I’ve been thinking about shapes — circles and spirals and straight lines — this lush, disastrous summer.
In the Jewish year, we are always making full circles; we go through the cycles of the holidays, marking each point on the circle as we get to it, then moving along the arc until we get to the next one. But we superimpose our own spirals on it. We grow, we learn, we age, we love, we prosper, we laugh, eventually and unpredictably we lose. We change. We never return to any point on the circle exactly as we had been the last time we were there. We are slightly different every time.
It’s like the series of photographs that went viral a few years ago; the photographer had taken pictures of the same family members at the same time every year. The difference from year to year usually was either elusive or clearly cosmetic, but the difference from decade to decade was unmistakable.
For most of us, the changes from year to year are imperceptible most years, although of course either joy or tragedy mark us deeply.
But this year, as we go around the circle of the Jewish year, from Purim, when the new realities of pandemic life as just begun to register as outre possibilities, to now, when Tisha B’Av will be unspeakably odd, and we realize that the surreal nature of the life we are living is sure to intrude itself on Rosh Hashanah and the new school year.
This year it is more clear than ever that we are living in a spiral. With luck, with the application of science and wisdom, we must hope that we’re at the bottom of the spiral, and soon will spring up.
It already feels, in fact, that we’re on a roller coaster; we fell all the way down in March, cranked ourselves back up, lurch by lurch, to re-opening, and now, thanks to states outside the Northeast, we are falling all the way back down again, our stomachs in our throats once again, once more tasting the bile.