Someone once said to me: “You need three things in this life: Work that is worthy, something to look forward to and someone to share it with.”
My life’s work creating ceremonies at the school followed this intuition that a community marked by memorable celebrations offers something for everyone to look forward to. Sometimes in the first week of school, a kid might ask me what play we’re going to do in December or tell me they’re excited about doing the dance in our Halloween ritual. And so the Fall of the big three—Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas/ Hanukkah/ Solstice/ Kwaanza— has passed and we're all both refreshed and perhaps a bit relieved that they have come and gone.
And alongside the big events are the small, but significant, enticements on our calendar. For a kid, it might be their Tuesday schedule with both art and music classes or a ritual Friday dinner or a weekend sports event. For an adult, it might be a lunch with a friend, an upcoming jazz concert, a weekend getaway. All those things that give each day or week or month a special character and all things that we can enjoy more fully because of all the anticipation leading up to it.
The pandemic has changed much of that, crossing out happily anticipated events with the next set of protocols. Three years ago, I was invited to be a headline presenter in Australia this January and felt that enticing trip as a happy note in the music to come. By September, it had been reduced to a week of online classes and just two weeks ago, even that was cancelled. At the beginning of December, I signed up for a weekend retreat with a poet I liked in a beautiful setting, his first live gathering in over two years. By the end of the month, with the ascent of Omicron, that also was cancelled. Delete. Delete. Delete. I have a conference in Orlando, Florida in February and am waiting for that ax to fall and behead another live gathering.
And so my January calendar seems suddenly empty. As of now, my weekly piano at the Jewish Home is still intact, with an additional weekly trip there to be tested. I got a summons to Jury Duty (Whoopee!) and the rest of the days are blank. Of course I will fill them the way I do and those rhythmic activities will keep the music playing. But still I yearn for those high notes when something just a little bit special makes a Thursday different from a Monday, this weekend different from that.
On the collective front, no one can predict what awaits and what we might look forward to. Naturally, I would hope for January 6th to remind us that we need to restore the arrival of Wise Men (and please, finally now Women) to follow the right star and come bearing gifts to honor the rebirth of truth, justice and beauty. And finally punish (and educate) those who came to trash the Manger and those who exhorted them to do so. I would hope for every word that Martin Luther King uttered to gain flesh and bones and muscle and remind us to be courageous in the right way and keep moving that moral arc toward justice, be it one inch or one mile.
I would wish for all of us to renew the vows that guide us to our better selves and our capacities to draw forth the better selves of the people surrounding us. I hope for the California rains to keep falling, the vaccines spiking and the virus fading, the politicians to remember they are elected to serve people, not dogmas and to help democracy rise to its full promise. In short, I hope that each and every one of us engage in work that is worthy, have something to look forward to and have someone to share it with.
On with the year!