progressed, the likelihood of seizure would increase–

I don’t remember exactly what happened after. Margaux and I had been there for the two Seders, and my sister had stayed on, so her and her husband and the girls were there for the seizure–I didn’t come that night, I don’t think–maybe the next day? Maybe that night. I don’t know. I don’t remember.

I go to look at my photographs. I have a photo from Holy Saturday in my apartment, of five Lego Voltron tigers, lined up on a bookshelf. So I wasn’t in Elkins Park then. The following day, I have a photo of a calendar, taken at 5:29 PM, which we laid out with my sister and her husband and Margaux providing a schedule where one child would be with our parents every day–two days on and four days off. On April 14, there is the photo of a check taken in Elkins Park for the plumber to fix the output pipe from their kitchen, which S clogged when she tried to shove potatoes down the garbage disposal–

But back to Good Friday.

And what it meant. And what it means.

This is what Chabad says about Week 1 and Day 1 of the Omer:

Week 1 – Chesed

Love is the single most powerful and necessary component in life. Love is the origin and foundation of all human interactions. It is both giving and receiving. It allows us to reach above and beyond ourselves. To experience another person and to allow that person to experience us. It is the tool by which we learn to experience the highest reality – G‑d. In a single word: love is transcendence.

Day 1 – Chesed b’Chesed

Examine the love aspect of love. The expression of love and its level of intensity. Everyone has the capacity to love in their hearts. The question is if and how we actualize and express it.

Ask yourself:

What is my capacity to love another person? Do I have problems with giving? Am I stingy or selfish? Is it difficult for me to let someone else into my life? Do I have room for someone else? Do I allow room for someone else? Am I afraid of my vulnerability, of opening up and getting hurt? How do I express love? Am I able to communicate my true feelings? Do I withhold expressing love out of fear of reaction? Or on the contrary: I often express too much too early. Do others misunderstand my intentions?

Whom do I love? Do I only love those that I relate to and who relate to me? Do I have the capacity to love a stranger; to lend a helping hand to someone I don’t know? Do I express love only when it’s comfortable?

Why do I have problems with love and what can I do about it? Does my love include the other six aspects of chesed, without which love will be distorted and unable to be truly realized.

From A Spiritual Guide to the Omer by Simon Jacobson

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So, for him, Good Friday–the day of the beginning of the end, the day of the beginning of the Omer–was the aspect of Lovingkindness within the Sphere of Lovingkindness–Love, Loving Love, Love loves to Love, and that day, he woke up next to his wife of 40 years, the love of his youth, and his august middle age, and now, of his rapidly approaching final days–and his beloved daughter was there, with her strong, kind, beloved husband, and their two beautiful beloved granddaughters, the two joys of his twilight–that house, on that day, was bursting, bursting, bursting with love, with the love of love, with so much love, with only love–

And the bursting of the vessels–the recovery of the shards–nothing Gold can stay–is that not the very definition of a seizure–that the lightning of our mind slips the fragile channels, overflows, brightens, makes a terrible and awesome light–and if the lightning is Us, and if who we are is Love, Loving Love, then it was Love that overpowered the channels, that brought the lightning storm, that awakened the doom of destiny that was coming–

For us, this year, we are four days behind, for us, this year, Good Friday is the Fifth Day of the Omer, and it is not the Love of Love, but the Humility of Love, Hod, Hod b’Chesed.

And a year later, with him gone–yes, we are humbled. Humbled in our love. We did not know how much we loved him, or how much he loved us, until the very end. I feared the final day, the vigil, and when it came–it was so terrible, so very terrible–the vessels broke–

I did not do enough. We can never do enough. All of life is failure. Failure to love enough. Failure to do enough. Failure to be strong enough. We try to hold it up, and we tire, and we falter, and we break. To be mortal is to fall. And Time–Time must move on, it must keep going, it must leave us–but does it stop? Does it stop for a moment to sit with us, when we fall, while we fall, to hold us, in its embrace, slow or fast, hard or soft, holding our weak selves with a strong warm darkness that is simply a light we cannot see–

Oh, the Love, the love, the love–

Hod means meaningful acceptance. Submission. Majesty, splendor, glory. And the submission to the Great Energies that allows us to give it Meaningful Reflective Form. To be humbled by love and to reflect on it, to give it word, to say, to whisper, to understand–

I love you, we almost hear him say, and know, so painfully, that we will never hear it again.

Love in Balance

Love in balance. Love in the balance.

I learned recently–watching my father die–that the other side of Love–the other part of it–is the searing and excruciating pain of not having its object–life-changing ecstasy at having, life-changing pain at not having.

Love is like water, it flows inevitably, obeying not its own sense or volition but merely flowing pursuant to the demands of external motions and forces–along paths and channels laid out before it. If you stop its flow, it flows elsewhere, or it rages against the banks and shores–

Strength and discipline–control–the control of love–it is like the good strong earth that holds love, that channels it, the banks of its rivers, the basins of its oceans, the gravity that pulls down the air and the water in it and holds it close–

My baby–my six week old baby–True Thomas–he rages and flails his hands and legs, his movements, uncontrolled and uncontrollable, by him, wake him up, distress him–he seeks, and he does not find, and he pains–and when he finds, he rests, and appears happy–

When he rages, when he flails his hands, I go to him, I hold his hands for him, I hold his arms, I wrap him tight, as my father and mother did me, as my love did for me last night, when I cried in her arms, in sorrow, in pain, at all I have lost and all I will lose–

Today is the Third Day of the Omer. Love is in balance, the beauty of a love comes in how it is restrained, how it is channeled, where it lies, what it seeks, what it refrains from. Balanced with its disciplines, harmonious in its proper places, in its cycle of forms, its stations–

My father, when he was a son-less son who had never loved, found my mother, and my mother found him, and with their youth and perfect simplicity, and fresh hearts, and eager eyes, chose to love, again and again and again and again, and like the poem about the jar, placed that love in a little field and watched all the world come around and whisper well-wishes and sing its joy–

A great whirl–Love. Beautiful perfect love, made beautiful by its limits.

My love for him. Made beautiful by its limits. Foreseen before he died, fulfilled when he died, preserved by his death. A love that proceeded him and survives him, a love that proceeded me and will–I pray–survive me.

I write again because I need to write and because my lover gives me no room to speak–but I love her anyway as I know she loves me. There is beauty there, beauty in us, beauty in our love, and beauty in our pain, and beauty in our loss, and beauty in what we will lose–

Oh, Oh, Oh–

It is the Third Day of the Omer.

Can I speak? In love with a mute, I am muted. In love with an earthquake, I am shaken. Quicksand. When we mix violently, quicksand. And neither water nor earth likes that.

Who has time

Who has time to be angry?

Do you want to see darkness? Do you want to see despair? Do you want to see hopelessness? The litigator in me says Zig when you say Zag, but it doesn’t have to be that way. When you despair, I could join you. I could surrender.

Changes

I have a son. I have a wife. I have a house. My father is dead. My brother has moved to California. My sister’s life is much as it was, with her husband and her two beautiful daughters.

A year ago. A year ago. He sat at the head of our Passover Seder, he said “Next Year in Jerusalem.” On Good Friday, he had a seizure, and by Sunday, he was coming back, but even then, the decline began, the decline.

We count the Omer for 49 days, from the second day of Passover until Shavuot. He died on Sivan 4, just before sunset, on the 48th day of the Omer.

I count the Omer now. For him, and for me. For my son? I don’t know. For my wife? She has no love or interest in it. I am so deeply offended by that. I am angry with her. So angry with her.

She says we have to stop blaming each other. Who’s blaming anybody?

I blame her for changing the plan. I blame her for choosing herself over me. I blame her for telling me I wasn’t good enough. For being angry at me that I got laid low by the COVID vaccine and couldn’t help her.

I want to leave her. Leave her. Leave the house. Leave my son? I’ll see him, I’m sure. I don’t want to fight with her, but she cannot be reasoned with. Can not be talked to. She makes me angry and sad and she makes me feel unloved.

Today is the second day of the Omer. Discipline in Lovingkindness. The decline. The decline.

A dark mirror? Is this foolish life I seized for myself simply a dark mirror, a dark parody of His? His story repeats itself, first as tragedy, then as farce.