Tuesday, September 7, 2010
part one: enter the harvest
The edges of summer are starting to show around here. I can see them far off, slipping down the shoulders of clouds in the distance, revealing the yummy season of fall underneath.
It has me thinking about new beginnings.
Does that sound weird to you? As summer ends and we watch the slow creep of autumn, the changing colors of leaves, the squirrels gathering food for the long encroachment of winter--- does it seem odd that my mind would drift to a fresh start?
Let me explain: it began several years ago when I read an essay by Robert Fulghum in his book Uh Oh. He is not Jewish. Something more of a all-you-can-eat pick-and-choose buffet sort of fellow in terms of religion. But he says that the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah appeals to him. Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish new year, and he goes on to explain why it reverberates for him. He feels like fall is the right time to begin again. As these pieces of earth have grown and flourished, as they come to fruit and are harvested just at this time of year--- so it is with our internal selves. It makes sense on a cellular level that we should visit our internal garden to reap the harvest of our life's fruits. We clear the soil of debris. We pluck stray weeds that have been allowed to grow. And we add whatever fertile blessings we can to this newly cleared land, preparing it for winter's rest.
In the meantime, I dream of a word.
It's a tradition I started with myself last year. As fall crept into my bones I felt like I needed to embrace this concept of a new beginning in autumn. I couldn't wait, and didn't want to wait until January to set myself on a new path. So quietly I considered my options. I thought about setting a whole slew of goals: a litany of rules and sub-rules to better craft my physical, spiritual, emotional, and mental self. A document that would surely set myself up for both fantastical betterment and also fantastical failure. Because if there's one thing I'm a little too good at, it's getting tied up in confusing rules and binding specifics. No, I didn't want to approach my own personal new year with too many goals that would surely languish. Instead, I picked a word. A single word that I promised myself I would live toward. A word to help me to distill my hopes and desires for a Better Whimsy into simple and concrete action. One word for a year of focus.
If you've read Eat Pray Love than maybe this concept will sound familiar to you. It's funny because I've only just read the book in the last few weeks and I had this moment of Oh Right when I came across Elizabeth Gilbert's search for a word for her life. I get that. It makes sense, and after the simplicity I've been able to embrace my one word, it's a tradition that I want to continue.
Rosh Hashanah begins at sunset this year on September 8. For so many friends of the Jewish faith, it is a time for quiet contemplation and seeking personal forgiveness for past mistakes. It is a time for casting old practices, old sins, old beliefs, and old dogma into the sea. For asking to be made clean.
And although I'm not Jewish, I will be doing my own quiet personal inventory this week. As the dark shadows grow long in the twilight and the leaves begin to turn gold and scarlet, I will do my best to evict the little bad habits that have been clinging to my coattails this year. I will take stock of what I've gained and what I've lost. I will savor the sweet taste of those fruits from my labor this year. And I will clear the ground and give prayers of thanks for my many blessings. This is the time to clean my internal garden and ready the soil for another word, a new word, a word for the coming new year.
I can't wait to tell you about it.
* My Jewish friends: please pardon my complete and total layman's take on this very special and sacred holiday. I hope you know that I approach it with the most sincere reverence. If I have made any assertions here that are incorrect or (even worse) inappropriate, I hope you'll forgive me and accept this with the spirit it was written--- to urge all of us, no matter our faith, to look inward and seek for constant improvement.