There is a time with the ending of one season and the start of another that I can sense the change with my body.
This feeling is the strongest with the onset of the autumn. There is something about this time of year that is both haunting and beautiful. Trees give a final push of energy before resigning themselves to a period of dormancy. Like a blast of light from a star, leaves from trees of all shapes, sizes, and species turn brilliant colors before leaving their home, falling, fading, and drifting away into the darkness of winter.
This morning, as I drove to Walden Pond, I saw a tree covered with the most glorious orange leaves.
“It is fall,” I told my partner. “I love fall, even though it a time of death for so much life.”
I can sense fall externally and also feel it within. I sense it with a longing for movement.
For most of my adult life, fall has been a time change. I worked as a seasonal employee for years. By September, it was time to find work. Seasonal change often required physical movement to communities both near and far. For some time, I worked between four to five jobs in the span of one year.
Even my first semi-permanent position with the National Park Service in Alaska was subject to furlough—a time to tighten my belt, pack up the car, and head somewhere, anywhere else.
I am drawn to birds and have wondered if my desire for travel and change of place with the changing of summer to fall is an earthly, primal part of my being in connection with the earth and other migrating species.
This feels real to me, but I know that I am not a bird. I am a living, breathing, human. I cannot fly, at least not literally.
Another possibility I have considered is that I derive from gypsies.
I write this only partially in jest.
I have life because of migration.
I exist in this world from human movement, being descended from a long line of Jewish men and women. I used to move so frequently that I joked that I was destined to wander like so many who came before me. Even in college, I changed dorms many times a year, transferred to a new college, went back to the first, and studied abroad for more time than I was ever on campus in the United States.
For me, movement came with a cost. I became a transient member of one temporary community after another. I felt rootless and without a real home. I connected with kindred spirits and places, only to leave with a heavy mere months later.
Before I lifted metaphorical wings, I was rooted in a small, suburban town in eastern Massachusetts.
I grew up going to Hebrew school, my own request when my family moved to a town where most kids went to Hebrew school after regular school. The holidays I learned to celebrate were the high holidays in the fall, Hannukah in the winter, Passover and Sukkot in the spring. The songs I learned were most often sung in minor keys.
This was the norm in my family, but I wanted to stretch my wings and create my own norm. I wanted my own identity, one that I chose.
In high school, I railed against Judaism as a label that I did not choose. I would yell at my mother that I did not have to be Jewish if I did not want to be Jewish. She could respond in equally high tones that I was Jewish because she was Jewish. There was no common ground to be found. I was desperately trying to both discover and create an identity all my own. I did not want anyone else to make the choice for me.
But I was born into a Jewish family. This was not a choice. It just was. I have not yet discovered a clear a scientific or rational reason, but I have come to believe and trust quite strongly in the wisdom, energy, and movement of the universe. I have also been learning to dance with the universe rather than trying to create a reality that simply will not materialize. This does not mean that I give up if at first I do not succeed. It means being open to the possibility that my plans may take effect much differently than I originally intend. It also means letting go of my expectations at times when my desire for what I want to happen and what is actually happening are not aligning. I bruise easily, and I can only beat my head against the wall for so long.
I belong to a tribe of sorts, even if I do not spend my Friday evenings at sunset with them. I struggle with accepting many of the tenets of Judaism, the greatest of believing in any kind of god.
I inherit a difficult past and am witness to an equally conflicted present. In living and breathing, I find my own way to honor the souls of those who made it possible for me to have life. And I will continue to do so with as much grace and humility as I can. These are the thoughts that I sit with in this changing of another season and end to another year in the Jewish calendar.