It’s a tad strange to think of Fall in sweltering 35 degree heat but all the marks are there: kids are back in school; traffic has tripled at any given time of the day and, if you are Jewish, the High Holidays are upon you, a sure harbinger of Autumn.
My (very non religious) household gets together every year to celebrate Rosh’ashana, Yom Kippur, Passover and Christmas. Relatives converge from as far away as New York and, sometimes, Italy, for tables laden with food, a good dose of kvetching and a pretty Christmas tree no matter the weather outside.
If Rosh’ashana is a time of celebration and merriment – we are ringing in a new year after all, 5774 to be precise – it’s Yom Kippur I always felt an affinity with. It’s a somber week of reflection, culminating in a day during which every Jew of sound health is called to fast and pray, thinking over the past year and the sins that dotted it, repenting and vowing not to repeat them in the year to come. I always found this process more meaningful than Catholic confession but, then again, the last time I confessed I was thirteen – my sins couldn’t have been that meaningful.
I hardly ever fast on Yom Kippur but I do spend some time thinking about the people I hurt, about experiences I wouldn’t like to repeat and, at least with those closest to me, I will go so far as to make verbal amends. Not a bad way to start a new year, wiping the slate clean. I am a sucker for new beginning.
Unlike Summer and Winter, open invitations to sloth, Autumn and Spring are full of promise and are a time for renewal, for business, for the start of new projects. I love the word new. It conjures shining, good will and the hope of better things to come: a new school year during which, as a child, I was sure I could do better than the year before; a new job with rewards imagined or tangible; a new relationship to wipe out the heartache that came before; whatever “new” means to you, just fill in your blanks.
And if none of it works out, newer adventures always beckon to take the place of failures and disappointments.
So, this September, after I am done repenting and making room for a better me, I will be celebrating everything new in my life.
- For the first time, my mother attended the Jewish High Holidays with my acquired American family. My culinary contribution to the meals is usually a crowd pleasing cake but my mother this year added a vegetable dish, peperonata, to go with the wooden chicken and the leather brisket. It was an instant success and I am now called upon to make it again every year.
- The last time I displayed a solid dose of American civic activism was during the re-election campaign of President Obama (whether it was time well spent, that is up for debate right now) but I am brushing off my research skills and my civic motivation to fight a proposed super-sized mansion in my neighbourhood. We might not win but fighting for a cause always brings a reNEWed sense of purpose.
- A new attitude towards my worrisome nature. I am getting tired of people telling me I shouldn’t worry so much about everything. Only worry about things you can control, is the usual refrain. I am also getting tired of platitudes. So, while I am making an effort to shed some of the more meaningless worries, I am accepting that worrying about Ottie’s stomach or whether a tsunami will hit Los Angeles in the next decade has its own purpose: to remind me of always feeling joyful because disaster might struck. Soon.
- Above all, I am celebrating new opportunities: recognizing them and pursuing them even if they might lead to a dead-end. There could be fun in the process.
And to remind you that a positive attitude can lead to greatness, I will leave you with Paul McCartney’s latest single, titled “New”. That someone so famous and so wealthy, with nothing much left to prove, at 71 is still genuinely enthusiastic about new love and new music, is, frankly, a touch inspirational.
Shana Tovah my friends. Or happy Autumn anyway.
Images found in the public domain