After celebrating the end of a year on December 31, it’s easy to see what the new year is supposed to bring — a good luck menu for dinner which varies depending on where you live and, of course, resolutions. Every magazine screams from the cover ways to lose weight, get in shape, save more money. Bookstores have tables and displays that are filled with titles on those same topics and more. And the morning television shows offer stories and features on what resolutions people are making and how to keep yours. The only resolution I make on January 1st is to not make one — and I keep it every year.
Many companies go through their new year “resolutions” at the end of June as the new fiscal year begins on July 1. They set goals and budgets. They have committees and retreats and sessions to help their employees know what these new goals are, and they encourage the staff to look at how they will help to meet the company’s aspirations. I don’t participate now and never really had to since I never worked in corporate America.
Beginning last evening (September 6, 2021) and ending on Wednesday evening, Jews around the world are celebrating their new year – Rosh Hashanah. It is a time of prayer, personal reflection, and hearing the shofar (a horn whose sound is supposed to be a call to repentance). Like January 1, it comes with food. Apples dipped in honey to signify the hope that the new year will be sweet.
I have always had my own new year. Well, okay, I imagine many teachers and students share it with me. Like Rosh Hashanah, it comes right here at the beginning of September as the humidity drops, the temperatures cool, and we bid farewell to summer. The local orchards produce an abundance of gorgeous apples with their crisp juiciness in more varieties than most people have heard of, the spiciness of the apple cider warmed with a cinnamon stick, fall festivals highlighting the color explosion and abundance of fall all rejuvenate me. I know that is what people say about spring, but for me it happens in the fall. I know that my feelings of a new year beginning were natural because for the greatest portion of my life I was starting a new school year whether I was a first grade little one, a high school freshman, a college section, or a seasoned educator.
From the time I was a child and throughout those years, I looked forward to starting the new year with the possibilities it offered. Like Rosh Hashanah this came as a time of prayer and personal reflection, but the is shofar was replaced by the shrill sounds of today’s school bell. And like all of the new year celebrations and traditions it comes with the hope that the new year will be successful, sweet, and spectacular.
New school supplies still make my heart do a little dance. All that clean, white paper ready to be filled with new knowledge and new thoughts and creative ideas. Those new pens begging to be used. No new back pack and lunch box for me — they were replaced decades ago by pristine, new lesson planners and grade books awaiting a whole new roster of teenagers coming into my room with clean slates. All new kids to build relationships with and help along their road to become who they would be. These things always made me look forward to a new start, a chance to do it all again, and an opportunity to perhaps do it better this time. It was a chance to start new units, refresh my own knowledge, and be creative.
While I retired a few years ago, this time of year is ingrained into me as a new beginning. I feel refreshed and invigorated by the muggy air moving out and the cooler temperatures moving in. In the summer I am content to sit in the air-conditioned house and breathe. This week brought with it the feeling of the onset of fall or at least a view of it on the horizon. I can actually breathe and I want to do something. I feel like I can start projects, begin new adventures, and live more fully. I have a renewed sense of optimism that things can be accomplished. I don’t know where this will lead. I don’t know what original ideas I might have or what older intentions I might start anew. But to feel as if there are possibilities is a beautiful things.
So as I take a deep breath, appreciate my favorite time of the year, and anticipate October with its colorful display, I’m grateful. I love September for the new beginning and November for its abundance. But truth be told — even in my favorite season, the highlight will be October and I’m looking forward to it. Anne Shirley said, “I’m so glad to live in a world where there are Octobers,” but I would just say autumn.