Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Thoughts on Temporary Shelter/Sukkot 2010

A friend of mine recently sold her childhood home, the one her father, an architect, built with his own hands. It’s a spectacular one-story house positioned to catch the morning and setting suns through tall pines, a trickling stream and frequent visits by graceful deer.

She and her husband lived and raised their daughter there until last spring, when the combination of her parents’ deaths, her husband’s job loss and rising maintenance costs forced them to put it up for sale.

It was an excruciating experience for her, like letting go of a piece of her heart.

But an extraordinary thing happened to my friend and her husband, also an architect, since the sale of the house -- these friends for whom houses mean more than just a roof over one’s head.

A housesitting arrangement materialized for the summer, providing a short term living arrangement for them until the cottage they would rent in the fall would become available.

With each passing week after the sale, with this new homelessness, untetheredness – this wandering - mysteriously brought a lightness to her step and melody in her voice.

Last week, she and her family moved into the tiny rental cottage they will live in for the next year, about 20 minutes from their former neighborhood.

Though she may need to move once again next year around this time, my dear friend could not be happier. This temporary shelter -- like the sukkahs that many of us will eat, drink, study and possibly sleep in for the next week – offers safety and space without asking for very much in return. Unlike her childhood home, with its vibrant memories clinging to walls and floorboards, this impermanent home where she will eat and sleep and read gives her a chance to leave some parts of herself behind and discover new ones, providing her with a place just to be.

Prompt #1: Describe a place, be it indoors or out, with people or without, that altered your perspective, even if in just the tiniest way.

Prompt #2: Why do you think it was so important that Jews wanted to be reminded of ancestral wandering, back when they lived in temporary dwellings? What it is about traveling to another place, pilgrimmaging, that merits remembering?

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