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In the beginning the world was water within water. He then turned it to snow. He then turned it to land. And the land stands on water and the water stands on mountains and the mountains stand on wind and the wind is supported by storm and the storm the Holy One Blessed Be He made like an amulet and hung it on his arm.

—Jerusalem Talmud Chagigah 2:1

November 17

What was empty is slowly refilled. No outlet, just rain and evaporation. Simple. Tannin waters stain copper what was recently dried mud. The substrate is different now, and not just in consistency. It has been removed from the outer world to the inner, where all exists as it exists on the surface, but unseen by those who walk there. The hidden world of emanation, the beginning that is not known and knows not. Dive, swim headfirst. It will take effort to remain submerged, face pressed into ooze, bubbles rising mere centimeters. But we use instruments to measure temperature, acidity, water levels month by month, year by year. Keep careful records. Dredge from the depths what is no longer secret. Leave all that a moment. The path is strewn with gray-yellow aspen leaves reflecting dusk’s light, a corridor where I prepare to be received.

November 22

This morning I woke, and the bog had frozen. Frost covered sedges. Thick slashes in the ice, every which way, like knife cuts, where it imperfectly stitched itself together. From the shadows, steam rises from Labrador tea leaves like passing fog. But head-on in the sun each water droplet is visible, moving rapidly like snow in a mountain gale, slowing, then speeding up again. For a moment the air dries, and my view into the bog is clear, shafts of sun on ice. Then the droplets rise once more.

December 8

Have you noticed ice crystals? Tiny clusters of hexagonal pillars, feathery tufts, miniature leaves that tinkle like jewels when swept with your feet. Congealed water. Kindness infused with judgment.

December 9

The cold spell passed. The center of the bog melted, leaving a watery surface pocketed with the wave formation of raindrops. But when I test its edge, I discover this is not so. Beneath a film of water lies thick ice, invisible, giving the impression of the inky blackness of a deep pool. I venture into the middle of the bog, where I had never been before, and glide for hours on the smooth ice beneath the splashing water. Beneath the kindness, a sharp severity.

December 30

On the thin ice, patterns of goose quills, angel wings, salmon heads, mermaids. And in the watery spaces between, visions of pine clearer than the original.

February 24

Eight hundred kilometers northeast of the bog, I can only picture this week’s snowfall in my mind—snow covering the boardwalk, Labrador tea, desiccated leaves of sphagnum moss. Shore pine heavy with snow, their reflection obscured. Huge coastal flakes drifting downward with motionless movement, like a waterfall. The usual sound of distant traffic hushed.

When the scarlet thread turned white on Yom Kippur, the people knew their sins were forgiven. I wait for white to turn green, for bud break in this boreal desert.

May 3

By the time I return, the gradual transformation of seasons has passed. The blueberry flowering is over, and green, budlike berries await their ripening. Mosses send up forests of brown sporophytes. Kalmia sprinkles fuchsia throughout the bog. The mallard pair has returned to nest. The male, beak tucked backward into its breast, eyes me with a slow blink. And in the meadow and woodland mix between my house and the bog I am greeted by a forgotten verdant green. Passover was over. I had worried about missing spring in the bog but discover it is never too late.

June 28

A spider, half a centimeter long and half that across, sits in the center of its web. What caught my eye were the thin strands linking blueberry branches at the edge of the bog. A transportation network. I look farther into the bog and see hundreds of diamond strands—reinforced into all shapes and patterns—covering the carpet of Labrador tea and climbing up into pine. As the sun rises a little higher, the strands disappear and the infinite drops of last night’s rain catch the rays and dazzle, until they too lose their edge and I turn to begin the day.

January 12

Now a year has passed, and it is snowing again. The polar vortex moves south all week, minus-twenty with windchill in this temperate city. He casts forth ice like morsels; who can withstand his cold? The snow reflects city lights, creating a white twilight, pastel sky at midnight. Layered hemlock boughs—a feature of its shade tolerance—are perfectly suited for catching snow. Weighed down, they guard the entrance to where Labrador tea pokes above the snow and the pond reposes in a slow slushy freeze. Further down the path, forest trees accept their gift silently and are transformed. I stand on the boardwalk and turn to the one who places snow like fleece, scatters frost like ashes and whisper: Master of the world, I hereby forgive all who have angered and upset me or sinned against me. Then I turn back to sleep. He sends forth his word and melts them; his winds blow and the waters flow.



Yudel Huberman grew up within the Chabad Chassidic movement. He has since pursued studies in forest conservation and is currently a graduate student in forest biology. His writing combines Jewish mysticism, his love for the outdoors, and forest ecology.




Photo by piotr szulawski on Unsplash

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