A Jubilee Year

I was raised to regard the Sabbath as a time honored tradition, a time of stepping back from the drudgery of the week in order to reflect and recharge. As I entered my teen years I began to see that this was more true for the men in my community (mostly farmers) than it was for women. After all, everyone had to eat on Sundays, and whatever mess eating caused needed to be cleaned up!  Going to college and being on my own initially caused consternation for me — should I study or should I not? What a silly question, given the fact that I worked in the dining hall nearly the whole day on Sundays, but somehow that question was important to me. But by Christmas I no longer argued about studying on Sunday with myself or anyone else, as papers became due. How a little time changes everything!

As I raised my own family this tension with the Sabbath remained. I may not have gone to my paying job on Sundays, but I worked harder at home than ever. Sunday afternoon became the one break in the steady drumbeat of cooking, dishes, church/Sunday school attendance, and entertaining, when I mentally organized myself for the week coming up, baked cookies with the kids, and took a step back from the frenzy.

Post divorce I vowed I’d never cross the threshold of another church, and I’ve remained true to that vow, although in the hunger for other adults of like mind I did join the Unitarian-Universalists.

Now I have been experiencing more of what the Bible calls a Jubilee Year. Once every 50 years, the Israelites were to take the entire year for a radical transformation of routines. It’s actually 50 years of Sabbaths rolls into one year. Debts were forgiven, crops left unplanted, slaves set free, land returned to original owners (whatever that meant) and the land was to remain fallow.  It was the sum of all the Sabbaths: an acknowledgment that Earth does not belong to us.

Ranger: “For the first time this year you’ve lost me. You are speaking a language I don’t understand. What is this Jubilee Year?”

Me: “But you DO understand it. You’ve been living it with me! You, Darryl and I have been together as a family and we’ve entered a time of separation and reflection about our lives. We’ve cancelled many emotional debts, pared down our belongings, …. basically making every day a day of Jubilee. It is so emotionally cleansing. We’re getting ourselves right with Earth by admitting we’re not in charge. Our role is to love and comfort her with whatever resources we have. In return she is teaching us to make room for silence, pitch unnecessary belongings, stop fretting about fitting in and being fashionable. Why, just today I’ve come to grips with the fact that my old cleaning products will completely be replaced by stuff that is Earth-friendly. But that is beside the point…..”

Ranger: “So your Jubilee is a ‘recalculation’ (that’s what your GPS says when you’ve gone astray) and a reordering of priorities and actions. You are making right the excesses you have been part of, you’ve forgiven folks, moved beyond relationships that are abusive, and you’ve allowed your ‘land’ to lie fallow, although really…. I need an example of that particular item.”

Me: “Okay, for me allowing my land to go fallow means I stop doing all the things that I used to think were necessary for my life of trudging through the world. I let go of many things: so-called friendships that don’t fit, family relationships that are one-sided, appearing in venues that do not fit my passions. My land is the one thing I truly own, and although it is not really land, it is my life, my time, my resources. So while on many days Darryl and I are out there meeting the needs of work and other obligations, many nights we basically pull the blinds. We snuggle up with Ranger, eat some ice cream, and allow our time to lie fallow. Do you understand?”

Ranger: “Well, maybe, because I see it. You are like the Purple Gallinule you photographed, learning to fly in a whole new way.”

My time lies fallow as I watch this bird. I 'fledge' like that into a new life.
A Young Purple Gallinule practicing his flying technique.

Me: “That pretty much says it, frankly. This bird is learning how to be a bird. I am learning how to be a human with a Jubilee mentality. So far I like it. I’m really glad you’re here with me.”