Thursday, July 15, 2010

The lone pine

Privileged to (finally) be living in the same town and to have reasonably sane schedules (for the summer, at least), Minna and I have been trying to spend as much time outside together in the evenings -- which has taken us once or twice a week to the nearby Nolde Forest state park and its hiking trails amid an ancient-seeming forest. So, I was surprised, yesterday, to read that the hills of Nolde had not always been forested, and that there was only the "lone pine" in this picture when a textile magnate bought the land for his private estate in the early 1900s. It was a reminder that even things that seem like they have always been there -- and are so-called natural creations -- were, in fact, created by somebody. Were created by the dreams that come out of the human heart and mind.

This summer has in many ways been the realization of many long-deferred dreams for me. After years of living in dorm rooms and small apartments, I have moved into a house. In its small yard, I have been able to grow my first vegetable garden in some 20 years. Being able to pick a piece of produce off the vine and eat it, fresh, right away is part of a dream I had since college of living a little more right with the Earth, of being a little less of a petroleum-gorging machine trapped in the rat race of a technological civilization. A dream of living close to the things and places we interact with daily. This summer, I walk or bicycle to work every day and only actually get in a car a couple of times a week. I feel free from the hunger to acquire more material things. I feel a great peace.

The hospital only a few hundred yards away where I am working this summer, however -- with all its incredible technology for extending life (and all the pain and loss its inhabitants experience amid injury and illness) -- is a constant reminder that I am not leaving the material, or technological civilization, behind in any complete or permanent way. One day I, too, may need all those machines. One day I, too, may be struggling in a hospital dead. And one day I will die.

"Life is a narrow bridge," Rebbe Nachman of Bratlav taught us. "The most important thing is not to be afraid."

This summer I have been less afraid. I have been sustained by the realization of past dreams -- both my own and of others. But I am also sustained by my dreams of the future, by my own hopes to build a "forest" -- a forest that looks like it has always been there. My dreams there have to do with the education of rabbis as spiritual caregivers. It's a field that in some ways is very ancient, and in other, important ways, is only in its infancy. Come the fall, God willing, I will return to my doctoral studies and NYU and to my focus on pursuing future dreams. May it be the will of the Holy Blessed One that those dreams will yield rich fruit -- many pines where only one once stood. And may it be the Holy One's will that I will be able to find balance on that journey -- to be able to continue to enjoy the fruit of past dreams as I pursue the new ones.

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