Rosh Hashanah: New Year arriving strangely in autumn

Thu, 09/09/2021 - 4:30pm

New Year’s Day comes strangely, you may think, in autumn.

Not strange at all because it is at this season many of us harvest what we have grown and learned.
And at the same time we have the chance to plant again and learn something new to build upon.
Schools opening their doors again watching millions of us pass on to houses of learning.
Places of harvesting as well as sowing.
And what is it we are building?
Isn’t it ourselves? The seeds of last year’s growth are pregnant in this year’s harvest!
But must we stay caught up in abstractions?
For me, fall and Rosh Hashanah bring with them some disparate particulars:
Autumn with its silent ‘n’! I love that N!
The incredible burst of color we know of as the turning of autumn leaves!
One perfect orange leaf that disengages from some miraculous birthing place at the top of a tree to find its way into my hand.
Though illegal to do so today, when I was a child, we burnt them in small gutter fires along the roadside edging our houses. Autumn was filled then with their pungent smells and mysterious mists.
In memory they still fill me with a kind of undefined longing!
I recall our family walking to synagogue for Rosh Hashana... Kicking up with our holiday shoes the autumn leaves strewn across our path:

Remarkable specimens of maple oranges and deep reds of oaks and yellows of birches. These may have been blended in memory, which is not always accurate but as I close my eyes, I recall just that - the blend!

At times we would bend to capture a leaf that caught our fancy and tuck it into a prayer book we carried or into a pocket!

In looking ahead to the possibilities that lie ahead, I know that I must bring forward the people who filled my life from the beginning and the lessons I have learned from the past: That it was and is family and love that give us the trust and strength to make ourselves into new and separate and indispensable individuals.

As a youngster, for many difficult years, I didn’t know who I could be, what I could do that would be meaningful to myself and to others . . . I wish I could
say I’ve learned it all now and am finished making myself.
But what I’ve learned is that there’s more to it than that:
I am a better person than I thought I was. Better but still with much to learn—especially about how to grow.
So what does New Year’s Day coming into our lives strangely in autumn tell us... (Autumn with a silent ‘n’.)?
It seems to say: Here we are again... bringing forward who we’ve made ourselves to date. That is fine! That is good! That is worthy!
And here you find yourself - we’re told - with a new slate: less perhaps a starting over place than a continuation one.
Perhaps we just take a new step and find that though a door has closed behind, what we’re headed to is a space of possibility: for taking that risk, for embracing who are dear to us, of focusing and following our passions.

Each of course filling in our own blanks, filling those blanks with our own strong and maybe quirky choices... with loving and growing... of remaking ourselves to face a new and... strangely in Autumn...

To all of you - whether you celebrate New New Year now or at a different point in the calendar - I wish you a year of family - reunions, celebrations, opportunities to hug and recall memories, a time to value what is precious, to cherish each other in good health, happiness - and always in love with life!