Keeping Connected September 2019
I am a person who is very attuned to the seasons and right now, on this last day of August, I am keenly aware that autumn is edging closer. Although our garden still has many tomatoes, the sunflowers are finally blooming and the grass STILL needs to be cut, the evenings have a chill that says change is coming. Birds are stopping at our feeders more often trying to fatten up before their journey south and some maple trees are already turning red! Sadly, days are shorter. Simply put, life feels different. Life is moving ahead and we have the chance to move forward with it!
My initial response to the arrival of fall is usually melancholy, but after shouldering those feelings for a day or two, I find my heart and mind opening to change. How do you experience this transition? This year, is there a sense of positive anticipation and excitement or, has the last year left you feeling broken, hurt or angry? Perhaps the end of the year finds you feeling a combination of these feelings and a confusion of how to sort through them. Just as plants need to die back and leaves need to fall, in order nourish the ground below, next year’s growth is dependent on change, loss, dormancy, and even the death of some of last season’s growth. It is into this environment that the seeds of change are nourished.
The human psyche and spirit also need opportunities for turning inward; shedding parts of our lives, saying good-bye and finding ways to nurture the parts of ourselves that have been depleted by the challenges of life, work, family, relationships and more. It is not always evident what these changes will bring and sometimes it takes hind-sight, but wisdom and even joy can come from these changes if we embrace the opportunity for growth.
Tomorrow is the first day of Elul, the month of preparation for the Days of Awe. I offer you an invitation. Stop. Take time. Notice. Be aware of the stage of “autumn” in your life. Holding on too tightly to the blooms of last year, keep us from becoming stronger and more fully ourselves. Perhaps a loved one has died and left a gaping hole in your heart. How can you bring along the love you felt and how can you take that love and make it a blessing by living in a manner your loved one would want you to live? Perhaps you have had a year of great opportunity during which you worked hard, faced many personal challenges and achieved personal goals. Although you can look back with pride, has it left you feeling tired and run down? Have you nurtured yourself or has the opportunity filled all the space of your day to day experience? The story is yours. You just need to take the time to stop and notice.
Perhaps enthusiasm in the face of these types of transition is too strong a word, but as I age, I do feel more of an acceptance of this pattern. I try to let go more easily and perhaps that is why I like weeding so much! Perhaps it is why I am finding it easier to give away or even throw away items that I have carried with me through the many stages of my life. Both nature and the cycles of the Jewish year remind us, over and over again, that we have windows of opportunity for change and personal growth. Just as the season of autumn comes each year, the Days of Awe arrive with an invitation. You can move forward. You can make amends. You can set limits. You can re-direct your feelings. You can let go of hurt. You can find joy and wholeness. Perhaps it only takes a little faith. I look forward to walking into these days of change with you and I hope you will find a way to discover the experience you need.
Rabbi Shoshana M. Perry