I grew up next to woods. Nature seemed full of mystery and refreshment. Those woods weren’t country, but acres of steep hill behind our house in Yonkers, where no houses could be built.
As a child I knew where the blackberry bushes were and how to slide through the trees when the snows were firm. When I got older, the woods offered solace and sanctuary from an unjust world.
Of course I was taught to follow the existing methods of worship and inner reflection that my family practiced. For better or worse as I matured, I discovered that my beliefs did not fit my family’s faith, nor could I mold myself to accommodate what was expected of me within the church.
Perhaps because I was brought up with strict rules, I was unable to be a part of that religion unless I could accept every aspect of it. Nature became my sanctuary.
As an adult, I have been surrounded by people from different traditions and faiths. I’ve observed rituals that retain a cultural and familial hook, regardless of actual commitment to the religion.
I used to work at an office adjacent to the Diamond District in Manhattan. During the High Holy Days (Rosh Hashanah through Yom Kippur) along with the stores, my favorite bagel shop would close. These busy streets quieted and even though this was not my practice, I was struck by the observance.
My simple understanding of this holy time is that one prepares to be ready to take on the New Year by making atonement for any transgressions or shortcomings. Since I live in the Northeast of the US, it seems appropriate to me that this period of solemnity and reflection occurs at the onset of autumn.
Whether or not you mark the Jewish holy day of atonement, the emotional weather of the day is one of sensitivity with an openness for awe. Blessings to those of you who practice in the Jewish tradition. For my readers who feel a change afoot but have no practice for it, here are some thoughts.
At the end of any cycle, whether a lunar or an annual, there is a natural proclivity to take stock. Autumn is my favorite season (I love them all for different reasons). Certainly the whispering of the drying leaves in the trees is one.
Give yourself some quiet time today, ideally in nature.
Listen for the voices of the past and forgive any perceived wrong. These wrongs may also have been self-inflicted.
We cannot move forward when attached to a grievance, guilt or a lost opportunity. As surely as a maple leaf turns crimson and is released from a branch, so too will we all pass.
You don’t want to cling forever to something that stunts your ability to take the next step. Relish the sweetness in sadness— recognize the preciousness of what has passed or been lost, not because of the pain, shame or failure, but because of the contrast.
We mourn because we love.
We hurt because we fail or someone fails us. Reasons for failure range from simple to complex.
Through allowing the process and its emotional maelstrom, we give ourselves the potential of a next step and a new day. Balance introspection with music or visual observation.
Blessings, light and love.