Thursday, January 03, 2008


Usually, I get very stressed out about traveling to and from Wanakena, my friend K-Ross's house in the mountains, and then I enjoy my time in the snowy wilderness immensely. This year I felt nowhere near so apprehensive in advance; but, while I enjoyed myself, I also didn't have the kind of heart-filling experience I have had in the past. Whether these things are related, I can't tell.

What is probably related is that about half of those who went this year were newfolks, a self-contained group of non-Swatties, and though they were perfectly nice, I felt a bit on the outskirts the whole time. Mostly I hung out with my small, great nucleus of friends, an experience that was cozy and lovely but not transcendent. Plus, once two of those friends ramped up the flirting and eying of each other, the prevailing narrative of the day became their courtship and then its culmination. (Of which I only watched the first part.)

Mr. Ben put in a superhuman effort to get us there, driving almost the entire way through a devouring snowstorm, after having slept only two hours of the last thirty. Listening to the last Harry Potter book on CD helped, but the unfortunate side effect was that he was more or less in a fugue state for much of the next day. Still, I think he had a good time. And it's lucky we didn't crash. Apparently we tempted fate by forgetting to "sit" before we left -- it's a very simple Russian tradition that consists, simply and entirely, of sitting quietly before getting up and moving into the car. We forgot, and, in consequence, LEFT OUR DOOR UNLOCKED. Nothing was stolen, thank God, but I don't think we'll neglect to "sit" again.

Once in Wanakena, we hung out in the sweat lodge, danced, ate, and tromped through the deep powdery snow. We also played a lot of games, especially once the strangers and half of my nucleus took off, leaving only K. Ross, Mr. Ben, the Rebbe and me alone with the leftovers. My favorite part of the experience was the outfit I wore New Year's Eve, which came courtesy of the Rebbe with an assist from one of the strangers. I felt like a 20's vixen. (Pictures TK!)

And now it's 2008. I can't believe this year is here already -- it's the one I thought would never come around. We had to offer blessings to each other over dinner, a process which freaked me out in the moment since I hate being put on the spot AND forced to be sincere at the same time, but the ones I offered the stranger next to me stand for pretty much everyone I know, certainly all of you: (1) good haircuts; (2) a Democratic government; and (3) the encountering of many new and surprising selves within the larger You. Happy new year!


Rebecca said...

Oh honey, I didn't know this year at wanakena didn't feel as good. I'm sorry. And I'm sorry my actions felt like they took over your narrative for the second half of the day.

You did look like a 20's vixen, so hot.

When did I become the Rebbe to you? (the way I used to spell my nickname as a kid was rebbie or rebby, fyi)

And last, I'm really glad no one took anything from your unlocked apartment. And I'm sure people will return the accidentally left out books-on-tape.

sarah rose said...

hrmmm. i have things i want to say, but they're not coalescing.

one of my favorite things this weekend that i didn't mention before was sitting up late late late with reb e and logan, waiting for you and your carload to arrive and then! you! were! there! i'm so glad you came up.

also, i don't think i've ever not felt on the outskirts there somewhat -- either my first year there, or not part of the alyssa/ross/reb/es/ben core alliance of shared history, or not part of the phillyfolk -- i don't know what that has to do with anything...coming towards a thought but it didn't happen.

also! where's my personal shout out in your post!? :P

ester said...

hmm, i didn't do this terribly well, i guess. i didn't mean to say that i didn't have a really good time -- it just felt different somehow, less magical, and that had something to do with not being in touch with the group as a whole, which i usually am.

but sarah co, i LOVED that you three waited up for us. it was awesome, as were our secluded conversations. you're all over my pictures, which i just posted! i'll add a link to them (and a shout out to you) here.

Rebecca said...

Ross and I continue to analyze the inside/outside dimension of the weekend. Some of the West Phillyites felt that they, in fact, were the outsiders. I think actually only Geoff and Kathleen could claim that status. But of course there's no arguing with feelings.

This year felt really Real to me, maybe because of all the snow-fun and maybe because I wasn't cooking much. But I felt present and involved in a way I sometimes don't.

ester said...

My feeling of outskirt-y-ness came from not knowing a large chunk of people, all of whom knew each other. In the past, even if I haven't been close with everyone, I've known either everyone (as it happened, my favorite Wanak experiences) or the vast majority of folks. And that's all I'm saying -- the magic, for me, comes under those circumstances.

Seriously, though, it's not a big deal. I was just reflecktin. I'm glad that you, Reb, felt present and involved, as you should have. You certainly seemed to be in your element.

Ross said...

i think it also bears remembering that you and ben and reb w weren't able to come until halfway through the weekend, which i'm sure contributed to the sense of being on the outside of something already established.

but honestly it's somewhat surprising to me that numerous people are thinking about their experience in terms of inside or outside, socially, to this extent.

in fact everybody knew a small majority of the people there, but few of us knew more than that (the exceptions of course being geoff and kathleen, who only knew a handful each, and me and reb, who knew everybody except kathleen) - there were an equal number of swatties and west phillyins, with me and reb overlapping, obviously.

to me it felt really nicely balanced - i agree that there wasn't the intense closeness of a long-tight group (as with last year, when it was all swatties save obvious outsider nachshon), but in a way that put everyone on an even playing field, and from my perspective everybody seemed to be enjoying each other and socializing interchangeably to some extent though of course not completely - the two groups have a lot in common, and it's sort of a shame that there wasn't more time of overlap for you guys to get to know each other a bit better.

i understand that meeting new people can be stressful, and i definitely want to avoid the sense that this tradition is being 'usurped' in a way that makes you or others feel like it's not yours anymore, but one of the significant and powerful things about wanakena for me has always been creating an open and friendly environment where older and newer friends can meet each other and/or get to know each other in new ways. so it's a little sad to me that you just refer to them as "strangers."

but... i'm really glad you didn't stress out about the travel this time(!!)

and i really enjoyed that last day when it was just me you ben and rebbe - felt like some good low-key reconnecting. it was good to ramp up into competitive mode for a while.

ester said...

rossling, i think you're right that our arriving later than everyone else and leaving a day after everyone else contributed to the feeling of outskirt-y-ness. and also that "strangers," as a word, seems harsh. with more time altogether, perhaps we would actually have gotten to know each other a bit.