C.G. Jung in The Red Book
When the deepening, darkening undertow of fall begins to tug at me -weather shifts, days shorten, summer fruits fade, melancholy wanders into the garden- my soul sits me down for a reckoning. Though I don’t participate in organized Jewish High Holiday observances, I feel the power of this holiest time in the Jewish year in my bones, and my soul requires me to give her some serious sacred time at Yom Kippur.
My soul is a shape shifter. She comes to me as Muse, as Sister from Below, as guardian angel checking to see what I’ve done with the life I’ve been given. She shows up as ancestor, demanding my poems and my memories. She comes as the Spirit of the Times, filling me with terrors and enthusiasms -the economy, the environment, the Tea Party, the Arab Spring, and bless them that breath of fresh air brought us by the occupiers of Wall Street.
My soul is the Spirit of the Depths, come to remind me that I need “the life of eternity” as Jung says. I am required “to speak to my soul as to something far off and unknown which did not exist through me, but through whom I exist.” Jung again, in the Red Book.
So, at this time of year I set a day aside to honor a reality greater than the everyday. It is a time of reckoning, of accounting for myself, of sorting through the stuff of my life, separating what’s essential from what’s not. Trouble is -there’s so much stuff. Some of it is piled on the floor of my study. Some of it is written in my calendar. Some of it is in too many e-mails. There’s outer world stuff and inner world stuff. The latter shows up in my journals- where poems begin, where I reflect on the raw stuff of my life, wrestle with dreams, talk to my soul in her many forms. I sort through my relationships -those I love and serve- am I doing right by them? Trouble is, so much in my life is of the essence, feels urgent, needs to be tended, written, worked through, spoken.
My friend Leah says, ”Here we are in our late sixties, still fruiting.” It’s a big job, fruiting, harvesting, bringing to market one’s late life work. And yet, how blessed I am, how grateful, to have so much life stirring in me.
In Jewish folklore it is said that Lailah, the angel of conception, a guardian angel who watches over us in our mother’s wombs, who teaches all the mysteries, reveals to us our essential nature, and, just before we’re born, lays her finger over our mouths to seal in all the secrets we then spend our lives uncovering. That’s why we all have an indentation on our upper lip.
At Yom Kippur I have a frank discussion with Lailah. Am I living my life in harmony with my true nature? Am I living my life in harmony with Mother Nature? We all struggle with these issues. These themes came together in a poem, which I offer you for this Yom Kippur.
LAILAH WANTS A WORD
Lailah, the Angel of Conception…watches
over the unborn child.
You were not born for traffic
Not released into day for hustle
and drive. I did not send you past moonstone
past glow worm, to ignore the light. I did not touch
the soft spot on your crown, nor seal
my blessing on your upper lip, to be a slave
to acquisition. I sent you into the company
of frogs. I sent you to commune with willows
with oaks. Pay attention—
the frogs have stopped wooing
the oaks been sold down river
Grandmother Spider Brother Rabbit
are losing their worlds. You have ears —
Hear them. You have a heart—feel them
You have two lungs—breathe
I give you the wind
in the grasses. I give you the sight
of Coyote. She’s meandering up
the mountain. Follow her. Perhaps she will throw
your shoe at the moon. Perhaps the moon
will fill your shoe with shimmer—
Sail it back down to you—Then
will you remember
(First published on line at poetsforlivingwaters)