The Cycle of Years

clouds2September is a month of knowing. Summer is over. The days become visibly shorter, by about three minutes a day, early in the month. Leaves turn a defeated green on their way to orange. Summer, the time of year that reminds us of laughter and fun and childhood, is over. Fall, with the hint of the knowledge of death, with its cool dawns and promise of fog, steps up from the horizon.

That is a memory.

clouds1My reality today is different. September is a promise that the white blazing heat of summer won’t last forever. September is a shadow that falls across the pool, cooling the water in tiny increments with with a steady determination. The water goes from tea-warm to body temperature, to cool, to crisp. By the end of September, there won’t be long swims, there will be fast daring dips, to prove we can swim till October. In September, I can start to walk again, free of the gym and the equipment. September is the gate that opens the door to the world again.

Fencepost cactus, about to bloom. The flowers are so large and generous for the climate.

Fencepost cactus, about to bloom. The flowers are so large and generous for the climate.

And in September, the New Year starts. I know, New Year comes in the middle of winter, in January. But not for me and the tribes that follow the calendar of the moon; whose sons and daughters were slaves first and nomads next. For us, the summer signals the end of one year with the harvest, and the beginning of the year in the fall, when the fruits are canned, the grain in the barn,  and the hard work of the fields behind us for the year.  And still, I live in a city, where there are no fields, except in the memory and in the thread that connects the tribe scattered across the globe.

Tonight, I lit candles, covered my eyes and said the prayer that brings in the New Year, ” Blessed is the Creator of the universe, who has kept us alive, sustained us and brought us through the circle of the year to reach this season once more.”

For us, the next week are the days of awe, a slowing of time, a stretch to think about the certainty of death and the possibility of life. It’s a good time to think about the next step in life. What do we choose to bring with us? What needs to be put down, to no longer burden us with a weighted soul or regret? In the next week, the Book of Life is open, and our destiny is written. It doesn’t matter if it’s a metaphor, the days are getting shorter and reminding us of our limited time.

Death cannot be avoided, so it’s best not to fear it. And better still to plan a rich, generous and creative life for the days ahead.

To the nomads among you, Happy New Year. Celebrations are not exclusive or limited. They are for anyone who wants to be more fully alive and creative. The Creator of the Universe is not some unknown, it is you. We create our own universes. Create well and live well. May the coming year be sweet and generous to you.

-Quinn McDonald loves the solemnity and joy of Rosh Hashanah.