Sweet Melancholy


Dear Friends,
L’Shanah Tovah! The Jewish New Year holiday began last night (it kind of snuck up on me this year.) I went to my yin yoga class, where we stretched deep to our edge, while our teacher, Michal, encouraged our hearts to be light. She spoke of garnering our resources, our sources of confidence and strength. I instinctually touched my hand to my heart, in the position of avowal, and set an intention to be fully engaged with my life this year.

This intention, or “New Year’s resolution,” arose naturally, because I’ve been feeling a bit disengaged the last few days. It’s been difficult to fully focus or immerse myself deeply in any project. It could be the transition from summer to fall, the lingering regrets at all I could have done (of course, such a perspective is completely unhelpful!). I’m not quite ready to enter a new rhythm.

Or it could be that my 13-year-old cat, Madrona, is very ill and doesn’t have much time left with me; she was diagnosed with terminal liver cancer two months ago. I watch her grow thinner, but at the same time her spirit seems to grow wide.

Madrona at 6 months old, "helping" me write.

Madrona at 6 months old, “helping” me write.


Madrona 13 years later, contemplating transience.

She wants to be cuddled now more than she ever did (she was always a rather feisty and standoffish cat). We spend a lot of time together on the coach or in bed: she lies on my chest and stares into my eyes, purrs so deep and so loud it rumbles through my own body. When I pet her, I can feel every vertebra and rib. Yet she eats lustily, and enjoys sitting on the deck, in the shade, tail twitching, swatting at the occasional dragonfly. I trust that she will let me know when it’s time to go.

I suppose what I’m feeling is sweet melancholy, a state that is neither joyous nor sad, but somewhere in between. In this between-ness, I drift and settle. It’s a gift, in its own way, bringing with it watchfulness and gratitude.

For the New Year, I’ll be making a saffron-honey chicken for five of my dearest friends. We’ll eat the round challah that symbolizes the spiraling of the year; with each turn comes the potential for change. We’ll eat honey and apples to ensure sweetness to our days. I’ll read to them this quote from Kate Christensen’s memoir Blue Plate Special:

“To taste fully is to live fully. And to live fully is to be awake and responsive to complexities and truths—good and terrible, overwhelming and miniscule. To eat passionately is to allow the world in; there can be no hiding or sublimation when you’re chewing a mouthful of food so good it makes you swoon.”

May we all live fully in this moment, whatever it holds.
With love for a sweet new year,

2 thoughts on “Sweet Melancholy