A Word from the Mountains

A Word from the Mountains

From the desk of Rabbi David Lyon

Many of you know that I retreat to the mountains in July, to fish, hike, think, write, and breathe deeply. I like to fly-fish. Standing in the water in waders lets me focus on a few spots in the water while the rush of the river pushes against my legs. I balance on stones and walk between them carefully to find my best position to cast. I’m not a good fisherman. It’s the air and sun, the water and rocks, and the camaraderie between my friends and me that make it a singular experience for the hours we have them. The fishing guide is patient with me and when I do catch (and release) a fish, his praise is unique. There’s no other time during the year when I hear, “Great catch! You got a nice fish!”

I like to hike, too. The earth and trees, twigs and leaves, combine to create a landscape that is unique to Colorado mountains. The air is thin, but it gives us time to pause and look around and take in the views. The conversation between friends quickens our steps and encourages us over each rock and around each bend. The time moves quickly even when we stop to wait for each other to catch our breath or just look over the vista for an extra moment. Some days, I walk to the park and sit for an hour or more with my book and laptop. It sounds like an odd pairing, a park in the mountains and a laptop, but it’s extraordinarily inspiring.

I especially like to read and write. Without calendar deadlines, reading a book for an hour at a time is a luxury; writing without interruptions and time to edit, is a gift. Rather than aiming to finish everything I begin to read or write, I enjoy going from one to the other, leaving sentences unwritten or pages unturned. Later, the next day or even the next month, I can return to wrap them up and finish my thoughts.

I like to breathe in the mountain air. The slower and deeper breaths aren’t only a sign of thinner air, they’re also a sign of quieter times. It takes me days if not longer to ease into a vacation rhythm. But once it takes hold, my shoulders lower and my instinct to respond to everything slows. Without guilt, I give myself permission to focus on what I need. It was just a few days ago, in fact, when I said to my wife, “I’m full again.” She thought I meant that I had eaten well. I did eat well, but I meant that my heart and soul, my ability to listen and respond, and my eagerness for the New Year had been restored. My “tank” was full, again.

Why do I tell you this? Truthfully, I’m not a private person. I like you to know what I’m thinking and doing. Sometimes I get it right and sometimes I don’t. I learn from you as you learn from me. That’s why time in the mountains, like trips to Israel, is so necessary, and why I go there regularly. As I grow and learn, I return to teach and give.

Where is your go-to place? From what or whom do you learn and grow? How do you recharge your personal batteries? Wherever you are this summer, even if it’s hot there, consider the beauty around you and say, with gratitude:

Baruch Atah, Adonai Eloheinu, Melech haolam, shekacha lo b’olamo.
Praise to You, Adonai our God, Sovereign of the universe, whose world is filled with beauty.


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