| LifeTakes |

Beauty Seeker

My “nature hunger” was finally, finally being satiated. I blossomed

It was a last-minute whirlwind trip.

It should’ve been chaotic. But it was beautiful.

On Wednesday afternoon we decided that, yes, we will be going to the mountains for an extended weekend vacation. Thursday had me cooking a mammoth cholent (flanken on the bone is the trick!), cleaning, and packing in a frenzy.

It was late Thursday afternoon when we finally pulled up at our lodging — a large country-style home with wood-paneled walls, a painting of a horse, and an enormous porch. I admired the honey-colored wood of the staircase and smiled at the fireplace. Then I gleefully raced off to sit on the porch.

The house was directly across a large lake that shimmered blue. Boats bobbed gently on the surface, and it was ringed with whispering trees. The air was so clear I felt I could drink it.

The next few days were picture perfect. I drank coffee and davened in the predawn hours while listening to birds chirping and watching the sky turn bluer and brighter by the minute. A stubborn duck waddled over to our front lawn each morning as if in greeting. We ate breakfast on the porch, and our Shabbos meals were on a table near a window with breathtaking views.

We went boating a couple of times on the picturesque lake. On Sunday night we made a bonfire near the lake (we forgot the marshmallows, but it was still fun). We watched in wonder as the wood turned to neon-orange coals. The kids threw pebbles into the water and I admired the ripples forming.

My “nature hunger” was finally, finally being satiated. I blossomed.

Oh, and I got a stunning tan.

And then it was over.

A letdown, I told my sister over the phone when I was home and unpacking wet sneakers and stained clothes. It was perfection, but now I’m home, and it’s over. I’m back home, in a city that’s too hot, too gritty, and too noisy with nary a speck of nature to speak of.

I was upset that I was upset. C’mon! It was a beautiful vacation, and you have memories, great memories. And pictures.

But I wanted nature. Less cement. It was summer, for goodness’ sake!

One morning I had an epiphany. Maybe because I was desperate, maybe because the sun was too hot, or the air too sticky, but I realized: There is nature here in the city. There has to be.

There’s the sky and the trees that surround us. It’s just that houses and people and traffic distract us from seeing it.

I was determined to be on the lookout for beauty of any kind. There’s nature everywhere, I mindfully told myself, find it!

I found it in the blue sky on a hot, airless day.

I found it on a lazy walk home from the supermarket, laden with bags, when I realized that cheery yellow wildflowers were growing out of a graffiti-ridden wall.

It was enlightening, but required conscious thought at first, so I made it into a kind of “I Spy!” game. The slant of the golden rays of sun on the houses, a lone butterfly pecking a flower. A shock of green grass standing proudly alongside a crumpled blue mask. Neat lawns and hand-planted pots of plants. The faint whiff of flowers. There was a patter of rain on the window, and a pigeon nabbing crumbs. There was even beauty in letting my son turn on the water hose and get his good shoes wet because it’s summer. Glorious summer!

I searched, and I’m still searching for beauty wherever I am. For joy in the present.

Sure, I’d love to have a summer house and soak in the summer vibes 24/7, surrounded by the pool and sunsets. I’m still reliving the memories: the small fish we saw, the time our boat got stuck, and it was so funny. I’m planning the future — maybe a day trip to the park, maybe another longer vacation.

But more importantly, I’m trying, really trying, to enjoy nature, enjoy the waning days of summer.

In the city.

In the present.

(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 756)

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