The Summer of Being: Awash in the Miraculous

“I don’t think anyone “finds” joy. Rather, we cultivate it by searching for the preciousness of small things, the ordinary miracles, that strengthen our hearts so we can keep them open to what is difficult”

― Dawna Markova

I am one lucky duck. Last year at this time I had surgery to remove a honeydew melon sized ovarian tumor. The night before the surgery, my dear friend and business partner Gilah Rosner arranged a Zoom ceremony to change my Jewish name. This is an ancient custom. Change your name, change your destiny.

When I was little, my Jewish mother explained this ritual simply. Your name is like a spiritual address, and after you change it the Angel of Death can’t find you.  Sounded good to me then and even better as I faced the specter of what was most likely a huge ovarian cancer.

The day of the ritual I had my hair cut short, came home and  immersed myself head to toe in our hot tub. A ritual cleanse. A leaving behind of the old and a purification to welcome the new. Then I dressed  in a simple white shift that will someday be my burial shroud.

My husband Gordon, who had thankfully survived a heart attack just 3 months before, and a small group of friends joined the name changing ceremony on Zoom. My original Jewish name is Yehudis (Judith) meaning woman of Judea, or praise. We added a second name, Raphaela. which means God has healed.

Thankfully, miraculously, the giant tumor turned out NOT to be cancer. It was a borderline tumor- not normal but not cancerous either. Chances are good that I won’t be visited by it again, although I have follow up every 3 months. These appointments are reminders not to mindlessly resume a life of hustle, bustle, and speed, but to let go, rest, and remember that life is sacred…and impermanent.

The addition of  Raphaela  to my name is a constant reminder of grace- God has healed. My original name Yehudis is a reminder to praise life in all its forms. Einstein is famous for saying that either you regard nothing as a miracle or everything as a miracle. A shift to the latter is exactly what I am experiencing. We are awash in the miraculous.

As my friend Dawna Markova writes, I am learning to cultivate joy by “searching for the preciousness of small things, ordinary miracles that strengthen our hearts so we can keep them open to what is difficult.”

Here in New Mexico our land is also experiencing an ordinary, but totally extraordinary, healing miracle. Medicine people from the pueblos have been fervently praying for rain. Years of extreme drought led to early and virulent wild fire season here in the Land of Enchantment. You could literally feel the pain of the arid, heat baked land.

Then a miracle happened! Our annual monsoon got off to an early and spectacular start. It has rained by the bucket, on and off for about a month already. In one week alone, our small community was drenched with 5 inches of rain. The parched landscape literally sprang to life overnight.

You can feel the moist breath of nature exhaling life in extravagant sighs of relief and renewal.

Our garden continues to be a miracle, which Gordon and I praise daily. If you read my personal note last month,  I included a photo of a huge agave stalk that grew almost 15 feet tall during the drought. That was a mystery. Wherever did it find the water to create its imposing self? Now the towering agave is in full bloom. We call it the “Nothing is Impossible Plant!”

Everything in our beautiful garden is flourishing. It feels as though we are living in Paradise. “If you want to live in the garden,” Gordon always says, “you have to be the gardener.” That’s key to what we’re doing during this precious summer break. Being gardeners in paradise tending to the plants, to our two poodles, Mitzi and Lola, to our families, our friends, ourselves, and one another.

I’m also tending to my new creative pastime- mosaics. Here I am working on my most recent piece- a Santa Fe turquoise skull.

And…the birdlife here is over the top! The little mud hut- our antique adobe home- is just above a river. We put up two bird feeding stations and I sit outside or in our screened in porch and watch the various birds with such wonder. Check out this short video of a pair of Hairy woodpeckers- we call them Harry and Harriet- that I shot from inside the sun porch. Devoted Harry is feeding his wife. It’s so sweet!!! As are Gordon’s occasional comments.

I hope you’re having a magnificent summer, and that you are taking the time to bask in the preciousness of small things. If you haven’t read Dawna Markova’s transformative book on making the shift from doing to being, I Will not Die an Unlived Life, it’s a great summer read.

“I will not die an unlived life. I will not live in fear of falling or catching fire. I choose to inhabit my days, to allow my living to open me, to make me less afraid, more accessible, to loosen my heart until it becomes a wing, a torch, a promise.”

― Dawna Markova

Love from Santa Fe,
Joan

P.S. Next week I’ll update you on the fabulous programs we have planned for Autumn.

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