The time between Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur is a reflective time, and the term awe can need not only reflect wonder, but also horror. This year in particular I grieve the world as I once trusted it. I can’t put my mascara on until I reach the parking lot where I work with opioid and alcohol and crack and marijuana addicted people because I cry all the way to work. I spend my hour commute listening to either VPR (hurricanes, earthquakes, fires, fundamentalism and our own shameful government) or I listen to the original Blood on the Tracks and think about how it’s been the soundtrack to my own life and no other music fits the bill these days. Mostly I’m sad because I can’t really do anything besides steward my own little corner of the world best I can. Sometimes I write angry essays and send checks to The Southern Poverty Law Center, The Jewish Anti-Defamation League, Citizens United for the Separation of Church and State and I’m suspicious of sending money to the Red Cross. I keep driving mascara less to work, but the facility where I work is being sold to an out-of-state company and I am feeling shaken and worried about that. It’s the cliché that so many workers in our country have gone through and now it’s my cliché. My husband has already lost his job with them and how do I negotiate his grief along with my own?
I will cross the pontoon bridge and climb up to the waterfall and empty my pockets of crumbs into the rushing stream, in ritual for the New Year I will cast away my sins. On that same bridge right now a father bounces his little boy over the old wooden railing. I can’t hear what they are saying but I believe there is teaching going on. About water, about fish. And the reflection of themselves I am sure they can see on this still morning. Likely they are not doing tashlisch since this is Vermont and not a mecca for observant Jews, but who knows? On that bridge last night my neighbor who had a stroke last year holds her husband’s hand as they take her daily rehabilitation walk. They seem too young for this stroke and too old to hold hands, and they wave up at me and I tell them they look fabulous and they air pump the sky calling out their awesomeness.
In the fall of 2008 I published an essay in the Seal Press anthology The Maternal is Political alongside Nancy Pelosi, Benazir Bhutto, Barbara Kingsolver, Ann Lamott, Cindy Sheehan. It was the second big publication for me so I knew my writing wasn’t just happenstance but something real, good even. I wrote because of my horror at George W. Bush getting re-elected, I wrote about my daughter and how, even in temple and in school, she mattered. I wrote about other daughters, especially the young Orthodox woman in Jerusalem who tried to learn English from me so that she could go to college in America, and whose father forbade it. I was twenty years old, and now at sixty-seven I still think about her, knowing it is likely nothing changed.
I am rambling, such is the off-kilter gait of grief and hope. I am still proud of this essay, proud of my daughter, my husband, proud of all of us who keep on keeping on. I will celebrate this season of reflection, of Tashlich, and repost it with my wish for a sweeter year ahead.