Colors are so vivid during storms, especially outside with the hood of a 4 dollar blue poncho sliding further down your eyes. I stared at my shovel cleaving at soil and clay with the soft sound of rain drumming against plastic, metal, earth, and skin. Our muscles burned, clouds continued to cry and melt dirt into mud, and we took turns carrying the heavy fruits of our labor away in a yellow wheelbarrow to dump in dark, dampening piles. And then our rainbow spectrum was altered in the safety of tinted ski-goggles. We swung a sledgehammer into the side of a hollow cylinder of concrete, and cheered each other on with each crack or chunk that broke apart. Isn't it wonderfully ironic when destruction becomes productive?
Then, running through an acapella version of Minor Threat's discography with Eden, we struggled carrying long pieces of wood through the forest's wet terrain. We ducked under branches, slid on sodden leaves, then tried to balance on the precarious staircase of bright mossy rocks leading to the rushing ravine. It was there that Jeff stood in tall, rubber boots, taking the planks with Sher Yaakov to his tent deeper in the forest. Luckily, we were too weak to bring the ten by ten foot wooden platform from the back of the pick-up truck, but instead pushed ancient refrigerators up the kitchen's basement stairwell once we were back at the center. A couple of them were too large to fit, so after they were cleared of cobwebs, they were sawed in half. I didn't do the cutting- I was already planting in the field.
By that point, the mist in the gray sky was cooling me uncomfortably. Mud had caked on my boots and soaking-wet jeans, and I had crumpled my poncho in the tall weeds at the end of the bed. We laid irrigation line, then "key-holed" black plastic along the bed to sufficiently warm the soil for our plants. There wasn't thunder- it was peaceful. And fog hung like exhaled smoke on the trees.
I remembered an old photograph of myself today. In it, I was probably three years old and squatting barefoot in my flooded backyard with a huge smile on my face. I distinctly recall the smell that followed a healthy spring shower. Do you remember the smell of a wet lawn? The smell of dirt? Or even the smell of your front hall as you stripped your clothes off to be dried in a towel, tiny leaves still speckling your shins down to your tiny toes?
The sun wasn't yet out this morning as we led each other through the forest, taking turns closing our eyes. Chani was barefoot as usual, and had me remove my shoes and socks so I could feel the earth's floor as well. She brought my fingers from hers and onto the bark of a tree, then onto elaborate ferns and weeds grateful for the storm, and touched them to my inhaling nostrils. Then, she wanted to try something different. The ground hardened slightly under my toes as she walked me carefully along, pushing away tree branches and lifting my leg when there was an obstruction.
"I am taking you to the main road now. We are going to run, and I want you to trust me."
"I trust you," I replied, and I took another deep breath.
We ran hand in hand across the path, and it seemed the forest moved stones out of the way for our bare feet. My eyes were closed tightly, letting hers see for me. For a short while I perceived the darkness subtly changing as early morning light created shadows through the trees, but as I ran further- and as we began to laugh- I pictured that photograph. That smile captured on my face came from somewhere very real: the primal connection we share with nature- too easily taken for granted as we grow old.