Episode 36: Relearning to Wash Our Hands (Transcript)

Episode 36: Relearning to Wash Our Hands

[Theme Music]

Nahanni Rous: Hi friends, it’s Nahanni Rous, host of Can We Talk?, from the Jewish Women’s Archive. We’ll be with you next week for our regularly scheduled season opener on Joan Rivers... but these are not regular times. My hands are red from washing, my kids are out of school, and my friends and I are wondering whether we should still be eating meals together. These are the troubles of the priviledged, though. So many people are at much higher risk. We’re facing a global pandemic, millions lack access to healthcare, and the weakness of our political leadership has never been more apparent. Most of us have never lived through anything like this, and it is frightening. I would like to share this prayer from my dear friend Dori Midnight, a community healer and spiritual leader. It’s helped me find the thread of love in the tangle of anxiety. Here’s Dori.

Dori Midnight: We are humans relearning to wash our hands. Washing our hands is an act of love. Washing our hands is an act of care. Washing our hands is an act that puts the hyper-vigilant body at ease. Washing our hands helps us return to ourselves by washing away what does not serve. Wash your hands like you are washing the only teacup left that your great grandmother carried across the ocean, like you are washing the hair of a beloved who is dying, like you are washing the feet of Grace Lee Boggs, your auntie, Audre Lorde, Mary Oliver... you get the picture. Like this water is poured from a jug your best friend just carried for three miles from the spring they had to climb a mountain to reach like water is a precious resource made from time and miracle. Wash your hands and cough into your elbow, they say. Rest more, stay home, drink water, have some soup, they say. To which I would add: Burn some plants your ancestors burned when there was fear in the air boil up some aromatic leaves in a pot on your stove until your windows steam up. Open your windows. Eat a piece of garlic every day. Tie a clove around your neck. Breathe. My friends, it is always true, these things. It has already been time. It is always true that we should move with care and intention, asking "Do you want to bump elbows instead?" with everyone we meet. It is always true that people are living with one lung, with immune systems that don’t work so well, or perhaps work too hard, fighting against themselves. It is already true that people are hoarding the things that the most vulnerable need. It is already time that we might want to fly on airplanes less and not go to work when we are sick. It is already time that we might want to know who in our neighborhood has cancer, who has a new baby, who is old, with children in another state, who has extra water, who has a root cellar, who is a nurse, who has a garden full of elecampane and nettles. It is already time that temporarily non-disabled people think about people living with chronic illness and disabled folks, that young people think about old people. It is already time to stop using synthetic fragrances to not smell like bodies, to pretend like we’re all not dying. It is already time to not take it personally when someone doesn’t want to hug you. It is already time to slow down and feel how scared we are. We are already afraid, we are already living in the time of fires. When fear arises, and it will, let it wash over your whole body instead of staying curled up tight in your shoulders. If your heart tightens, contract, and then expand. Science says: Compassion strengthens the immune system. We already know that, but capitalism gives us amnesia and tricks us into thinking it’s the thing that protect us, but it’s the way we hold the thing, the way we do the thing. Those of us who have forgotten amuletic traditions, we turn to hoarding hand sanitizer and masks. We find someone to blame. We think that will help. It is already time to remember to hang garlic on our door, to dip our handkerchiefs in thyme tea, to rub salt on our feet, to pray the rosary, kiss the mezuzah, cleanse with an egg in the middle of the night when you wake up with terror in your belly. It is time to think about stardust and geological time, redwoods and dance parties and mushrooms remediating toxic soil. It is time to care for one another, to pray over water, to wash fear away every time we wash our hands.

Nahanni: Dori Midnight is a community healer and spiritual leader. In her practice, she weaves together plant and stone medicine, ancestral and queer magic, social justice work and wisdom from her Ashkenazi and Sephardi Jewish lineage. Dori lives with her family in Western Massachusetts. You can find Dori online at dorimidnight.com. Listen to Can We Talk? online at jwa.org/canwetalk, or anywhere you get your podcasts. Be well, stay in touch, keep breathing, and wash your hands. Shabbat Shalom. I’m Nahanni Rous, and we’ll be back soon.

["Aurora" by Jonny Easton plays]

4 Comments

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Such a wonderful poem.
I copied it onto my computer and made it in poem format. The words and energy in them just flow on the paper and into my heart. Thank you.

Inspiring in many ways BUT don't kiss the Mezuzah for goodness sake!! Blow a kiss instead.

This is beautiful, and we need it. Thank you for this gift.

Beautiful.

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Episode 36: Relearning to Wash Our Hands (Transcript)." (Viewed on June 23, 2021) <https://jwa.org/podcasts/canwetalk/episode-36-relearning-wash-our-hands/transcript>.

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