Sprouting Spearmint

#blogExodus 4: Grow

#blogExodus 5775 topicsSpring is the season of sprouting, of tender new growth stretching toward the sun after dreaming beneath the earth through the darker, colder months. I think we are past the danger of a hard freeze here in the Florida panhandle, and all around us are blossoms and soft new leaves. Also, the weeds we call a lawn are greening right up, so the yard looks more alive than it has in months.

Tobacco Hornworm

Voracious little buggers, and devilishly hard to spot.

An experienced gardener I am not, but I managed to grow some cherry tomatoes and herbs out on the patio last year. There is something deeply satisfying about eating something we picked right outside our own back door, and I look forward to snipping basil and thyme for our cooking throughout the coming spring and summer. We will probably skip the tomatoes this year, as the constant struggle against hungry tobacco hornworms got pretty old last year. The daily search for gigantic freaking caterpillars as long and thick as my finger (I leave it to the reader to guess which finger) that still somehow manage to camouflage themselves almost perfectly in the foliage is something I can cheerfully do without.

Herbs, though, are low-maintenance and give excellent culinary bang for the effort. I was delighted to see that, in spite of a winter’s complete and utter neglect, my pots of spearmint and thyme survived well enough to put out a few tentative shoots for a new season. I may be a suburban modern for whom growing edible plants is a hobby rather than a subsistence necessity, but I still delight in the feeling of connection to the agrarian rhythms to which our forebears shaped their lives.

Sprouting Spearmint

Sprouting spearmint, making me dream of future pitchers of iced tea.

#blogExodus, the brainchild of Rabbi Phyllis Sommer, invites participants to chronicle the weeks leading up to Passover through blog posts, photos, and other social media expressions.


#blogExodus 3: Cleanse

#blogExodus 5775 topicsI ought to be well on my way to cleansing my house of all traces of chametz, leavened grain products, but I’m almost assuredly not as far along in my religiously mandated crumb search-and-destroy mission as I could be. Better turn in my balabusta credentials before someone notices that I’d rather bake bread than obsess over the fact that enjoying such might leave a bit of floury evidence thereof in odd corners.

These days I’m more concerned about clearing out as much unnecessary stuff from our house as we possibly can before our next move. In over eight years of marriage and four different duty stations, we have managed to accumulate all manner of things we don’t need anymore: paperwork, old school notebooks, outdated clothes, small appliances we received for wedding gifts and never used, and hobby items we haven’t touched in years. I suspect the whole mass puffs up, like bread dough rising to peek over the top of its oiled bowl, when given time and inattention. (“Just throw it in the office for now. we’ll figure out where to put it later.” Surprise! We never figure out a better place for it.)

We have made some progress in clearing out a few things, such as a big pile of electronics that needed recycling, and it does feel good to reclaim the space — both mental and physical — it had ballooned up to fill. We have a ways to go before we’re ready for the mini-exodus that is military move, but given that it’s going to happen sometime between this Passover and the next, it’s not too early to look around with an eye toward cleaning out that which no longer serves.

#blogExodus, the brainchild of Rabbi Phyllis Sommer, invites participants to chronicle the weeks leading up to Passover through blog posts, photos, and other social media expressions.

#blogExodus 2: Bless

#blogExodus 5775 topicsA couple weekends ago, I was doing rather a lot of the opposite of blessing. My husband’s squadron had decided that it was sending a gaggle of instructors and students out of town in an effort to find better flying weather. The issue is that the decision was made on Friday that the trip would begin on Monday, which meant that there was no time during the workweek for my husband and his colleagues to make the necessary lodging and other logistical arrangements.

Our weekend was interrupted over and over again by the buzzing of my husband’s cell phone as everyone tried to bring the plans together by text message. Each new message took me further along the path from “mildly annoyed” to “irked” to “cursing the OPSO, the squadron, and the Navy with remarkable relish and far-ranging creativity.” By Sunday night, I was irritated with my husband for having the gall not to join me in my excoriation of his superiors and minute, trenchant analysis of their shortcomings both personal and professional.

“You know,” I finally grated at him, “sometimes I just want to hear that you think the situation sucks, too.”

He continued folding laundry for a few beats before speaking. “I’m not thrilled about how this is playing out, either, but there is a limit to how much I can let myself think that it sucks and still be able to do my job.”

In that moment, understanding broke through my annoyance, and I was ashamed. What I had been telling myself was companionable commiseration over a crappy set of circumstances was being received as a shove off balance. I had, in turn, misinterpreted my husband’s need to maintain an even keel as a frustrating lack of acknowledgement of my efforts to vent “with” him, never mind that he never expressed a desire to vent in the first place.

Now I have an understanding that I didn’t have before, thus proving that there is still more to learn even after almost a decade of having a significant other on active duty in the Navy. Next time we run into one of these not-uncommon military inconveniences, I’ll know better, and that insight will feel like a blessing.

Baruch atah, Adonai, chonein hadaat. Blessed are You, Adonai, who graces us with knowledge.

#blogExodus, the brainchild of Rabbi Phyllis Sommer, invites participants to chronicle the weeks leading up to Passover through blog posts, photos, and other social media expressions.

#blogExodus 1: Begin

#blogExodus 5775 topicsJewish days begin at sundown, and this evening is rather special in that we welcome not only Shabbat, as we do each Friday evening as the sun sinks below the horizon, but also the Jewish month of Nisan.

The vernal equinox and the first day of of Nisan happen to kiss this year. Thanks to this fitting quirk of the juxtaposition of our secular solar and religious lunisolar calendars, the first day of spring marks just two weeks until Chag haAviv, which means “the spring holiday” in Hebrew. It has a lot of names, this holiday, the spring holiday, but in English we call it Passover.

Today marks the conjunction of a profusion of beginnings. New season. New month. New year, on top of it all (there are four new years on the Jewish calendar). We brim with beginnings; we love them so much that we strew them like flower petals throughout our days. For a Jew, a calendrical fresh start is never far out of reach.

Naturally, I would like to get season, month, and year off on the right foot, and simple wishes seem most appropriate to me. Chodesh tov! A good month to you. Shabbat shalom! A peaceful Sabbath to us all.

#blogExodus, the brainchild of Rabbi Phyllis Sommer, invites participants to chronicle the weeks leading up to Passover through blog posts, photos, and other social media expressions.