No, it didn’t travel through either time or space, there were no polar bears, and people seemed to age in a normal way–it was a much more ordinary island. And it was where I found myself with a long-time friend and her 2 daughters for (just under) a week of camping. Camping is not something that is in my comfort zone. It was not my first time, but I think I can count on one hand the time that I have camped. And it was great. I’m guessing this will not be the only post this month about the experience. Being away for a week allowed me to appreciate the world more, to refresh myself physically and mentally, and to return home in a way that was full of renewal.
One thing I learned (which, had I thought about it, I probably already knew, but actually doing this concretized the concept), is that when you’re camping, being prepared is the key to everything. You need to pack everything you might need–especially when you are camping on an island, and you need to take a boat to get to any other place you might want to go. And you need to set up your camp so that you can be ready when night falls. And you need to have emergency items (and know what to do with them). And you need to remember to take a flashlight with you when you leave your tent in the afternoon, so that you have it when it gets dark. And you need to plan everything ahead of time. When it starts to drizzle, you need to prep the area so that you (and your supplies) don’t get too wet. When you want to cook, you either need a propane stove top or to light a fire (we used both at different times). And you need to make sure you have enough wood to have a fire that lasts as long as you need it. It takes a lot of preparation.
But then, time just happens. We had very little planned schedule. And sometimes things were spontaneous. We would do what we felt called to do–going for an afternoon swim, reading, chatting, laughing (a lot), playing games…And sometimes we just sat around and did nothing. And at night, after the dishes from dinner had been cleaned in the lake (so that we had them for the next morning, and so that they didn’t attract critters), we would eat some smores, put out the fire, and then go star gazing.
I think it is because everything was prepared beforehand that everything was able to just happen that way. And I think it’s the same with the High Holy Days. If we prepare, we can let the holidays happen.
Now, I realize that I have more to prepare than the average Jew in the pew–but I’m not really talking about making sure that the services are well planned and that my sermons are written and that my robe is clean and relatively wrinkle-free. All that, too, but it’s more about the mental preparation. Which is why I participate in this project each year.
If I focus on myself and my life…If I think about the messages of t’shuvah (repentance) and take part in deep and real heshbon hanefesh (an accounting of one’s life), then when I read the words in the prayer book and hear the music and listen to the sound of the shofar, I already have a sense of where I’m headed. And my own thoughts won’t get in the way of prayer. The holidays will happen as they happen–and I can allow myself to get wrapped up in them in a way that doesn’t require as much conscious thought in the moment.
Because I have prepared. And I am (or will be) ready.
And, like a week of camping let me get away from so much of my usual life, the holidays can enable me to get away in a different way–in order to have a similar sense of renewal.
Thanks to @imabima for this annual project and this text explaining it: The Jewish month of Elul, which precedes the High Holy Days, is traditionally a time of renewal and reflection. It offers a chance for spiritual preparation for the Days of Awe. It is traditional to begin one’s preparation for the High Holy Days during this month with prayers of forgiveness, but I like to think of it as a whole-person preparation activity. We look to begin the year with a clean slate, starting anew, refreshed. All month, along with others, I’ll be blogging a thought or two for each day to help with the month of preparation.
If you follow @imabima on twitter, you’ll get to see links to all of the #blogelul posts!