Growing up, I knew my neighborhood well – really well. I could tell you about every tree root popping up from the sidewalk and every pothole within a 4 block radius of my home in Uptown New Orleans. Back then, I was an expert on my home turf: which driveways were the best for riding bikes down and which yard you shouldn’t throw a ball into (the Witch Lady’s).
I knew where honeysuckle grew abundantly and where there were step stones to turn over. I could sense exactly which ones were hideouts for doodle bugs and earthworms.
I knew that the street next to mine was lined with mansions. And that four blocks down on Calhoun, you had to watch out for rough teenagers.
I didn’t learn all of these little details about my surroundings by looking out the window or visiting neighbors. I learned it by spending time outdoors every day, in every season. I got to know my home ground by biking, walking, and exploring the neighborhood.
Now, as an adult, there are no long lazy days to spend riding my bicycle several blocks down to the ice cream store. Repeatedly.
Which means that it’s up to me to make the time to get to know my land: to really know it like my own backyard.
Over the years, I’ve discovered that there’s a limit to what one can learn by looking at maps and driving around the country. The best way to become better acquainted with the Land of Israel is by walking through it: Discovering which flowers bloom in which season in which places. Finding which forests connect to each other and by which trails.
At this very moment (with a pandemic running rampant) we can’t necessarily become acquainted with the whole entire country. But we can learn about the wildflowers that grow, the way the sun sets, and the different types of wild grain right around our own piece of the Land.
Now more than ever, we have the chance spend some time outdoors every day, exploring our country. This might be a unique opportunity in a long journey to truly get to know this place we call home.