Friday, September 14, 2007

happy new year

One of my favorite images from scripture is that of God coming to walk through the garden each evening with Adam and Eve. There’s something about time being kept only by the rhythm of our steps that makes walking a sacred activity. Ginger and I walked our usual loop around the neighborhood yesterday afternoon, ending up on the beach since the tide was out. As we walked, we could see various sized footprints and paw prints in the sand, evidence of how others had marked their days. The tide has since come and gone, erasing those marks and preparing the beach for a new day, for new walks, for a new time.

Last night, we went to our friend Robin’s house to share in her Rosh Hashanah dinner. Ginger met Robin several years ago at the Interfaith Seder at Robin’s congregation and they became fast friends. Robin has been kind to include us in several of the Jewish holiday feasts along the way. We sat around a big table and Robin lighted the candles and those who knew the prayers said them together in Hebrew; Robin then repeated them in English. As we began to eat, each dish had significance both in taste and in shape. The round Challah, rather than braided, to represent wholeness and community. The bread was sweet and full of raisins. Sweet was the operative word for the meal: we ate apples dipped in honey, chicken soup with matzoth balls, chicken with a cranberry balsamic glaze, noodle kugel (that tasted of cinnamon), and tzimmes (slow-cooked carrots, sweet potatoes, and prunes). The meal finished with a multitude of wonderful desserts. As one web site noted:

The Holiday's food reflects this pensive, contemplative and hopeful mood not only by using symbolic ingredients throughout the meal but also by avoiding others. Sweetness - which symbolizes hope for good things to come, is presented throughout Rosh Hashanah's food. The main meal, which is eaten on R/H eve, always starts with either apple or a piece of challah dipped in honey. Any bitter or sour flavors are avoided.
Food is important in celebrations, I think, because it is both temporal and archetypal at the same time. We were eating dishes steeped in history and tradition and we were eating a meal prepared that day for that moment; the eternal and the fleeting share the same table. We sat around that table for almost four hours telling stories and sharing ourselves witih one another. It was truly a sweet evening. I sat next to a woman who was also a Gentile. Robin said she had invited herself to dinner when she heard it was Rosh Hashanah by saying, “I need a new year.”

Starting a new year in the fall fits the rhythm of life better than January. The harvest is in, the leaves are turning, and we are moving into a time of rest and anticipation. In New England, it will soon be time to plant the bulbs we want to see bloom in the spring, an important exercise in delayed gratification and, as E. B. White said, “calmly plotting the resurrection.” As we talked, laughed, and listened, I could feel the roots of our conversation reaching deep into a tradition and history that has known almost four thousand more new years than mine, a faith that has fed my own, and a way of marking time that starts with, “In the beginning, God . . .”

When we got home, I had one more walk to take. The pups were quick to remind me they had not made their daily trek to the water, so I grabbed the leashes and we trailed off into the moonless night. The tide was out and the beach was empty, so I let them off their leashes and they scattered off down the sand and quickly turned into shadows. I stood under the starlight sky, naming what stars I could, drinking in the Milky Way, and listening to the waves marking time as the encroaching tide prepared, once again, to erase our footprints and bring another new day, another new year. After a few minutes, I called their names and Lola and Gracie emerged from the darkness ready to go back home. As we walked, I heard Tom Waits singing in my ear:
and its time, time, time
and its time, time, time

and its time, time, time that you love

and its time, time, time
Peace,
Milton

2 comments:

jk said...

Mr. BC!
I'm thrilled to have come across your fantastic blog. I actually found it by chance because I just recently started a blog for a program I joined in Peace Studies, and I was thinking about the people-watching/ diversity exercise we had in your class. Anyway, this is a wonderful site and I hope you don't mind if I post a link from my blog to yours (and to the cost of war in Iraq). I hope you are well, healthy, and happy.
Your former student,
Jane Kim

Hamguin said...

Milton--it is my pleasure to find such marvelous word-pictures and deeply held beliefs expressed so gently and yet, so passionately.

I was happy to see you added to the My Sacred Life group, as I was the only male in the group until you arrived! It was never an issue for even a heartbeat with the great ladies of the group, but the energy needed a touch more male balance.

Thanks for joining!