This past Sunday, Earth Day, New England was soaked in a heavy rain that provided much-needed respite from a three-months-long drought. As a Southern transplant, I am still awestruck by the slowness that this region’s rainstorms bring to city life. I spent most of the day reading and writing. Old-time music and raindrops provided a soundtrack for wandering reflections about the connection between Jewish spirituality, nature, and mindfulness.
Recently, a couple of our bloggers have shared their thoughts about this special time of year, the counting of the Omer (measure of wheat, which marks the days between Passover and Shavuot), highlighting how this season invites us to be present in the moment. Their posts created conversation about how to weave mindfulness into the day-to-day. Mikveh is obviously one wonderful way to do this, along with Shabbat, prayer, and meditation. In celebration of Earth Day, I would like to add another idea to the list: spending time outdoors.
In Judaism, we deeply appreciate the relationship between nature and our tradition. For example, a large part of the magnificence of mikveh is the “living” rainwater that flows into the pool when the bor (reservoir) is opened. This season of intention is the perfect time to nurture this ancient connection by hiking, gardening, running, biking, or just taking time to be in nature.
Last week, my partner and I headed to the “Pioneer Valley” of Western MA for some time outdoors. We hiked five miles over unmaintained trails through the forests of Mount Pisgah, searching for vistas that never materialized and encountering several friendly garter snakes along the way. Although this could have easily been a frustrating experience, the warm weather, sparkling vernal pools, and fresh scent of the April woods made it entirely worth it. As we walked, I thought about how I would observe this time of transition from spring to summer, from Passover to Shavuot, while offering gratitude for all that it would bring. I promised myself that this time would involve several more hikes, maybe with actual grand vistas.
Perhaps by the time you read this, the New England rain will have slowed, hopefully leaving dazzling flowers in its wake. Even if it has not, I invite you to pull on your galoshes and share my intention of commemorating this special season by spending more time rejoicing in the outdoors. No garter snakes are waiting, I promise.
Nina Stewart has been working as the Administrative Assistant at Mayyim Hayyim since November 2011. She graduated from Hampshire College in 2008 and now moonlights as a student at the Simmons School of Social Work. Her favorite things about Spring (besides hiking) are sweet iced tea and driving with the windows down.