by Carol Reiman
I think a lot about memory as I listen to my 93-year-old mother. Her short term memory has changed to the point at which she rarely remembers what or if she has eaten a few hours ago, but she thinks a lot about her childhood and into her married life 60 years ago. She says that she doesn't miss people so much but that she misses scenery.
While I know that my mother does miss people, nature has played a large role in her life. Often misunderstood and criticized at home, she found relief and comfort in the summer Catskills, able to explore by herself or sit on a porch in the company of her friend's dogs. Closer to the city, she remembers being at the beach, the women finding refreshment from the heat by splashing ocean water down their bathing suits. She says that she was touched by my father's concern over who would feed the pigeons in Central Park after a big snow.
My mother has passed along her love of the outdoors and exploring. To this day she notes how clouds resemble animals or faces. We have looked at the different types of dogs being walked on the street–the curly tail, the graceful walk, the intelligent eyes. We spent a lot of time outside during my childhood summers, enjoying trees, parks, the rivers, sunset at the beach, the bus/ferry/bus trip to the Tibetan museum set on a hill.
I do better with my mother when I remember how much we both love nature. Time with her often feels short. The crammed schedule of laundry/shopping/dishes while answering her repeated and incessant questions tries my patience and brings frustration. When I take time, however, to gently show her my outdoor photos, to let her talk about her associations, we are both comforted in our connection to each other and the worlds we have shared and continue to share.
Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are not so different from the state in which my mother and I find ourselves. We all have a past, a present, and a future, however much of it we take in or know. The coming and going, the routine care of our physical needs, the frustration with obstacles (real, imagined, of our own making) bring us only so far. Remembering to remember, stopping to let something else take root, feeling who we are at our best. Knowing that time is short, we can yet again find comfort and strength to begin anew. Taking strength from the natural world, from our deepest inspiration, and from each other, we create the year anew. May we do a little better this year!
Carol Reiman enjoys the outdoors largely in the greater Boston area while traveling from/to home, library work, her mother, pets (care/sitting). She finds additional strength and comfort in other activities, including community in Temple B'nai Brith and Ma'yan Tikvah.