The Return of Eco Shabbat

As the days get shorter, we find ourselves turning off the lights once again.

Spending one evening each week in the quiet candlelight–a way of reconnecting with each other in the midst of busy days, of taking a little rest from the noise that fills our lives, from the constant doing that prevails in our world.

A way to give thanks to the earth for supporting us, by taking a little less from her one night each week.

A moment given over to stillness, reflection, gratitude.

A long quiet in-breath that is by its very nature a meditation on where light really comes from, a lesson on how to tend the fires within.

We linger over our meals, for where else is there to be, or to do? Friends drop in to feast along with us, and our sense of community is strengthened little by little.

Sometimes we make music. Sometimes we tell stories, ones we’ve been saving and ones we never thought we knew.

Sometimes we just sit quietly in the darkness, and go to bed, already rested.


Good night!

Dark Nights, Getting Brighter

(Or, an update on last month’s small change–making room in our life to observe an eco-shabbat)


Take the day and give thanks–thanks for the work, the rush, the busy-ness and the gifts they bring.

(Life made rich and, truly, possible, by all that doing.)

Say thanks, and enough.

Mark the calendar with the evenings that are ours alone. Guard them as precious.

Let darkness fall unhampered. Full upon the home.

The heart –our dinner table!– lit by candles, oil lamps.

So much to say in that warm light

(Oh, my husband, how good it is to sit here with you, in the darkness that returns us easily to each other.

To ourselves. To the music we make.

To the love we discovered those many years ago in what could be another world,

but lives, renewed and fed by these quiet evenings.)

A night of watching the candles burn low, the oil run out, the wood turning to ash.

The source of our warmth and illumination no longer removed and intangible,

but here before us–solid and finite.

When the light goes, and the stars and moon come through,

and we find ourselves beneath the same night sky as our ancestors,

(My, the many dark nights we emerged from!)

we can take our time finding the words to that old, half-forgotten song.

One More Small Change: Eco Shabbat

Ah, February. Time to make another small change. Last month’s change was, if I do say so myself, a bit on the superficial side. Now, there’s nothing wrong with that, but for the sake of balance I’m turning now a bit more inward, towards the soul side of life.

Eco shabbat is about rest. For us, and for the planet. It is a time to slow down, literally and metaphorically. In Judaism, Shabbat begins at sundown on Friday night with the ritual lighting of candles, reciting of prayers, and sharing of challah. It ends at sundown on Saturday. The time in between is spent turning away from mundanity and towards the sacred. Without the distractions of technology and work and busy-ness, shabbat creates room for prayer and reflection. For dedicated time with family and friends and one’s own self. It is also a time to lessen our impact on the earth, to let it, too rest.

To facilitate this rest, life gets unplugged for a spell. Everything goes acoustic, as my musician husband was pleased to point out. Time is taken away from computer and television screens. Electric lights are left off. The car is kept parked. No money is exchanged. The radio is silent. Food is prepared in advance. In exchange, one gets to enjoy candle light. To go to bed early. To make music, play games, create art, take naps, journal, go for a walk, or visit neighbors. To give thanks.

My hope is to bring an eco-shabbat into our home at least one full day and night this month. February is full to bursting for our family. We have so much going on–wonderful, enriching things, yes, but the scales are tipped firmly in the camp of do, do, do. One day of rest would be a gift, a blessing, a wonderful beginning. And along the way we’ll carve out small shabbats. Earth hours, if you will. Weekday dinners spent in candle light. The odd day spent wholly at home, with nothing on the agenda. My hope is that it grows from there, becoming more a part of our lives, our rhythm, our days.


With thanks to the spiritual traditions that have passed this wisdom down.