fears floating away

Sundays are family dinner nights.

Nights when we gather with our community around a shared dinner table, laden with food. Nights when the house vibrates with the joyful noise of children tumbling over one another. Nights when I stop and say a silent thank you for the life that has unfolded, a life rich with people who I love.

This past Sunday was Yom Kippur. We planned dinner early so that Jackie and Eric could join us before the fast began at sundown. We put out the best china and paper napkins and Odette and I cooked Rwandan food, and salad and apple crisp and then we light candles and fill the house with music and golden light.

As the sun goes down, we sit together on the floor of the living room, stuffed from too much food, children climbing over each other like puppies. And then as the neighborhood grew dark, we grab the left over bread, light tapers and walk down the street, out to the park, across the field to the bridge. The wooden bridge over the creek.

In daylight, this creek is full of preschoolers throwing rocks. When Max was small we would come here and I would sit on the big boulders on the side and watch him wade into the water–looking for pebbles. He learned to skip rocks here. My impatient sigh lost in the bubble of the water, in the murmur of the play. When the tension in the house was too much, when I had no idea how to breathe, we came to the creek. And I always, somehow found the inhale by its banks. This creek taught me how to breathe.

But now, the creek is silent, black. We cannot even see it but we all know it is there. We know, that if we dropped a rock off this bridge now, we would hear a loud plop. Faith, I suppose. Or deep intimate familiarity. Maybe a bit of both.

Jackie reads the Tashlich service. And one by one, we each think of the things we would rather leave behind, the things we want to fall away, the things we want to give to the dark, to the river. Resentment, envy, unkind words. The illusion of being stuck. Lack of faith. Impatience. Ugliness. Sorrow. We threw our breadcrumbs into the river and with each crumb we let go, if only a tiny bit, of that which was weighing us down. It falls into the blackness, into the creek. It is carried away, to be food for fish or maybe migrating ducks, to return to a useful purpose.

Hand in hand, arm in arm, we wander back up the street, lighter. It is time for homework, for bed, for getting ready for the week. It is time to move on. And joyfully we did. We do. We will.

the leaves believe
such letting go is love
such love is faith
such faith is grace
such grace is god
i agree with the leaves
Lucille Clifton

4 Responses to “Down to the River to Pray”

  1. Lindsey Says:

    Oh, Meg, this is so wonderful.
    I love the lines by Lucille Clifton as well.
    Love the notion of letting go, and particularly adore the image of faith or intimate familiarity or both. In truth, are those two things, on one level so different, in fact adjacent, and blurring into each other?
    I think maybe.

  2. Jena Says:

    Beautiful, Meg. Greg returned home Sunday evening from his vision quest. One of the things he deeply experienced (alone, fasting for three days in the wilderness) was “joining the river of creation” as he put it. So all week, we’ve been thinking of songs about the river. Down to the River to Pray is one of my favorites.

  3. meda Says:

    This is beautiful! I can almost picture being there.., very poetic and yet also “true life”~ I followed a link from PBS supersisters to this 😀

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