by Eleanor Goldfield
When I was a kid, we used to go up into the Appalachian Mntns. of NC for Yom Kippur. My dad felt there was something more powerful in the action of hiking through nature as we reflect on our sins and atone.
When asked what we wanted to atone for, my brother and I would often volley comments back and forth about how we’re perfect and never start fights…ironically starting a fight.
If not always outwardly, I would still reflect on my actions and consider them as they and we braided through the vast and beautiful NC mountains. This year, as I plan for another trip into Appalachia, this time to stand directly in the sins of humanity as we mine and frack our way to our own suicide, I reflect on my own actions as well. I think about the power of action – that seed planted many Yom Kippurs ago that doubtlessly helped sprout this radical plant that I am today. I think about what more I need to do, what more can be done. I think about those I have hurt. I think about missteps and pit falls, and I do my best to atone. I acknowledge my humanity and resolve to do better, to be better.
At the same time, I think of sins that are not mine, that I can not atone for, but that I can help stop. I think of environmental genocide, apartheid, colonialism, ecocide, femicide – I think of all the oppression and destruction – I think of our shared shame, and our shared humanity.
Walking through the NC mountains, I realized before I could verbalize it that I could affect this nature – for better or worse. I was, and am, a part of this ecosystem, these political systems, this world.
So on this Yom Kippur, as I reflect on and for myself, I ripple these thought waves outwards – and once again feel the power of action – not just for my own sins, but for the sins we all share.