It’s so still outside that it’s worth the insomnia that kept me up to see it and, more importantly hear it. Underneath the stillness, there are birds calling to each other, first just the dark blue jays, so much bigger than the jays I grew up with and missing the white. They’re as large as crows were growing up with black heads and deep blue bodies and there among the few birds that stay with us all winter. Joining them are the magpies, always well-dressed in black and white and a little bigger. I do not hear the iconic speech of ravens, who here are even larger than elsewhere and have distinctive regional dialects. Smaller birds begin to wake up as the sun slowly rises over snowy mountaintops to the east, jagged dark rock peeking out from behind the frosting. I can hear a little bit of highway noise in the distance, the only reminder besides my neighbors that I really am still in a city.
For me, there’s always an interesting contradiction in the day before Shabbos evening. There’s the rushing around, but it’s also as if creation pauses between breaths, inhaling but not yet exhaling until the candles light.
Try it. When you inhale and hold your breath, you can push yourself to get that last bit of cooking done, to rush through getting the lights turned on or off, your last minute chores checked off, but there’s also so much anticipation to exhale. Inhaling isn’t nearly as relaxing as that long, slow breath out, the air taking with it everything you’ve held in all week. For me, Friday day is that held inhale, breathlessly waiting, and Friday night is the long awaited exhalation.
Today, I have slightly less chaos to tame since I’ll be working from home, banished from my office by coworkers who’d rather I not share whatever virus I picked up from my daughter and have kept all week. Tonight, we have the excitement of our first Shabbos in the new and improved Shabbat RV version 2.0, which is a hulking behemoth. For now, though, I just sit, listening to the birds and watching the sun paint the sky over the northeastern mountains.
After, candle lighting now isn’t until 9:20pm tonight. I have time.