November 5, 2021 / 1st of Kislev, 5782

The Smell of Love and Sweat

Genesis 25:19-28:9

gratitud desbordante
amor y sudor

This week, this is the line that jumped out at me from Parshat Toldot (where Isaac, in his old age, wants to offer a blessing to his oldest son … and because he can no longer see with his eyes, he relies on his sense of smell to recognize which son has come to him):

רְאֵה֙ רֵ֣יחַ בְּנִ֔י כְּרֵ֣יחַ שָׂדֶ֔ה אֲשֶׁ֥ר בֵּרְכ֖וֹ יְהֹוָֽה
 “Ah, the smell of my son is like the smell of the fields that the LORD has blessed.”

These last six weeks, I have been working in the fields and on the family farms in this small Costa Rican village of Gandoca, just north of the Panama border. 

I have helped with the rice harvest, picking coconuts and cacao, raking the fields, making coconut oil and chocolates … truly labors of love and a lot of sweat! We say that the pure, organic rice that is cultivated here —and the coconut oil and chocolate we make— is so sweet because every step of the way carries with it so much amor y sudor (love and sweat)! We, no doubt, smell like the fields that have been kissed by the divine.

These days, my clothes have all been stained yellow by the cúrcuma (tumeric) concoction my dear friend Flori (Delia’s older sister) made for me to slather on all of the bug bites that have been covering my body for these last weeks. 

I have also been drinking teas of obregrande, gabilana, sorosi and moringa every day; swimming in the ocean; dousing in alcohol after daily cold showers … but, still, two of the bites (one on my lower left leg and one on my  lower back) got very, very badly infected. 

After the strong urging of the village wise ones, I conceded to go consult the pharmacist in the nearby town of Sixaola. She prescribed a 7-day course of Amoxicillin and, also, some topical antibiotic cream. 

A deep bow to the truly life-saving advances in modern medicine for the appropriate use of antibiotics when indicated; and to all of plants growing in abundance around here with their incredible medicinal and healing properties that help sustain and strengthen us … and to all of the wise ones who know how to cultivate, harvest, and offer them when needed. 

I have to offer my gratitude as well to the many, many coloradillas, puruhas, army ants, mosquitoes, and God knows what other merciless insects who have feasted upon, bitten up, and stung my poor sweaty body … you have invited me to be in touch with and to care for every part of my body most intimately —rubbing and massaging it with creams and gels and sand and salves— throughout the day and all night long for almost two months. An almost all-consuming effort caring for my skin and my well-being!

Great gratitude as well for the availability of pure fresh water for drinking and bathing, and the opportunity to take in the astounding clean air of Pura Vida with every breath. I do not take any of that for granted.

Most of of all, as I prepare to mark 90 days in this wild jungle land, I am filled with awe and amazement at the strength and wisdom of my own 66 year-old body, and her capacity to engage in arduous, sweaty work with the best of them and, also, to have the patience and wherewithal to heal all wounds—within and all over me.

I appreciate that my body has grown smaller over these last months as my endurance has grown stronger. I feel that I am lightening my load on this earth a bit more each day, coming evermore deeply into interconnection with all that is essential, and all forms and stages of life.

As my sweaty adventure continues into this month of thanksgiving, I am delighted to report —with so much gratitude and appreciation— that the smell of my body and the smell of the fields blessed by the divine are indeed one.

May the sweet fragrance of the fields fill your home this Shabbes with love – Wishing everyone a Shabbat Shalom and Chodesh tov as we greet the new moon of Kislev,




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