See you on Sinday
I returned to Ohio from Costa Rica on Erev Yom Kippur, October 7. Two of our closest friends, Paul & Krista, were getting married in Athens the following day. My attendance was unannounced, a surprise I deliciously guarded from everyone except the bride & groom’s mothers.
I had made up my mind to participate in the traditional Yom Kippur fast though I didn’t expect to attend services. Yom Kippur is my favorite Jewish holiday because it pushes several buttons for me: Recognition of sins committed; reflections on continuing social injustice perpetrated by both Jews and others; and opportunities for redemption through atonement. All apply to both the personal and collective realms.
I also like the fact that there’s nothing to buy for Yom Kippur other than chopped chicken liver.
This calls to mind a simultaneously self-effacing and self-aggrandizing Jewishicism: “So what am I, chopped chicken liver?” It’s a rhetorical question offered in response to a statement like, “Thanks, Mom. But I’d really like to take a real date to the awards dinner.” Chopped chicken liver gets a bad rap, y’all.
Anyhow, back to sin.
I really like thinking and talking about sin because it legitimizes the drive for social change. Jews have always gone in for social change, ever since the days of enslavement in Egypt (for obvious reasons, one might add). Jews are generally apt to believe that oppression in society is real and troubling, although we may disagree on its scale or the details of its manifestations. Jews also commonly believe that one should involve oneself directly in efforts to combat oppression, at both individual and communal levels.
As a result, we MoT (Members of Tribe) have been disproportionately involved in a whole host of left-leaning social change campaigns aimed at righting wrongs committed against both Jews and non-Jews, from Socialism to Zionism to the labor and American civil rights movements.
Yom Kippur presents us with a formal opportunity to be reminded of the grounds for our social change activities – past, present and planned. And it also offers a conveniently ritualized means of punishment: the 24-hour food and water fast.
I enjoy fasting. For one thing, on the cosmic sin-o-meter I tend toward Gluttony. For another thing, food tastes really good when you haven’t had any in 24 hours (see “Gluttony,” above). Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, fasting allows you to focus on Things That Really Matter. It clears and sharpens your mind. It gives you space to plan how you’d like to continue once the fast is broken. And it also provides you with a timeframe ‘til the next psychic check-in – Yom Kippur next year.
The holiday closes with a loud blast of the shofar, meant to rouse you from your moral slumber.
[VIDEO: In true YouTube form, dog gets in on Yom Kippur act]
At sundown on Yom Kippur, I broke my fast at Paul and Krista’s wedding. And boy, was I hungry. It was a fast that had lasted for eight full months.
Recipe for a Home Fast
Traveling is like a home fast. You voluntarily give up a whole bunch of things that are normally essential for life: Your own private and sheltered space, access to friends and family, familiar surroundings, a clear role in an established community, useful objects and tools, a shared language and culture, a known climate and topography. Your dogs.
It is an incredible privilege, of course, to be able to unhinge yourself from the predictable, comfortable and familiar from time to time. James and I have been blessed with abundance, both tangible and intangible, and it was this “home abundance” that gave us the latitude to leave and meaning to our travels. Similarly, a proper food fast is most impactful when one has been eating enough on all the other days.
In the past, I had experienced a disagreeable lack of connection and feeling of being lost when I traveled for any real length of time. I still enjoyed it overall, but that isolation I felt started to wear on me more and more over the years. To the point where I really didn’t want to participate in random tourism anymore in places where I didn’t know anyone or had no specific reason for being there.
This trip was entirely different. My very best experiences while traveling brought me closer to my self, my loved ones, and my loved things (places, ideas, objects). In many cases, I think it was because I feel attached to home and to people that traveling felt so good.
And it was also the reason that I relished being home again. I wasn’t homesick in the sense of wanting the trip to end; I was just inwardly thrilled with the idea that I would eventually reclaim each of the trappings of a good home and a good community. It was delicious anticipation rather than desperate hunger.
As we traveled, we noticed elements of what made for a wonderful home all over the world. We mentally collected them (links open our own photos):
- Flea markets and stoop sales
- Shared hot bathing spaces like saunas, onsen and Turkish baths
- The right space for the right function – no more, no less
- Scottish wool
- A rich and diverse ecosystem
- Neighbors who are willing to work to create a better world
- Real food
- Networks that support sharing of skills and stuff
- Seasons and seasonal rituals
- Creative re-adaptation of places and things that no longer serve their original purpose
- Beer mixed with fruit juice
- Handcrafted tools and objects
- Small and modest homes
- Nearby farms and gardens
- Infrastructure that forces you to use less water, electricity, gas, etc.
- Pickled fish (Sonia, not James)
- Pine tar and licorice flavored foods (James, not Sonia)
- Well-attended cultural programs
- Domestic and wild animals
- Czech fruit dumplings (click here for a recipe)
- Living museums
- Little towns and little cities
- Big trees
- Collective humility
- Community pride
- Wild edibles and people who know how to find them
- Jordanian mosaics
- A culture that values the outdoors and celebrates natural beauty
- Old buildings and old traditions
- Artisanal cheeses
- Walkable and bikable streets
- Welcoming and beautiful public spaces
Home Is Where the Hart Is
Now that we are back in Athens, I am able to really savor all the things about it that make it a great home. I am also able to more clearly see the aspects of it that make it less than ideal – my allergies, high ratio of bars to non-bars uptown, threat of damaging resource extraction as an economic driver, a distinct lack of tram infrastructure, transient friends and potential friends.
James and I are going to hang out here for a while. Both of us have some exciting projects underway. We still don’t know where it is we’re headed next, but for now this is a good base of operations. We would like to continue to do some traveling in North America by car this winter. We are both really looking forward to snow.
We have some nice tenants/house sitters who will be in our house on Spring Street until February. This has opened up a wonderful opportunity to experience life in the country until then. We are staying in an adorable tiny house created by a local builder named Danny Yahini, just 300 square feet in all. It’s a third the size of our home in town.
The house is for sale and entirely mobile – it can be picked up and driven down the highway like a trailer. It is just our size, nothing more and nothing less.
We are truly blessed.We still have some more stories to share so don’t be surprised if you see a few more posts from us in the months ahead. At a minimum, we will share all the updated photos of our antique postcards which we captured on location around the world. Lots of love to you all!