And, like that, summer’s left behind in the haze of sunshine and hot days. The new season of fall has quickly begun: this morning while biking my son to school I had to don a hat under my helmet and wear a down jacket. In the high country, fall’s signs are appearing: the leaves of the huckleberry bushes are a deep maroon and the aspen leaves are starting to yellow. The mountains fade from emerald to gold. Wrangling a toddler to bedtime is becoming a bit easier as we’re no longer flush with daylight past 8 p.m. While nature delivers us the hallmark signs of autumn, it is also the beginning of the new year as we’re in the midst of the Jewish High Holiday season of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
In the space of 10 sacred days, my family and the members of our Jewish community, many of whom celebrate the High Holidays in services with the Glacier Jewish Community/B’nai Shalom, a synagogue-without-walls in Northwest Montana. Without a synagogue to host religious services or events, our community is unique in the ways we celebrate Jewish life and culture, often hosting these observances in our homes. One of my favorite traditions of our congregation is our annual Rosh Hashanah hike. To celebrate the new year, we take to the mountains in fellowship and to acknowledge the sacredness of these days.
The period of the High Holidays forces us to pause and reckon with our lives. Instead of the usual gulping through our days, especially after a summer in Montana when one feels the urgency to race through summer’s short season, weekends filled with hikes, float trips down the river, and ending those long, brilliant days with a campfire and s’mores. On Rosh Hashanah we welcome in a new year, and hope that our coming year will be sweet and filled with goodness, as symbolized by dipping apples in honey. Yom Kippur is the Day of Atonement, and during the 10 days between the two, we meditate on this holy time and ask for forgiveness from those who we’ve wronged. While hiking in the mountains, we cannot escape the fragility of life: nature gives us cues to a changing season. It reminds us of what lies before us, be it in our heavy breath as we plod up a hill or the exaltation of the beauty of an alpine lake. There is great symmetry between our group hike and what we’re charged with doing during these High Holidays. It is both an inspiration as well as a reckoning, and I can hardly think of a better setting than in the mountains of the Flathead Valley.
Maggie Doherty is the owner of Kalispell Brewing Company on Main Street.