Sukkot in Israel is a hiker and camper’s festival. God wasn’t kidding when he asked people to walk to Jerusalem in Temple times on this holiday. I’m not sure if He cared about the ten young bulls, two rams, and 12 lambs (well-done). But I’m pretty sure He wanted people to walk the land in what constitutes autumn here, which is this: moderation (as opposed to colorful.)
He made a damn fine Holy Land, too, and I’m guessing He wanted people to enjoy it when the moon was full and hung low in the sky like a huge piece of fruit, when the nights were cool and the sands were walkable barefoot, when the sun was strong but pleasant, when the breeze was always blowing but never hot or cold.
The National Park Service and assorted field schools make it really easy this time of year to see every corner of the country. (Note to Park Services: You rock up north and down south. Can you send more of your fine people, and garbage bins, to the Center??) (And citizens: Can you possibly help them by USING the bins?)
Our family took full advantage of the outdoors this holiday (and we all have the redneck tan to prove it.) My husband and oldest went on a sunrise bike ride through Ein Karem. Our extended family met for a picnic / Frisbee game in a great undiscovered park somewhere near Bet Shemesh. *More on undiscovered places below.*
We hiked through the mountains of Judea (I wore flip flops because I thought it was going to be a brief stroll. Can someone explain why I thought I could wear flip flops on a hike in Gush Etzion?) and enjoyed the Science by the Sea festival put on by the Kfar Ruppin Marine Biology College on Hof Mikhmoret. The little kids watched chemistry experiments and saw sea turtles, the big kids and husband went kayaking, I got a neck and shoulder massage, and we all enjoyed a concert at sunset. What could be bad?
But our favorite part was sleeping on the beach. I will not tell you what beach, because it was perfect and clean (lots of garbage cans!) and empty and quiet and has good bathrooms, a nice kiosk, a playground, and lots of parking, and I want it to stay that way.
We loved sleeping to the sound of the waves (and the guitar-playing of my oldest.) We just put our big mat down and got into our sleeping bags and were out in minutes in the perfect cool dark. The best part was waking up and being where we wanted to be. 6 a.m. and the kids were on the playground, by 7 they were building sand castles, by 8 they were swimming and playing paddle ball (we also got coffee at aforementioned kiosk), by 10 the wind picked up enough to fly a kite, and we were loading the car at 11, before the real heat.
Two great discoveries: 1. Camp on the beach! Beats the woods if you can handle sand. No bugs or small animals, very accessible, no tent really necessary. 2. Go away from lots of people and it’s much easier to handle small kids outdoors, especially near water. Drive a bit farther and reap your rewards.
And now…a word from Mother Nature:
A major personal understanding: My era of hibernation at home with toddlers is over. The littles are now big enough to come out into society, which unties me from the hearth. So Yay!
A deeply personal understanding, because the beach never fails to knock me down, drag me out, and wash me back up, cleaner: The big kids don’t know the real me at all. I’m not sure if that’s because I (or mothers in general) am not totally myself with them, or if kids will never really try to get to know their mothers as pre/teens (or if just mine won’t.) The “uptight” mother things I feel I must do and say to keep people safe (You are out too deep! No rafts in the ocean! Etc.) and moderately responsible / productive (Do have any homework over this vacation? Can you please help me with this since you have time? Etc…) take a huge toll on my ability to be (or be perceived as) rolling with things, creative, nice, cool, etc.
And maybe having kids makes you be less of those things in the first place. Demeter – Mother Nature in Greek mythology – is the prototype for organic beauty turned uptight by progeny. When her daughter went missing (kidnapped by her uncle, the God of the underworld…really, a long story…) she became enraged and insane, wandering the earth like a bag lady to find her; the seasons were thought to be a result of a joint custody arrangement Demeter ultimately worked out with Hades.
I think this fear of ultimate loss takes away a piece of yourself, even if it the loss never actually comes to pass. I am not sure if fathers experience this in quite the same way, but I’d like to hear from any of you who feel it, as well.
In any event, I think the greatest sacrifice mothers make is not the years they spend putting family before career or self. It is the years they spend not being seen, not being fully real, for what they feel to be the greater good.
Is it really the greater good? The answer is blowing in the cool evening wind.
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