Saturday, August 4, 2012

marking boundaries

"Do you all come here from different places?"
"There are some here from Siberia, some from Lapland, and I can see one or two from Iceland."
"But don't they fight each other for the pasture?"
"Dear me, you are a silly," she said. "There are no boundaries among the geese. How can you have boundaries, if you fly? You humans would have to stop fighting, in the end, if you really took to the air."
—T.H. White, The Once and Future King
I'm sitting in bed in my host family's house in Dayton, Ohio after a wonderful Shabbat of rest and relaxation. The bed was comfortable, the food was amazing, and the company was excellent. Thank you to the Green family for being such great hosts!

I almost don't know where to start this post. So many things have happened over the last few days that it feels like a blog post can't even begin to describe them all.

The last time I wrote, I was sitting on the floor in JFK airport, waiting out a flight delay due to a massive system of thunderstorms. Tonight, I'm waiting with my fellow house guests waiting to hear whether our start tomorrow will be delayed due to weather. It's easy to feel frustrated by the rain - it can be very inconvenient when traveling by bicycle - but after spending several hot, dry days in the drought-ridden cornfields of Indiana, my perspective is starting to shift. I'd much prefer an inconvenient rainstorm if it means that the farmers I've seen will have an easier time of it.

On my second day of riding, I stopped for a break with Joel, one of my fellow riders, to grab a drink of water in the shade. In rural Indiana, shade can only be found in one place - a tree in someone's front yard. Despite the fact that we'd ridden almost 100 miles completely undetected, we managed to pick a yard with people in it, and wound up engaging in a twenty minute conversation about everything from the economics of wind farming to backyard gardening.

What struck me the most about the conversation was how much we had in common. On the surface, we were incredibly different - to them I must have seemed a privileged, naive Yankee while to me they looked like fairy stereotypical country farmers. It became quickly evident, however, that we share a belief that it's important to know where your food comes from and how it's been grown. For them, this means raising five cows every year which they transport to Lafayette, IN to slaughter, and then distribute the meat to various family members to eat during the year. Clearly I don't raise my own cows in Brooklyn, but I do my best to learn how my food is being grown and where it comes from. 

We didn't talk about politics or religion - not polite conversations to begin on the side of the road with strangers - but I feel relatively certain that our opinions on these things were different. Regardless, we were able to share a really lovely interaction because of our shared interests. I wonder if our politicians would be able to create more good in the world if only they could focus the conversation on our common values rather than our differences.

Other ride highlights include a home stay with Philip "Skippy" Schlossberg (Purdue Hillel Director and Camp Judaea staff member from my youth), a dip in the pool at the marvelous BJE\JCC complex in Indianapolis, and an afternoon spent riding from Indianapolis to Muncie with Rabbi Steve Greenberg. This week we'll be crossing through Ohio into West Virginia and then on into Pennsylvania - you can follow the ride on Tumblr for photo updates from the road!


  1. Wow! all this in a matter of days Naomers- I'm impressed. keep on doing good things xo

  2. Sooo proud of you! This is soooo awesome! Keep living the dream bbgirl!


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