Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Beautiful nothing


[picture of the Golan Heights from Ma'ale Gamla]

I just celebrated my birthday in a guest cabin (tzimmer in Hebrew) on the southern edge of the Golan Heights community of Ma’ale Gamla. The view from the porch overlooks a long barren slope leading down to the valley below with the fruit groves and water reservoirs and the eastern edge of the Sea of Galilee (Kinneret in Hebrew) to the left. In the far distance there are hints of Tzfat and other northern cities in Israel. Actually, due to the cloudiness and rain, everything was a bit grey and fuzzy. Aside from that, there is almost nothing there – no cars, no noise, no people and no tumult. In fact, the nearest restaurant is some 35 minutes by car. In short, aside from the fat garden cat (who has somehow avoided becoming lunch of the local wild dogs) and the resident birds, there was no action.

While for some this would be vacation from hell, for me, this is the place where merely being here makes me smile. I felt grounded there, at peace, undisturbed by the winds of real life. The nature is as unspoiled as you can get (and only 30 minutes from where I live). Bird song and cat meows filled any sound void. The quiet allowed my soul to relax. The pitterpattering of the rain on the roof was calming, reinforcing my determination not to anything forced. As for food, we brought our food, allowing us to eat whenever our stomachs so requested. As a couple, a few days away from the daily small annoyances of domestic life only reinforced why we are together. Work did not exist. As for what I did, the list is short: solved crossword puzzles, read le canard enchainé, stared at the Kinneret, slept, rested and ate too much chocolate; in short, I had a perfect weekend.

When I lived in Oregon, many moons ago, I knew factory workers who lived for their annual hunting trip, talking about it all year round and planning it in great detail. I now understand that type of thinking much better. These blessed moments of being where we want to be may be few and far between but they justify why we put up with the annoyances of work. I am lucky in that I have created a solid work balance and enjoy my routine. Still, balancing translation and teaching can sometimes be stressful in terms of time management and tasks. The knowledge that a few times a year I can do what gives me unadulterated pleasure makes life so much better.

There are those for whom heaven is an exciting day in a big city. For me, a quiet day in nature is much satisfying. Nothing can be so beautiful.

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