Last week, the fires that ravaged Northern California devastated entire communities, leveled businesses, and left many homeless. The helplessness, fears, and sadness that I felt while watching this horrific news was only compounded by the recent slew of disasters from the hurricanes and the shooting in Las Vegas. Monday afternoon, I learned that the summer camp that my children have gone to for the past 6 summers, a site that we’ve also gone to for years of family camp, fell victim to the fire. I finally could cry all the tears I hadn’t yet been able to cry. Suddenly, it felt like all the emotions I’d been carrying over the past few weeks leaked out my eyes. I was sad.
The loss of this Jewish camp didn’t just affect me and my daughters, or other campers and their families, but the widespread grief was felt by the Jewish community around the world. The fire ironically took place during the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, which commemorates the 40 years the Israelites wandered in the desert. During Sukkot, pop-up shelters called Sukkahs are built a reminder that our existence is fragile, and to be thankful for our homes and our able bodies. This holiday is also a time to reflect on and appreciate the simplicity of life and to focus our mind and attention on what is important – family, friends, and community. What irony of timing…
A theme that kept emerging for me while I was grieving the physical loss of camp was gratitude. Gratitude for the memories that I personally had had there; for my daughters’ experiences of being at a place that felt like a second home to them; for a place that provided sanctuary for Jewish families everywhere; gratitude for the ability to rebuild; gratitude for resiliency. Simultaneous to this gratitude was the reminder of the temporary nature of all things, just like what the sukkahs are supposed to represent.
Mindfulness is rooted in Buddhist meditation practice, and a fundamental core belief is the concept of non-attachment – that the most constant thing is change, and to hold onto what was, only increases our suffering in the present. I think that non-attachment is one of the hardest practices to practice, because whether it is a person, a place, or thing…how are we supposed to not be attached to what we love???
So, with my gratitude, I move forward. I try not to dwell on what was, though at times that may be harder than others, but all I can do is practice. When feeling down, I count my blessings, because the gratitude actually does make me feel better. A quote that emerged from the fires was: the love in the air is thicker than the smoke. At a time that feels full of darkness, there is light: community-wide connectedness, loving-kindness, and stories of heroism have emerged – all of which are something to be grateful for.