Climbing the Holy Mountain

I feel grateful every day for how much adventure I’ve been blessed with in my life. I was scared of adventure as a kid, even though I yearned for it, so adventures are accompanied by a sense of relief now, of confidence, of not being (as) scared anymore. That keeps me from taking adventures for granted. The adrenaline hum at the beginning of an adventure is as strong as ever, but I’ve learned to direct it productively.

My whole body is humming right now.

I’m about to embark on the biggest adventure of my life. I’m writing here to inform my great, sprawling community of online neighbors about this big offline change. May all the emotions stirred up by this news be catalysts for healing.

Where I’m Going

In August, I’m moving to Los Angeles. My partner, Ariel Root Wolpe, is enrolling at the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies at American Jewish University, and I’m going with her. It’s a five-year program, and she will — we will — spend the third year abroad in Israel.

I don’t think LA is going to be a permanent home for us, but I’m open to getting to know it. I know the Bay Area pretty well by now, and I’m not sure it’s home, either. I’m ready to feel out a new city. I still miss Portland, and I know I’ll miss the Bay even more, since I found a big nest of dear friends here. But I’ll be back up here on a regular basis. I’ve signed on with Burning Man indefinitely as Managing Editor, and there’s more music brewing with my collaborator-in-chief up here. But it's time to move south for a while, and I’m ready to go.

What We’re Doing

Ariel comes from a family of great rabbis, and she has been called to join their ranks. The signs, as well as the responses from our religious community, have strongly supported this decision. And I support it wholeheartedly. When she speaks about her visions for Conservative Judaism, I feel a draw I’ve never felt before to the tradition in which I was raised. I know her well by now, and I believe she has the capacity to be the kind of religious leader I’ve always sought. So I want to follow her.

My spiritual path has involved many high-G turns. Judaism has stood as this tall, imposing mountain in the center of my continent, and I’ve walked many times around its base. I made an inspired effort to climb it back in college, but I turned back. But this year with Ariel has been filled with exhilarating climbs at the mountain’s craggy feet, purifying swims in its lakes and streams, and tantalizing stories of what’s at the top. I’m taking her hand now and going up the mountain.

I have to come prepared this time, though. We’ll have a kosher home. We’ll observe all the festivals and holidays and keep Shabbat every week. All of that will be new for me. But this year, I’ve started to see how Jewish traditions — and the right kinds of Jewish communities, such as Wilderness Torah, to which Ariel introduced me — can support my other practices and beliefs. It’s just about finding the language that works to quiet the mind and the practices that work to open the heart. Every tradition in which I’ve ever dabbled agrees on that.

Photo by Tom Levy

Photo by Tom Levy

What I’m sure of now is that I need a fully religious life in order to be okay. There’s no turning back. So I’m all the way open to learning from Ariel, from her teachers, and from the religious community we’re joining together. And I’ll still have plenty of Buddhism, Burning Man, and magic to fill in the gaps.

I’ll be spending my time working for Burning Man, seeing what happens with my book, making more music, and climbing that holy mountain.

What I Am Leaving

came to the Bay Area two years ago, single, seeking home in the two communities I had: the tech industry where I worked, and Burning Man, where I make my annual pilgrimage to remember why I do what I do. That worked out beautifully. I got the skills and experience I needed from the tech world, which led me to the job I’ve always wanted supporting the communication efforts at Burning Man.

My people and my work here have enabled me to fulfill two lifelong dreams, making a record and writing a book, and those will hopefully lead to more waking dreams. And I found a counterpart who has brought me outside of my solitary story and shared hers with me. Our shared story sounds even more mine than the one I had before.

Ariel and I will both miss dear friends and beloved places in the Bay Area, including the heart of the Wilderness Torah community that has sparked such religious life in us.

But there’s another wing of that community in LA. We’re excited to be the bridge, and we’ll all see each other for the festivals. My Bay Area Burning Man people have been my second family, and I know that festival alone won’t be enough. But I’ll be back often, like I said, and I’m going to be thrilled to see you every time.

To the Silicon Valley/SF tech world: bye. TTYL.

To the deep connections waiting to be made in LA, I wave hello from the past! I look forward to making you.