hatam_soferet: (waan)
( Sep. 12th, 2011 10:54 pm)
Waan sniffed the water in the pond.

"Okay," you could see her thinking, "this is water. Not good to stand on."

She walked around the edge a bit and sniffed the lilypads. She's never seen lilypads before, little NYC dog that she is.

"Hmm," she was saying. "These look a good deal more substantial. Let's give them a go."

I contemplated saying "No!" but reasoned: if I stop her now, she'll only try it some time when I'm not there. The pond is deepish and weedy; better she should learn this lesson while I'm here to lifesave if necessary. Also, it's going to be funny.

So she put a tentative paw onto the lilypad, and followed it up with another paw and her weight behind it...

...and took a header into the pond, splosh.

And swam across the pond and heaved herself out indignant and dripping, and raced around the place drying off while I sat and giggled incoherently.

She's not shown any interest in the lilypads since. Instead, she's been flirting with the fountain and chasing frogs, when she can find them. Frogs are even better than tennis balls; they throw themselves!
hatam_soferet: (Default)
( Sep. 29th, 2009 09:11 pm)
I never got around to saying, last month - one reason the soferet loves going blackberrying is because blackberries are all gleamy and black in the hedgerows, so they look an awful lot like new letters, which are also gleamy and black, albeit not in the hedgerows.

Well, I've been in England for a while; Torah is extremely portable, so it's jolly easy to pack up a supply of parchment and a change of clothes and have a Working Holiday.

This means I write my Torah quota each day, and then instead of spending evenings and weekends in New York's social delights, I spend them with my family. Oldest Niece has just got a bunch of GCSEs...I remember when she was learning to count, cor gosh. Youngest Sister has bought a house. Parental Unit has a most fruitful garden. And so on. Bits of my family are so cute you can't quite believe they're true, it's like they're something off the TV. Mind you I suppose my life looks like that too, slightly unreal in a New Yorky sort of way.

'Cept I spent the last week or so mostly in Cambridge (Cambs, not MA) with lovely friends. Lovely friends have lovely friends, also, so that was jolly jolly nice.

Round here at this time of year one goes blackberry-picking. Done that twice now - once along Southampton Water, and once in some fields outside Cambridge - and have eaten MUCH blackberry-and-apple crumble (4 parts flour to 3 sugar and 2 hard fat, bake over fruit at 180C for about half an hour), sometimes with custard.
In Southampton, all in one piece, all well, lovely weather, wish you were here, writing a lot of Torah and ketubot (offically I wasn't doing any ketubot this summer but I'm too much of a softy so when people get all cute I give in).

Further letter to landlord: dog plz. Landlord responds: this is a no-dogs building. Facts on the ground: loads of people in the building have dogs. Am I being dense? Is the custom just to get a dog and keep quiet about it? I suppose I shall check in with one or two long-time dog owners in the building and see. Can't do that till I'm back in transpondia though, so feedback from teh magik internets welcome in the interim.
hatam_soferet: (Default)
( Sep. 1st, 2008 04:47 pm)
a) I love charity shops; loads of lovely practically-new clothes for peanuts, and the peanuts go straight to charity.

b) John Wyndham's books have been reprinted! They were issued in 1960 and 1963, and again this year. After 35 years! I love John Wyndham.

c) I had [livejournal.com profile] neonchameleon to myself for a whole afternoon :) Amongst his other sterling qualities, [livejournal.com profile] neonchameleon is one of the few people who can and does lift me two feet off the ground in a hug.

d) Starbucks in Oxford serves tea in lovely chunky mugs, if you're going to stay and drink it there obviously. That's very nice indeed. But on the other hand they close at 6.30, which is a bit of a culture shock when you're used to the Manhattan ones which are still open at bedtime. On the other hand here you can decamp to a pub and have another cup of tea there, and they're all non-smoking these days, so it's just as good really.

e) On a packed train, I claimed the seat I'd booked. This amounts to a social whoopsie on a grand scale, but I was buggered if I was going to stand all the way to Southampton on this ankle. I've never done that before, would you believe, but aside from a few dirty looks from other people it was no problem, and it was jolly nice to have a seat.
Wednesday, afternoon with [livejournal.com profile] tangosiempre. We went down to Weston Shore for a walk along the beach.

Weston Shore was the only beach I knew for many years. It's mostly shingle and mud, with the occasional patch of sand; I used to find books like Holiday by the Sea very perplexing, when they went on about beautiful golden sands etc. You don't need a bucket and spade to build castles at Weston, you need a ruddy bulldozer.

Anyway. it's a nice place to go for a walk, when you aren't seven years old and pining for sand. And on the way there we realised that it's blackberry-picking time, yay! and I haven't picked blackberries in England for years and years cos I've been expatriated so long, so yay! but we didn't have anything to put blackberries in.

Happily for us, there was a fair bit of litter washed up on the beach (there always is, okay? This is the Solent. No-one said it was clean), and in no time we had two nice plastic containers with lids, which we pretty soon filled up with luscious blackberries. I also found sweet peas growing wild, and I picked a bunch of them because when you pick sweet peas they flower more so it isn't antisocial to pick them. Down to the shore again for a bit of string to tie the bunch together, and another plastic box, and soon enough I had a big box of shiny black blackberries and bright cerise-pink flowers. Awfully pretty.

Then we got ice-cream, because one of the peculiarities of the English is that they think a proper summer ought to involve walking along a shingle beach in a howling gale eating ice-cream, although if you are over 65 you may sit in your car while you are eating. No matter how revolting the weather, there is always an ice-cream van at windswept points on shingle beaches, manned by a hermit who will make jokes about the weather.

There'll be a Torah post eventually, honest there will. Anybody got anything they'd particularly like me to write about?
hatam_soferet: (toothpaste)
( Jul. 27th, 2008 09:01 pm)
My Shabbat had a lot of this sort of thing:

because there is a lovely trinkling stream about three minutes down the road from here, with pretty woodsy banks, and trees, and ducks, and beautiful sunshine and cool breezes, and lovely oak trees in abundance, and weeping willows and ducks and green grass, which is a nice place to be on a Shabbat afternoon.

picspam - yumminess )

Bonus ducks )

N.B. No I do not take photographs on Shabbat. Work it out for yourselves.
hatam_soferet: (toothpaste)
( Jul. 20th, 2008 08:43 pm)
When I'm writing Torah in England, at my mum's place, this is the view from my desk:

There isn't usually a cat there. The cat turned up at random the other day. It wandered around the place making love to everything it saw, and then it tried to get onto my lap for more love. I was writing, so I shoved it off. Next thing I knew, the cat had leapt up onto the desk and was by the grace of God not standing on the Torah.

Makes a change.
hatam_soferet: (Default)
( Feb. 7th, 2008 11:21 pm)
Talking to the Meorot Fellows the other week about why I work as a Torah scribe given that it challenges gender roles, one of them asked me whether I thought everyone should be egalitarian, and what my vision was for Jews, and people in general.

So I said, as I generally do, that egal works for some people and not others, as is true of most lifestyle choices, and my vision generally is for people to live happy lives in well-functioning, sustainable communities. Ones where the formal structure contributes to people according each other and their surroundings the kind of treatment which contributes to their lives and environment being more or less comfortable and contented. (The point there was that in communities where imposing an egal structure would make people very uncomfortable, I wouldn't say being egal was necessarily the best thing. We're not talking about that now.)

I see the Judaism I choose to live as helping me live towards that vision. Judaism is one of my formal structures, and it prompts me - or forces me, if I'm feeling lazy - to have a sense of respect for the world I live in. To care about the members of my community. To value other human beings. Not to live selfishly. To be a basically decent person living in a basically decent community.

A couple of weeks previously, I had to change health insurance plans. As a Torah scribe, I'm self-employed, and accordingly I'm extremely lucky that I'm able to get health insurance at all. I get it through the Freelancers Union, whom I cannot praise highly enough. I have insurance; I'm one of the lucky ones, but still, I have medication that I have to take, and on my new plan, my medication costs quite a lot more. Adjusting my budget to encompass that wasn't fun, but it's not like I have a choice right now.

Also in conversation of late, I've noticed US Americans being awfully surprised that the US is not in fact the world leader in caring for the environment. Being surprised that the US lags an awful long way behind Canada and Europe in this.

And the combination of these three has made me realise this: Respect for human life and its surroundings are at the core of who I am, who I want to be, who I want my fellows to be. My day-to-day existence is structured around the Jewish customs which are the outcroppings of these principles, which lie deep and under it all. This is who I am. This is who I want to be. But I am choosing to live in a country which doesn't value human life and doesn't value its surroundings. Which doesn't have free universal healthcare and doesn't care about the environment when so doing entails any inconvenience. Whose primary formal structure has a fundamental and systemic lack of respect for human life and the world it lives in.

This is a problem.

It's mitigated by my knowing a great many extremely fine people who are very much not like this; who would rather the US worked differently, and who do in fact value both human life and the environment. On the whole, the specific community I spend my time with appears to have pretty similar values to my own, to the extent that most of the time I am able to avoid confronting this problem. I appreciate you, I really do. But unlike most of you, I have a choice: I can live elsewhere. I can leave the US and live in Britain, whose approach to human life and the environment seems more compatible with who I want to be as a Jew and who I want to be as a human.

I'm left wondering whether I should exercise that choice.
hatam_soferet: (Default)
( Dec. 25th, 2007 05:02 pm)
I went to hear R' Professor Jonathan Magonet talking about the new (UK) Reform siddur.What he said is pretty much what he's written on this site, so you can go and read it in his words and not my rendition of same.

Here are some of the things which impressed me.

The layout. )The )piloting in the community and the ) thoughtful self-assessment, and a striking and intelligent )willingness to see the community in its present state with examples, and finally, this point: )

He said that the existing siddur had a function of giving the movement a point of unification, as previously there hadn't been a proper Reform Movement Siddur. Now the movement has matured and solidified somewhat, the unification can be taken more or less for granted, and the diversity can be accommodated, so the new siddur is to function less as a means of expressing unification and more as a tool which everyone can use, but which can be used in many different ways.
Six years ago at Limmud I took an introduction to Torah reading - seventy minutes every day for four days, how to leyn Torah. I took home the introduction and the skills and practised, and now I'm a pretty decent leyner and those skills I got at Limmud are part of how I earn a living. Two years ago I taught an introduction to calligraphy, seventy minutes a day for three days, and yesterday someone took the time to share with me how she took home the introduction and the skills and practised, and was able to incorporate Hebrew lettering into the glassworking she does by profession, so now the skills she got at Limmud are part of how she earns a living. So it goes on, along and round and up, from hand to hand, Jew to Jew, Limmud to Limmud. I think that's beautiful.
hatam_soferet: (Default)
( Mar. 30th, 2007 11:57 am)
I'm back from my UK retreat, everyone! Back in da Bronx.

I've lost my voice (temporarily, I hope), so I'm whispering, and confusing people on the phone. I'm going to write out some cards before Shabbat: I've Lost My Voice; Shabbat shalom (for going to the Conservative shul in the morning); Good Shabbos (for going to the Orthodox shul tonight); I had a lovely trip, thanks; It's lovely to see you, how are you doing? and any others which may occur to me between now and sundown.

After one goes on dangerous journeys (in which we include flying, although perhaps superflously given that flying's pretty safe these days) there's a blessing one says during the next available public Torah reading: essentially Thanks for getting me out of that one alive, God! and the congregation responds Yay, many happy returns!, more or less. Making this blessing is sometimes known as benshing gomel. I need to bensh gomel tomorrow, but it's going to be very weird if I have to do it in a whisper. The congregation aren't going to have a clue what's going on, cos they won't be able to hear me. This should be fun!
hatam_soferet: (Default)
( Mar. 6th, 2007 09:39 pm)
I'm taking a Retreat in the UK. That means doing Lots Of Torah Writing and not a great deal else.

It's very, very nice here. It is lushly green and smells woodsy. There are daffodils (there are daffodils in NYC also, but they are in buckets outside the grocery; here they are growing in the ground) and buttercups. And all manner of little familiar cultural things you don't notice until you don't have them. Ordering tea and not having to specify "with milk," for instance.

Journey safe and mercifully uneventful. Basically slept all the way; doesn't get much better than that!
hatam_soferet: (Default)
( Mar. 5th, 2007 06:56 am)
...terrible flight mix-up, and my poor mama came ALL THE WAY TO HEATHROW to get me, and spent hours in the airport getting more and more frazzled and worried and trying to find me, because about 6.30am my phone rang, and I staggered out of bed and it was mum going "WHERE ARE YOU???????" to which the answer was "America..." and now I see she tried to call me at 5.41am but I didn't hear it...

...well, you can imagine. This is a lesson to me (and to you, by extension): email your mum your itinerary as soon as your travel agent emails it to you.

[livejournal.com profile] jillt is the bestest ever and I love her squillions.
hatam_soferet: (Default)
( Dec. 24th, 2006 09:39 am)
In a post which has nothing whatsoever to do with Torah: my brother had another baby! Laura Grace. Isn't that a pretty name? Now they have Hannah Brigid and Laura Grace. I'm looking forward to getting to go home and see them.

But on the subject of family relations, we had a pleasant shabbat at Shaarei K'shishim, our assisted-living-facility-congregation in Flushing, Queens. W did a splendid job with the five columns of Torah reading, considering he'd only really started learning it Friday. Which is to say, he winged it, but with flair :)

He is awfully good with them. They absolutely adore him, which is terribly sweet. It's rather fun sitting in the corner watching your husband being all smart and besuited leading services and knowing that basically everyone in the room thinks he's super.
hatam_soferet: (Default)
( Nov. 1st, 2006 07:43 am)
To persons in Britland this weekend: please can someone snag a copy of the JC? They're apparently running an article about Tefillin Barbie, and I'm curious to see what Anglo-Jewry has to say. I don't have a subscription to the online version, so I'm relying on you, people!
hatam_soferet: (Default)
( Nov. 1st, 2006 07:40 am)
Haha! The Tate Modern is a modern art gallery in London, housed in an abandoned power station. As such, it has a most enormous cavern in the middle, where there used to be turbines.

So some enterprising artist has filled it with giant slides. Move over Damian Hirst, doing all those silly things like filling rooms with balloons or chairs - this is a blatant excuse to have a lot of fun, disguised as art!* Hurrah! Now I just wish I was at home so I could go play.

* like Tefillin Barbie only the other way round :)
hatam_soferet: (Default)
( Sep. 13th, 2006 10:20 pm)
More restoring Torah today. All I can say about that is: crikey Moses it takes it out of you. Fixing lettering is hard work; much more so than writing. At least, after six hours of writing I'm happy and perky, and after six hours of lettering I'm mainlining chocolate just to stay vertical.

On a different note, you remember the student I raved about the other day? Well, today she invented musical notation (for those to whom that doesn't mean much: the collection of lines and tadpoles you see in front of musicians) whilst trying to find a way to write down the music so that she could remember it. I mean really, how awesome is that?

But it does mean I'm back awfully late and awfully tired, which doesn't lead to very interesting blogging. Sorry, folks. Come back next week, when the various Torahs which need fixing will have been fixed, and normal service will with any luck be restored.

Oh, my sister is in town. This is Good.
hatam_soferet: (Default)
( Jul. 4th, 2006 03:32 pm)
I thought that bringing my Torah to the UK would be a really smart move, because I'd be able to work on it in a cool temperate clime with balmy breezes drifting about me. But no - now it's boiling hot here as well, and Brits don't do air-conditioning. Boiling hot, as I've said before, is bad sofrut weather, because your hands are a) warm and b) damp, and putting them anywhere near parchment in that state is a Bad Move.

So I'm doing some translating instead - more Lishkat ha-Sofer - and I'll do some writing when the sun goes down.
hatam_soferet: (Default)
( Jul. 3rd, 2006 09:32 pm)
I spent a golden weekend in Cambridge (Cambs, UK, not MA) with my best friends in the world ever. [livejournal.com profile] livredor, [livejournal.com profile] pseudomonas, [livejournal.com profile] darcydodo and I have been the Brotherhood since college, sharing more or less everything between us in some way or another. This weekend [livejournal.com profile] livredor came back from Sweden, [livejournal.com profile] pseudomonas was in Cambridge anyway, I came up on the bus, and we phoned [livejournal.com profile] darcydodo on account of her being in California.

Since we left college and beastly geography got in the way, [livejournal.com profile] livredor and [livejournal.com profile] pseudomonas and I haven't been together very much. This weekend we did fun things - we had ice-cream and tea and cherries and shabbat and went punting and walking and to the botanical gardens and to the second-hand bookshop and on a picnic, and saw lots of people, [livejournal.com profile] lethargic_man particularly and many others, but we were together, and that's worth all of the above and then some. The few days a year we have together stand out from all other days as bright, beautiful times with the friends who know me best and whom I love most.