It's been an incredible week, ending with a really uplifting (and once again, unusual) Shabbat.
Week 5 was another week of transition - as u can imagine if u've followed the last four. 😏
Purim was great fun, and certainly unique. I remained in the forest near Shaar HaGai on Motzei Shabbat - and I can only say how grateful I am for good friends. Especially those who understood why I didn't want to come home in the middle of doing the trail, and so schlepped into the forest to be with me.
Aaron came to read Megillah - and I have to say it was the first time I've EVER had proper and full kavannah reading it. Aaron's Megillah is a beauty to behold, a real work of art (called a ״מגילת המלך״ with each column beginning with the word מלך - decorated with embellishments on the "crown" at top of the word), done by his brother - and his reading was perfect. Holding the scroll with him, sitting in front of the campfire, with none of the distractions of kids wandering around the shul or people making noise, I followed every single word. Mandy & Jeremy came by and we sat by the fire for hours, just talking - a relaxed, quiet, somewhat subdued Purim night - just what was wanted. (And then, not ready to sleep, I played guitar til 2am....)
Purim day was brilliant - Jay came to read (while Emmy shooed the cats away), which was a lot of fun (they did the last sentence of the Megillah to the tune of "קום התהלך בארץ"! - http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=EU0cm1uil_M); Yaakov dropped by with a lovely mishloach manot bag & stayed to visit a bit; then Ken & Ruth brought an entire picnic for an outdoor Purim Seudah. With Moriyah and Tani dragging themselves over after a late Purim party at home, and joined by Adina & Daniel, we had a terrific time (and meal) - and decided this must become our new tradition! 😋
Then Yonatan drove me up to Afula, from which I took a bus to Kiryat Shemona & a taxi to Kibbutz Dafna. Still not used to the casual and so warm generosity of the מלאכי השביל, the 'trail angels' I've stayed at; in this case two young students in a tiny apartment on the kibbutz; slept on their living room futon. (Reminds me of Idele's stories of "couch surfing"....)
Starting to hike south Monday (mostly east in fact, but whatever) I noticed a few things. The scenery is radically different of course - bright shades of green in the trees and fields and mountains all around, streams with strikingly clear (and cold!) water flowing strongly, a riot of different colored flowers (which if you'd like to see photos, go to Jo's wall where I've been posting a few, as she's my gardening and flower guru), and orchards and vineyards and terraces galore. Slight change from the Judean desert.
But I've noticed also that I am walking faster and further with less difficulty: is it that I'm in better shape? Or is it because the weather is milder? Or the ascents and descents less steep? (Not the latter; yesterday I descended 750 meters & climbed up 400, over about 21 km, in less time & effort than similar hikes took me in the South.) Possibly all. But there's more. I have the growing feeling that I'm nearly done; that I've achieved what I've set out to do; that I'm walking home. And this seems to make the pack lighter (it isn't), the distances shorter (not). I guess I'm beginning to feel "lighter" in some way.
Yet, also, being in the North has suddenly introduced an element of pathos into this whole business. I am now walking the paths described in David Grossman's powerful book אישה בורחת מבשורה and I keep asking myself - am I running away from something too? Am I in denial, like Ora in Grossman's dramatic but tender take on loss and escape and confusion? ("To The Ends of the Land" in English and an intensely riveting story if you haven't read it - and one quintessentially Israeli.) I've more or less decided not; I'm not her, this isn't that; but the congruency still strikes me as somehow poignant.
So the week was a combination of phenomenal scenery - the Hermon and Hula Valley, the hills of Lebanon & the Upper Galil, Snir & Dishon & Tzivyon & Meron & Amud streams, Meron & Neria & Naphtali & other mountains - and not a few ups and downs of a more personal nature... but on the whole extremely positive and wonderfully enjoyable. I walked through a few places I'd been before (like Nachal Snir, but this time no Aaron to carry me!) and many I'd seen from a distance or driven past but never really appreciated. Walking through (and sometimes sleeping in) some of Israel's and Zionism's pioneering settlements - like Dafna, Kfar Giladi and Ramot Naftali, kibbutz Baram and others, is strangely comforting, and inspiring. The hidden dark green and mustard brown valleys of Nachal Dishon and the trickling brooks surrounded by purple and pink and red and yellow and orange and magenta flowers in Nachal Tzivyon are so incredibly, stunningly beautiful it makes you want to cry. I didn't; but it does.
I was lucky enough to stay with good friends Cheli and Moshe (& Roni!) and my cousin Chagit - without all of whom I'd have no clean clothes (yes Yonatan, I've washed the shirt) and would be hungry and tired and filthy... So thank you.
It's late and this is already long; I can't do justice to the phenomenal surprise awaiting me at the Shvil room in Kibbtz Baram (thanks to Michal Friedman for the rec: sheets! towels! a fully-stocked fridge & larder! Oh... and sorry for the flood we caused) nor to the pride and pleasure I had in succeeding to hike from the top of Mt. Meron through Nachal Amud and Nachal Sechvi up to Tzfat - on a Friday! - and including a stop midway to play guitar and sing some, and a pre-Shabbat 'mikva' dip in a pool on the river at עין יקים - but they were two highlights of the week.
Any week which ends with Shabbat in Tzfat is a good week; and this was great. Chez Zimberg (king of soups & queen of hospitality) was a real refuge and sanctuary, just as Shabbat is a true sanctuary in time. And we had a real Tzfat Shabbat, filled with song and prayer: תפילה at the 'fig tree' Chabad minyan Friday night, the Beirav Carlebach shul Shabbat morning, and then a musical ערבית and havdalah at the other Carlebach minyan, called the House of Love and Prayer (as a San Franciscan, I felt right at home...).
After a final serving of Avraham's sumptuous zucchini and barley soup (sorry Zvi), packing and mapping for tomorrow, it's time for bed.
Goodnight & Shavua Tov