Earth Etude for Elul 14 – Time to Rest
by Tali Anisfeld~
Night summoned day again this morning, and the dawn told me to rest. This surprised me. Isn’t it the setting sun – rather than its rising companion – that usually coaxes us into rest? But then again, maybe she was hinting at something about rest that comes with motion (the reach and stretch of the day), rather than with stillness (the hushed retreat of night).
It is time to rest; it is time to be awoken in prayer and to laugh with the tickling grasses. To climb and jump and run and let the sweat of your body mix with the rain of the heavens. It is time to eat from the fruit of the bush, the tree, the vine. To kiss softly at night and softly in the morning and tell him you love him or say nothing at all. It is time to listen to music without singing along. To think not about the words or the notes, but the way it feels when an entire universe splashes over you and dives down down down. Chest. Belly. The soles of your feet. It is time to rest.
Look at that old tree. A tree that has stood, trembling but unwavering. Tell it your secrets. I’m tired. I want to dance and sing, but sometimes my legs weaken and my voice gets hoarse. How do you do it, old tree? Are you tired? Do you need to rest your weary legs and heavy head, too? Not even in the soft ache of a cold winter night?
I recently fell in love with the liminality of tidelands. Nowhere in the world does change make more sense. Ebb and flow – come and go, I need you, you need me — the ocean’s mighty beckoning and gentle retreat. And a whole world of creatures. Clutching desperately yet calmly – not in fear, but in something related – to the earth moving beneath them. Needing water but not only water – and land but not only land.
Maybe when the trees quiver in the cold and rustle in the wind, they are resting. Maybe staying in one place – standing straight and still and stiff – is harder than bending over or craning backwards, stretching to dip and fold and roll and reach. Because to stretch demands breath and breath gives way to movement, and movement gives you strength.
Chant along with the beating rain. Gaze on the mystery of radishes growing in the yard. Shiver with the frog on the bank of the river who has lost his family. Weep for the flowers that wither too soon and rejoice with the morning songbirds. Let them do the same with you. Even let them do it for you, sometimes.
Tshuva is rest in motion.
To grow as a tree grows – to return to the earth as you stretch up up up. Shuv.
And don’t forget there are blueberries growing up in the mountains and the world is created each morning and so are we.
Tali Anisfeld grew up in Newton, MA, and attended JCDS, Boston’s Jewish Community Day School and Gann Academy. She is now a rising sophomore at Princeton University where she plans to study Environmental Humanities: a growing field of environmental study that focuses on the artistic, literary, social, and cultural implications and manifestations of changing environmental conditions. She was a 2015 participant in the Bronfman Youth Fellowships in Israel. This summer, she has been working with the Jewish Climate Action Network and has been inspired by many members of the Jewish community who she has been partnering with in this important work.