Between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, we are called to go to a body of water and toss in bread crumbs, symbolically letting go of the sins and errors of the year just past. I hadn’t had the chance to do so until this afternoon — just hours before Kol Nidrei, which marks the beginning of Yom Kippur.
I went with Gideon, while Akiva, who had made Tashlich at school earlier today, was at a friend’s house. We walked a while along the Charles River till we found a nice spot overlooking a small dam — more of a waterslide for ducks, really. When we arrived the sun was casting a brilliant glint over the water and in the blaze we could just make out a heron standing tall on the rocks. I stared at it for a while, pointed it out to Gideon.
We talked a bit about mistakes we’d made in the past year that we wanted to fix. He didn’t understand a word I said, but he was pretty excited about throwing the bread into the water. We went to the edge and started breaking off chunks to throw in. We tossed and tossed and tossed. Eventually some ducks came to eat up our sins. Hungry ducks, they don’t care about the ways we’ve hurt others or been thoughtless. They just like the bread. Home baked, no less. At first it was two ducks, then several followed along.
When I next looked, the heron was gone.
I think it’s a pretty good metaphor for life. How many times have I meant to keep my attention on the herons of life — family, friends, spiritual pursuits — only to be distracted by the ducklings of cooking dinner and filling out paperwork and getting people where they need to be on time?
I’m sure the heron is somewhere, and the next time I go to that spot maybe I’ll see it again. I just wish I could keep my attention on it while also taking care of the ducks.