NYC, Immersed.

I decided to call my mikveh project, launched a month ago, ImmerseNYC.
Oh New York — my birthplace, my home — I didn’t mean it quite so literally.
When I said I wanted to introduce New Yorkers to the transformational potential of water,
this is not what I had in mind.

The destruction abounds:
boardwalks that were,
a carousel that seems to be floating in the East River (hadn’t my children just sat on those horse statues
a few weeks ago?),
cars floating on the Lower East Side,
New Jersey stoops rising out of feet of sewage and sludge.

Immerse we did,
not on purpose, not to prepare for a wedding, or to become Jewish, or to celebrate retirement, or to mark the end of chemotherapy.

We were immersed against our will.

Rescue me, God,
     for the waters have come up to my neck.
I have sunk in the slime of the deep,
     and there is no place to stand.
I have entered the watery depths,
     and the current has swept me away.
I am exhausted from calling out… [1]

A mother lost her grip for a moment and her two sons were caught in the current.
An elderly couple drowned in their car.

For these things, I sob,
     my eyes, my eyes flow with water. [2]

Oh yes, there is water in me.
Recently, my baby daughter was crying, so I picked her up and held her
face-to-face, cheek-to-cheek.
One of her tears dropped onto my lip,
I tasted it.
My daughter’s tear actually tasted sweet to me.
I knew she would not be crying for long, her delicious smile would return any moment.
I appreciated the intimacy of her tear, her water, a drip in my mouth.

The fluidity of our world reminds us:
salty tears can taste sweet,
the waves recede, becoming the calm ocean once again,
the lights go back on, eventually,
even in the most remote places,
even for those who lost everything. 

And on that day, we will immerse NYC.
On purpose.
For healing and to celebrate life.
To embody forgiveness of the element that leaves
death, life, and everything in between, in its wake.

 


[1] Robert Alter, The Book of Psalms, Psalm 69: 2-4.

[2] Adele Berlin, Lamentations, Lamentations 1:16.

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