Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Rachael - MHSS - July 2010 - Personal Blog

I wrote the following for June's Moishe Monthly about a multi-MH camping trip, the power of the "outdoors", and the coolness of Judaism when it comes to nature appreciation.

But before I share that, I'd like to share something else -- also, it turns out, involving Jews, the woods, and MH Cleveland.

I just returned from my first Rainbow Gathering, held this year in the Hearts Content (of course! :) ) section of the Allegheny National Forest in Pennsylvania. I had an idea what to expect, knew people who had been before, knew a few people who were supposed to be there the same time as me (-- not that we'd necessarily find each other, with no mobile service and 20,000 people spread out over an entire national park)...and I had done the whole camping / potty-in-the-woods thing...yet I was still a little apprehensive, not entirely sure I'd feel fully "there" or part of the community.
There were so many people and so many cars, we had to park at least a mile from the "front gate", and then walk over a mile and a half to the main center of activity. As I lugged my gear closer, I saw and heard signs of the Gathering: friendly greetings and "Welcome Home"s, offers of assistance and refreshment, some already packing out, latecomers like me on their way in, distant drums...and, then, a Moishe House sign! Cardboard, tied to a tree, a rainbow of colors decorating the Moishe House logo -- and I thought right away I'd be OK.
I immediately sought my fellow MHers. Turns out Raychel of MH Cleveland + friends had established a vegan kitchen Moishe House camp. I had a safe home base, a connection, a family, and a Moishe House-style Jew Crew (open, welcoming, inclusive, casual) to enjoy the Gathering by. It was excellent to have a "family" at the Gathering already...immediately reassuring. I also got to tell people about Moishe House and connected with a few Jews over this very clearly Jewish-affiliated camp.
(P.S., the two blessings I mention at the end of the article, I said over bioluminescent fungus a friendly Rainbow-er pointed out to me glowing on my way back to Moishe House camp. Seeing something glow in the dark in the woods is very, very cool. :) )
Moishe Monthly - June 2010

Nature. Jews. Community. Turtles?

Back when spring weather was still a hopeful glimmer, Josh Einstein of MH Hoboken asked me and MHSS [Moishe House Silver Spring] if we'd be up for another MH East Coast camping trip. (Einstein's previous multi-Moishe feats span the seasons and the mid-Atlantic, combining Judaism and Jewish community in peer-led, outdoors-centered gatherings.) When the dust had cleared and the scores were tallied, MHs Hoboken (NJ), Silver Spring (MD), and Cleveland (OH) (yes, Cleveland -- hadn't you heard? Cleveland's been relocated to the coast!) had signed up for Einstein's next multi-MH event.

Again at French Creek State Park, again waking at 6:30am courtesy of our neighborly Boy Scouts, again celebrating Shabbat in the Great Outdoors -- but this time we were both greeted AND sent on our way by shell-dwelling reptiles. On Friday afternoon we encountered a box turtle (spotted by Taliesin of MH Cleveland) which was clearly thrilled with our tactile adoration ("ooo, I want to pet it!" "Someone take a picture! Quick! Gather 'round the turtle and smile!" "Can we take it home?"); Sunday morning, we awoke to the following incrementally awesome immersed-in-nature experience:
- a snapping turtle
- making her nest and laying her eggs
- on our campsite!

Herbal / botany nature walks (and the resulting tea), cross-MH bonding, storytelling (and cooking) by the campfire -- constructing an eruv around trees with rope, and performing the mitzvot of hamotzi and kiddush under the canopy of dark -- were all wonderful to experience and fulfilled my vision of how our second East Coast Moishe House camping trip would play out; yet I was struck most by this turtle choosing our campsite to lay her eggs. For me it was an exciting, amazement-infused first -- almost surprising, given my life-long infatuation with turtles; and, though I endorse self-explorative expression and personal concoction of blessings of gratitude and wonder, I am proud to have in my heritage both an offering of thanks for reaching a certain moment, and a declaration of wonder for encountering or experiencing an element of our natural world that strikes the heart or spirit.
Shehechiyanu, V'kiymanu, V'higiyanu, Lazman Ha'zeh -- may you continue to reach miraculous, joyous moments, and recognize and experience them as such;
Oseh ma'aseh b'reishit -- and may you continue to enjoy the works and the process of Creation.

And, may I express a blessing of life for our little turtle friends: may all the eggs remain intact, and hatch healthy, and may all the little ones find their ways safely to water, and grow up living happy turtle lives -- perhaps inspiring awe or wonder in others along the way.

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