Sunday, September 2, 2007

What do the things that affect us say about us?

Returning from my trip through Washington and Oregon, I figured out some things. Like the fact that I like riding alone. And that there is something about 'The road' that has a very strong draw for me. One that sees to be getting stronger every year.

And I gained some perspective. Which, if we are honest with ourselves, is a hard thing to do.

So many boring, well worn quotes may come to mind, but I think this captures it fairly well:

Clarity can exist only when there is freedom to observe, when one is capable of looking, observing, watching. That is only possible when there is complete, total freedom, otherwise there is always distortion in our observation. - J. Krishnamurti

But what even those who have insight never seem to mention is that while it's one thing to gain the insight, it's quite another to hang onto it. In fact, it is fleeting at best.

Rarely there may be times when it's palpable. When it's so at the forefront of our consciousness that we can't help but realize we have it. And when we can hang onto the moment just for a bit because it seems burned into our mind.

I reached that spot. I know where I was, what I was doing and what I was feeling.

At that moment, I was truly alone. Not because there were no other people around, but because those people that were around couldn't possibly relate to me at that instance.

It was the 7th day of my trip and I'd done some hard riding the previous days. Now back in Winthrop, I felt like I was in my backyard with 'only' 5 hours of riding still ahead of me. As I stood in front of the faux-old building that disguised the convenience store of the gas station, letting the sun burn down on me instead of sitting in the shade; eating my chocolate bar and drinking my pop, I had this incredibly strong, peaceful sense of separation.

On reflection, I must have projected part of it. At just about every previous stop, people had come up to me to talk about the trip, to talk about their own journeys, be they recent or decades ago. Yet this time, not a single person approached me. I wore the same gear, rode the same dirty bike, was no more unshaven than I'd been at any other part of the trip. Yet they left me alone. And I enjoyed some quiet moments of reflection amongst all the people that stopped by.

Maybe I had that stare.

With that in mind, it should be fairly easy to understand why I would feel quite drawn when looking at the picture I took when crossing back over the 45th parallel.

After all, I call it my 'middle of nowhere' shot. Which it literally is. But for me, also figuratively.

I remember absolutely marveling at the clouds that seemed to line up for my personal entertainment. And the desert. The first pronghorn I'd ever seen. The first pair of vultures, their red heads contrasting the green field as they swooped down. The fact that I happened to stop right as my odometer turned to 15,000.0 km after I chose the eastern route home on a whim. The route I hadn't taken before and wasn't familiar with. With no GPS, no map or anything beyond a general plan of traveling "East for a while, then North for a much longer while".

But what prompted me to write this entry was the effect the picture had on one of my coworkers, who came up and asked me if she could get a high res version she could print out and put on her desk. The fact that she actually got choked up and said "That's what life is all about. Right there."

It made me think. For all the differences she and I have had over the years, our diametrically opposed views of how to work and get things done. She seems to have understood.


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