Our rabbi mentioned briefly in his dvar this week “hitbodedut,” the form of private Jewish meditation, associated most with Rabbi Nachman of Breslov and the Breslover chassidim. Rabbi Nachman urged forests or fields for this.
Can do! Says I.
Muir said, “Into the woods I go, to lose my mind and find my soul.”
I find that, and a conversation with the Divine, one not framed by our liturgical formula, which I certainly love. Especially when my daughter backs out on joining me for a hike up a mountain, and I’m by myself.
This weekend, I caught a stunning set of views as a woodland path transitioned into the granite slab characteristic of so many Maine mountaintops. I started out across the Penobscot, even catching glimpses of the mountains of Acadia National Park in the distance. Looking south, I could see the Penobscot Bay.
I watched a leech swim its little annelid self swim around in an old quarry lake. I watched hawks ride pockets of air around a mountain top, artfully dodging a trinity of cellular phone towers.
The sun disappeared as I left the peak and went back to the woods. To my embarrassment, trying to give room to hikers ascending as I was descending, I slipped and slid on some wet granite. The cool water trickling down the slab felt good on my ass. It was hot.
When I returned to the car, I was drenched in perspiration, pursued nearly the entire way down by an aggravating and persistent little sweat bee.
Every little bit of a walk in the woods I enjoy, in spite of some mild annoyances. I’ve been working very hard towards completing my latest work, which coincides with a website and mobile application launch. It all revolves around my love of nature combined with my love of Judaism.
And it’s why I love living where we do. When I get up in the morning, I’m living in a coffee commercial. Sitting on my deck, listening to birds sing, taking in that overwhelming pine tree scent. On damp mornings, after a rain, the forest smells earthy. When we have a fire in our pit or in the wood stove, you catch that smell in the air.
I take a hike to the creek. Occasionally there’s a porcupine, fox, or deer rustling just out of sight. There are always squirrels and chipmunks. At night the fisher cat screams.
Or I drive fifteen minutes and climb a mountain.
Sometimes I forget that I was raised on a city street in a house with common walls with the adjacent houses. Sometimes I forget the closest wilderness, growing up, was miles away. Every part of nature is a miracle, evidence of the Divine imprint on our lives, which is perhaps why it is so deeply important to me.
To quote the Baal Shem Tov:
“If we were to walk in the woods and a spring appeared just when we became thirsty, we would call it a miracle. And if on a second walk, if we became thirsty at just that point again, and again the spring appeared, we would remark on the coincidence. But if that spring were there always, we would take it for granted and cease to notice it. Yet is that not more miraculous still?”