I’ll never understand the patterns of other people. There is a natural ebb and flow distinguished by personality and drive that is so apparent, it’s almost easier to discern than the name on the mailbox. But I digress.

All the canoes and kayaks and sailing vessels of my Pacific Northwest trip in early summer have been analyzed and metaphoricalized for the taking. And now it’s fall in Michigan and I encountered canoes once again on the path at Cranbrook last weekend, offering up our sins for a new year in true Jewish tradition.

We hiked down the leaf-strewn path under tree cover on Saturday morning and emerged into sunlight and clear blue sky. We walked at our own pace over the footbridge and around the still of the lake. Banked on their sides, five canoes lay beside the shrubbery. My boys lay atop them. I took a picture to remember it.

Just before the Japanese garden, we heard the river before we saw it. Even the baby stepped up onto the concrete overpass and then we sat on the cold ground to look at the river in its course below us. Each of us held a piece of stale bread. And we tore pieces away to represent the choices we’ve made and the choices we’d rather make in the new year. The ways we could improve. The thought we could put into our actions. How we could love more.

Were the canoes significant? Of course they were. And of course not. It was a quiet Saturday in sunlight and most of the people we knew were in synagogue in suits, standing solemn with open prayerbooks. We sat serenely and listened to the pace of the river and learned more in those moments about how we might embark upon a new opportunity than all the finger-wagging of the scripture.

Not that following routine and what is familiar is a bad thing. Of course not. But I take the lesson of the canoes to heart. The vessel that contains and which allows for discovery. The opportunity in simple construction, in balance and wake. I find reverence in those elemental details and that is enough for me.

I’ve heard tell these last days, and in ongoing months from parties who shall remain nameless, that I am not doing it right, or at least not according to their definition of order and rigidity. Too bad. It’s a new year dawning and it’s mine for the taking. Isn’t that the right of each and every one of us.

On Saturday, we discussed our choices. We said prayers. We turned the pages. We sang familiar tunes in letters we all know. We kissed and hugged and finally, we slept.

On Sunday, we cleaned. We emptied corners and dusted surfaces. We carted bags and bags of discard to the curb. And on Monday it was business as usual.

Welcome to the new year. Every day is a year in time. Think about it. And then don’t.

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