Thursday, April 8, 2010

God's Country

A posting by Rabbi T over Chol HaMoed resonated with me. He was speaking about the fact that somehow, no matter where he has been living, he hasn't seen much of the area where he is living. Even on vacation he and his family don't tour around. This year, despite the fact that he spent many years in NYC, he saw Central Park for the first time.

The Rabbi is not alone in this. So many people I have spoken with over the years tell me that they were so bored in places they went to on vacation. When they mention some of these places I get perplexed. So many of them are situated in or in close proximity to some of the most beautiful of the US's nature landmarks. But somehow people don't take the time or perhaps have the interest to get back to nature.

Growing up in the Pacific Northwest we lived surrounded by some of the most beautiful country on earth. My parents, both of them, were nature lovers and our family trips and vacations were spent in exploring natural wonders. My hubby and I are in sync on this as well. He would rather spend his vacation seeing "God's Country," as he calls it, than traipsing around something man built.

We are told that man was given the earth for his use and all that is in it. Seems to me that we aren't appreciative enough of the gift of that world that we were given. Even in our cities there are pockets of greenery containing some pretty incredible sights, and we tend to walk straight on by with nothing more than a cursory glance. I once had a cousin tell us that she couldn't live in Staten Island--there were too many trees and too much grass. How, she asked, did we take it day after day? Weren't we worried that a tree could fall on someone? And all those nasty insects and birds leaving droppings on our cars?

My backyard visitors have been making their first spring appearances and I'm tickled pink. The sound of birds has replaced the sound of the howling winds of the past few weeks. Crocuses are pushing up and the deciduous bushes are sprouting new buds. At times like this I fully agree with the poet who said: "I think that I shall never see a poem lovely as a tree." And I won't see a building as lovely either.

The natural world is an incredible gift given to mankind by God. How dare we turn up our noses at His gift. Saying "some day" doesn't seem any more polite either. Is it really more important that our children go on the monster roller coaster at some amusement park than to be exposed to the natural wonders of our world? So many of our kids are totally divorced from the green world that is around them. They don't know the names of the trees and bushes and wildlife and couldn't care less. They look at concrete and steel creations and ooh and aah in wonder at what man has wrought. Perhaps it's time to introduce them to the truly amazing things that God has wrought. Most of us are more than overdue for a trip into God's Country.


Lion of Zion said...

"Weren't we worried that a tree could fall on someone?"

unfortunately not an unheard of occurence (although statistically not probable). i was in teaneck for last days of chag and half the trees on one block were down.

"Is it really more important that our children go on the monster roller coaster at some amusement park than to be exposed to the natural wonders of our world?"

what do you mean? there is plenty of time while waiting on those crazy lines to ponder the world around us.

Anonymous said...

Would really love to get my kids outdoors more but I've got one that has 'green' allergies. We do our nature loving in the winter when there is no pollen around.

Steven said...

I admit openly that I've lived in nyc my whole life and have never been to Centrral Park or the Statue of Liberty or even all 5 boros, except to drive through SI on my way to Jersey. Do I really have to know the names of the trees to know that the leaves come down in the fall and make a mess of the sidewalk and clog the sewer lines? Lots of nice pictures available to look at without having to leave home.

Mordechai Y. Scher said...


When we lived out East, we would go spend time in the Adirondacks. Great x-c skiing, climbing, hiking, fishing, and just sitting on a mountaintop contemplating and davening. Just before one trip out there to my favorite aunt and uncle, my citified sister asked, 'So, what do you do out there? Walk around?'

Just now I'm listening to the birds in the trees outside my study. When I lift me eyes from the computer or a sefer, I can see Atalaya Mountain; almost reach out to it. There's still a bit of snow on the mountains higher up above town. That's a far greater inspiration for gratitude to Hashem than some concrete and glass monstrosity.

Shaina said...

Careful Prof, you're letting your oot Pacific Northwest gene show. My NY family thinks that steel and glass and concrete ARE natural items. When we were visiting them I asked if there were any parks to go to in their area. Their comment? Oh, you're one of those. Must not be much to do where you come from. Almost like we were living in parallel universes but totally different.

Anonymous said...

We make it our business to take our kids to parks as often as possible. We generally go to Central Park a few times a year (outside of the Salute to Israel Parade). I have not yet convinced my wife to go camping with me but I might take my kids this summer. I guess growing up in Brooklyn surrounded by random patches of grass has given me a better appreciation for nature. I was once in Scotland and spent a few days on nature hikes, and there is always the old story with Rav Shimshon Raphael Hirsch “Have you seen my alps”.

Deb said...

Shaina, I'm a born and bred NYer- and I shlep my children to parks, to the Grand Canyon, to wherever we can see the wonders hashem has created for us.
so it's not a pacific northwest thing. sorry.

profk_offspring said...

My mom's Pacific Northwest inclinations and my dad's nature adoration are catching. I may not be the camping sort, but I generally don't visit a city without checking out a park (Balboa in San Diego is my U.S. Favorite; Stanley park in Vancouver is right up there, too) or a Botanical Garden (Longwood!).

I still remember hiking in a cloud forest in Hawaii while my sister went trekking in a lava field.

On a natural note:
Ima, forgot to tell you. On Achron shel Pesach I spotted a new backyard visitor. An honest-to-goodness woodpecker tried to move into the tree in the backyard next door. And the cardinals were not happy and read him the riot act.

The Rebbetzin's Husband said...

Thanks for the reference. To be fair, it's not necessarily a matter of ignoring nature; it's often (as in the case of my own youth) a case of ignoring that which is in your own backyard.

Miami Al said...

We do day trips every Sunday of the summer when the days are long and there is so much to do (without all the tourists clogging things up).

One summer, we explored city/county parks around us.

One summer, we went out to the various waterways.

Spring/Fall are often great times to enjoy the beach here.

Growing up, family vacations were always exploring national and state parks.

So much to do and enjoy, especially with the summer's long days.

G6 said...

Here, Here!

The vacations and expeditions I enjoy the most, always turn out to be the ones experiencing natural beauty. Nothing is more satisfying than Hashem's creations.

And to Steven - photos NEVER do nature justice!!!

I've posted myself on the Rav Hirsch story in the past.