Unless trekking means trudging through hill and dale, through forest and streams and catching what you eat, then perhaps we should call our trip a vacation.
Following the Federation of Jewish Mens Clubs Convention in Costa Mesa, CA (an amazing convention for men and, surprisingly, women) where I coordinated and led a study of contemporary Jewish prayer practice, alongside three colleagues (we discussed prayer and I led an Anshe Emet Live type service on Friday evening, an exploratory Shaharit service and a traditional mussaf as one might hear it at Anshe Emet), Deborah and I decided to explore the magnificent Northwest of the U.S. and Canada; a rather daunting task in 14 days.
Were one only to traverse the Columbia River Gorge on the old highway and end up staying the first evening at a lovely resort at the foot of Mt. Hood, it would suffice (DAYENU) to recommend this trip to everyone. What grandeur and majesty were evident from the first moment. If you are of a mind with me that our main purpose in existence is to be witnesses to G-d's wonders, than this is your trip. Surrounded by snow topped mountains at times, vast deep forests at others, and the almost surreal coastline and beaches of Oregon and Washington states, the mind is overwhelmed by nature so grand and glorious that when it takes your breath away, that act becomes a prayer in itself. In fact, the transition from a discussion of prayer to traversing G-d's gifts on earth felt very smooth. No matter how much man does to destroy all this, nature still survives to teach us that we are here only for a short while and must take care of what has been here and will be here for eons.
Victoria and Vancouver, British Columbia are certainly worthy of a separate trip, but, we managed to spend only a few days in each. Just as I thought we had experienced all the nature and fish (one begins to grow gills) possible, we went to the Telus Science Center in Vancouver to see the IMax film, HUBBLE. Coming out of the reverie of those sights it was impossible not to think "t'filah." As a temporary citizen of the speck we call earth, our life host, I am always awed by the idea of billions of galaxies each with billions and trillions of stars.
Jewish liturgical tradition gives us a portal by which to express our unspoken feelings in the midst of the incomprehensible. Yes, it will continue to morph through the centuries, but our traditional cantillation and prayer modes give us an anchor from which to spread and create the new. Let us do our part in looking forward together.