Friday, August 19, 2011

My New Passport

By Cantor Marcie Jonas

(Photo Credit: M. Jonas, Grand Tetons taken from the Snake River)

This summer, I was given a new passport. Not the kind that you need for international travel; rather this passport is solely for travel within our country and only to specific locales. It is my Passport to Our National Parks. This passport book, created by the National Parks Service, is divided into nine geographic travel regions throughout the country. Whenever I visit a National park, I have my passport stamped with a cancellation mark. Each cancellation mark records the name of the park and the date of my visit. It is a keepsake of our domestic travels.

This summer, through our family travels in Wyoming, we received a few cancellation marks in our passports. For me, there is no question that the National Parks in the great state of Wyoming contain some of the most breathtaking views. The Grand Tetons, and Yellowstone, are host to bears, bison, elk and moose, as well as the famous Old Faithful Geyser (and some of it’s less-reliable cousins nearby, which we also got to see erupt, however, sporadically). I’ve heard many describe this part of our nation as “G-d’s country.” It is breathtakingly beautiful, with nothing to obstruct the 360-degree view of mountains, lakes and streams.

Even on our flight and the approach to land in Jackson Hole Wyoming, the conversations on our airplane turned to the gorgeous land below. Even those passengers, who call Jackson Hole home, were awestruck as our pilot navigated through the Grand Tetons, and flew over Jenny Lake. The snow-capped mountains set against the deepest blue sky took our breath away.

I knew that experiencing the terrain of this part of the country would be a gift for our family.

There are moments in our busy lives where we forget to stop and look around us, at the beauty of our natural resources. Driving through the state of Wyoming, there was nothing to see except our natural resources, and this new perspective really helped to restore balance in my life. Our senses were heightened while in Wyoming, taking in the views of the glorious landscape, the smells of pine, the feel of the crisp morning air, and the sounds of the rushing Snake River. This is not to say that these beautiful vistas don’t exist here, for they certainly do, only that sometimes we need to look a little harder to see them.

After a week out west, we returned home. As we drove home from the airport we noticed how the foliage in the state of Massachusetts is different from that of Wyoming. We noticed how it has changed even from a week or two earlier primarily due to imbalance of rain and sun. The familiarity was beautiful. Coming home always feels good.

Sometimes we need to step away from what we know so well, in order to see it and embrace its beauty. I was reminded of this one day on our trip. I was getting ready to photograph the Grand Tetons off in the distance but what struck me as most beautiful was in the foreground of my viewfinder…my family.

I am reminded of a stanza from a song from the musical group Lonestar. It’s called My Front Porch Looking In. A section of the song lyrics state:

I've traveled here and everywhere
Following my job
I've seen the paintings from the air
Brushed by the hand of God
The mountains and the canyons reach from sea to shining sea
But I can't wait to get back home
To the one He made for me
It's anywhere I'll ever go and everywhere I've been

Nothing takes my breath away
Like my front porch looking in

As the summer winds down, my wish is that we still find moments for front-porch-sitting, and vista viewing. But also know that the view looking in can be more beautiful than the view looking out.

[This post originally appeared in the August 19, 2011 Shabbat Shalom email]


  1. Marcie - thanks so much for sharing this in your original Shabbat Shalom email and here on the blog. I had a similar experience one Friday night this summer driving through the Adirondacks on my way to Lake Placid. I was overwhelmed by the grandeur and beauty of the green mountains surrounding me for an 80 mile stretch on 87 North. Despite the long week leading up to the trip and the long drive from Needham, I found myself very calm and relaxed as I took everything in. I'm not sure how much of it had to do with the fact that it was a Friday night at sunset, but I noticed that it felt similar to Friday night services when everyone takes a deep breath and puts their week behind them. I think I'm going to have to make some time this fall for the "Shabbat Hikes" starting September 17!

  2. Marcie - great post, and a good reminder of the extraordinary natural beauty and majesty we are blessed with in this country. It also reminds me that in the unlikely event that someone decides to choose a new national anthem, there is a lot to be said for Woody Guthrie's "This Land is Your Land."