Where to begin? DLTI (aka the Jewish spiritual retreat) is over, I’m back home in my regular routine…Which means I’m my normal, neurotic self, finding countless things to worry about and basically making myself (and everyone around me – my apologies) a little crazy.
So, what was it like, you ask? (Well, you didn’t, but I’m assuming that someone is wondering.) First of all, the Berkshires are a wonderful place to be in the summer. Perhaps most important, it actually gets chilly at night. For those of you who don’t live in Florida – and yes, I know you don’t give a rat’s ass about how hot it is here, since you’ve had a hellacious summer yourselves – it’s hot. Very hot. Hotter than any summer since 1911. The only one that was almost as bad was the summer of 1998, which, coincidentally, was the first summer we lived in Florida. I thought I’d go insane. To add insult to injury, summer in Florida doesn’t end until mid-October. So while all the stores are gaily displaying fall and winter fashions – why does back-to-school always include so much plaid? – we’re sweating and trying to find a decent pair of shorts and some new flip-flops to get us through the “fall” months.
Back to the Berkshires. Gorgeous. Hot in the daytime and cool at night. Fistfuls of stars at night. Fog curling up from the lake in the morning. Geese. Bunnies. Chipmunks. Goats. Yes, goats. The retreat center doubles as an organic farm, and there’s a gang of goats as well as fields growing all kinds of veggies. The gardeners and goatherds are interns working there over the summer; one of them is a young guy who was with me last year at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College’s prospective student institute. I asked him if he ever imagined that this summer he’d be herding goats instead of preparing for rabbinical school, and he just grinned and shook his head. Looked like he was having fun, though.
Since the roommate situation was random, it was a relief to discover that my roommate was terrific (and very funny, always a plus in my book) and we’ve committed to staying together for future retreats. The facilities, however left something to be desired. Let’s just say that it’s very rustic. VERY rustic. (Who in their right mind thought that two showers would be adequate for 24 women?)
The food was great, albeit a little light in the protein department. Except for chicken on Friday night and fish once or twice, the fare was hearty vegetarian; lots of beans and vegetables, not enough tofu.
I’m regretting not bringing a camera, and hope I can grab some photos that other people posted on-line, because the nicest building was the synagogue and I won’t be able to do it justice. It’s a darned good thing that the synagogue was so nice, because we spent the better part of every day there.
“We” were about 60 people. Given that we were predominantly white, middle-class, middle-aged, north-American Jews, there was a remarkable diversity amongst the group.
True story – when I asked one of the younger guys if he’d spoken to one of the women, he apologized and said he didn’t know which one I meant because “there are an awful lot of middle-aged women who all look alike to me.” The apology was because I am one of those middle-aged women, but he was right, there were a lot of us and I guess after a while we do tend to blend together.
There were 6 Canadians, one Alaskan (which probably qualifies as being from another country), one Costa Rican and one Australian. Plus a large contingent of people who’d converted to Judaism (who I am reluctant to call Jews-by-choice because…. well, that’s a long story for another time). More men than I’d expected. Fewer fundraisers. Lots of guitarists but very few drummers. One bagpiper. One truck driver. Some rabbis and cantors. Some rabbinical and cantorial students. Lots of lay people. An Israeli or two and lots of people who’d lived in Israel. And some people who don’t read Hebrew.
None of which gives you even the slightest idea of what the week was like. I’m not sure I can describe it. Let’s just say that we prayed a lot. A lot. Three formal services a day, plus some. Each service was led by a different group of two or three people, and none of the services remotely resembled your average, run-of-the-mill synagogue service.
That’s it for now; you’ll just have to wait to find out how I fared through the touchy-feely stuff.