When I was a kid I went to Jewish summer camp - big surprise. Because I grew up in Yenevelt (literally, The Hereafter in Yiddish and Saskatchewan in English) In my generation, it was a must. How else was I going to meet my future husband.
So off I went at a tender age with a group of equally fresh-faced and naive kids from my town and the surrounding rural Jewish communities. (Yes, there were many and many colonies that resembled kibbutzim).
We travelled by train to Edmonton. Spent the night "billeted" (does anyone say that anymore) in the home of a Jewish family and in the morning boarded the bus to camp. Travelling south the bus was always in a race with the bus from Calgary (travelling north). Who would get there first and claim the top - or bottom bunk. Some summer kids as far away as Winnipeg, Toronto and even Seattle would come. Heady times.
In any event, Canadian Jewish camp bears no resemblance to the luxury palaces in the Poconos that my American friends attended. We lived in rough wooden shacks with no heat. The bathroom was up the hill and communal. The lake had leeches and the bug juice really did have bugs in it. Tipping was not allowed and neither were phone calls home. Every year my mother left my sleeping bag and duffel bag outside to be fumigated when I cam home.
But I loved it. And the part I loved the most was ריקודי עם (Israeli folk dancing), which is not, I repeat, not the Hora. ריקודי עם is a serious pursuit. At least it used to be. I haven't seen much lately and it has apparently turned into a recreational pursuit more than an art form. But when I was young, it set me free. I never felt as light or as happy as when I was dancing.
My first teacher was named Shlomo (right out of central casting). Shlomo was young and good looking and had a small reputation in Israel as a dancer. He'd even produced a record. Shlomo was our שָׁלִיחַ (pronounced Sha-li-ach). It means messenger. (It wasn't till I moved here that I learned that שָׁלִיחַ is the name for the guy who delivers takeout). But to us he was a visitor from a different place, an exotic place. One we could only imagine. And the music was not liturgical. Nothing like the synagogue. It was percussive. Drums, tambourines, guitars, ouds... Fabulous.
One of the early dances we learned was ערב של שושנים (Evening of Roses- Lyrics: Moshe Dor Music: Yosef Hadar, 1957). The steps were easy and the pace was slow and the music was hypnotic. The lyrics were not hard to master. It is a love song about a couple enjoying the perfume of roses and flowers in a garden. It is a popular song and there are many versions in Israel and throughout the Middle East. But the version I know has a magic word - בוסתן (bustan).
בוסתן is translated in Google as "orchard". But orchard is פרדס (pardess) and grove is חורשה (hoorsha) and garden is גן (gan) or גינה (gina). בוסתן is a magical word because it is derived from פרסי (Persian) and in Hebrew refers to a specific kind of garden. A garden that is special, aromatic and enchanting.
When I moved here it was my intention to create a garden like the one in the love song. When asked in אולפן (Ulpan -language class) what my goals were, I joked that I planned to build a busta. The teachers invariably rolled their eyes. OMG - what corny, romantic nonsense.
I had never been able to successfully grow plants. Every houseplant I have ever had, save two - one I loved and one I couldn't manage to kill), withered and died. But after making Aliyah something magical did happen. I started a garden and it flourished and now I have my special place and I delight in nurturing it.
Summer camp did not in the end, find me a match. I look back on those summers with a great deal of nostalgia and gratitude. I learned to swim. I learned to waterski and I learned to dance. I danced so much that I continue to relive the joy in my dreams.
A couple of months ago we invested in a drip watering system so that I do not have to manually do it. It can be an arduous task, especially in the summer when the plants needs water two or three times a day. It has relieved me of a chore, but I actually miss the ritual of tending to each one individually. On the other hand, it gives me more time to sit under the olive tree and read a book.
My friend Yael says I am growing a jungle. But I know it is a בוסתן. I even have a Jasmine that flowers at night and has the sweetest scent.
Before I take to bed and check Facebook one last time and do yet another crossword puzzle online, I take a walk and check on my charges. They seem happy. The bees come. The birds come and sometimes the bats come. I thank Shlomo for teaching me how to dance and for teaching me the first love song I ever learned.
Some more pics.