They leave their mark on you. When my wife Esther and I joined the Temple Sholom community, we had a lot of opportunities to become involved in it. And when we heard that congregants were working on sustainability issues, we jumped at the chance to help out. I can’t tell you every reason why, but I can tell you that a sense of place plays a part in it.

Once, in 2007, we rode the Amtrak Texas Eagle from Chicago to Deming, New Mexico.  The train left from under the shadow of the Sears Tower, but by the end of that fifty-hour ride, we were at the edge of the Gila National Forest, where two retirees operated a farm refuge for abused and unwanted llamas.  We volunteered there for a week doing menial chores, namely, mending fences, bailing hay, feeding the animals, and shoveling llama “beans.”[1]

It was a lovely time.  From the farm, we were able to hike into the national park.  Pine, oak, and countless trees we couldn’t name dotted the hills.  And when we drove into town, coming down from the hills where the refuge perched, we saw cliffs and canyons all around.

The trip lasted a week, but this blog post represents the second or third time that one of us has written about it in one context or another, to say nothing of the times that it’s come up in conversation with others.  In other words—the place made an impression on us.

And though it certainly isn’t the sole reason that we’ve joined Eco Chavurah, or, in Esther’s case, taken up a career in environmental sciences, like every such experience, it plays its part.  Plenty have theories, and no one knows exactly why, but everyone agrees that places, natural or otherwise, have a way of taking root in the mind.

When the news brings word of an oil spill or other environmental tragedy, we think about New Mexico and the other places where we’ve travelled.  We think of Chicago.  And the connections we have to those places motivate us to spend a little time, helping out as we can.

The green initiative at Temple Sholom, headed by Eco Chavurah, is a good way to help out where we can.  We’re both incredibly proud that the Temple is getting involved in the issues of climate change, sustainability, and environmental justice by becoming certified through Green Faith.  We believe that the resulting changes will have lasting benefits to both the Temple and the Chicagoland community.

Aaron Midler is a member of the Temple Sholom community and an intellectual property attorney in downtown Chicago.

[1] Poop.