No categories, no tags, no muss, no fuss. This is an unpolished but very necessary essay on the past few hours. I believe it all began at some point Thursday evening driving towards Roxborough/ Manayunk. Although my energy was low due to some cold/COVIDish bug ( 3 negative tests, but whatever) , the excitement still managed to peek through. I was doing a test run to visit my new synagogue. I was feeling that September 1982 feeling that I had longed to recapture on many occasions. It was very faint, but I could tell something was up. I have visited Roxborough area often but not been to the border of Manayunk in years. I have no idea when I last set foot in this Lenape named neighborhood with many interesting memories . I was here for one purpose: to locate the synagogue so I will be able to show up on time for Sabbath Services. ( That is a whole “nother story but some readers know I have been revisiting my faith of birth.) I tend to get lost here and per usual, I was not disappointed. Even while lost, I was excited to discover how close this sanctuary is to my home, just a few miles away.
Something about Manayunk reminded me of someone I was already thinking about, my college boyfriend who I met days after I moved to Philly for good. I moved here first my freshman year of college but returned home. I came back to Philly my senior year and have never left. That was 40 years ago this month! 40 years, sooooo long ago, and yet, some linkages remain. And time is malleable.
I met my ex in Bensalem but a few years later we began to spend time together again while he was living in Manayunk. I really was unfamiliar with this old mill town that was to enjoy a major resurgence and become a beacon of affluence amidst surrounding homes and people in economic decline. But I digress. Ex was living with someone ( a Gemini woman) who told me I could have him since she was setting her sights on her ex. So I did something unethical, I decided to go for it. In any case I befriended her and hooked up with him. Yes we were all being quite immature. There were times I enjoyed her company more than his, which is odd, but not really. We did not really jel the second time around, however this would not be last go-round for us… Around the same time period, extending in to the early 90s. his ex and I remained in contact. He left her and got married and she remained in Manayunk. She also introduced me to some men that I dated. They both were very different but had the same first name. I will call them Mike. Mike number one and I only had one date, even though I had some fun. He took me to an amazing Afghan restaurant in Olde City. He was a writer/business person and was really smart and witty. But we clashed over religion. He was Jewish and he decided I hated Jewish people. WTF I thought, how judgmental and ridiculous! Funny though how I never forgot this statement. I may have run into him again at some point but it was so curious how my exe’s ex and I were somehow involved with the same men. She once told me she heard a psychic say we were connected in a past life. I tend to agree with this assessment. She was good friends with a man I worked with who I had a huge crush on. It was one of those deals where he and I ended up going from one job to the next around the same time. He was never interested in me though. I won’t go into the second Mike now as it is not really relevant to this post. However considering I ended up having liaisons with several men ( one who I met through another girlfriend of mine) who was connected in some way to Manayunk within a short timespan is kind of unusual. It may also be why I have been reluctant to spend time there anymore.
Yesterday the feeling came on strong and I had one of those days where little got accomplished, but so much experience pulsated through my being. I woke up with lots of tasks to complete but was feeling very fatigued. I turned on my phone to a few texts and a voicemail from a very dear old friend. She contacted me to say she is in town and would like to see me today for lunch. I was not able to see her then but we agreed to try for another time while before she travels home. I did not see this coming but have been reminiscing about leaving high school for college. I work with a few college students and my own memories resurface as a result of my interactions with them in therapy. Hearing from my friend triggered this sense of joyous surprise that was missing. This summer was full of several very disturbing surprises with little time for recovery. August was relentless, so relentless I took zero photos on my phone. Nor have I seen any of the usual suspects creatures that often bring joy in summertime ( with the exception of an occasional butterfly) . I was grateful but also somewhat in disbelief. I was being awakened out of my expectations.
While getting ready for my very first Sabbath service, I did not know what to wear. I was going through my bureau and discover a pair of pants that I had no idea existed. I forgot all about them and they were exactly what I wanted. How did that happen and how many years have they been sitting undiscovered in the drawer? Anyhow I drove to the Synagogue and felt that indescribable unexpected feeling rise within me. It really is difficult to put into words, but is a mix of lightness, hope, excitement, and freedom? I am not sure but it is such a lovely contrast to the darkness I have been anchoring for many months.
I arrived early at the parking lot and could see activity nearby. This service was to happen under the stars and included the head Rabbi and the new interns. He saw me immediately and called over, which was very welcoming. He said be prepared to be greeted! I did not know what to expect. I have not been very social with a group of people since the Pandemic began. I was welcomed first by a man I had already met via email who works there. Then I was greeted by another man who recognized me. He remembered me from the God Café. I thought I had blogged about him but it seems I did not. When I saw him on Zoom in March and saw his name, it was familiar. When we were placed in a breakout group together I asked him if he knew me and he didn’t. So I asked him if he was a student of the Course in Miracles and he replied in the affirmative. Back in the 90s he and his wife drove me and a friend to Upstate New York for a Course in Miracles Retreat. Seeing him decades later first at the Café and then in person was surreal. Especially since I did not recognize him yesterday. I joked with him and said ” I didn’t know you were Jewish then. to which he replied ” I wasn’t !” to which I replied ” I wasn’t really either. ” Being greeted by someone I had a link with in this completely new setting let me know I was on the right path. I did not see it coming and I liked that as well. The service reminded me of an acoustic concert. The rabbi is a musician and sang and played guitar throughout the service. Most people were casually dressed and the area was lined with light- strewn trees. While most of the singing was in Hebrew, I decided to just let the words and vibrations wash over me. It reminded me a bit of my visit to Italy where very little English was spoken. I learned to pay closer attention to the non verbal cues and find my way through the unspoken. The service alluded to unity, the wonder and magick of the natural world along with preparation for the new year ( High Holidays). On some level I could not have felt more foreign but on another level I felt in synch. I realize I am already Jewish by birth. Yet I know close to nothing about the essence of the people and the faith. That is my quest, to marry my heritage with some of the mysterious details. Maybe it’s analogous to being embodied on Gaia ; having amnesia about the pre-incarnation as pure Spirit yet subject to some spontaneous knowingness about the totality of one’s soul.
This essay wove in many seemingly disparate elements into one story: Manayunk, my college bf and his gf and all the people in this circle, my evolving Jewish and spiritual identity, my contact with a friend I have know for close to 50 years and the passage of 40 years. Time is fluid and space is also mutable and the Full Moon in Pisces illustrates this quite well. I am most joyful when I am actually in the present and I was able to sustain more of that presence over the past few days. I am so grateful for the melding of beginnings and reunions in a city I have called home for the majority of my life. The realization that interconnectedness is always available and waiting for me is another indescribable unexpected feeling and perhaps this is all I need in this moment.
images courtesy of pexels. com public domain