June 12, 2024
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June 12, 2024
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Positive Lessons Learned From Yosemite

At the end of December 2019, I accompanied my husband and a group of high school boys from MTA to Israel. Little did I know at the time that the entire world was about to change, and that this was going to be the last trip I would take for a long time.

For a solid year, I, like most people, stayed close to home, working on Zoom and taking care of my family. The fear of possibly contracting and/or transmitting COVID was with us all the time.

But by Pesach of 2021, my entire family (those who were eligible) had been completely vaccinated, and for the first time since before Purim over a year earlier, we felt hopeful, as did so many in our community and beyond, that life would soon go back to some level of normalcy. We could unmask, take deep breaths and make plans.

Indeed, in honor of a big birthday of mine in the summer, my dear husband planned a trip for the two of us to Yosemite National Park in northern California. He had been to Yosemite twice, many years prior when he ran a pair of cross-country trips for NCSY. He remembered it as one of the most beautiful places he had ever seen, and he wanted to share this beautiful place with me. He purchased the plane tickets, booked the hotel, reserved a car and obtained tickets for the park for the beginning of August. We had not been away for 18 months, and we were so thrilled about this upcoming getaway.

By the end of June, however, we started hearing reports about the Delta variant and learned that some people who had been double vaccinated were contracting COVID. There was once again an “uptick” of COVID cases! I started having doubts about our trip. Should we cancel? Is it safe to get on a plane? Travel to California?

My excitement about our vacation started to wane. Instead of focusing on our trip, I became obsessed about the number of positive COVID cases and hospitalizations both here in the U.S. and abroad. Perhaps this was not the time to take this vacation after all. But my husband had spent so much time planning a great trip, how could I tell him I didn’t think we should go? I decided that I would not let fear get in the way of our plans. We would be cautious, wash our hands regularly, wear our masks, avoid close contact with others to the extent possible, and try to relax and enjoy.

A few days before we were to leave, an article about Yosemite, written by a former park ranger there, appeared in the New York Times. The picture at the top of the article was of burned trees. The writer had returned to Yosemite after a 25-year absence, and she described a dry, barren park that had been ravaged by climate change and wildfires. My husband, like the author, had not been to the park in a long time and I was concerned that he would be disappointed and sad when he saw it. But I was determined nonetheless that we were going to make the best of our experience.

We were booked to fly on American Airlines. Prior to our trip, I had read terrible reviews about the airline. One travel horror story after another. Unfortunately, we could not change our tickets and so I was prepared for the worst. Despite leaving very early on Friday morning and “gaining” three hours because of the time difference, I feared that if we were significantly delayed, we would have trouble making it to San Francisco in time for Shabbat. I played out every possible terrible scenario in my head. But this was completely wasted energy, as the seats on the plane were comfortable, the staff was polite and helpful, and though the flight left 15 minutes late, it landed on time, leaving us with a full afternoon before Shabbat!

Upon arriving at Yosemite, we drove through the vast park to our first destination, and after making a few stops on the road to take pictures of stunning views, we parked our car to go on our first hike. The hikes in the park are rated as easy, moderate, strenuous or very strenuous. The hike we chose was to the top of a waterfall. The hike was breathtakingly beautiful, with running streams and plant life. For about 90 minutes we walked straight up a mountain, and then for some 30 minutes we walked up a steep set of steps until we came to the bottom of a gorgeous waterfall. The sun hit the water at just the right angle to create a prism, enabling us to see all the colors of the rainbow in the water. It was delightful!

At this point, we had two choices: turn around and walk back down to where we started or continue for another 30 minutes up more steep steps to reach the top of the waterfall. A man heard us discussing our dilemma and he encouraged us to continue our journey. “Take it slow and steady and you will get there. You will be happy that you did.” We followed the advice of this stranger, and he was absolutely right. The view from the bottom of the waterfall was lovely, but it was nothing compared to our view from the top!

On our trek back down the mountain, we were able to similarly encourage other reluctant hikers to take it slow and get to their destination. When we returned to our car, we discovered that this hike was rated strenuous—we apparently missed the sign! I was so glad that we didn’t know this before we took the hike, because we may have decided that it would be too difficult, and we would have missed out on a magnificent view and an experience we were in fact able to manage!

We had similar experiences several times during our few days in the park—strangers encouraging us to make it to the top of a cliff or mountain to see the extraordinary views. We were never sorry that we pushed ourselves. There were views that took our breath away and I will remember them for the rest of my life.

Returning home, I reflected upon the abundance of negative information and energy prior to our trip. The COVID uptick. The article in the Times about the deterioration of the park due to climate change. The bad reviews of the airline. The words used to describe a hike that would have stopped us from taking this once-in-a-lifetime trip and experiencing the park to its fullest.

We are living in a time in which we read, see, and even post ourselves so much negativity. It seems as if some disaster is always just around the corner. But while it is important to be careful, it is within each of us to make sure that we do not allow the negative voices from others and from ourselves to rule our lives. It is up to us to decide whether to have faith in ourselves to climb the mountain and experience life. You may be surprised by what the world has to offer!

Wishing you all Shanah Tovah!

Beth S. (Bassie) Taubes, RN, CHC, CYT, is the owner of Wellness Motivations LLC. She motivates clients of all backgrounds, ages and health conditions to engage in improved self-care through nutritional counseling, personal fitness training, yoga practice, tai chi and stress reduction techniques. She is currently seeing clients in her outdoor and indoor studio or on Zoom. She is also the rebbetzin of Congregation Zichron Mordechai in Teaneck.

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