Sunday, September 19, 2010

Loyal to a Day

A house sparrow and I are regarding each other. I just gave him some scone crumbs, but he’s still wary. Trust but verify. It’s the 20th of September, the beginning of the last third of the month. Deep into back-to-school territory. The 9/ on homework is developing a personality now, like a cat in a bookstore. The click of chalk in a quiet room, kids listening, daydreaming. The drone of information occasionally stopping to ask a question. Gears in brains sluggishly turn: Alexander Hamilton? No, someone else they never heard of. Outside, trees are agitating in a know-it-all wind. The leaves dance. It’s like musical chairs. Or war. One of them will lose their grip, if not today then tomorrow. The tree-crickets are like a crowd rhythmically encouraging a jumper. We are at the opposite of spring. Rolling away from hope and mercy and warmth, toward underground, night, interiority. We know this turning, this flickering on and then winking out of leaf light, berry light, aster light. In two days summer will have been renamed autumn, and we may not notice. Didn’t fall move in a while ago, a daddy longlegs on an ear of corn?

Yom Kippur is falling farther away from me, a fleeting visit from a Very Important Day. Usually it arrives later in the season, typically a toasty day in early October that finds me in a meadow or hillside contemplating my place in the Grand Scheme of Things, surrounded by the mortality of crickets. This year brought it earlier, and I gave it shorter shrift than I’ve done in recent years. Didn’t go to temple, didn’t validate the day with the hundreds-strong congregation of Temple Shir Tikvah in Winchester’s Town Hall. Instead, I went back to the Mystic River in the mid-afternoon to sit on the mystical Nine Steps, with my small pad, not even the big one. I noted superficial things: goldenrod, asters, blue jays, and mysterious ripples. Two old dudes in a motorboat zoomed by, ripping the river into sloshing strips. I dozed, partly because of my mini-fast (an abbreviated lunch), partly because of a less than full engagement with the Yom. Other Yom Kippurs have yielded pages of self-annotation in the big notebook along with interesting narratives about passing goldfinches and cloud events. One even brought forth the three important things, which I offer here at no charge: 1. Be open. 2. Make an honest effort. 3. Forgive yourself.

This time, what I squeezed out was that I had been loyal to the day. Minimally, but it counted. I had inhabited an hour like a small house. And emerged just before the old dudes in the motorboat zoomed back from the other direction. Perhaps there’s something to that, that is also the momentum of this almanac. Being loyal to the month, the day, occasionally the moment. Inhabiting the calendar like a roomy house.

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