I recently took a walk in the woods with two women, one twenty years older than I am, the other forty years older, to discuss the challenges of aging. We paused when we saw white-tailed deer hop-freeze beside us in the thicket. We shared stories about women in our lives, and how they navigated the aging process. We talked about our own changing bodies, changing minds, changing children, changing communities. We turned our faces towards the sunshine and stopped in our tracks when someone shared a particularly resonant insight, as we let it wash over us.
The context was The Conversation, which brings together Jewish professionals from diverse geographical and experiential backgrounds, to talk about the future of American Jewish life. The format was Open Space, which allows the participants to drive the direction and nature of the conversations, rendering the work of the organizers swan-like; they appear to be gliding seemingly seamlessly upon the water, as their feet paddle incessantly beneath the surface as they strive to create a container for growth. My small group of three took advantage of the flexible rules (you need only two people to have a conversation) and took literally the idea of open space, bringing our feet and the wide sky into our discussion about Jewish wisdom and spiritual guidance around aging.