Posted on November 13, 2012 by Falynn Schmidt
There is a particular majesty in cresting a hill and taking in the landscape: the great expanse of the Negev Desert or the sparkle of the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee), the Jordan River or the heights of the Golan. There is a sense of awe when your legs work in concert with all the other parts to keep you balanced physically and mentally with the proper levels of salt and water to propel you up and brace you on the way down. There is a mind-clearing meditation that riding 60 miles a day brings to your brain. And there is a sense of great gratitude that comes with setting a lofty goal and working four months to achieve it.
I am not a thrill seeker in any way. I get no adrenaline rush from going fast or doing dangerous things. My kind of adventure includes exploring new places and meeting new people. And yet, I have chosen for sport to expend much lactic acid and sweat climbing hills and then speeding down them at 35 miles/hour on wheels that are no more than one inch wide wearing no more than a helmet and sunscreen for protection.
I know quite well that anything could go wrong: I could hit a pothole; someone on a bike or in a car or driving a truck could hit me; I could get doored and flip head over handlebars onto the pavement; a child, animal, or adult could walk into the street unawares. The list of hazards is fairly endless.
And so, at the end of a day of riding for eight hours, when you have seen the most beautiful places on earth, ridden with skill and dexterity, and given everything you’ve got, you feel a wave of pride, a sense of awe, and swell of gratitude for Something out there that is bigger than you. You feel completely fulfilled, that life has been completely worth living if only to get you to that moment. You know that if you died right then (G/d forbid), you would die happy. This is a dayenu moment. It is truly enough.
We don’t have many of those moments in our lives. For me they come after achieving something long wanted and hard won. They come with work and with luck and with the grace of G/d. Both times in my life they’ve happened in Israel. Perhaps because getting here is hard, and staying here is harder.
Last week I experienced a dayenu moment, or more accurately, one per day for five days, as I rode through Israel. I rode a total of 300 miles and saw three seas, one river, two deserts, three machteshim (erosion craters), into four countries, and many cities, towns, and middles of nowhere. At the end of each day I asked myself what I could have possibly done to deserve such an amazing life.
On some days, when the riding was particularly beautiful and the conditions suited me most, I sang my go-to, get-me-through song, Psalm 23, in Hebrew, to my favorite tune. In this case it wasn’t just to get me through but to sing the highest praises to everything and everyone who helped bring me to that moment. My cup overflows.
In the words of my friend Mark Goodman, “Mamesh the highest!”
At the beginning of each day, Hazon reminds everyone that it is, “a ride, not a race,” and even though I’ve heard them say that so many times before, it only just struck me last week that the line is a motto not just for the event, but for life. In most things we do we are racing from one thing to the next and not enjoying the ride.
Sometimes it is hard when you are struggling to stay upright, riding uphill, panting and sweating, fighting headwinds, looking out for potholes, and needing a break, to stop and look around, to show gratitude and grace. Whether these hazards are real or imagined, literal or metaphorical, it is when we look up from our usual struggle and take in the landscape that awe overwhelms and you thank Whatever or Whomever you thank for the great chance to experience that single moment in time. It is truly enough.