By Rabbi Julie Wolkoff
I am taking today’s theme from our colleague Rabbi Phyllis Sommer and her #BlogElul topics.
I drive a lot in my job. As much as I try to plan my days so that I visit places and patients who are geographically close to one another, it only takes one crisis, one new patient, one dying patient to make me throw my carefully planned schedule away, turn the car around and go off in the opposite direction. When you drive a lot, there are days when you reach your destination with little to no memory of how you got there.
I do notice traffic, but some days I have a podcast or book on cd playing while I drive and the miles fly by as I am caught up in the words and stories. These are the days where I get to where I’m going with no sense of how much time has passed. It’s not always a bad thing. I had an on-call day this past weekend when I drove 129 miles. Without something compelling to listen to, the day would have been interminable.
But when you drive on “auto-pilot” you miss many wonderful things. You may be awake to the traffic and to the words coming through the car’s speakers, but are you awake to the world around you? This weekend, as I drove to my on-call visits, I tried to be awake to the world I drove through.
I saw the trees beginning to change color. The roads I drove don’t look like autumn yet, but there are hints that it is not far away. I saw two different high schools holding car wash fundraisers. I passed several farm stands I didn’t know existed and discovered an orchard just a few miles from my house on a road I don’t normally travel. I saw flowers grown tall and raggedy, but bright with pinks and yellows and purples. I saw geese who seemed to think that they owned the road (and I was not stupid enough to challenge them.) I saw a rabbit. I saw ponds and rivers and the ocean.
It’s easy to miss all this when I drive, but I try to be aware of the world beyond the road, beyond my windshield. Especially in Elul, as we rush toward the Holy Days, I want to see – really see – the world. I want to reawaken to the awe and wonder that creation evokes. Next week, as I sit in the pews of the congregation listening to the music of Yom Tov and reflecting on the words of the mahzor, I want to be awake to the world, as once again we come together to celebrate its birth.
Rabbi Julie Wolkoff, D.Min, CT, is a hospice chaplain in Massachusetts. Find her at: http://fabricfiber.wordpress.com/