Navagating the New Year

mud Last year in a bulletin essay, I said that kayaking was like prayer moving through water. I had been boating on a spiritually quiet NE lake. This year I think kayaking is more like life moving through life. This new assessment is probably influenced by my last excursion out of Boothbay Harbor. As I started out, the water was smooth, I saw ospreys feeding their young. Halfway through my itinerary, I stopped at friendly deserted island with a soft beach to stretch.
Appearances proved to be deceiving. Climbing out of the kayak, I immediately sunk knee-deep in this sticky black sedimentary muck that sucked the shoes right off my feet. To retrieve them, I had to dig with my hands, which I then had to wipe on my clothes.
You get the picture.
So then I tried to clean up some in the ocean. This was only partly successful and I failed to notice several strands of seaweed still clinging afterward.
Heading back, I had to paddle against the tide and a strong headwind. It was a long way and the harbor had grown choppy. Suddenly, from out of nowhere, a yacht pulled up close beside me. A woman yelled down at me, “I just want you to know, your form is excellent.” Then she saw me covered with mud and seaweed up close, and she added, “I mean, your paddling form, you know, is really good.” Then she shut the cab door and the yacht disappeared. Though the whole thing was just a little odd, I still felt energized and sang the rest of the way back to port.
Sometimes our year is kind of like that kayaking trip. We set out knowing that there are challenges but we are not really worried. Then things happen and suddenly we’re knee deep in muck and getting out requires going in deeper and getting really messy. The year that started with such promise becomes nothing more than a long hard haul.
We’ve all been there, and many of us are very much there now.
Then the High Holy Days appear like a calm harbor. These days are, to paraphrase Abraham Heschel, an island in time. Hopefully, in their quiet calm, we will find the healing, the energy, the strength, the inspiration, and the courage to engage our lives once again on the other side.
One thing, however, that is absolutely necessary for the success of the holidays is the very thing that is most often forgotten. It is not something really under the rabbi’s or cantor’s or board president’s control. That is for each of us to turn to the people in our families and in our lives, the board and volunteers here at the temple, people we meet as we enter the sanctuary, and even the stranger passing by in a tallit, a pair of slacks, or a kayak, and say:
Good Job
You look good. You are doing great.
Thank you for being an inspiration to me.
This is how it starts. I turn to everyone here at the temple, our board, and committees and volunteers, all our wonderful congregants and friends and especially my family, and say,
Thank you, everyone. Good Job. You’re Looking Good,
You are an inspiration to me.
Happy New Year
Now your turn.