I call it the year I caught cold. As the leaves lay frosted on the ground, I too, began to wither and fade, feeling the life force of prayer and joy suddenly slip through my fingers and seemingly everything that once made me, and all that I loved, faded away.
This is what they don’t tell you about loss, let alone anything light-snatching. It’s not that life grows darker but that the light that was once there isn’t there anymore, so the world and you too, feel to shift in the imaginary but real empty space.
I kept all of this hidden at the time.
I was a Jew, professionally, personally, and by all the previous rituals of my life leading up to this point. But I could not bless or sanctify or make rituals. The leaves on the ground were the sum of all my ideas that in a moment’s notice, vanished from life. All I had were the rhythms of the sun and moon to keep me company, and a helping of stars or the confused signs of a United flight from the small town suburban airport a few miles away.
I mused, “Could a Jew exist in moments so ordinary?”
“Was the sky ever a substitute for the four walls of a sanctuary?”
I often felt so afraid of the questions that I pushed them out of my way. I had to do Jewish and live Jewish in so many public ways that the second my own line of questioning entered my consciousness, I shunned it from my hard-wired communal brain.
But then it got worse. The frost on the ground and my newly hardened heart. And when I could no longer let the softness of a familiar niggun slip soulfully off my lips, let alone form a single word to rise to heaven above, my heart gave in to my earthly pain. And one day when I struggled to get out of bed, I found the prayer for the sun.
Not the obscure Hebrew one, no. But the way time is marked by the arrival of light colours in the morning and heavier, more mysterious tones in the evening. The way a single cloud can change how the sun greets you or peeks at you each day. And how even the few stars or airplanes going by can give you hope that yes, there is something outside yourself, moving, trascendent and unpained.
I found heaven because I decided to look up. Count the minutes to sunrise, midday and sunset. And because watching the way the light moved in and out was my own Genesis shouting “it is good” in the midst of darkness hanging there. And when I saw time objectively moving on beyond me, I knew somehow that I could heal, would heal and did heal because every day was available to me, a gift to take for the purpose of marveling that I was alive and the universe, too.
And as I watched the sun in sky each morning, my cold would go away. Because I now knew the secret to stealing back the light, that time was infinite and my suffering was just a small spec in a limitless cosmic moment.