Archive for September, 2014

Emerald Pool . . . and Rosh HaShana

The brook near Emerald Pool

The brook near Emerald Pool

I spent much of Friday packing up the house and getting ready for the long drive to our hometown, where for the next month we’ll be spending time with family and friends while celebrating the upcoming Jewish holidays.

I couldn’t help but feel a bit wistful that this year’s timing of the Jewish calendar meant that I would miss the peak of leaf-peeping season, not to mention the greatest time of year to go hiking.

I decided right then and there that I would make the most of the short time remaining to me and drove to Evans Notch with my dog riding shotgun.

I passed these two huge barns on a country road in Chatham NH, being powered by an immense solar electric system that stretches across both roofs.  The barns were empty.  I am so curious to know what they are powering!

I passed these two huge barns on a country road in Chatham NH, being powered by an immense solar electric system that stretches across both roofs. The barns were empty. I am so curious to know what they are powering!

There wasn’t time for a serious hike but that would not stop me from going for a beautiful walk through the woods on the beginning of Baldface Circle Trail to Emerald Pool.  It is immediately apparent how Emerald Pool got its well-deserved name.

 

Emerald Pool lives up to its name.  It is a popular swimming hole for locals in summer, and the upper rock is used as a diving board.

Emerald Pool lives up to its name. It is a popular swimming hole for locals in summer, and the upper rock is used as a diving board.

We didn’t have time to go further on the trail, where it continues to Chandler Gorge.   It’s incredible to think that much of this walk is on private property from which its generous owners permit public access, providing hikers don’t wander carelessly off the trail.  Think about it:  the more precious the object, the more likely we are to guard it and keep it for ourselves.  That’s just human nature.  It takes a special spirit, and someone who understands the true meaning of love (love = giving), to know that it’s even more special to share than to hoard; to be selfless rather than selfish.

Hiking in the White Mountains is very much a part of my spiritual preparation to greet the Jewish New Year.  Some random thoughts from atop a mountain:

  • Most of the time reward comes with effort… and rarely without it.
  • With every disappointment and when there is no reward, it’s not the end of the world.
  • HaShem (G-d) has made a truly gorgeous, wondrous world
  • I am super blessed and grateful to be in and part of this world
  • I am both blessed and grateful for good health
  • Even when I am alone, HaShem is there
  • Even when I’m alone, I’m not lonely
  • Even when I’m poised on top of the mountain, I’m at the edge – –  and must tread thoughtfully and purposefully
  • Even when I think I’ve made it to the top, there will always be more summits to reach – – and not all are attainable
  • Life is short yet time is relative.  It marches slowly when the kids are small and moves too fast when you are old.
  • Silence can be both loud and quiet.  Both types teach us to really listen, if we are willing to hear.
  • Looking out and down from the mountaintop, how truly humbling it is to see that I am but a dot or blip in the vast landscape
  • No matter how external events wreak havoc, and have the power to poison and destroy, evil is not permanent and HaShem is eternal.
Happy New Year!   Wishing my friends, family, and readers a year of multiple blessings, good health, and peace.

 

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Nice People

Yesterday should have been a terrible day.

Our car was making a weird vibrating noise, and I knew I’d have to take it to a mechanic.  My tooth had been hurting me, and I was pretty sure it was going to have to be extracted.  I made an appointment for the dentist, who is located 90 minutes away in Scarborough, Maine (yes, there are closer dentists, but I have terrible teeth and he came highly recommended; I’ve been happy with him so far).  I decided that rather than go to the nearest Subaru dealer to my house, 45 minutes away, I would go to the Subaru dealer in Saco, which is closer to the dentist in Scarborough, and kill two birds with one stone.  When I called the Subaru dealer, I told them that I would need some sort of loaner car because I had a dentist appointment 8 miles away.

“I’m so sorry,” the Subaru technician replied, “but all of our loaners are out.  But it’s no problem – – we will take you to your dentist appointment with our shuttle driver; just call us when you’re ready to be picked up.”   The shuttle driver was so nice.  We spoke about those things we had in common: the secrets for a good marriage (the driver recently celebrated his 42nd anniversary), grandchildren, our dogs (both rescues), and fishing (what else do you talk about this time of year?).

Meanwhile, at the dentist, the news was not good.  “Yep, it needs to be extracted,” my dentisit said, “but you will need to go to an oral surgeon for that.  But I knew you were coming from very far away, so just in case, I called them this morning to see if they could fit you in today, and I made you an appointment for 2 o’clock.”   I called the shuttle driver and he brought me back to the Subaru dealer.  My car was in very bad shape:  it needed 2 new axles, CV boots, and struts.  Because we commute 600 miles each way between Maine and our home town on a frequent basis, we need our car to be in tip-top condition, so I authorized the repair. . . sigh. . .  our tax refund just went out the window.

They still did not have a loaner available.  “No problem,” said the shuttle driver.  “I will take you wherever you need to go.”  I explained that the oral surgeon’s office was located in South Portland, about 15 miles away.  “No worries.  We drive people up to 2 hours away all the time as part of our commitment to good service.  And please make yourself comfortable  while you’re waiting – – we have computers, free wifi, snacks . . . ”

A few minutes later the technician came by.  “I really feel bad that our loaners are still not back.  So I pulled three of our service technicians off of other cars.  They now have four guys working on your car all at once, so instead of being done at 4 p.m. as originally planned, your car will be ready at 1:30.  You should be able to drive your own car and make your appointment in plenty of time.”

I thanked him profusely and in fact the repaired car drove like new.  I told him that in the future, despite the distance, I would return to his dealership for service.  “That’s very nice of you,” he replied, “and we appreciate your loyalty.  So I’m going to knock off 5% from parts and labor from today’s bill.”  It was over $100 savings.

And here’s my point:  in Maine, people are almost universally nice.  It doesn’t matter if you are in a store, on the road, or in a line.  People are incredibly considerate, friendly, polite and helpful.  What should have been a very difficult day was made better simply because people were pleasant, and their positive attitude was contagious.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fall Harvest

Now that the days are sunny, windy, and nippy, with brilliant blue skies and thick, puffy white clouds; the nights frosty; the leaves changing colors and the bugs long dead and gone (yay!),  everyone you meet seems pretty chipper.   Mainers really make the most of this fleeting, wonderful time before winter approaches.  Mainers love their autumn, and with good reason.  They decorate their homes in homage to Fall with pumpkins, Indian corn, gourds, welcome flags with Fall motifs, and autumn-themed tschotckes from the dollar store — and this is before Halloween when decor gets really elaborate.  The farm stands are awash in color:  gourds and pumpkins, apples and cider, and mums and asters.

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Hayrides and corn mazes and pick-your-own apple orchards are everywhere.  Communities have “harvest suppers” in which farms donate their produce to church ladies and Town Halls, and they have meals made of local produce, poultry, and pork that feed hundreds, either free of charge or to raise money for various causes.  Hunters are centering their rifles and shotguns and practically chomping at the bit for deer hunting season to commence.  It is the last hurrah before bad weather and short days set in.

And of course the cider presses are working overtime, squeezing the juice from heirloom cold-hardy apple varieties you’ve likely never heard of:  William’s Pride, Macoun (a common Maine favorite), Beacon, Chestnut Crab, Duchess, Snow, Wealthy, Black Oxford, Fireside, Liberty, Lodi, Milden, Paula Red, Northern Spy, Pristine, Snowsweet, and Wolf River.  Many of the orchards have on-site bakeries where they sell fresh apple cider donuts.  The aroma is intoxicating!

Today I drove past Weston’s Farm in Fryeburg, Maine, where I took all these photos,  and just couldn’t help myself:  I had to buy their appealing selection of pumpkins, squash and gourds.

 

 

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If you’ve never tried Delicata squash, do anything in your power to find some.  You might never eat any other kind of squash (including butternut squash!) again.

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Delicata is the sweetest and most moist of all squash varieties I’ve tried.

 

I just had to buy some pumpkins so I could make some fresh pumpkin pie.  (The variety I bought is meant for pies, versus the type that is meant for carving jack-‘o-lanterns.)

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Pumpkins that are good for carving (and Halloween)

This paler variety of pumpkin is better for pie-making.  The rind is somewhat thinner.

This paler variety of pumpkin is better for pie-making. The rind is somewhat thinner.

There is also ugly blue Hubbard squash which is a old-time favorite in Maine; I hope to try it soon.

There were several types of Hubbard-like squash, which is a sickly blue-grey that resembles the color of mould.

There were several types of Hubbard-like squash, which is a sickly blue-grey that resembles the color of mould.

 

When I saw their wicked pink banana squash I got very excited.

Pink Banana Squash

Pink Banana Squash

I had tried it 2 years ago and loved it, but hadn’t been able to find any since.  It’s not hard to see why:  few people want to buy a squash that weighs between 30 – 40 lbs!  The one I chose weighed 29 lbs.  I’m taking it to my hometown this weekend; I figured its size would delight my grandchildren and then I can split up more manageable portions amongst my daughters and daughters-in-law.

Heavy!

Heavy!

1-2-3, Hoist!  It's so big it hides my head

1-2-3, Hoist! It’s so big it hides my head

I knew my husband would roll his eyes when I came home with this.  But both of us always love the unusual, and once he was convinced it wouldn't go to waste he thought it was pretty neat.

I knew my husband would roll his eyes when I came home with this. But both of us always love the unusual, and once he was convinced it wouldn’t go to waste he thought it was pretty neat.

 

 

Little and Big Deer Hills

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The view from the top of Little Deer Hill, looking west to the Baldfaces in Evans Notch (click to enlarge)

Isn’t it funny how memories and precise details from one’s childhood stay with you?  And then, when you’re an adult, you return to that place where you grew up, and suddenly your home, your bedroom, the living room, the backyard, and the streets all seem so much smaller than you remember, even though you were so sure you recalled everything from your childhood home exactly as it used to be?

Well, I guess a sure sign I am getting older is that I’m regressing.  Because today I went on a hike in Evans Notch to Little Deer Hill and Big Deer Hill.  I had done this hike many years ago, and I thought, “Well, that’s a relatively easy hike, perfect for a day like today.”  The hike was not long, but it was not what I remembered in terms of being “easy.”  I was huffing and puffing up Little Deer Hill to the top, then down the other side, then huffing and puffing up to the top of Big Deer Hill, and then the entire process repeated itself in reverse.  Either I’m just older and tired and in much worse shape than I used to be, or I  remembered the steepness of the climb with nostalgia rather than any sense of accuracy!

It wasn’t long – – it took me just over an hour each way.  I had gotten a late start, and temperatures are getting much colder these days by the afternoon, so I didn’t want to go too far.  I was deciding between this hike and a hike to nearby Emerald Pool and Chandler Gorge, but in the end the Deer Hills won out because it was such a beautiful day, I decided I preferred a hike with an awesome view to a hike under the cover of trees that led to serious of heavily shaded natural pools and a waterfall.  (When one considers those choices, I really couldn’t have gone wrong either way!  I never take for granted that I have so many hiking trails and natural wonders right at my doorstep – – and that I have the health and ability to enjoy them.)

My hike began at the Baldface Circle Trail parking lot on Rte. 113 in Chatham.  After walking on a wooded trail next to a brook, one passes the Applachian Mountain Club’s Cold River facility, which is off a little side trail.  But I forged ahead, crossing the Cold River and beginning the short but steep ascent.

Spencer crosses the bridge over Cold River

Spencer crosses the bridge/dam over Cold River

By the bridge over Cold River.  The beautiful reflections had a painterly effect.

By the dam over Cold River. The beautiful reflections had a painterly effect.

Spencer disturbs the calm of Cold River when he stops for a drink.

Spencer disturbs the calm of Cold River and its clear reflection when he stops for a drink.

 

On the other side of the dam on Cold River.  The water happened to be low on this day.

On the other side of the dam on Cold River. The water happened to be low on this day.

Shortly after the Cold River crossing, you will pass a Forest Service marker on a post, delineating the Maine-New Hampshire border.

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About 2/3 of the way up, there is an open ledge that gives a hint of the beautiful views to come.

The view from a ledge on Little Deer Hill, looking toward the Baldfaces

The view from a ledge on Little Deer Hill, looking toward the Baldfaces

There were many areas where quartz and mica were prominent on the ledges.

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The white stuff is quartz.

 

Up, up, up to the top of Little Deer Hill.  The view (scroll up to see the very first picture) faces Evans Notch and the Baldface Mountains in New Hampshire, and looks down to Rte 113 where there is an architecturally-interesting luxury home that is built in the round.

Spencer at the summit of Little Deer Hill

Spencer at the summit of Little Deer Hill.  I think he looks pretty good for age 11, don’t you?

From the top of Little Deer Hill I descended to the bottom on the other side, and then began yet another steep but short climb to Big Deer Hill.  All along the way, heavy deposits of mica and quartz glistened in the sunlight.  Deer Hill used to the be site of a mineral mine where according to the US Forest Service website,  “large quantities of amethyst (purple quartz) along with many other minerals, including feldspars of many varieties, beryl, garnet, columbite, pyrite, and muscovite.”  It is still possible for rockhounds to try their luck there.  A permit is required but there is no fee.

The view from the top of Big Deer Hill looks southeast.  You can see Deer Hill Bog in the foreground below.  That is the site of a huge blow-down during severe weather that occurred in the 1980s, which dramatically altered the wooded landscape.  The beavers moved in and it’s been a bog ever since.  There is a blind there where one can observe wildlife unobtrusively.  We saw a total of two moose at Deer Hill bog on two different days in early summer this year.  Both cow and bull were grazing on the far shore.

Panorama view from the top of Big Deer HIll, looking into western Maine.

Panorama view from the top of Big Deer HIll, looking into western Maine.  To the far right in the distant background is Pleasant Mountain (click to enlarge).

 

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Deer Hill Bog is the sliver in the middle of the photo. It’s located only 4 miles from my home.

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In the farthest background is Pleasant Mountain, located at the base of Moose Pond in Bridgton Maine.  In summer this is a pleasant hike; in winter it serves as a very reasonably priced ski resort for locals.

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Pleasant Mountain, this time in the far background on the left.

Now try to imagine these same views two weeks from now, at the height of Fall colors!

As we approach Rosh HaShana (the New Year according to the Jewish calendar), many Jews try to prepare spiritually in advance of that important day.  It may be unconventional as compared to what Jews in cities do, but I cannot imagine a better way to prepare then going for a hike in the White Mountains, where I gaze upon the glorious world G-d has made for us to enjoy and sustain; to acknowledge His kingship and rule over the entire world; to be humbled as I appear but a dot on this grand horizon; and to express gratitude that I am alive to experience and be part of it  – – and hopefully will be for many years to come.

 

Autumn Preparations

This past Sunday we had planned on doing a big hike but life intervened, and my husband had to work. September is arguably the best time of the entire year for hiking.  The temperatures are cool but sunny, with brilliant blue skies; the leaves are starting to change; there are also no fallen leaves as yet to cover tree roots, potholes and other tripping hazards; the lack of leaves also makes the hiking trails still visible; and best of all, NO BUGS!

Rather than hike alone, which I can do any other day of the week, I decided to use the day doing all the chores that would put our house into “autumn mode.”  We will be leaving Maine this weekend for the duration of the Jewish holidays, and returning next month when the cold has already set in, so spending the day preparing the house in this way was quite sensible.

First I went through our closets and drawers, making two piles:  “Put Away” and “Give Away.”  The put-away pile is all our short-sleeved and lighter weight shirts, pants and my skirts, and socks.  Then I brought down our huge storage bin of warm clothes, and filled the closet back up, this time with turtlenecks, sweaters, and down vests and jackets, tights, wool socks, and long underwear. Next to the front door/mudroom I replaced the bug net hats and bug spray with wool hats, gloves, and blaze orange vests (for hunting season, so we won’t be mistaken for a deer by hunters who might be a little trigger happy).  I also brought out the winter blankets.

This mess is part of the closet changeover process from summer clothes to winter clothes.

This mess is part of the closet changeover process from summer clothes to winter clothes.

Then, with some regret, I started uprooting my garden.  The temperatures are such that at this point, nothing is going to ripen further, and weather reports are now calling for frost at night.  So I decided to pick whatever was left (a few red peppers that never got red, a couple of tomatoes and lots of green tomatoes, the rest of my kale and Swiss chard) and put the spent plants into my compost bin.  I turned and smoothed out the soil and added a few scoops of compost.  I will plant lots and lots of garlic in October, so now the space is ready.  I am pretty much done with fishing for the year (although I am hoping to try ice fishing for the first time this coming winter) so I dumped the tub of live worms that were stored in my fridge into the garden soil.

I cleared out the veggies.  Now making this raised bed ready for planting garlic bulbs.

I cleared out the veggies. Now making this raised bed ready for planting garlic bulbs.

I also replaced my tired purple petunias by my front door with some cheerful purple asters.  Right now every store in rural Maine is fairly bursting with mums and asters (and pumpkins, which came in early this year, and corn, which came in late).

Asters at my entry

Asters at my entry

Then it was on to the screen porch.  We took out the screens; I hosed them down and once they were dry, put them into storage until next Spring.  Acrylic panels went up in their place.  The nice thing about the panels is that when the sun is out, even in freezing temperatures, the porch gets to about 65 degrees thanks to passive solar.

Our screen porch.  The screens are removed and awaiting clear acrylic panels.

Our screen porch. The screens are removed and awaiting clear acrylic panels.

I scrubbed the screens and stowed them in the basement until next Spring.

I scrubbed the screens, put them in the sun to dry, and then stowed them in the basement until next Spring.

Next came the wood shed.  Currently we have an over-abundance of cut and split wood due to some trees we took down last year.  They have been drying outside on the wood pile all year and now it was time to stack the pieces neatly inside the wood shed.  Our house is so energy efficient that despite last year’s long and brutal winter, we only used 1.5 cords of wood!  (Typically people might use 6 – 9 cords to heat a house sized like ours, so this is really fantastic.)  We still have plenty of wood stacked in the shed from last year, so I could only bring in about 1 cord’s worth as there wasn’t room in the shed for more due to the wood that was already there.  So I got out some large tarps and covered the wood pile, where it will continue its “seasoning” process (drying) for another year.  I also gathered kindling and put that in a pile, and brought several logs into the house since we will be using our woodstove for the first time this year any day now (according to weather reports, evening temperatures will be below freezing by the end of the week).

Stacking wood in our shed

Stacking wood in our shed

Bringing some logs indoors for our woodstove.

Bringing some logs indoors for our woodstove.

Once my husband finished work, he did the final year’s weed-whacking (the bees, who get grouchy in colder temperatures, were not too happy with him getting close to their hives, and a dozen started swarming him.  He was lucky to get only one sting.) I removed the summer tools from the shed, cleaned them and put them in the basement along with tomato cages and flower boxes, and took out the autumn and winter tools (rakes, shovels, and the long-handled scraper that takes excess snow off the roof) and put them where they’d be handy when needed.

Putting away garden stuff till next Spring.

Putting away garden stuff till next Spring.

The weedwhacker has been emptied of gas, and will be stored till Spring, along with some now-emptied window boxes.

The weed-whacker has been emptied of gas, and will be stored till Spring, along with some now-emptied window boxes that held flowers.

By now I was getting hungry and a bit tired.  That’s when I remembered the huge kosher rib steak that’s been sitting in my freezer for a special occasion.  I originally planned on grilling it for our 37th wedding anniversary last week, but we ended up going to a friend’s wedding on that day and we had dinner there.  I thought a grilled steak would be a great way to officially end the summer.  So we put some logs on our fire pit, made a campfire, and when the fire died down I started grilling the steaks for my husband (I don’t eat red meat) and a turkey burger for myself.

Once the campfire settles down a bit, we'll be ready to start grilling.

Once the campfire settles down a bit, we’ll be ready to start grilling.

Dinner

Dinner

We ate dinner outside around the fire, just relaxing, breathing the nippy air, and reliving and relishing summer adventures and looking forward to Fall.  Life is good.

Steak:  It's a guy thing

Steak: It’s a guy thing

 

 

9/11

It is the day after 9/11.  I have been thinking how one best commemorates and memorializes such a day of devastation.

To be frank, lately I’ve been feeling rather demoralized.  Thanks to social networking and the news, I often feel bombarded by depressing information and trends.  One can say, “Well, just don’t read/look at that stuff!” but to do otherwise is to bury one’s head in the sand.

Our world is becoming increasingly evil, and we simply can no longer sit back in our recliners and watch the world go by.

I think many people are unaffected by world current events for a variety of reasons.

One reason is location.  Many times things are geographically far removed from where one lives.  This is especially true in Maine, where people feel somewhat immune not only to the world’s problems, but to problems in American cities.  That is one of the reasons people choose to live in Maine and raise families here, after all – – one can separate oneself from many of the problems, politics, racial and religious intolerance, rude behavior, materialism and crime that typically plague cities!

Another reason is denial.  “It won’t happen here/to me.”

Next comes helplessness.  “Even if it’s in my own backyard, there is nothing I can do about it anyway.”  Or, “We can’t solve the world’s problems.  I am just one person against the multitudes.”

And there is apathy.  “They deserve what they get.”  Or “That’s their problem, not mine.”

The worst is hopelessness.  “The world is such a terrible place, there is little point in living/having children/thinking of a future. Why would I want to live in a world like this anyway?”

Especially in America, where life is relatively easy, people take the pursuit of happiness very seriously.  We have incredible personal freedom.  It is difficult to fathom true evil and what our lives would be like if it came knocking on our doorsteps due to a lack of actual experience (thank G-d!).

One reaction is “prepping.”  I have studied “prepping” to some degree and confess to a somewhat morbid fascination with it (click here for a prepper’s vocabulary tutorial).  There are many, many aspects to prepping that are extremely commendable.  It is certainly worthwhile for EVERY household to have emergency supplies on hand, from first aid to water to a non-perishable food supply.  Anyone who has been without power for a week or more due to a natural disaster can attest to how quickly things deteriorate, and how important being prepared can be.

But there is an aspect of prepping that simply goes against my personal code, and that is, “Every man for himself (and his family).”

Now if things get dire, believe me, you are going to be looking out for your family first.  But die-hard preppers take this to an extreme, at the expense of community and community spirit.

More than anything else, even the incredible outright miracles that people experienced, what I gained from reports from Israel during the recent Gaza war, was this very intense community support and team spirit that  not only did not lessen the quality of their community and individuals’ lives; the people were empowered and sustained by it.  There were countless stories of acts of selfless giving and sacrifice, for the good of community.  Despite constant danger and threats against them, people were not demoralized; they actually became stronger, knowing that everyone was working on behalf of the other, together.  People under constant bombardment in the South of Israel were welcomed into the homes of total strangers in the North of Israel.  They were given meals, beds, rest, and sympathy at no charge, and were invited to stay at these strangers’ homes for as long as they needed.  People from all over Israel baked, cooked, and bought meals for soldiers, which the civilians brought to the front; they sent socks and personal hygiene items and even bullet-proof vests along with personal notes of encouragement.  There was an unprecedented amount of unity and love; and that, even more than fighting an enemy, was what gave people strength and a feeling of hope.

I am going to say something harsh:  we don’t have a monopoly on chesed (lovingkindness).  I am addressing this specifically to Jews and Catholics, since both groups are renowned for their amazing charity work.  When charity work is done in the name of religion, especially when done through organizations, it’s easy to be proud of one’s accomplishments.  It’s ironic, isn’t it, that charity work, which should be the most humbling of work, instead fills us with a sense of pride?

The truth is, the concept of charity is something of an enigma.  Our motivation is to help someone less fortunate than ourselves.  But when we do donate time or money to someone in difficult circumstances, it makes us feel good (and rightfully so).  So the question is, who benefits more?  The giver or the recipient?  And if we didn’t benefit so much as givers, would we still give?  (I’ve often wondered if some of the world’s big benefactors would be so generous if their names didn’t appear on buildings or plaques.)

But even more important than giving money to worthy causes:  how many of us would give ourselves.  I don’t care how wonderful a person you may think you are, until we are faced with a life-or-death situation, NONE of us knows how we will respond.  We can only hope and pray that we have the courage to take action; to step up to the plate; even if it comes at the cost of our own lives.

Many Jews (and Catholics, too) are schooled with the idea of self-sacrifice for a higher purpose.  Catholics have their martyred saints and Jews are told inspiring stories about people who made heroic choices during the Holocaust, for example.  This is all good. But we need to step outside of our religion, I believe, and devote some time to stories of heroic deeds that are done by average people, people who don’t necessarily share our culture or our religion or are super-beings or saintly giants.  Because when evil is at our doorstep, we need reassurance and encouragement that there are still good, everyday people in the world, even if they are not like us.  When times get rough,we are going to be dependent on one another, not just people who are our c0-religionists or from the same culture.

Which brings me back to 9/11. There are lots of public memorial ceremonies all around the country.  It is also natural that children will not be as affected by 9/11 as are adults, since they didn’t experience first-hand what took place in America that day and for them, these memorial services will have less of an impact.   I therefore think that every school in America – – especially parochial schools – –  should devote the first 2 hours of the school day on 9/11 to videos about that day.  But not only videos showing the tragedies – – videos showing the triumph of human spirit, so children can see not only that even one person can make a difference, but that when people join together, they can make an even bigger difference and make life worth living.  That people are good, and that yes, they can combat evil.  There is hope for mankind.

Here are two examples of videos I find appropriate to memorialize 9/11, especially for children in school as well as those of us adults who need a little moral fortitude now and then.  The people in these short documentaries are true heroes, but really they are “simple” people with very profound messages.

The first is called Boatlift, An Untold Tale of 9/11 Resilience.  Narrated  by Tom Hanks, it is about the largest evacuation by sea in history: the rescue of civilians from Manhattan by boat during 9/11. To put this in perspective: the 2nd largest evacuation by sea in history was during WWII in Dunkirk, when 339,000 British and French soldiers were rescued over 9 days. On 9/11, nearly 500,000 civilians were rescued by boats in an unplanned mission in just 9 hours.

Here is what some of those boat captains said:

“I have one theory in life: I never want to the say the word, ‘I should have.’ If I do it and I fail . . . I tried. If I do it and succeed . . . better for me. And I told my children the same thing. Never go through life saying ‘I should have.'”

“Average people: they stepped up when they needed to. They showed me when American people need to come together and pull together, they will do it. ”

“The thing that was the best: everyone helped everyone.”

“It was the greatest thing I ever did in my life. ”

“I was honored to be part of it.”

The second video is called The Man in the Red Bandana.  It is about a young man who sacrificed his own life to save others during the evacuation of the South Tower, and how his red bandana brought his family, friends and community closure and meaning.  This video forces us to confront ourselves and ask, what would we do? And then we can only pray that we live up to G-d’s expectations that we have the proper strength of character; that we reach into some hidden deep pocket of our soul and emerge triumphant in spirit.

There is something to live for; and it is greater than all of us as individuals.

 

 

 

 

 

Camp Savta 2014: Days 5 – 7: Hiking Black Cap Mountain

The 4 year old had no trouble reaching the top of Black Cap.

The 4 year old had no trouble reaching the top of Black Cap.

Although we had taken several long walks, my 12-year-old grandson suggested that we take a “real” hike, saying, “how can we say we’ve been to Maine and that we didn’t go on a hike?”  He remembered last year’s hike to Black Cap Mountain and wanted to repeat it.  It was easy to see why.  Black Cap Mountain is a great introduction to hiking for children.  It’s not long – only 1.3 miles each way – and the ascent is steadily upward enough to make kids put forth a bit of effort, but not so steep that it’s a killer.  Really, a two-year-old can do this hike (but be prepared to carry your kid part of the way if they tire easily).  It’s also suitable for older people – – I was privileged one day to witness a 94-year-old woman make the ascent.

They all made it to the top!

They all made it to the top!

 

Besides the beautiful view, you are looking at a very special 8 year old.  She experienced some serious orthopedic problems in her legs, which resulted in her legs being casted for several months, as well as physical therapy 3x a week.  She had only gotten these casts off a couple of weeks before the trip to Maine, and the fact that she made it to the top of the mountain when her legs were weaker than normal only shows the incredible determination and strength of character of this kid!  She never complained throughout her ordeal, either.

Besides the beautiful view, you are looking at a very special 8 year old. She experienced some serious orthopedic problems in her legs, which resulted in her legs being casted for several months, as well as physical therapy 3x a week. She had only gotten these casts off a couple of weeks before the trip to Maine, and the fact that she made it to the top of the mountain when her legs were weaker than normal only shows the incredible determination and strength of character of this kid! She never complained throughout her ordeal, either.  Thank G-d she is fine now and back to normal.

It's always more fun to go down the trail than up!

It’s always more fun to go down the trail than up!  The little kid in the center is only 2.

To get to Black Cap Mountain, one goes through the town of North Conway in New Hampshire, then heads over to Kearsage Rd to Hurricane Mountain Road.  Hurricane Mountain Road is what they call a “seasonal” road, meaning it is not maintained (plowed) in winter and as such it is gated closed after the summer season.  It’s extremely steep but the paved asphalt road is very well maintained for the heavy tourist traffic it receives in the summertime.  Don’t even think of trying the road if you have a monster RV, but cars and motorcycles aren’t a problem.

The dirt parking lot for Black Cap Mountain is at the highest point on Hurricane Mountain Road.  (You can continue further on Hurricane Mountain Road all the way to the bottom on the other side, if you want to do a pretty country drive).  The ascent is steep in places but gradual.  Once you get to the top, the views are stupendous of the White Mountains, plus the town of North Conway in New Hampshire.  You can also see Maine and the many lakes of the Western District to the east and south.  It’s also a great place to visit during leaf-peeping season.

After we finished the hike, we made our way to Lovell Library where the kids checked out plenty of books to keep them busy over Shabbat.  We also managed to have another kayaking expedition and swim in Kewaydin Lake.  This would be our last day of activities in Maine, since Shabbat was coming and on Saturday night after havdala (the short prayer ceremony that bodes farewell to the Sabbath and ushers in the new week), everyone would be packing up and my daughter would make the long drive back to Baltimore.  My husband and I spent Saturday taking a long walk of 2 miles with the kids (now that they were seasoned hikers) near our house so our daughter could have an hours-long uninterrupted nap, in preparation for the coming drive.  She would be the sole driver with 9 kids in the car (seven of hers plus 2 nieces).  The plan was to leave by 9:30 p.m. and arrive at her home early the next morning (it’s a 10.5 hour drive on average, but that’s without kids).   A babysitter had already been arranged in her hometown so that my daughter could sleep and recover from the journey upon her arrival.  The hope was that the kids would sleep through the night in the car, and fortunately, they did.  Fewer bathroom stops meant much better time – – she was able to complete the trip in only 9 hours and 45 minutes, which is practically a record.

Havdala ceremony says goodbye to the Sabbath and ushers in a new week.

Havdala ceremony says goodbye to the Sabbath and ushers in a new week.

9:30 pm and the 12-passenger van is packed to the hilt as we say our goodbyes.

9:30 pm and the 12-passenger van is packed to the hilt as we say our goodbyes.

Oh – remember that rash that my daughter had (see previous posts)?  Well, it continued to get worse, but our days were so ridiculously busy that by nightfall, when the walk-in clinic was open, my daughter was too tired to go.   By Saturday night it was huge (12.5″ x 5.5″), hot to the touch, and she was feeling achy and popping Motrin like candy.  So instead of the much-desired nap upon her arrival once back at her home, she took advantage of having a babysitter to go to the Emergency Room, where she was diagnosed with Lyme disease!  No, she was not aware of being bitten by a tick nor did she ever see one.  There is a good chance that she was bitten by a tick in her home state, shortly before she came to Maine, since the rash began only on Day 3.  The other amazing thing is that the rash appeared on her upper abdomen, an area that is covered by clothing, and she had not been in tall grass.  The moral of the story:  you can never be too careful when it comes to Lyme disease prevention.  If you have been outdoors in areas where ticks are known to be prevalent, then do a very careful body check before you go to bed each night, and don’t assume that long sleeves, pants, socks, shoes, and repellent are enough to prevent a tick bite!  And don’t be stupid like we were – – at the first sign of trouble, get to a doctor for diagnosis so you can start treatment sooner than later, before real damage is done.