Sunday Morning Muse with Bitter Honey

I think about bees when I drip honey on challah and apple slices. Tonight is the eve of Rosh Hashana, the Jewish new year, which always seems a more natural time for reflection and endings than in the deadness of winter. The harvest moon. The start of the school year. The end of summer, time to account for whether enough grain has been stored to get us through the inevitable winter months. Although there is argument for January 1st too, a moment when we are poised over the dark abyss, but take heart in remembering that we are going back into the light. Again. I wonder how we bear all of this repetition, so eagerly anticipated in childhood, and so foreboding as we age.  Another year, expectations of ritual celebrations and foods and annual mammograms. I will make apple-honey cake, I always do, and take it to work where my posse of co-workers–whom I have great respect and love for– have come to know and expect that I will feed them the ritual foods of my religion- potato latkes, knaidlach soup, apple-honey cake. I am used to being “the only Jew” but not to so much kindness and curiosity.

And these things that belong to our private selves in contemplation. The winter darkness that I accepted when I moved to the PNW, because I craved solitude and found it here. The inevitable depression I will feel as the rainy darkness overcomes me. I will think about suicide. I always do. I will know that I always do and that it will slowly ebb back into something less dire. The need to write and the knowing that without poetry  life would be too burdensome. The feeling that I am not grateful enough for what I have– my health, a job, a writing life, family.

The manuscript I am working on now is titled, “why I hate to cry”. I cried yesterday listening to a radio program that spoke about social isolation (specifically, the way men–not just straight men– are groomed to avoid emotional relationships with other men, to their detriment.) This interested me, but why was I crying? I suppose I understood that I am “like that”, I avoid emotional relationships, but is it too my detriment? I really can’t say with any certainty.

This is all very complicated, as I contemplate retirement. For so many years I have spent so much of my emotional reserve in taking care of people-as-patients, I don’t seem to have much left for friendship. I wonder if I will be like one of those “men” who retire and find themselves at a loss for meaning. Who fail quickly; who die shortly. Who am I, if this is how I see myself in retirement? And yet, I am longing for the freedom to pursue the possibilities of connection. Of traveling and meeting all the poets that I only know on Facebook and Twitter. Of having meaningful conversations. Of learning to cry again without hating myself for it.

I wish each of us some sweetness in the new year. Layered into what we all fear, even know, is happening. The wrecking ball, the earthquake, the failure of democracy, the loss of habitat, the disappearance of bees, famine and war, cancer, overdoses. All of it. May it be mingled with some sweetness. Some tears. Some love.

Here is a poem. It takes a longer view, I suppose, of how I feel today:

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