It’s a momentous day today at TBA. Bryan Baumer has the final Bar Mitzvah of the 2018/19 this weekend. The sun is out and beautiful. Vacation and summer camp is around the corner. It’s that time of year when we share our intended destinations with each other.
I’m going to be traveling to Orleans this summer, as I have every summer for 40 years. I delight in returning to the same town every year, the same beaches, the same Main Street shopping, the same trip to P-Town, and so forth. As we cross the Sagamore Bridge, I know just what I’m getting. And I couldn’t be happier.
Because going to the Cape every summer has become a mythic ritual, a rite of passage that marks the passage of time. I feel like those Europeans who, without fail, withdrew from life (if even for a week), to the famed sanatoriums. Spa culture – defined by its intentional architecture, geographical remove and somnambulistic ambiance – was experienced in direct opposition to the rapid-paced, sick-making atmosphere of industrialized Europe. …[t]he bosky outreaches of central Europe served as a sort of mystical destination where people from kingdoms near and far could live temporarily apart from reality – intermingling, arguing – even as the security and sovereignty of the world around them remained imperiled. It’s unsurprising that a microcosm containing different types of people with little to do but reflect and cathect provided fiction writers with a generative setting, one which everyone from George Eliot to Henry James to Guy de Maupassant took advantage of.
When I get to the Cape, I have my best beach chair, my books, and music. I don’t want to go anywhere other than the Shaw’s Market, the fresh fish place on Rte 6, Chocolate Sparrow, Nauset Beach, or Pilgrim Lake. That’s it. It’s true that when I actually leave Orleans city limits, ending up with friends in Brewster or Wellfleet, I love it. But entropy is a tough habit to break.
I sit on the beach, soaking up the sun and fresh air. I look at the water and can’t believe my food fortune to be in such a beautiful place. I look at my adult children who were raised on these beaches, who never once kvetched, never saying, “Do we have to go to Cape Cod?” I watch my grandchildren splashing around, building sand castles, collecting abandoned beach toys, loving the ambiance, appreciating having around them their favorite adults who are not in a rush to get to work, or anyplace else. The Cape is absolutely a be here now place.
I had a friend who used to hate going on vacation. She thought it was a sign of weakness. She would stoically wave as others left for their summer destinations, all the while thinking, “I am more loyal then they are.” She did work very hard. Not surprisingly, she was not happy. She had so many complaints and concerns about her place of work and her co-workers.One day, her boss called, demanding she take a vacation. “You will be better in your work and your attitude by not doing it for a week or two. Think of it as imposed medical leave.” She did go away to Nantucket for 2 weeks. When she returned, she looked so – different. “I can’t believe I waited so long to do nothing. What was I thinking?”
I will be thinking about the new construction zooming forward in my absence. I will be thinking about my High Holy Day sermons. I will be catching rays. And I will be luxuriating in what it means to be free, loving what I do with my life and loving the people who are in my large extended temple family. I will be practicing the Zen notion of, “Don’t just do something, stand there,” or, in my case, sit there.
I hope all of you will find time to get away from the day-to-day, and just be. That’s hard work – at first. But once you relax into it, the idea and the practice of rest can be joyful. Don’t forget: even God rests from time to time. I hope your Shabbat is restful, good and long. See you in September.