If I’m Not Careful, I Might Blow Down

We just had a lot of Jewish holidays. A lot. In the height of the Jewish holiday season, it feels like every day is a holiday. But to be honest, if I didn’t work in the Jewish community, I don’t know if I would pay attention to most of these holidays.

This year, we did a major Sukkot push at work, which was new for me, since I typically don’t spend a lot of time thinking about this holiday. The way we approached the holiday and its themes was unique, and it kept me thinking about it – even now that the holiday is over.

One of the things you’re supposed to do during Sukkot (full disclosure, I did not do this) is build a sukkah, a temporary dwelling reminiscent of the fragile structures we lived in during the 40 years we spent wandering the desert. More than that, it’s a symbol for the fragility of the structures in our everyday lives.

And the sukkah does seem fragile. With all the rain and wind last week, I kept watching the sukkah outside my window at work and expecting it to blow down (it didn’t).

Continue reading

Making Our Way up the Mountain: An Old Rag Recap

This is oddly late. Possibly too late, but life has been busy with work, the High Holy Days, and a random trip to Cuba. Despite happening two weeks ago, I still want to give my reflections on Old Rag. Many of the hiking resources on the Internet are written by people who really know the ins and outs of hanging out in the outdoors. Obviously, that’s great and important, but doesn’t really do a lot to manage expectations for average people who really want to hike, but don’t know what they’re doing.

It’s not like you have to prove your experience level to get on the trail, so really the only reason why we waited so long to do Old Rag is that I’m super paranoid and overly cautious. At the beginning of the summer, when Sireen and I decided that hiking was going to be “A Thing,” Old Rag was one of the first hikes that we discussed. If I was more fun, we probably would have tackled it immediately, but I made us wait until we got some hiking skills under our belts.

In the interim, there’s been a lot of drama—getting lost, unexpected rain storms, snakes, a run-in with a wasp, a staph infection—but with summer coming to a close, we felt ready to take on the mountain.

Continue reading

Stranger Danger

Sometimes I forget that most people are inherently good. It’s easy to forget in the city where it’s easier to slide into the every-man-for-himself mentality. And here’s the truth: I may recognize my neighbors, but I don’t wave to them; I sit next to the same people on the bus every day, but I don’t talk to them; and I see the same surprisingly well put together homeless woman on the corner every time I walk up to Columbia Heights, but I don’t know her and I don’t help her. It’s cold here in the big city, and if I think too much about it, I start to miss the easy warmth of the people in my hometown in North Florida.

On the trail, for some reason, it’s different. We tend to hike close enough to D.C. that unless someone has an accent, I usually assume they’re also day tripping from the city or its suburbs, but out in nature all of that city coldness seems to go away.

Sireen and I conquering Old Rag.

Sireen and I conquering Old Rag.

It’s like we all form an unspoken temporary pact when we’re out on the trail. Each and every one of us woke up in the morning and went, “I’m going to climb a mountain today,” or “I’m going to go on a disturbingly long walk somewhere.” We don’t know each other, but when I see these strangers out on the trail (unless they’re extremely annoying), I want them to succeed. I want them to feel as awesome as I feel. I want to be able to help if they’re struggling. I want to open my first aid kit and pass out my emergency meds. If only for a few hours, I want to be their trail friend.

Continue reading