Dorothy and I have just come back from our annual cycling vacation with our good friends Sharon and David Appotive. This year, we toured parts of Maine, which included the exceptional beauty of both Acadia National Park and the coastal area near Camden.
We all enjoy the almost spiritual connection we get experiencing the extraordinary sights, smells and sounds that nature provides. In Maine, the ocean, the forests, and the vernacular architecture were spectacular – even in the prevailing fog. These sensory experiences are actually all around us, perhaps to a lesser degree, in the middle of a city. We simply are caught up in our everyday work lives and literally do not stop to smell the roses.
Cycling also provides another obvious benefit: the exercise and calorie-control that most of us, particularly those of a certain age, require. Part of the enjoyment of cycling is relieving the guilt of eating a second (or even first) piece of celebrated, Maine blueberry pie.
Another benefit of these trips is the education we receive about the history and people of a region. Maine has a long history as a major shipbuilding centre in the U.S. Great artisans built some of the world’s largest steam-driven cargo vessels, which helped the U.S. become an economic powerhouse. Maine’s economic decline can be traced to the decline of this industry. Maine, however, has been a leader in the preservation of the lobster fishery, which could be a lesson to us all in resiliency.
We also learned that the Maine definition of “rolling hills” more closely equates to an Ottawa image of small mountains. All that to say, the educational and sensory experiences included a sense of physical satisfaction that comes after hard work, and which made the good food, good wine, and shared stories all the more enjoyable. Sleep, indeed, was never a problem.
This was, I believe, our fifth cycling trip with the Appotives. It is remarkable to me that in all that time, we never experienced an argument, or even a single harsh word. I think the comfort level we have is born out of shared values. We talk endlessly (and I mean endlessly) about our children and grandchildren, and always with great joy.
We also talk about how each of us might do a little more to help sustain the Jewish community, which we truly love. While I am not advocating cycling on the Jewish Superhighway (that would be decidedly unsafe), I am advocating for a spiritual connection to the community, which is an on-ramp in every community.
I am on very soft ground speaking of spirituality in our Jewish community. Our rabbis and teachers are those to whom we turn for their wisdom in this domain. I am suggesting that as we approach the High Holidays, when friends and family surround us, praying for a healthy and sweet year ahead, let us be mindful of how wonderful our Ottawa Jewish community is, and that to sustain it requires the effort and commitment to navigate the “rolling hills.”