Blog,  Coming Alive Memoir

Celebrating Light: Winter Solstice


When the words come, they are merely empty shells without the music.

They live as they are sung, for the words are the body and the music the spirit.

 – St. Hildegard of Bingen


A Story

 When the great Rabbi Israel Ba’al Shem-Tov saw misfortune threatening the Jews, it was his custom to go into a certain part of the forest to meditate. There he would light the fire, say a special prayer, and the miracle would be accomplished and the misfortune averted.

“The Forest” A. Ierardi

Years later when a disciple of the Ba’al Shem-Tov, the celebrated Magid of Mezritch, had occasion for the same reason, to intercede with heaven, he would go to the same place in the forest and say: “Master of the Universe, listen! I do not know how to light the fire, but I am still able to say the prayer,” and again the miracle would be accomplished.

Still later, another rabbi, Rabbi Moshe-leib of Sasov, in order to save his people once more, would go into the forest and say, “I do not know how to light the fire. I do not know the prayer, but I know the place and this must be sufficient.” It was sufficient and the miracle was accomplished.

The years passed. And it fell to Rabbi Israel of Ryzhyn to overcome misfortune. Sitting in his armchair, his head in his hands, he spoke to God: “I am unable to light the fire, and I do not know the prayer, and I cannot even find the place in the forest. All I can do is tell the story, and this must be sufficient.” And it was sufficient.

 from The Gates of the Forest by Elie Wiesel

A Poem

A rare daguerreotype of Emily in her mid-20s with her recently widowed friend.

I never spoke with God,

Nor visited in heaven; 

Yet certain am I of the spot

As if the chart were given.

 —Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson (left) & Kate Scott Turner, 1859 daguerreotype rare image of Emily in her mid-20s with her recently widowed friend.


The Essence of God Suffices

Recalling one of my favorite Hasidic stories I watch as the candle, the forest, and the prayers disappear as the essence of the Divine remains.

As time goes on in our lives we witness more losses and disappointments. Injustices, violence, and persecution of minorities persists in our country. Even when memory and clarity clouds our minds,  what remains is the story.

Candlelight from “Walking with Grief” painting by Anne Ierardi
Medieval Fresco Madonna & Child – Anne Ierardi

Retelling the Sacred Stories

And so we retell the story of Christmas and Hanukkah.

The Story may appear the same but the telling of the story bears the light that guides us and the hope that saves us from ignorance and despair.


“Coming Alive“: Keeping the Faith

“Coming Alive” A. Ierardi

“What does it mean to come alive?”

“To let the past unravel its claims, confusions, and containers? To let my feet take me on the road to find out? My thirst to know God came naturally to me, as it did for my fellow New England traveler Emily Dickinson. To be alive is to come alive. Hearing the call and accepting the invitation. Coming out again and again, engaging with the world.”  – An excerpt from “Coming Alive.”

Telling my story in my memoir “Coming Alive” was my way of going into the forest of my own remembrances.

Sharing my story with my friends and communities this year brought me the awareness that grace and wholeness exists through the offering of oneself.

Truly, we want to know and experience each other’s stories. In 2023 my resolutions will be to write and share more stories, sing and play more songs, paint more, pick more daisies, and eat more gelato!

 The winter solstice is the coming of the light that slowly overcomes the darkness. December recalls past joys and sadness. Emotions are heightened and life’s difficulties can feel harder to bear. The pandemic has added to the loneliness and long evenings. We recall the year and the losses of our friends and family members. My friend Rev. Sylvia Robinson died a few weeks ago. My last words to her on the telephone the week before she died were “Keep the Faith” and her last words to me in response were “Keep the Faith.”

With gratitude for all your support and faith in me in 2022.

“Walking with Grief” –       N. Geertz, A. Ierardi




Here’s to December Birthdays!

Pavia reminded me that people born in late December become overshadowed by Christmas. My aunt Portia. who inspired me as a child with her love of books was born on the the 16th a day before Beethoven whose music she played on the piano. My great nephew Luca’s birthday is Dec. 20th.

Pavia’s wife Lynn Dec. 26 and Edith Piaf Dec. 17.  We are delight to hear Pavia sing: “La Vie en Rose.”

Me and Auntie Portia by the Christmas tree.
Luca & Nicki with Santa







Reliving the Music

Chanteuse Pavia honors Edith Piaf “the Little Sparrow”