Tuesday, May 03, 2005

63. The retreat center

Like many synagogues in the northeast, we have retreats at the Block and Hexter Vacation Center in Poyntelle, PA, aka the Poconos. Block and Hexter is usually a resort for senior citizens, as well as a place you can rent and bring your family of 300 for a weekend bar mitzvah. The staff at Block and Hexter loves my synagogue because we are from neither of these groups. There's a beautiful lake surrounded by muddy, labyrinthine woods, and a long line of noisy ducks who parade across the grounds twice a day to the kitchen and claim what the rest of us didn't eat for lunch. When it's nice out, we carry the Torah scroll over to a large gazebo near the shuffleboard court and have services in the mountain air.

In case you're bored by natural beauty, two modern sculptures lean into the wide expanse of lawn that fronts the lake. One, a big grey box on its side, seems to represent Block, and I always thought of its companion marble tower, a reddish geometric ziggurat which looks to be modeled after Babel, as Hexter. Then one day while waiting for a paddleboat to become available, I noticed a small stone bust labeled "Hexter"-- his disembodied head--swathed in lichen and viney weeds and planted squarely on a tree stump just a few feet from the edge of the lake. Perhaps he liked to sit on the grass and look out at the water. I hope the story of the head is no more complicated than that.

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