Early rising

Every morning when I wake up to start the day, I raise my hands to the sky, shaking them with disgust when I ask, “Why is it still dark outside?” Until I remember that it’s 5:30 in the morning and that is why it is still dark! It’s nature’s world, I’m just living in it. I’ve never really been a morning person. I never miss my alarm, but I have been known to struggle to put together full English sentences, rather preferring to communicate with surly grunts before the sun comes up. I never really understood the point of waking up so early. If I wasn’t able to get everything I needed to get done in between the hours of sunrise and sunset then I probably wasn’t being so productive with my time. Before sunrise is for sleeping and after sunset is for relaxing. The past 10 weeks have been a challenge for me in that regard, but every now and again I have a moment where I think I need to rethink those rules.

As you know, every morning we do an Avodat haLev (work of the heart). This can be guided meditation, communal singing around a fire pit or even sharing poetry. It is basically a way to welcome in the day and try and connect to something bigger than ourselves. The other morning I had my usual tantrum in my head about the lack of sunlight when I woke up, and this particular morning was made all the more a pain in the ass because it also happened to be about 3 degrees Celsius. We met at the fire pit and I go there thinking there would actually be a fire waiting for us to keep warm on this cold morning. I don’t know why I was surprised that there wasn’t actually a fire, why would there be? Right? I’m sitting at the fireless fire pit with a long sleeve t-shirt underneath a short sleeve t-shirt which over that was a flannel and on top of that I was wearing a fleece which was covered with a puffer vest and on my head my old trusty demons beanie. Fair to say I was cold as balls and sitting at a fireless fire pit, I need to keep repeating that fact.

“Ok, everyone up, we’re going to the dock.” said the voice of the person leading this mornings proceedings. I wasn’t sure if that was a joke or where this was headed but I was sure I wasn’t going to like it and my intuition was proven correct when we get there and there were canoes and kayaks lined up with ores along the edge of Lake Miriam. I like to kayak and get out on the water but let me draw your attention to paragraph one and remind you of the time of day. Getting out on the lake is fun and a great way to enjoy the autumnal flora but let me take you back to paragraph two and remind you of the current temperature. In for a penny, in for a pound, I was out on the water in my little raft, paddling around trying to think about anything except how horrendous it would be to fall in right now. It’s still dark and most of the light I was seeing was coming from the waning crescent moon and its reflection of the pristine lake. As we paddled around singing different Jewish songs about water, something was calling from over my shoulder, it wasn’t a voice or even noise at all, it was the emerging light of an inevitable sunrise. I turned my boat around to face east and just marvel as the morning transitioned from the moon and shades of blue into the sun and the pinks, yellows and reds of the gorgeous foliage. I had kept my eyes on the mountain for so long that I had forgotten to look back up to where the moon once was and when I finally did it had vanished, without even saying goodbye.

I’m not one to get all googoo gaga about how the natural world works. I believe in awe and beauty and that things just are, we don’t need to describe it too much with convenient metaphors and hyperbole of the greatness of a higher being. In saying all that though, this particular sunrise, on this particular lake in this particular corner of the globe, I think I actually feel the need to say more than just, “oh wow, nice.”

Farm work is hard, living in community is challenging and sleeping in a tent is a headache. Through all the good times over the last few months there are also hard ones and I have really been feeling that over the last few weeks. But if ever the moon was to teach me something the other morning, it was that it’s ok to go through phases. Some days we will be full, others new, and on some occasions we will wane in and out of fulfilment. On the same day the moon gave me this perspective, the sun was not to be outshone and had a few choice words for itself. No matter what happened the night before, the sun will inevitably rise and it is that inevitability that teaches me to show up to commitments and promises I have made to community and friends. To take on a life of responsibility and to others. Not a bad morning lesson while singing Jewish songs on a boat in the cold.

It seems fitting that I am writing this blog post from an apartment in Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love, cheese steaks and of course the world champ Rocky Balboa. Because only inspired by Rocky and his absolute cheeseball speeches could I have written that last paragraph.

After that morning on the lake I am starting to understand the value in an early morning.

Simchat Torah sounded like a blast!
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