I am always on the lookout for a new beginning. Please, God, renew me, because the current me just doesn’t measure up. So Persian New Year was a great discovery: it falls on Spring Equinox. If Western New Year or Chinese New Year don’t do the trick, here’s a third chance in three months to let go of the old and step into the new.
Amy-the-heartfelt-learner introduced me to the Persian New Year, or Nowruz. Amy goes to the root of the systems she encounters. She had been dating a guy from Iran, so naturally immersed herself in the subtle meldings of his home country: rosewater and sumac, quince and lamb, pistachio’s crunch over creamy pudding. A few years ago, on the Vernal Equinox, Amy cooked up a stunning Persian feast and along with it introduced us to Nowruz customs. Before the New Year’s arrival, jump over a fire to burn away ill will. Similarly, drop a clay pot off a roof so its shattering releases burdensome spirits. Arise early on the morning of Equinox/New Year. Don new clothes. Set out a haft sin tray of seven items symbolizing renewal. Visit family. Step into your new beginning with joy.
This show of willingness seems key to many new year observances. Willing to acknowledge old mistakes before God, or community, or the person you’ve wronged. Willingness to attend confession or repay debts or jump over a candle. It seems to me that after the cleansing stage, most traditions invite us to take willingness to the next level: willingness to celebrate. Trust that joy will put our feet on a path of goodness for the year.
I get the work toward change bit. My life is webbed together with disciplines I take on, with more and less success. What I have a hard time grasping is how to trust joy.
That’s the more profound thing about the timing of Nowruz. I can trust that Spring Equinox will arrive, whether or not I’ve earned it. It arrives with its blossoms and bird songs. It arrives with joyous balance. This day when all over the entire world there are twelve hours of light, twelve hours of dark. This is the day when the sun finally rises on the North Pole, the only sunrise seen there all year, when the sun sets on the South Pole. This is the day when over the entire earth, the sun rises due east and sets due west. No matter how unprepared I am. No matter how cluttered my closets and inbox are. No matter if I behave badly toward that really annoying person in a meeting. No matter if James, my partner, and I are having sticky conversations. Equinox arrives.
That is the definition of grace for me – the free, generously offered elegant balance of light, dark, east, west, ancient and right-now. Grace whether or not I consciously let it in.
But soooo much more delicious if I open my arms to it.
So, yes, I am doing my best to jump over the candlestick before Friday’s equinox arrives. James and I will finish some spring cleaning. I’ll practice holding my tongue. Call the cousin in hospital. And, this year, this week, I’ll take a breath each night and ask God to give me trust in what is beyond me. To be willing to celebrate Friday’s sunrise in the perfect east with a smiling heart.