Shabbat in the Woods
"Grant me the ability to be alone; may it be my custom to go outdoors each day among the trees and grass - among all growing things and there may I be alone, and enter into prayer, to talk with the One to whom I belong." -- Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav
For me, camping in the woods feels like Shabbat: it's peaceful, work is far behind, it's quiet. I'm focused on my family. But at some point every summer, it is actually Shabbat while we are camping. And that has its own special qualities. Dinner is just a little fancier than usual, although not necessarily traditional. Chicken isn't the easiest thing to cook well and tastily on a naphtha stove. Steak, chili, even spaghetti have all done Shabbat service.
Instead of challah, there's....bread. Fresh from a local bakery if we can find one and the timing is right. Maybe a small challah bun from the local little supermarket, if the conditions are also right. Or a cinnamon bun. Or a kaiser. But bought and kept with the express intention of blessing it on Shabbat.
Grape juice isn't always as easy to find as you'd think. We've made kiddush over orange juice, grape pop, whatever we could find..
I have travelling candlesticks from my mother, and used to bring candles from home. This in itself added a layer of intentionality - to think of Shabbat in the frenzy of packing, repacking, jamming boxes full.
A few times melted wax oozed onto our picnic table and we'd have to scrape it off, so we finally got smart and started lighting them on the stones surrounding our fire pit.
We finally started using tea lights a few years ago without holders, The candles would inevitably be blown out by a passing breeze within minutes, regardless of what we used.
I always make a point of calling my parents to wish them a Shabbat Shalom. We do this every week, but there's something just a little more special about doing it when we're away. Today, this era of cell phones, and long distance plans, not to mention email and social media right in our pockets,it's no big deal, but this used to be a significant start to Shabbat. It might be the only time in more than a week when we were in touch. We had to make sure to make our way to a pay phone. Before calling cards, it was a matter of having enough change on hand to pay for the call. There'd be the little thrill of a voice from home, a brief catch-up, and a "Shabbat Shalom".