January 28, 2022 / 26 Sh’vat, 5782

#18 MISHPATIM
Into the Wild

Exodus 21:1-24:18

return to the wild
deepest nourishment at the root
open to what comes

View from my tent where I am camping out for a month at El Santuario in Libertad, San Mateo, Province of Alajuela

I woke up yesterday morning with the question: “What am I doing here?” Amazingly, this is the first time during the entire 5-1/2 months I have been in Costa Rica that this question has come up for me.

I’m feeling a bit adrift without a clear vision of the path forward from here. I have been camping out for three weeks at El Santuario, a rustic, somewhat makeshift retreat gathering spot in the mountains of Libertad, down the road from the permaculture communities of Alegria and Ecovilla and just across the river from Tacotal, another small permaculture community co-founded by Stephen Brooks.

Along with Yvette and her sister Delia (who I have lived with in Gandoca for three months), and a team of great folks from the temporarily closed Punta Mona (the permaculture community also co-founded by Stephen Brooks that neighbors Gandoca), I have been in service of two retreat groups during these last three weeks: One was a 2-week permaculture course offered by Stephen Brooks and Sarah Wu to 30 participants; the other was a group of 30 juniors and seniors (and their two leaders) from Luther College in Iowa who were here for a 3-week course on Embodiment, Sustainability & Spirituality, and just left yesterday. (Two remain, however, with one of their leaders because they tested positive for COVID the night before they were scheduled to leave.)

Beginning tomorrow, a group of 80 future Alegria residents are gathering together on the land for four days, and we will be preparing and serving them meals. A big effort! After that, I am planning to return to Gandoca, and will celebrate my 67th birthday next week with the extended family that has welcomed me in so warmly. After that, I’m really not sure.

I’m not sure how much longer I may stay in Gandoca nor do I have any sense of where else I might go,

As it happens, in this week’s Torah portion, Mishpatim, the prescription for the Shmitah year is laid out:

וְשֵׁ֥שׁ שָׁנִ֖ים תִּזְרַ֣ע אֶת־אַרְצֶ֑ךָ וְאָסַפְתָּ֖ אֶת־תְּבוּאָתָֽהּ׃
Six years you shall sow your land and gather in its yield;

וְהַשְּׁבִיעִ֞ת תִּשְׁמְטֶ֣נָּה
but, in the seventh, you shall let it rest and lie fallow.

וּנְטַשְׁתָּ֗הּ וְאָֽכְלוּ֙ אֶבְיֹנֵ֣י עַמֶּ֔ךָ וְיִתְרָ֕ם תֹּאכַ֖ל חַיַּ֣ת הַשָּׂדֶ֑ה
Let the needy among your people eat of it,
and what they leave let the wild beasts eat.

I have been framing this Shmitah journey of mine as a year of returning to the wild, to the unknown, to the mystery; a year of being away from home and letting everything that I have cultivated there lie fallow and have a good long rest this whole Shmitah year. And I have made the experience of embodiment and taking tender care of my body—the land of my being—my highest priority this year. That takes me through the first two lines of this passage. (Six years you shall sow your land and gather in its yield; but, in the seventh, you shall let it rest and lie fallow.)

But in delving into the third line (Let the needy among your people eat of it, and what they leave let the wild beasts eat.) with my most expansive mind, I came up with this:

Let the neediest parts of myself—the parts most in need of deep nourishment—really delight in this experience of being in the wild! And may I honor my interconnection with all of the wild animals who dwell in this amazing jungle land of Costa Rica; May my presence here offer something that might nourish these wild and gentle and loud and prickly beasts as well.

Let all of my efforts and effort-ing of these last six years give rise to a period of refocusing my care on the neglected parts of my being. May the foundation that felt like it was crumbling and disintegrating before I left California, be the bedrock upon which I can dance more freely and explore with greater exuberance. And may my questions and questioning not stop me in my tracks, but lead me onward.

Sending everyone wishes for a Shabbat Shalom,
Yael

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