Finding Kadosh on the Trail

October 19, 2012
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On a sunny Fall day in New York City on the eve of Yom Kippur it occurred to me to get my run in
early as fasting would certainly make a later effort a bit challenging. My usual trail is a 5-kilometer
stretch through the woods of Van Courtlandt Park in the Bronx. Arriving at the starting point I
encountered a kids track team warming up, acres and acres of grassy fields before me, and the rolling
forest line a few hundred yards out. Crisp air and a gentle afternoon sun entered my legs through the
gates opened by a warm-up stretch and my eagerness grew to get under the trees where the sounds of
birds and messages of the changing seasons could cleanse my being of anything still held back inside.
The first few minutes are always a challenge, out in the open on the well-tread track, but then a turn
into the forest blends the road into softer dirt and as my lungs grab the moist air – eyes catch the glint of
changing Fall colors, hints of yellow leaves as nature’s sleep time begins. It reminds me of the harvest,
thoughts of orange, red, speckled corn to come, apples, and the teachers that remind us that, “we reap
what we sew”. I’m in a different place.
About 20-minutes in I start catching a stride, my consciousness still marveling at the miracle of
the body, turning food into running, the changes in my being, as worries sweat themselves out, and
stresses and truths become more clear, their vice of fear and the unknown fading as understanding is
illuminated by endorphins. I feel the tough places too, the poor sleep and heavy food from the night
before, the negativity I’d offered myself and others in recent days, and fortunately, hope and room for
improvement, the lessons that say devotion and listening to the heart is the best way to live. I see all of
this painted before my mind’s eye and somehow, still, there is a quiet part of me watching the breath,
watching the trail, watching all of the little flutters and sounds and wisps of green and squirrel and
footfall around me. And every time I remember, though I later forget, that where I am is a temple.
The sages of American environmentalism, Muir, Emerson, Whitman, Thoreau, Berry, have all spoken
of the power and grandeur of being in the Creation, be it from the perspective of God’s work or
scientific process, the wonder and grandeur is no less. The Lion of Tzvat teaches this as well, as there
are some whom as part of their Shabbos practice walk outside in appreciation, and almost all of us
practice smelling a sweet scent as the last lights of the holy days fade away.
Holiness is everywhere and the synagogue exists within the heart, the built temple, and the world.
The Name is said to have shaped creation the from Torah. Wrapped in scrolls is the bark of a tall tree,
the red of sunset holy ink, the wind a cantor singing the oldest songs. Every step we take is up to the
bimah, for all is holy ground and the great ark can be found just as well in the glen as in the shul – and
I see it as a blessing to find beauty in both. When I run through those woods in the Bronx, I’m reminded
that to practice Judaism we likely need no more, and no less.

On a sunny Fall day in New York City on the eve of Yom Kippur it occurred to me to get my run in early as fasting would certainly make a later effort a bit challenging. My usual trail is a 5-kilometer stretch through the woods of Van Courtlandt Park in the Bronx. Arriving at the starting point I encountered a kids track team warming up, acres and acres of grassy fields before me, and the rolling forest line a few hundred yards out. Crisp air and a gentle afternoon sun entered my legs through the gates opened by a warm-up stretch and my eagerness grew to get under the trees where the sounds of birds and messages of the changing seasons could cleanse my being of anything still held back inside.

The first few minutes are always a challenge, out in the open on the well-tread track, but then a turn into the forest blends the road into softer dirt and as my lungs grab the moist air – eyes catch the glint of changing Fall colors, hints of yellow leaves as nature’s sleep time begins. It reminds me of the harvest, thoughts of orange, red, speckled corn to come, apples, and the teachers that remind us that, “we reap what we sew”. I’m in a different place.

About 20-minutes in I start catching a stride, my consciousness still marveling at the miracle of the body, turning food into running, the changes in my being, as worries sweat themselves out, and stresses and truths become more clear, their vice of fear and the unknown fading as understanding is illuminated by endorphins. I feel the tough places too, the poor sleep and heavy food from the night before, the negativity I’d offered myself and others in recent days, and fortunately, hope and room for improvement, the lessons that say devotion and listening to the heart is the best way to live. I see all of this painted before my mind’s eye and somehow, still, there is a quiet part of me watching the breath, watching the trail, watching all of the little flutters and sounds and wisps of green and squirrel and footfall around me. And every time I remember, though I later forget, that where I am is a temple.

The sages of American environmentalism, Muir, Emerson, Whitman, Thoreau, Berry, have all spoken of the power and grandeur of being in the Creation, be it from the perspective of God’s work or scientific process, the wonder and grandeur is no less. The Lion of Tzvat teaches this as well, as there are some whom as part of their Shabbos practice walk outside in appreciation, and almost all of us practice smelling a sweet scent as the last lights of the holy days fade away.

Holiness is everywhere and the synagogue exists within the heart, the built temple, and the world. The Name is said to have shaped creation the from Torah. Wrapped in scrolls is the bark of a tall tree, the red of sunset holy ink, the wind a cantor singing the oldest songs. Every step we take is up to the bimah, for all is holy ground and the great ark can be found just as well in the glen as in the shul – and I see it as a blessing to find beauty in both. When I run through those woods in the Bronx, I’m reminded that to practice Judaism we likely need no more, and no less.

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Lee Frankel-Goldwater is a professional environmental educator, writer, and social good project developer as well as a recent graduate of NYU's Environmental Conservation Education masters program. Lee has also studied at the Center for Creative Ecology on Kibbutz Lotan, Israel and at the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies. Currently he has been leading development of the Global Action Classroom, an Earth Child Institute initiative focused on global youth environmental cooperation and helping to create the Global Sustainability Fellows, a program of The Sustainability Laboratory seeking to design a new and innovative, international sustainability masters program. Other projects include: developing mobile applications for encouraging social action, mixed media video design, leading peace and environmental education workshops, and doing his best to live a life in connection with the Earth while helping others to do the same. At heart Lee is a poet, traveler, musician, and philosopher with a deep curiosity for new experiences, unfamiliar cultures, learning languages, and often dancing to the beat of a different drummer. As student of yoga, meditation, and spiritual arts, Lee aims to connect the inner journey with the outer one, hoping, as he can, to share what is learned along the way, enjoying the journey.

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