Our life as a family is held in an intricate web of festivals - moments created especially for expressing our gratitude in life.
When I married I learnt about the Jewish festivals, and when my children were born I found ways of weaving the same delicate magic of earth, water, wind and fire, of honour for the life beings of flowers and stone into the moments offered by this new structure. We also celebrate certain of Granny's festivals at her house, and in this meshing of festival forms my children have, without instruction, developed a sense of the vital essence which seems to run through every type of festival when it is nurtured.
But oh the nurturing! The creation and holding of the festival space may be one of the best things I do as a mummy, but it is also one of the hardest. There is always a point at which I resent the festival, and really wholeheartedly almost wish I didn't have to do it - and here is the rub, the having to is of my own creation and the why and wherefore is an etherial wisp that escapes logic's microscope. When my children were little I once read a chapter entitled 'a tired mother's impressions of martinmas' by Bons Voors in a book called Lifeways. That chapter brought such a sense of relief, of 'phewww it is like this for other mothers'... this feeling of the weight of effort of making beautiful, of extra fuss, of special foods, of coming up with gifts, and somehow of still having the capacity to find the mysterious tone of each festival, of finding it and holding it, of cradling the space in it.
This week in our house was all about Rosh Hashanah, but it was also about mummy recovering as I had been ill over the weekend and I was still fragile. It is so often the case that there is something extra to get over in the preperation of a festival and perhaps it is just that life's struggles are brought to notice by the fact that festivals can't wait till a more convenient time. So all those last minute helps for the girl's unfinished presents got squashed into those hours when I was strong enough and into some where I just lay next to them and tried to encourage but sometimes unfortunately also sighed and grumped. On monday afternoon my bed was like a little boat carrying me and my too girls and my laptop (for the last minute late shopping for very important snazzy converse for my eldest) and thankfully lots of giggles with our sorting out.
On Tuesday morning, still a little shaky on my legs I made one corner of our living room special, I cut fresh garden flowers, a wild muddle of lavender, roses, fennel seed and yellow dandelionish weeds and as i wiped the windowsill i spied the pattern of a little being left by collected sticky hollyhock petals. When the girls came they each exclaimed at the beginnings I'd made and the windowsill fairy who had come to join us, and now inspired set to helping and creating our festival space and atmosphere.
The most beautiful part of our Rosh Hashana was for me the extraordinary absolute excitment that aged 10 and 14 my daughters have in giving and recieving their handmade, carefully thought up gifts.
My gift from my youngest is a autumn bag with the word love embroidered across it, a leave card written with gold and young cobnuts inside. To me this small bag is a testament to the breathing flow between all that grows and changes outside in nature and all that grows and changes inside us.
My gift from my eldest is a little square of paper, a present voucher, for the cd that she hasn't quite made me yet. In her knowledge that this is ok, in the freedom of her trust that this little bit of paper promise will be enough, there is wrapped for me an extraordinary gift - a gift that envelopes her knowing that I recognise all the creative energy that she put into her present for daddy and her sister, a gift that reflects all the creation of festivals that I have done for and then with her in her life, a gift that says because we have nurtured that etherial wisp of festival essence and are richly bathed in it, wherever we get to in the materialisation of the festival will always be enough.