“We are such spendthrifts with our lives. The trick of living is to slip on and off the planet with the least fuss you can muster. I’m not running for sainthood. I just happen to think that in life we need to be a little like the farmer, who puts back into the soil what he takes out.” – Paul Newman (1925-2008)
I finally brought myself to read some of the obituaries of Paul Newman, one of my favorite actors and one of my heroes, and the above quote resonated. Among his many accomplishments, Paul Newman, who died on September 26th at age 83, founded the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp with A. E. Hotchner in 1988. This camp, along with others founded later through the Association of Hole in the Wall Camps, serves thousands of children with cancer and other serious illnesses, allowing them to experience nature and camping, free of charge. It also happens to be located in Ashford, CT, within twenty miles of where I grew up, where my parents still live, and where I’m visiting today for Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.
Ever since I can remember, my father and I have spent part of this holiday taking a walk in the woods during the break in High Holy Day services. We will go on our walk this afternoon together, but this morning I went for a short one on my own, marveling at the beauty of the brilliantly-colored falling leaves, the light shining through the hemlocks and playing on the river, the sound of the birds and the wind in the trees, the shock of green ferns amidst yellow and orange and buff, the smell of loam and leaves and green and fresh air. There is little as life-affirming as a walk in the woods.