Searching for Mine
This RITA® Reader Challenge 2017 review was written by Phyllis L. This story was nominated for the RITA® in the Romance Novella category.
The Ultimate Anti-Hero Meets His Match…
Connor Dunkle knows what he wants in a woman, and it’s the three B’s. Beauty. Body. Boobs. Other women need not apply. With his good looks and easygoing charm, he’s used to getting what he wants—and who. Until he comes face to face with the one woman who’s slowly making his life hell…and enjoying every moment…
Ella Blake is a single mom and a professor at the local Verily college who’s climbed up the ranks the hard way. Her ten-year-old son is a constant challenge, and her students are driving her crazy—namely Connor Dunkle, who’s failing her class and trying to charm his way into a better grade. Fuming at his chauvinistic tendencies, Ella teaches him the ultimate lesson by giving him a special project to help his grade. When sparks fly, neither of them are ready to face their true feelings, but will love teach them the ultimate lesson of all?
Here is Phyllis L.'s review:
This novella would have been much better if I knew less about universities. Ella is….what sort of professor? Adjunct? Assistant? Associate? Is this a tenure-track job? Where was she before this? It really, really matters to professors. Really. The reality is that if she were an adjunct she would probably be teaching a ton of classes, maybe at other colleges, too, scrambling for work to make a living. Was that what she was doing before? Was she at another university? And no matter her exact role, she would probably be anxious about keeping her job, because really good professor jobs are few and far between. (Also: where are the committee meetings?)
Which leads to my big problem: I’m pretty sure that even though the H and H are in their thirties, the college would have a problem with a professor and a student having an affair. There are all kinds of ethics problems about who’s using sex to get a grade and who has power and is this sexual harassment and so on. Especially as a new prof at the college, Ella would have to be super careful about even the appearance of impropriety.
I constantly had this argument going in the back of my mind about missing details. I’m not affiliated with any university, but I grew up in a small college town with a professor father, I attended two colleges, and I have quite a few friends who teach at colleges. I’ve also been following the uptick in adjuncts and the downtick in tenure-track professors, cutting costs at the same time tuition and fees have gone through the roof. And also wondering how my kids are going to afford college.
Ella starts out as a mega-bitch feminist professor who gives feminist professors a bad name – or at least that’s Connor’s opinion of her. She does seem to be taking something out on Connor, mostly that he’s handsome and a bit too slick. She’s not helpful in their interactions. So they’re both immature and it comes across as annoying.
Connor’s character sort of had an arc, but I didn’t think he really did the hard work to dig down to why he thought he was inadequate for so many years, he just *poof* thinks he’s worthwhile. But I guess at the opening of the story he’s already dealt with that to a point, probably in his brother’s story in the series. He’s registered for college so he can get a promotion, after all, so he’s not giving up.
But lord, is he ever a misogynist jackass.
I loved the transformative power the class which focuses on women writers had on Connor’s chauvinistic mindset. As a feminist, I wish school worked like that. Though Ella said she would accept any well-reasoned argument in the essays, it was a good thing for his grade that Connor started to see how women, especially historically, were constrained and disregarded. It just took him getting with the prof to understand, which, as mentioned before, is not generally considered the best pedagogical method. I don’t think Ella taught him that in class, as she came across as dismissive instead of coaxing him and the class toward understanding women’s place in the literary canon.
(Side note: I’m not a fan of Virginia Woolf, either, though A Room of One’s Own makes a lot of good points: “Give her a room of her own and five hundred a year [$40K USD, adjusted for inflation], let her speak her mind and leave out half that she now puts in, and she will write a better book one of these days.”)
I’m also not a fan of the makeover trope (and I realize the matchmaking agency is the thing that links this book into the series). Ella doesn’t seem to be, either, and calls Connor on it when he doesn’t kiss her until she’s dressed sexily and wearing better makeup. He claims he’s been falling for her this whole time as they hung out (along with her tween son), just like she’s been falling for him. She has softened by the end, so maybe she’ll become a better teacher to those other back-slapping bros without having to sleep with them all.
(Erotica authors; you’re welcome for the plot bunny.)
Ella’s makeover made her more stereotypically feminine and the dates she went on made Connor jealous. So maybe Ella became less feminist (or more flexible in accepting that she could be more feminine in the eyes of society, which opens up a can of worms as to why she cares so much about what everyone else thinks of her) and Connor became more feminist? I don’t know.
I’m going to give this novella a C, because I was so busy picking at it while I read it that I was pulled out of the story over and over.
But all Connor needed to graduate was a C in this class, so I guess that’s OK.
This month I chatted with a couple of musicians about the lyrical side, rather than the instrumental side of their music. It felt appropriate, as April in the United States is National Poetry Month.
It’s a curious thing setting words and music together, it’s just so inherently human, something that feels like it came about at the dawn of our species. Doing it well is a different challenge altogether, though. Some songwriters start out with a poem, some start with a tune and let the words flow in, some pull from musical traditions, and others from stories and myths of old. Celtic mythology has certainly had a strong influence on many Pagan musicians.“I was utterly enamored with the notion of Bards, and their gift of speaking in a twilight language,” said Sharon Knight. Essentially a bard herself, she has been active in the Pagan music scene for the better part of three decades.
Knight mentioned the connection between the language of poetry and the language of magick. Using that “twilight language” that she describes, one can imagine that poetry attaches to the power of spellcraft, in a way, as metaphor and helps to convey the idea without exposing the fragile parts to the air for open scrutiny and, thereby, dis-empowering the whole.
To use it, “is to create a temple that invites a spiritual force to dwell within. If your poem is satisfactory, not only in lyric but in cadence and resonance, then the spirit may grace you with its presence. This is always the hope, with every musician I have known, that the delivery of our craft is sufficient to awaken the indwelling spirit of the song,” Knight said.
Singer and songwriter Mama Gina Lamont said she takes care when crafting the lyrics to her songs in order to engage her listeners emotionally, allowing the rhythms of a song idea to seep into her heart and mind.
“If I listen closely to the voices in my head – or out of my head – the music and lyrics or poetry usually wrap themselves around that cadence,” Lamont said, noting that for her, the lyrics generally come last.
Lyricist Joanna Swan, of the Norwich, England-based acid/spooky folk band the Familiars, shared that she’d, “like to think that most if not all my lyrics could stand as poetry if they were not set to music.”
Some of Swan’s influences include Dickinson, Bronte, Rilke, and Goethe. She also mentioned that Robert Graves’ “White Goddess” inspired a poem she wrote for a folk horror anthology called Corpse Roads.
“It contained an extract from the 14th century Charm against the Night Mare and an explanation of how this aspect of the White Goddess supposedly builds nests in hollow yew trees and lines them with the bones of poets she has killed,” she said, “I put the book down and immediately wrote ‘Mare’s Nest’.”
The lyrics of a song are the message, the animating principle, the poetry which is, “the framework within which music is wrapped,” as Knight put it to me.
“I have always found her lyrical phrasing interesting, and this one in particular has a lovely lilt to it.” she said, “of course it doesn’t hurt to hear it delivered via her spectacular voice!”
We are both creatures of the sky, and animals
A cord connecting to Mother Earth
A mind reflecting the Universe
We’re told a thousand different lies of separation
That Nature is outside, but not within
That somehow we’re immune to the changes we bring
But Nature is both Spirit and skin
A balance fine as a butterfly’s wing
Break through the labyrinth of lies and realize
That we’re not the pinnacle of Life, the Grand Design
That we’re not the winners of the prize of dominion over
Time now to open up our eyes and reawaken
A storm is on the rise, it’s time to see
We must listen to the cries of the Earth, our Mother.
For Nature is both Spirit and skin
A balance fine as a butterfly’s wing
Nature is both Spirit and skin
A balance fine as a butterfly’s wing
This was the first song that I heard off of that album, a fundraiser created in partnership with the Rainforest Trust to help protect endangered rainforests in Africa. Like much of what Wendy Rule writes, it has so much depth — the enspirited universe that she sings about, well, to an animist it rings so very true.
Rule also has a quality of constructing a song that is so unique as to be almost otherworldly. The verse that captures my attention the most is the one that holds the song’s title, “Nature is both Spirit and skin/ a balance fine as a butterfly’s wing.” There are novels that could be written out of that line alone. You can almost feel the tissue-thin veil beneath your fingertips, the Spirit that she speaks of is everywhere, imbued in everything around us.
The theme of nature’s living presence comes up in Knight’s own work, as well. Among her enduring favorites (and mine as well) from her catalog is, “Fire in the Head.”
It’s based on a Welsh legend about a mountain that aspiring poets must sleep before in order to be judged by a giant. The risk those poets take? Death or madness, but if they’re deemed worthy, they awaken with “fire in the head,” the gift of poetry.
“I love the legend because it speaks of nature as a living force, and of what great lengths the artistically-minded will go to receive the gifts of poesy,” Knight said, “as though the gift of vision into the unseen worlds, and access to those worlds through words, is of utmost importance. Which, to me, it is.”
Every line of this song is dipped in magick, enjoy.
One of Joanna Swan’s favorite songs is the traditional, “The Cruel Sister,” a murder ballad which she said comes from the Northumbrian tradition. Collected by Francis Child, a 19th century American folklorist and scholar, it has been performed and recorded by countless since.
Here’s a version by British folk band, Pentangle.
As Swan explains, the lyrics are reminiscent of a fairy tale, “with two princesses, one dark and one fair at the centre of it. The dark one drowns the fair one in the sea in a fit of jealousy. When the fair sister’s body washes ashore, minstrels make a harp from her bones and hair and bring it back to the castle, where, when played, it announces the dark sisters’ guilt to the grieving parents.”
The creep-factor is seriously alive in this song, unlike the poor sister who had her bones and hair made into a harp, wow. There’s a longstanding tradition of using the remains of animals and humans to create magickal objects, to great effect for the listener, and also the wronged sister in this piece.
“The songwriting process has always started with the lyrics and then we’ve composed the music around the story those lyrics are telling,” Swan said.
Among her own she chose to share, “The Shaming of Agnes Leman.”
“It’s one of what I call my ‘new songs that sound old,’ taking a story from local history or folklore and using a fairly traditional ballad pattern to construct the verses,” she said.
The story comes from her hometown, Norwich, and recounts how a woman named Agnes Leman was ducked — that is, dunked in the river on a trebuchet-like device — as punishment for engaging in “lewd” behavior with a married man.
Mama Gina has been touring a lot lately and I connected with her between performances along the Gulf Coast where she said that the music of S.J. Tucker has been accompanying her on her journey.
“I dearly love, ‘Ravens in the Library.’ Those lyrics are gold – so much to mine in each word and phrase,” Lamont said.
Lamont’s favorite verse is, “my friend bids me come and see/ the ravens in the library/ setting quiet pages free.”
“It refers to a real moment in time when a friend asked her to go see a picture of ravens in a library. And it sparks the creative, imaginative moment where she envisions ravens learning from books in a post-apocalyptic world. That is what I love about true poets. The words always lead to so much more… and the more you delve, the more possibilities arise,” she said.
This song was also the basis for a fundraising anthology of stories, poetry, and illustrations from contributors like Neil Gaiman, Laurell K. Hamilton and Charles de Lint, among others. It’s no longer in print, so if you find a used copy at a reasonable price, snatch it up!
Lamont has lately been experimenting with a new musical persona, Nine Toes the Bard. It’s a changeup not only in personality, but in style in some ways, inspired by a surgery that left her with one digit less on her left foot. A favorite off of her new album is “Battle for the Moon,” an antiwar ballad with a twist— a bard attempts to stop a war over the moon from happening, but in the end, she ultimately fails. The sides of the red king and blue king battle, leaving nothing but dead behind.
From that song:
Eight and twenty days she sang – the Bard could do no more
And with heavy heart and gods’ release – she left them to their war
She watched each slay the other – ‘til no one stood, not even kings
Her tears ran freely like their blood, “I’ve changed not one damned thing.”
At that point, a former warrior steps forward and tells her it wasn’t all for nought, that her words inspired him not to fight again.
Thanks for indulging me in my love of a little poetry this month, to me it’s among the most magickal art forms, so closely linked to spellwork. Setting them to song only enhances their power, which is why having musicians who are magickal practitioners is such a gift to our community.
Make sure to check out each of the musicians, and if you like their tunes, you know they’d appreciate your patronage. You can find more information and touring schedules for Sharon Knight, Wendy Rule, Mama Gina/Nine Toes the Bard and Joanna Swan and the Familiars at each of their sites.
Author’s Note: Each of these songs linked from Bandcamp have the lyrics on their site. I considered posting the lyrics for every song here, but for the sake of column length, decided against it. I encourage you to go read, or sing, along.
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The views and opinions expressed by our diverse panel of columnists and guest writers represent the many diverging perspectives held within the global Pagan, Heathen and polytheist communities, but do not necessarily reflect the views of The Wild Hunt Inc. or its management.
will they, won't they?
1. Comment with your character, series, preferences, etc. in the subject.
2. Roll a number between 1-15 for a prompt.
3. Reply to others and play the scenario out!
4. JUST GET A ROOM ALREADY. OMG.
1. BOSS ✖ A romance with a higher up or your boss is taboo for many good reasons, but you’re finding yourself falling in love with them anyways. Will others approve? Will one of you have to quit your job to not get the other into trouble?
2. JUST FRIENDS ✖ Talk about one of the biggest roadblocks to love ever! You want to kiss them, but you don’t want to ruin your current relationship. What are you going to do? Will you get the guts to confess and hope for the best?
3. GOALS ✖ You want to tear down a building to build an apartment complex, they want to make it a historical landmark. Opposing dreams and goals are huge roadblocks, especially if you happen to want to ‘sleep with the enemy’… literally.
4. TEAMMATES ✖ You work well together, you can depend on them no matter what, and you get along outside of the office or game. What you feel is just that happy camaraderie, not any mushy feelings of love or romantic affection! Is it?
5. DENIAL ✖ No, no way. You do not love that other person. They are stupid or just too prideful or you’re not interested in them at all. Ha, admit it, you totally are. Now go over there and admit your feelings before everyone around you goes insane.
6. COWORKERS ✖ Oh, this is awful. You really, really like your coworker, but there is a no dating policy, or they don’t date coworkers under any circumstances. Dare you make a move after hours or in the break room? It could be worse; you could have the hots for your boss.
7. POLITICS ✖ Clashing beliefs and heated debates always gets the blood pumping, and even though you have sworn to defeat them and get your bill pushed through, their eyes make your heart jump and makes you reconsider your ideals… Can you find a compromise or let bygones be bygones?
8. TAKEN ✖ Oh god. How can you confess to someone who is already taken? Why are you even feeling like this? You must never let them know. Ignore everyone who is encouraging you to take a leap of faith anyways. They are taken and that is that.
9. SOCIAL CLASS ✖ She is a princess, you are a stable boy, he is a rich lord, you are the scullery maid… Money is an important factor to any relationship, and sometimes, it can be one of the barriers. But how long are you going to let positions and titles keep you apart?
10. PRIDE ✖ You? Be in love with someone like that? Ha! No way. You are far above them, and you deserve only the best love. But… what if they are the best love and you just don’t realize it yet?
11. FAMILY FEUD ✖ One of the most famous of all the situations, for some reason, your families are fighting and as much as you like the other person, you can’t betray your family this way. But is there a good reason for the feud? Or a misunderstanding? Will true love conquer all without the abundance of death?
12. OBLIVIOUS ✖ This is the most frustrating one ever. It’s not that they hate each other or someone else is making a barrier, it’s just that they you have no idea how good of a couple you would make or how you always flirt with each other. Will one of you realize it, or does someone need to give you a push?
13. DUTY ✖ Bound by honor and loyalty, you can never cross the line that divides you and your love, be it that you swore to protect them or they serve you. Or will you? How will others react to this? Might it be considered forbidden?
14. FRIEND-ZONED ✖ Oh no, it's not what you think. You see, your best friend likes the person you like, and they are trying to go on a date with them (or get into their bed). But you can't let either of them know, because that is not what good friends do. But what do you do if your mutual crush is interested in you anyways?
15. WILDCARD ✖ Is there something we missed? Is there another scenario you want to play out, or would you like to roll the dice again? Go for it!
(credit to allmymemes)
It's called The Consequences of Being Late and I wrote it for the tomarrydarkspringexchange because it's a pairing (Tom Riddle/Harry Potter) that occasionally attracts my attention. I kept it mildly tame on purpose though Tom Riddle is still a self-obsessed creeper of course.
I think because it was posted on tumblr for an exchange, it has become in less than twenty-four hours of posting, my fic with the most kudos (right now 47). Behind that is a Harley/Ivy fic that I assume has that many because after the Suicide Squad movie came out, I assume many people decided they needed to read every single Harley Quinn fic in existence and some liked what I wrote.
(It was a fascinating to see kudos regularly come in on that fic last year. It's a short fic of Ivy comforting Harley after a bad break-up with the Joker with the old stand-by of ice cream. I believe I originally wrote it as a gift to sharpest_asp.)
It also could be that my writing has also improved since I last regularly wrote fanfiction since I have worked a lot on it via original fiction. I won't discount that much at least.
Thing I learned while writing this piece: I don't have to explain everything or describe everything in detail. The reader is allowed to fill in the gaps and in fact, if you do it correctly, it probably will keep the reader more engaged.
My intention is to make brief posts about how I'm voting and what I think of the finalists, as I complete each category. As a general rule, I pay no attention to stuff by Vox Day or his publishing company Castalia House. For this Hugos, I intend to pay no attention to Puppy nominations unless I also see buzz about them from elsewhere, so some of my Hugo posts will list five finalists, and some six, and that is why.
 wording deliberate: attention is probably my most limited resource and I've a lot of other things I'd rather spend it on
So far, I have managed to read all the non-Puppy finalists for Short Story and for Novelette, and while in each category I have a clear favourite, ranking the remainder is proving something of a challenge, but in a good way.
Title: Koi-iji: Love Glutton
Original Title: こいいじ (Koiiji)
Author: Shimura Takako
Status in Japan: 5 volumes, ongoing
Scanlator: Megchan's Scanlations feat. Migeru
Scanlation Status: Ongoing
More Info: Baka Updates
Summary: 31-year-old Mame has been in love with her childhood friend Souta ever since she can remember. Despite multiple rejections, her love has stayed constant. It's become a habit more than anything, but is it one she'll ever be able to break and get on with her life?
Chapter Summary: Souta and Yume attend an old friend's wedding.
Chapter 16: An Education
First up: continuing Rest by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang. Interesting thoughts so far on how "deliberate rest" is just as important as deliberate practice for accomplishment and creativity. If I get tired of this, I'll continue working on Les Miserables, and I have plenty more books lined up if I should finish one of those!
I'll edit this post if I feel like adding any thoughts. I will definitely do some posting on Litsy (I'm Clare-Dragonfly there) and possibly on Twitter (I'm clarekrmiller). Off to read!
Hour 9: I'm going to read Les Miserables if it kills me. And Hugo's long digressions on French politics might just do that.
Despite what I said last night, there are other things I'm hoping to get done this weekend besides work.
I'm so close to the end of The Obelisk Gate that it'll just be embarrassing if I don't get it finished, on top of annoying, as I'm enjoying it. I would've finished last night if I hadn't been tired enough that I fell asleep something like 50 pages from the end. >.<
The other thing is that I need to reupload my website. I got a note from Merrow (kinda)recently saying that the domain host had found a script and isolated the whole domain. We've both been busy, so it took a while before I got my temp login info, and now it's been another while and I haven't actually made this happen. I haven't touched FTP since whenever I last updated the site (2009? 2010?), so it feels intimidating even though I expect it'll be easy and scruloose is around to help as needed.
This happened right around when LJ was imploding, too, and right around when I was seeing a couple of people mentioning that AO3 just isn't as robust as we'd like. What a combination. o_o
In an ideal world, I'd take this opportunity to finally upload the last couple of Fruits Basket fics that never quite made it to the site and have only ever been posted here and to LJ, but that is so not happening this weekend.
(For those of you who're like "...you have a website???", my personal site has the dual purpose of hosting both my manga/anime-based fic [see also: life before Newsflesh] and my info/analysis pages for Rin and Haru from Fruits Basket; I started the latter early on in my time in the fandom when I hit my breaking point for People Being WRONG on the Internet about Rin. [So many people. So horribly wrong. >.<])
And a week or so ago someone messaged me on Tumblr to ask about my site and if it was down for maintenance (and/or did I know it was down), because they still go to it regularly to reread fic after all this time. So that made my day. ^_^
But right now, I really need to get to work.
I fell back into the Fallout 4 brain sink for a bit while I was trying to get my body and brain in a place where they'd work together again. But I think this upcoming week will be better.
I got a lot of the Gulf Wars submissions scanned and in a letter for Moonestone, so that should help. Note: I really like Colm. I hate his handwriting. I can't read it. I am both sad and relieved that this was probably his last Gulf Wars. And I feel a little bad about being relieved, but he is not moving with the new rules and it is getting very frustrating to be given this paperwork that someone has pinned hopes on and it not be usable. (Gleann Abhann does not have fillable pdf forms for our submissions. I really desperately wish we did. I've put out a couple of feelers to see who did other kingdom's.)
We are going to go help Jenna scrub her pool today. I hope the sun comes out at some point otherwise it's going to be really cold scrubbing. I don't even own a swimming suit. I'm going to be borrowing a pair of Brent's trunks.
Tomorrow is vacuum day. I adore my vacuum. It's hard, though, to vacuum, empty it, and move stuff to vacuum all by myself. I don't usually have to move stuff if I keep up with the vacuuming, but I haven't been keeping up. As such, tomorrow is a two-person job.
I got all the scrolls framed that weren't an odd size (really, Axemoor, why with the 11x15 scrolls?) and they're hanging in the hallway. I eventually want to do something a little more sturdy than the Dollar Tree $1 frames, but that's going to be a piece by piece sort of thing. I need to find our other framed ones - our AoA's, Brent's Arrow and Bolt, and my Onyx Chalice. For a while there, the only scroll in the hallway was my Diamond Chalice (oh my gosh that scroll! It's so beautiful. How does Jam do it? How can he still see?!) and it was framed for me as it had also been an A&S entry by Jam. I want him and Conall and zarhooie to meet up one day.
I sewed a tunic for Jenna! We had Baronial Wars where Gellis and Gida stepped down and Jenna and Nico came! Brent cut the tunic out and I sewed it. Turns out that if I don't try and sew the underarm gussets in with the machine, I can sew a tunic together in about an hour. And then I can spend thirty minutes sewing the underarm gussets in by hand. Hot diggity. This is going to make life a lot easier for me and for Brent. I think he's gotten kinda tired of having to sew all of my tunics for me.
I more or less fell over from exhaustion yesterday. I'm not looking forward to the next couple of weeks which promise to be almost as hard as the last two weeks. I made next week harder by scheduling with Medequip for Friday morning to get the c-PAP fitted/set up. I didn't have any other appointment that day, and I really, really need to do this.
My primary goal for today is to nap. I'd like to finish making up a character for Scott's Firefly game and also sign up for Not Prime Time. I think the latter won't take too long because I can mostly just copy and paste. I'm just putting it off in case someone signs up with something I know I can write but hadn't intended to offer. I'm unlikely to edit my offers after I sign up, just because that would be extra effort.
I have figured out what I need to add to my Fandom5K story to tie it up nicely (it's fine as is. This would just make it better). My hope is that this will only add one to three thousand words. Longer would be fine as long as the words come quickly. I just don't want to spend more than a day writing the scene.
The FFnet troll has sent two more messages, this time trying to tell me that my plot has holes in it. The name on the comments is different but still a guest, but the (lack of) punctuation and capitalization is the same as is the general vocabulary. My suspicion is that they're trying different attacks, trying to see if they can come up with one that will make me respond.
Scott thinks I should pat the troll on the head and tell them that the name change is really cute in the same way that a toddler hiding behind a three inch sapling and expecting not to be seen is. I fail to see why I should take that much trouble over it.
I'm kind of curious at this point as to how many other angles of attack they'll come up with. I almost need a bingo card. Wonder if I can get a blackout?
A few days ago we entered into the new month of Iyar. Here's my favorite teaching about the month of Iyar: its name is an acronym for something beautiful. Torah teaches that after the children of Israel crossed through the Sea of Reeds and reached the far shore, they sang and danced -- and then, once they began their journey in the wilderness, they became afraid. What if there were no potable water for them to drink? What if there weren't enough to nourish them in life's journey?
So God instructed Moshe to throw a piece of wood into a stagnant pond, and the water became sweet. And then God offered one of Torah's most beautiful reassurances, saying "I am YHVH your healer." That's the phrase we can see hidden in the name of the month Iyar: אני יה רפאך / I am God, your healer.
In the words of my friend and teacher Rabbi Yael Levy of A Way In:
Iyar is an acronym for this promise the Divine Mystery has made to us: I am your healer. On life’s journeys you will face the seas of struggle, celebration, fear and joy, and whatever comes, I am there to heal and guide you. (Exodus 15:26)
Iyar is a month of second chances because the full moon of Iyar provides the opportunity to make up for something that has been missed. During Temple times, it was considered essential for a person’s spiritual and material wellbeing to compete a sacrificial offering for Passover. If circumstances kept someone from someone from making this offering, he/she was given another opportunity to do so on the 15th day of the month of Iyar.
Iyar says it is never too late -- no matter what situation we find ourselves in, no matter how far away we have traveled from our intentions or goals, it is possible to find our way back.
Every life contains missteps and missed opportunities -- times when we look back and realize we wish we'd chosen differently. If only I had reached out to that person then, instead of staying silent. If only I had walked through that door, instead of staying outside. If only I had said "I love you" while I still could. If only, if only.
Part of what it means to me to say that God is our healer is to say that God accompanies us into our second chances. I don't have a time turner; I can't actually go back in time to undo my mistakes, so that I could do then what I wish now that I had done. But Rabbi Levy points out that just as our ancestors were given the opportunity to offer the Pesach sacrifice late, we too can find opportunities to make up for where we missed the mark... and I think that's one way that God can help us to find healing.
Illness and healing are major themes in this week's Torah portion, Tazria-Metzora. Torah's ancient paradigm of tamei and tahor, impure and pure -- or charged-up with the energy of life and death, and absent that psycho-spiritual "electricity" -- may not speak to us. But part of what I relearn from this Torah portion each year is that when one is sick, whether physically or emotionally or spiritually, one may feel exiled from the community. Cut off and isolated. "Outside the camp" in an existential sense: alone even when surrounded by other human beings.
And in those times God comes to us and reminds us אני יה רפאך -- I am God, your healer. I am the One Who is with you in sickness and in health, the One Who accompanies you even when you feel most existentially alone.
When we are sick and feel isolated, the One Who Accompanies is with us. And when we are sick at heart because of the places where we missed the mark, the One Who Accompanies is with us too. May this month of Iyar be a time when our second chances gleam bright before us, so we can find healing in making amends, and making new choices, and remembering that -- as Rabbi Levy teaches -- no matter how far we've strayed from where we meant to be, it's never too late to find our way back.
This is the d'var Torah I offered at CBI this morning. (Cross-posted to my From the Rabbi blog.)