I’ve always loved learning the names of the winds.
So when the Sharav blew in bringing both unseasonably warm weather and sand from the desert on the day of the Purim Carnival in Zichron Yaakhov, Israel, I was secretly thrilled—even while squinting to keep the grit from my contact lenses and agreeing with my sister that the dust was unbearable.
The yearly Purim Carnival in Zichron is created and built solely by high school students and attended by the whole town.
And it would never happen in America.
For months before the festival, teams of teenagers learn to design and build carnival rides. The fair’s contraptions are always made out of wood but this year’s theme—the Middle Ages—led to designs that felt brutalesque. Long pieces of wood lashed together with rope-made swings, ferris wheels, and other strange contrivances.
Each ride is planned on paper and then built into models to be approved by engineers. Then the building begins, sometimes rising as high as three stories as the ride’s structures take shape.
My sister tells me that in the final weeks it’s hard to get the kids to sleep at home—they eat and breathe with their team, fully engaged in the building process.
The day before the Carnival, the engineers do a final check before the town comes to see what their children have built.
I wandered through the festival in awe, thinking over and over again they’d never allow this in America.
Fear is built into the human psyche; it’s a survival mechanism that has served us for millennia as we dodged deadly snakes and stayed downwind of tigers.
In modern America most of us have little to fear from the natural world, yet we still live tight in the jaws of fear, trying to legislate safety and control every aspect of our environment.
As I pondered this last night, my meandering thoughts led me to Aspen flower essence, my favorite remedy for fear. Aspens shake in the wind, their leaves making a slight chittering sound which has always reminded me of the shaky and pale feeling I get when I go into New York’s subway system.
Aspen is not for mind-numbing terror. It’s not for those moments when fear is so primal that paralysis sets in. Instead, it’s a gentle nudge to live fully, to not allow our constant need for safety to override our ability to experience the world around us.
Aspen trees live in colonies which grow from a single seed and spread by suckering roots. While an individual tree—the part we see above ground—will live up to 150 years, the colonies are thousands of years old… meaning that the continual life of the root system far exceeds the life expressed by one tree.
So what does this have to do with fear?
When we are rooted in community, we can overcome our individual shakiness and find strength in the group.
(As long as the community, the group, has come together for some greater purpose than fear.)
Teenagers in Zichron are really no different from teenagers everywhere. Individually, they goof off in school, make bad decisions, and are generally a pain in the rear end.
But something magical happens when they are reminded that they are individual expressions of a strong and ancient root system built on competency and hope.
I suspect this is the key to a rich and full life: root in something greater than fear and then draw on the collective energy to live bigger than your individual expression.
(Truthfully? This is why I love Witch Camp. This is exactly what we do for each other!)