04 October 2005

Answered with Expansiveness

It's Rosh Hashanah, the start of the Jewish New Year (Phantom Scribbler's post today has some fine links about the holiday). We had a modest observance of the holiday, having dinner with friends and doing a tashlich service before dinner. It was very simple (given that the majority of participants were under 6): one friend explained to the children what we were doing--thinking about what we were sorry for in the last year that we wanted to throw away--and we helped each child brainstorm a bit. Then we helped each child scoop up breadcrumbs and toss them into the creek. The adults were a bit more pensive, reflecting a bit between tosses, but the children loved throwing crumbs, the more the merriers. (There is a nifty ritual for tashlich at ritualwell.org--something for another year with more feminist adults in attendance.)

Here in the Granola household we're not much for God talk. I have a fuzzy understanding of a divine presence in the world, sort of an inspirational spirit in the universe which humans access in community through right actions; Politica is firmly convinced that we humans make the world we live in, and when we die, that's it. We like rituals, although most of the language in our rituals is gender-neutral and God-neutral or not in English so the God terms don't bother Poltica so much. The tashlich prayer isn't the sort of thing we usually recite. One line, though, really struck me tonight: From the straits I called upon God, God answered me with expansiveness. Expansiveness....that's just what I need. In these past few weeks, as Politica has been absent (both literally and somewhat metaphorically) caring for her father, as demands at work swirl around me, as we get closer to renovating our house (which will require packing up much of the back half of the house to make room for the workers and demolition), it's been feeling like time and space are closing in around me. Expansiveness is the antidote to that. It's mental space, physical space, freedom to move another way, to see from another perspective. Expansiveness is missing....and yet, this prayer says, it is granted to she who asks.

Expansiveness is within me. As I tossed my breadcrumbs, thinking about times I lost patience, times I lost my temper, times I failed to manage my time or nurture myself or someone else, I watched them land, float, start to drift away. I watched the fish come and nose about the crumbs. I watched the crumbs begin to dissolve into the flowing water, moving into another part of the ecosystem. I thought about my failings, going off to form part of the larger community, off to be reshaped into something more nurturing. I thought about space. And I felt more free.

Marge Piercy's poem "Coming Up On September" ends with these verses:

Now is the time to let the mind
search backwards like the raven loosed
to see what can feed us. Now,
the time to cast the mind forward
to chart an aerial map of the months.

The New Year is a great door
that stands across the evening and Yom
Kippur is the second door. Between them
are song and silence, stone and clay pot
to be filled from within myself.

I will find there both ripeness and rot,
What I have done and undone,
What I must let go with the waning days
and what I must take in. With the last
tomatoes, we harvest the fruit of our lives.

The aerial view of the year, the capacity for taking in and letting go, are only possible with a sense of emotional space. I like this feeling. (Maybe I will even maintain it long enough to get back on my Getting Things Done efforts--that gets at intellectual space from a whole different perspective. I've been enviously admiring Geeky Mom's efforts as I read them.)

Tonight when I was getting Curious Girl ready for bed, she wanted to pick jeans for tomorrow's outfit. "It's going to be hot. No jeans," I said, and offered her denim shorts. "Those are not jeans!" she pointed out. "Jeans that are shorts," I tried, but she had none of it. My temper rose; I got short with her. So much for my newfound expansiveness. But then I thought It doesn't need to be this way. I can make another choice. And I let it go (and picked a sleeveless shirt for her to wear with her jeans tomorrow.)

So, dear readers (assuming you're still reading at the end of this long post), my wish for you: a year of expansiveness, a year of choices. May it be sweet for you and yours.


sster said...

this post read like a gift to me. thank you.

susan said...

I'm glad. I worried a bit as I typed that my attempt to describe our lack of interest in God talk was going to put off some readers--I know from your writing that you're in a different space in terms of the role faith and prayer play in your life. I hoped to write in a way that made space for all of us to ponder these issues across whatever approaches we take to notions of the divine or spirit.

Phantom Scribbler said...

This is really lovely, Susan. I feel like my horizons and my patience have contracted severely in these past months. I will hope to answer my frustrations with expansiveness this year. Or, at least, some time to explore those ritualwell links before, say, Purim.

-- in the house where my Person Who Pees in Pullups dressed in denim shorts -- and a long-sleeved shirt -- in yesterday's heat!

Yankee T said...

Great post. Expansiveness is something both admirable and attainable. Good for you for letting go on the jeans.

susan said...

I'm taking comfort in the thought that it is, theoretically attainable. It's a weird thing, parenting (and living). So many things are out of our control and it pays not to obsess about them. Yet so many fundamental things about our responses to those uncontrollable things are within our control.

Glad to know that those who view clean panties as a lifestyle choice that really oughn't be imposed on everyone just yet also have a similar fashion sense. Maybe we just haven't gotten the memo about all this!

elswhere said...

This is such a lovely post. It was nice to read about another tashlich ceremony w/small kids. And I love that Marge Piercy poem.

susan said...

It's fun to watch the way small kids react (or don't) to various parts of rituals. In our car it's Passover time almost all year long, since Curious Girl never tired of hearing "Day Day Enu," as she calls it. She can sort of sing along with a huge variety of songs from the CD that accompanies the groovy reconstructionist hagaddah whose name I'm forgetting. She doesn't always participate in things in the moment, but she sure loves to play around with singing various melodies while she's playing.

I wish we had an open body of water and seagulls to go with our breadcrumbs.