turn and return

by bam

it is holy time again.

well, it always is. especially on these honey-dripping days, when the september sun warms us with its deepest amber drops. and the nights turn where’s-my-sweater chilly, and the morning’s dew is enough to make you curl your toes.

it is holy time in any autumn hour.

but never holier than on these the days of awe, now mine as much as my beloved’s.

i do believe, long, long ago my irish peoples were not the ones who’d once been druids, worshipped rocks and stones.

i’ve an inkling that maybe my people, once upon a time, understood the rhythms and the seasons of the hebrew moons and stars.

i believe my people might have been among the wanderers, wandered right up and settled down on that island to the north, far north. the one where craggy rocks erupt from mossy meadows. where sheep graze and clog the country roads, stop the motor cars from motoring. might as well turn off the petrol, for there is no shooshing along a sheep. not one with munching on its mind.

oh, i am catholic through and through.

(though lately i’ve been longing for a drop or two of anglican, what with all those women making noise up on the altars, and a world view that’s maybe looser with the rules, a bit more inclusive in at least a few departments. why, i muttered not too long ago, i could even be ordained. but the one i married will not have it; one thing, he laughs, to have married a catholic, whole ‘nother thing to be married to a priest.)

and, yes, too, i am defined now by the rise and fall of sun, the turning of the moon, the seasons of the planting and the harvest. i kindle lights at sundown on shabbat. i inhale the spices at its close, cling all week long to the sharp, sweet notes of clove and star of anise, allow my nose’s memory to whisper through the weekdays that holy time will come again.
the pause of shabbat is God’s command to put down toil, lift up holiness. marvel at the simple gifts of consecrated quiet. it is God’s promise, too, to fill the holy chalice that is us, leave us thirsting for not a single blessed drop.

oh, there is much poetry that pulses through my heart these days. passion, too. and much of it is stoked by the prayers i read while i sit in synagogue, turning pages, lost in my own reverie.

it is, to me, all a spiral. the geometry of climbing. the ladder of a soul that reaches toward the heavens.

it is time to turn and return. so says the prayer of each shabbat. and, the ones for rosh hashanah, too.

even the bread, the challah of these holy days, is freed from its ordinary flat-planed braid, and lifted into ever-rising spiral.

we are told, in prayer and golden-crusted foodstuff, to come back to where it all begins–to turn and return–but take it up a notch. don’t be satisfied with status quo. don’t let dull the sharp-edged hope.

the days of awe begin tonight, when the sun slips down beyond the curve of earth, and the stars turn on, lighting up the nightsky.

it is time here in this house that is ours to turn again to page 82, the lamb-spattered page, the page where cinnamon has fallen, and kosher salt has settled in the gulley of the binding. it is lamb-stew time, the one single recipe upon which this union was begun. upon which it will, God willing, always rise.

just home from honeymoon, 18 years ago, encamped in an upstairs apartment in a tiny blue-framed house, the man i’d just married opened up the book i’d given him years before, before i ever dreamed i’d be his wife, and settled on the stew that would become our touching-stone. that will be stirred upon our stove, as long as there are arms to hold the long, wooden spoon. to sprinkle leaves of thyme. to cut up apple into chunks. to dump in raisins by the cupful.

it is, as we grow year upon year, a sense of coming home. we stir and we remember. we set the plates and pomegranates on the table, and we bow our heads in prayer.

we turn and we return.

it is all about the spiral. the holy coil that lifts us on our journey. that brings us back, again and again, but never to the place we’ve been before.

there is, we realize with every passing year, unparalleled beauty in coming round again to that moment in the days, the weeks, the months–the season–when all the world echoes: we’ve been here before.

and here’s your chance to savor it again, to learn again. or maybe for the first time.

it is holy and sacred, this spiral-marking, and it comes at the moment when my heart is ripe to bursting. when every pore of me wants to slurp up the molasses light that’s pooling all around.

i am inclined in these days of awe to walk wherever i must go. i want to feel my soles slap against the earth, feel the bumpy acorns, catch the light as it pours through golden-turning leaves.

it’s almost as if i can’t get enough of the gift: the gift of the spiral, the coming back to the essence–the joy and the beauty, the pure holiness–again.

it is time, now, to close my eyes in prayer. to inhale the holy vapors from my stove, my plate, the spice box.

it is hard not to want to leap into the holy rushing waters of this sacred river passing by. it’s an upflow, i am certain. and an updraft too.

i am soaring here, on a spiral fueled with cinnamon and cloves. these are the holy blessed days, the days of awe.
and i do as i’m commanded: i stand in awe, turning and returning….

may these most holy days enwrap you as they do me. may your every pulsebeat skip to the Divine that’s draped around us–from the branches of the trees, to the ever-dwindling slant of the sun, from the mounds of apples, to the holy prayers. may awe come to you, as you turn and gift it to the world in which you dwell.
your prayer for the blessed new year?