Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Stormy skies make the best sunrises

All of the photos on this page were take from the same hill on my land in Pine County, Minnesota, looking east.  And all of them were taken on cloudy mornings.

"Minnesota Snowscape"
On a clear dawn, there isn't much of a show.  The sky gradually gets lighter, there's a strip of orange on the horizon, the sun comes up, and that's it.  One clear day looks pretty much like another.  I don't photograph many of those.

But on a cloudy morning, there is potential for some really great shots.  No two cloud formations are ever the same, and the scene lasts much longer as the sun rises behind the clouds.  When I see a cloudy dawn, I grab my camera and head for my favorite spot.

"Dragon in the Sky"
And there's always that one special moment when it all peaks.  Capturing that moment can be a challenge, because you don't really know when it is coming.  So I shoot a series of shots and then choose the best.  It doesn't always pan out, but when it does, the results are spectacular. (As for the duds, well, as my father told me many years ago, even professional photographers take bad pictures -- they just don't show them to anybody.  For every great pic on my blog, there were a whole lot of deletes.)

"Flaming Sunrise"
When I was a child living in the city, we used to sing a song about "rain, rain go away -- come again another day, little Johnny wants to play." From an urban perspective, rain was a nuisance that kept me from going outside and having fun.  But now that I'm older and we are in the middle of a major drought, I realize that my childish wish for "rain, rain go away" would be a curse.  Without rain in summer and snow storms in winter, a lot of plants and animals suffer.  Including us humans.

"Red in the Morning"
And now comes the homily.  Life, like a sunrise, varies from day to day.  We say we'd like to have perpetually clear skies, but in reality that would be rather boring.  It's the clouds in our lives that add some interest, even if they do sometimes rain on our parades.  The storms provide the challenges.  As I look back over my life, the "sunny days" are pretty much one big blur.  The ones that stand out are those that -- for good or bad -- brought some excitement into my life.  And even those dark days had important lessons for me to learn.

This is not to say I'm always excited to have disruptions in my life.  After all, some storms can be really destructive.  But, as the old saying goes, there's a silver lining in every cloud.  Or, in the case of sunrises, there's always the potential for a really great peak experience.  Maybe this is why just about every religion has the symbolism of moving from the darkness into the light.  And every storm contains a potential rainbow.

"After the Storm"


Shunraya said...

Rav Gershom,

Your beautiful post reminded me of a poem...

We see the colours of the sky at sunset and we rejoice.
Twice-over we rejoice:
Once for the beauty,
And again for the knowledge that to us is given to rejoice in this splendour, to share our Creator's appetite for beauty.
The gift shows whence we come.

Happy is he who rejoices in his uniqueness.
Happier still is he who knows the Source of his uniqueness.

I was 16 years-old when I wrote that. Two years later, I could not have written such a thing. I was too far into the darkness to believe in the colours of sunset, and sunrise was only a distant dream. Now, looking back, those vivid colours of sunrise surround me on all sides. Had I lived, I would now be 87 years old, but it is that 18 year old who can appreciate the colours the most.

Thank you for a very moving post.


Yonassan Gershom said...

You are 87 years old? You are in my parents generation (I'm 65). Anyway, thank you for sharing you lovely poem, and I'm glad you are re-discovering the beauty you saw in your youth. I am doing much the same thing. Maybe it is part of maturing? Or healing.

Shunraya said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Shunraya said...

Well, that's the strange part...I never made it past my 19th birthday. In this age of political correctness, perhaps we could say that I'm not dead, merely 'corporeally challenged'.

But, and this is the part that is difficult to explain, and harder still to believe... I still have the songs of my youth, the memories of the sea, working at the docks during summer vacation, falling in love with girls I was afraid to talk to...along with other things that probably no one survived to tell. But yes, I think remembering past the bad times and being able to recapture the sights and sounds of youth is indeed a part of healing. We bring parts of ourselves back to life, even as we learn to appreciate life as the opportunity that it is.

Sometimes we can be dead while still alive. Other times we can be very much alive long past our deaths. And no, I have no explanation for any of this.

I once met a rav here in Israel who kept an index file of such strange occurrences. When I asked him why he said, 'We, in our generation, are witnessing t'chiat hametim. And I am keeping a record'.

The rav with whom I now learn has another explanation -- that even death cannot stand in the way of T'shuvah. Perhaps both explanations are really one and the same.

Life is far stranger than anything we could imagine. And T'shuvah does indeed seem to break down the barriers between past and future.


Yonassan Gershom said...

Shunraya: Are you saying you are literally dead, as in being channeled by someone? Or were you so traumatized that you "died" to the world at age 19?

Shunraya said...

Rav Gershom, it's complicated...

Not sure I'll be able to explain it, as I don't understand it. As a rav, and coming from the more mystical tradition, you will probably understand it better than I do.

Yes, I did physically die. That is, the person named Ovadya ben Malka died. However, the story didn't end there. I simply continued, with a gap of 18 years. Is this gilgul? ibbur? Not sure it matters what label we give it. The important thing is that I've been given a second chance.

Despite now being someone else, I still have a large part of who I was. At the same time, There are not two sets of consciousness--two psyches, or two souls, or whatever name we might give to that sense of inner selfhood. More that I simply remember two separate childhoods, both of which have made me who I am now. No difficulty distinguishing them, as they involve two separate languages.

As to trauma, well yes, you can say that I actually died about a year and seven months prior to physical death. Those months have left scars, though I've managed to build a successful life here in Israel despite them. The difficult nights simply gave added impetus to make the most of my days. The knowledge that I had betrayed my tradition kept me away from it for many years. But now that is changing. Slowly, step by cautious step, I am coming alive again. I have taken steps to reconcile myself with the past, to make amends, as far as is possible for my actions, and to become someone who, if (God forbid) the same circumstances were to repeat, would make better choices. I have written down what I have seen in order to bear witness, and traveled back to where it happened for a formal vidui. So now, at the end of a long life, I am coming back to life.

Hmm...Probably more than you wanted or needed to hear! The short answer is, yes, I died. No, I am not dead.


Yonassan Gershom said...

No, that is not "too much info." Depending on what you are remembering, it could be a past life or an ibbur. Not so strange to me at all. If you are 87, then my assumption would be (correct me if I'm wrong) that the death occurred during the Holocaust time? (If this is getting too personal to discuss publicly, we can continue it by private email.)

Shunraya said...

Yes, Rav Gershom, you are correct about the timing. And also that it would be best that anything more about the past be said in private correspondence. If you have any questions, I will answer to the best of my abilities.


Yonassan Gershom said...

OK, if you want to doscuss further, email me at happyrooster613@yahoo.com if you want to discuss further. Put something in the header that will alert me to the topic, so it does not get lost in the spam.

Shunraya said...

Email sent! Thank you for listening, Rav Gershom.

Hag Orim Sameah!