4th of July

[Please note: this column was written and published in our print version of our Newsletter, before the murderous shootings that took place in Highland Park, IL on July 4, 2022. The need has never felt greater to find "the gate that swings open to the joy that is."]

Right down the middle of main street
the woman with the long red braids
and fairy wings strapped to her back
rode a unicycle more than two times
taller than she was—rode it with balance
and grace, her arms stretched out,
as if swimming through gravity,
as if embracing space—her smile an invitation
to join in her bliss. How simple it is, really,
to make of ourselves a gate that swings open
to the joy that is. How simple, like tossing
candy in a parade, to share the key to the gate.

-In the Fourth of July Parade
Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer

Like most of you I have enjoyed my share of parades, but I admit to never having seen a red-headed woman wearing fairy wings atop a tall unicycle. I can only imagine that, if I had, I would have responded with a smile, entering that “gate that swings open to the joy that is”.

The bad news: For much of the pandemic period from which we are cautiously and slowly emerging, that gate has felt locked with a padlock forged from anxiety, fear, loss and grief.

The good news: Most of the time we are able to reach into our virtual pockets and find the key to that “lock”, the experience of joy that enable us to transcend, even if briefly, all that weighs us down.

What “key(s)” do you use to open the “gate that swings open to the joy that is”? Among my keys are the following (in no order of importance)

Taking walks with family and friends
Interacting with our four cats
Making & listening to music
Discovering poems that spark an emotional response

For many people, summer brings manifold “keys” to that gate: visits from family and friends, opportunities to enjoy outdoor activities (boating, swimming, golf, tennis, pickleball, etc.), picnics and barbecues, Shabbat worship out-of-doors, beach walks, etc.

Regardless of the season, we would all do well to identify and keep close at hand the “keys” that will open the “gate that swings open to the joy that is” because the world has a nasty habit of delivering us to dark and frightening places in our lives. Knowing how to tap into the kind of joy that liberates us is a skill worth developing .And, should that key happen to be the sight of a red-headed woman with fairy wings riding a tall unicycle in a July 4th parade, so much the better!

Reb Elias