August 28, 2012

Riding In The Moment

“It makes my prayers clearer.”

These were the words of Thomas, the trekker who is still walking the Pacific Crest Trail, hiking from Mexico to Canada. (See entry "Where Prayer Is Clear.") These words describe his passion for walking long distances. Alone, his belongings are in one neat backpack: his kitchen, a light-weight pot atop a tiny kerosene burner; his bed, a sleeping bag; and his home, the forests and peaks of some of the most beautiful mountains in the world.

These same words resonate within me. I understand the peace in the simplicity of his life. And I acknowledge the deep spirituality engendered in connecting with nature. Each step offers an opportunity to breathe in clean, fresh air and to be amazed by the intricacy and grandeur of the surroundings.

I hummed these same words as I cycled along a single track trail in northern Israel. Twigs crunched below my tires as the path hugged the mountainside. A deep valley fell below, rising up to the village of Dalton, its fields a patchwork of green amidst the golden grass of a hot, parched summer.  

I pedaled on into a thick pine forest. These trees were once saplings carefully planted by the Keren Kayemet l’Israel; now they tower above, offering me exquisite shade and a cool respite from the blazing sun. 

Suddenly the view opened out onto the lush Hula Valley. Once a swamp teeming mosquitoes and malaria, it is now a green swathe, its pools of water glinting in the sunshine. The white storks that passed above me last night at sunset must now be resting in these cool waters.  
Looking up, I saw Mount Hermon, Israel’s tallest mountain standing at 9,232 feet (2,814 meters). A dwarf compared to other mountains in this world, here in Israel, Hermon dominates the Golan, flourishing snowy slopes from January until May. Today, in the intense heart, Hermon is cloaked by a hot haze.

At the end of the trail, I came to a paved road and start to bike back. Up. And up. And up again. The sun beat down on me. Sweat poured over my brow and into my eyes, stinging my cheeks. I breathed deeply and my heart raced. As I slowly pedaled, my bike creaked as if it were groaning, and I thought of Thomas’ words. I entered into this moment.

Reaching a section of the road with open fields on each side, I felt a breeze. At first it tingled my arms as if awakening me. And then it strengthened, swaying tree boughs and hushing tall, dried grasses.

I suddenly felt Hashem’s presence in  a profound way. And I knew this moment would  be lost to me if I had not been alone; it would have passed unnoticed if I had not been in simplicity and silence--and in nature.  

I pedaled on, fuelled by a profound feeling of gratitude and by a new-found energy.
I pedaled  up in the heat of the day, a wide smile on my face.

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