Tuesday, January 15, 2013
Just back from a family gathering on the West coast of Florida where one of the daily activities was watching the magnificent sunsets (always one of my favorite things). Here's an old "Sunset" staff letter that still rings true for me.
Dear G.U.C.I. Staff:
Well, I have once again taken to the highways with slide projector in hand, to
converse with kids about coming to camp, and persuade their parents to part
with their progeny by sending their sons and siblings and savings to us for
another summer ("A" for alliteration). So, I'm out promoting camp, right? So,
it's weekends around the region, long stretches on the road, usually a familiar
face or two at each destination, and a lot of time to think.
So, an amazing thing happened to me on this, my first trip. I left camp about 4:00
in the afternoon last Thursday, heading west to St. Louis, on my way to K.C.
and Des Moines. It was the beginning of a 1300 mile trek, probably the longest
weekend trip of the year. So, I'm westbound on I-70, around Terra Haute at
5:30 P.M., and the sun is setting right into my eyeballs. So, I pull down the
visor and focus on the few yards of highway I can see between it and the dash.
It was a beautiful fall day and Indiana was breathtakingly technicolored. So,
about a hour goes by when I decide to raise the visor and see if there is a
world out there beyond the highway immediately in front of my bumper. That's
when it happened.
As I raised the visor, I was confronted, no, surprised by a most magnificent
sunset. While hidden behind my visor it had spread its pinks and reds across
the entire horizon. In and of itself, this sunset was remarkable, but my
immediate response to the surprise gift of seeing it is what lingers in my
mind. I would have expected the first words to jump into my mind to be, "Holy
cow," or "Wow," but my mood had moved me to a different place. My first
thoughts at that moment (I kid you not) were the words, "Ma'ariv Aravim,"
("...who makes the evening fall"). It's from the prayer we say each evening,
"Baruch Ata Adonai Ha Ma'ariv Aravim." " Blessed are you Adonai, who makes the
evening fall." That I should respond to the sudden beauty before me with a
prayer, in an almost automatic kind of way, was as eye-opening as the sight
So, I watched the reds become purples and the blues blacken. I thought of
another line, this from the morning T'filla,"... Michadesh B'chol Yom Tamid
Ma'asey B'raysheet," "...Who renews daily the acts of creation." These were
the words in my heart at that particular moment in time, expressing my feelings
of gratitude for the gift of that beauty.
So, for 45 minutes, while evening became night and headlights replaced the
sunset, I thought about these prayers and how naturally they came to me there
in the front seat of my Pontiac; and how real they felt. I decided that my
liturgical response made me happy. It was like the first time I responded to a
question in Hebrew, without having to think in English. The Hebrew had become
a part of me; so had the prayer.
So, now it's on to various parts of our camp region, north, south, east, and
west. With long stretches of highway before me, jazz and cups of coffee for
companions, and lots of time to think.