The UPS guy stopped by yesterday afternoon, waving to me through the window of my study as he placed the tall, slim box in the garage and backed his truck carefully away. I left it unopened until this morning; it's pleasantly cool outside, so I knew the contents would remain suitably refrigerated. But today, after making my morning tea, I had to go out and investigate.
The first thing I withdrew was the myrtle branch in its thin plastic sheath. Then the willow. I cut the bonds holding the palm frond in place. And finally, out came the little cardboard box containing the etrog (a.k.a. citron), which was cushioned on a pillow of soft foam. (That brought me up short; I'd been imagining a nest of soft curls of wood or straw.) The etrog is deliciously fragrant, a peculiar bitter-lemon scent I didn't realize I remembered but which was immediately familiar once I opened its box.
The framework of our sukkah -- again, the skeleton of last year's ger, stripped of walls and roof -- stands in the yard, round wooden lattice topped by the barest suggestion of a roofline. Tomorrow I'll find some branches to strew across the top as skhakh, the leafy covering through which it is required that we be able to see the stars. Esrogim.com included a free gift this year -- a garland of gold tinsel leaves, which will make a nice decoration for our otherwise unadorned structure.
And when I say morning prayers during the week of Sukkot, I'll be able to take my three branches and my etrog to our sukkah, stand among the hip-high wildflowers that are going slowly to seed, and beckon blessing from all six directions into the open-air room that only barely implies house and home. Events in the lives of loved ones remind me, this year, of just how impermanent the structures of our lives can be. May we all be blessed, as Sukkot approaches, with the ability to access gratitude and joy even as we face our own fragility.