For the ancient Celts, the year began on November 1, as the light gradually diminished to winter’s darkness.  It was to them the “thinnest” period of the year, when the veil between time and eternity could be transparent. My Celtic ancestry seems to awaken in late October to relish this awareness, long ago incorporated into the Church year as the feasts of All Saints and All Souls which lead into a month of remembrance of the dead.  This year I felt drawn to mark the season with a new personal ritual that may or may not become a tradition:  making challah and winding it into a circular shape. The immediate inspiration came from a verse in a poem called “Round” by Tikva Frymer-Kensky, which I came across in her book Motherprayer while planning the birth retreat I gave in September.

I bake my autumn bread a round,

round and whole, swelling to the top:

round for the new year,

sweetened with honey.

Another autumn, another year.

Around and around

the round of life.

IMG_0479[1]I’d made challah before; it was actually the first yeast bread I really mastered, but always a braided loaf. Frymer-Kensky’s poem brought to mind the round challah we ate with our Jewish friends last year during the holidays as referenced in the poem, but I hadn’t realized any symbolic meaning.  The image of roundness had become associated with autumn for me a few years back at Turner Farm under the muted sunshine of a crisp October morning. Suddenly the pumpkins seemed positively lush. The fullness of autumn burst forth that day, shifting my perspective on the season.  Not a time of dying and diminishment, the skeletal remains of summer, but a rich, jewel-toned harvest in its own right.  The brilliance of orange gourds, deep green kale, and warm purple eggplant became a metaphor for the autumn time of life I was then entering, affirming that it likewise would be vivid and vital. I continue to receive this image as an invitation to accept the increasing roundness of my body at mid-life.

Another autumn, another year.

Around and around

the round of life.

Related posts:
All the Saints
The End and the Beginning
Dinner with St. Margaret of Scotland