State of Mind

It’s finally here, a week when Al and I kick back and take advantage of all that New England has to offer in the summer, beautiful and fascinating places that other people travel miles and miles to visit, but just happen to be within a few hours’ drive of our home.

We got into summer day-tripping a few years ago to economize, and now it’s become a highlight of the year. We started off on Sunday with an afternoon in Boston’s South End, browsing stores and artist lofts and outdoor booths filled with all kinds of crafts, a massive indoor vintage market (read, upscale term for flea market), plus a farmer’s market.

Strawberry Banke 7-21-14On Monday, we drove up to Portsmouth, N.H., to Strawbery Banke, a living history museum covering four centuries of life in one of that city’s oldest communities. Period homes are surrounded by heritage gardens, including one with a children’s tea party set amidst fanciful fairy houses.

I wouldn’t mind living there for a while. In the fairy garden, I mean.

Even as I’m enjoying the break from routine, the glorious weather so far and discovering regional treasures, I’m having some trouble separating out from what else is going on in the world. When you leave your home for a period of days or weeks, it’s easier to take a complete mental break. This is essential to recharging and relaxing, so critical to maintaining health and well-being.

But I can’t seem to tear myself away from following news in the Middle East. Trying to set a limit, but I feel compelled to keep up, even as I find the developments so stressful. Too much is at stake.

So I was grateful to find an oasis of peace right here in our hometown Sunday night. A few years ago, Al and I decided to initiate an interfaith dialogue between our synagogue and a local mosque. Since that time, members of both our communities have studied texts together, broken bread and come to understand how much our faith traditions have in common.

Weeks before the most recent hostilities broke out between Israel and Hamas, our friends at the mosque had invited us to join them for a Ramadan break-fast. And so, this past Sunday evening, a group of our congregants and our rabbi went to the mosque and shared in a study session about the meaning of the Ramadan fast. We explained fasting in our Jewish tradition. We asked questions. And we learned, once again, how much we have in common.

What made the deepest impression on me, as I listened, was how both Ramadan and Yom Kippur are intended for introspection, self-improvement, mending relationships, bringing goodness into the world and drawing closer to God. Both faith traditions are deeply committed to peace.

I will carry that awareness with me as I follow the news and pray that the best in both sides will prevail. And I’ll try to create my own inner space of peace, appreciating what is good and beautiful all around me, as I take a break from headlines, deadlines and most of my responsibilities for a week. The alternative is to wear myself out, and that won’t do anyone any good, especially me.

After all, vacation, no matter where you are or how you do it, is really only a state of mind.

Evelyn Herwitz blogs weekly about living fully with chronic disease, the inside of baseballs, turtles and frogs, J.S. Bach, the meaning of life and whatever else she happens to be thinking about at livingwithscleroderma.com.

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