Thursday, May 04, 2006

Bicycle Ride

"A violet by a mossy stone
half hidden from the eye
fair as a star
when only one is in the sky."
Robert Lewis Stevenson

I woke up at 0539 this morning and couldn't go back to sleep. I used to get up even earlier than this but not these days. If I can go back to sleep I am a lot more refreshed. It seems my best sleep is between six and eight. I usually stay up till eleven or so watching the tonight show(Ugh!, I don’t know why I punish myself with this) so its not as if I was getting too much sleep.

So after my morning prayer and small offering there was the coffee break and checking the news and email on the net. I got an email from one of my sister's. I had asked for some addresses of her children so my son and his fiancé could send them wedding invitations. She didn't send the addresses but asked when the wedding was going to be.

Around nine I did my pullups, pushups, stretches, setups, and so forth prepatory to the ride. The day was and remains rather mild. It might make 90 this afternoon but this morning it was around 75 or so with low clouds and a gentle wind out of the southeast. So I packed up my stuff and set out.

I carry sunglasses, wear a hat with a handkerchief underneath it to catch the sweat. I always wear gloves and take a cell phone and pocket knife and pepper spray to keep the dogs at bay if I encounter any I can't outrun. Of course I have to have the electric gate opener and I carry my drivers license just in case. It takes so long to get ready. I wish life could be simpler. I do this three times a week, Tuesday, Thursday, Sunday. The ride is a measured course of 13.5 miles. Not far, I know, but enough for me. I run into other cyclists fairly often. One told me his ride was 26 miles.

My bicycle is a found object. When I was in college I was living with who would become my second wife in a garage apartment. In the garage I found this old ten speed. It had a leather seat and was missing the derailer but I snagged it and eventually put it in service. During the years I was a runner it got very little use but eventually I gave up running in favor of bicycling for my main source of exercise. In the last year I replaced the handlebars. The old one was broken and mended with one of my really sloppy welding jobs. I put a dirt bike handlebar on it in place of the original racing style. After that I replaced the seat and then the cables for the gears. When I put it in service I had to buy a derailer and fix the gears but the cables I used then were to short so the shifter was almost under the seat and when I would peddle sometimes the inside of my leg would rub against it. I also added some grips and when a rear wheel spoke broke and couldn't be relaced I had to get a new rear wheel too. I am sure I have less than $75 in this bike. I have seen bikes for upwards of a thousand dollars. I just can’t get my head around that, at least not right now. I am sure it speaks volumes about our culture, society, and the individuals who buy them.

I don't know the make of the bike. The maker's mark is illegible having been scraped away once upon a time when someone refinished the bike. I think it was originally metallic gold but now it is a drab indescript brown with a little rust here and there. But I keep it well oiled and she operates smoothly enough. In the last year at 13.5 miles per ride that's 40.5 per week so in a year that comes to 2106 miles. When I ride I often think that I am really living up to the old adage that one should "use it up, wear it out, make it do". All the other cyclists I see are pretty much as "yuppiefied" as one can get and some look at me with either curiosity or disdain or derision or a combination. Some are friendly though. One guy I see most frequently always passes with a nice "hello, how are you today?". And they all pass me. Their bikes are a lot lighter than mine and they are all younger than me too. Besides I try to do my miles in tenth gear, uphill and down, just to make it more difficult. Sometimes, in fact most often, the wind is blowing too. It commonly is at least 15 or 20 MPH. Thirty miles per hour is not uncommon. That makes for a much more difficult ride. Uphill into a 30 MPH wind is hard work.

So I make it through the woods, up my driveway, over the hill and through the gate onto the county road. This takes me up another small hill where there is currently a dead skunk. Phew! I hold my breath and close my mouth as I go by the body. I doesn't smell as bad as when it was a fresh kill and I can see that in another week or so there will hardly be anything left what with the sun drying it out and the occasional vehicle again running over it. I confess a thought occurred to me to put it in an obnoxious neighbor’s mailbox. But no, I would never do that. This neighbor used to leave bottles at my driveway entrance hoping, I guess, that I would run over one and ruin a tire. But that was years ago now.

A little farther down this road I turn right. Today is the first time I have ridden on the roads' new surface and the loose gravel makes for a much less smooth passage. There is about a mile of this before I am onto another leg of the journey where the surface is smooth and I go along in almost complete silence except for the wind and my breathing and the sound of birds, now and then a dog barking or a bellowing cow. The great Dane I used to fear came out today and barked but only half heartedly. He and his crew used to chase me. I tried to make friends but he would have nothing to do with it, though the Labrador and Dalmatian that ran with him became friendly. Once I had to use the spray on him but mostly the wind blew it away. He keeps his distance now for which I am grateful. He is huge and I noted with interest in the news yesterday an animal control officer took a bite in the face from a great Dane she was trying to befriend with some snacks. Anyhow he left me pretty much alone today and I did him the same kindness continuing on my ride.

I passed by some wheat fields that were ruined by a recent hail storm and noted with interest that the corn and maize crops nearby have come back after being so severely pummeled that I thought the farmer would need to replant. The heads of the wheat are on the ground and can never stand up again so the harvesting machine would only get straw. The corn and maize, which were maybe a foot high when the storm struck, put out new growth from their roots and in another week or so one will be hard pressed to tell they were ever damaged.

Two farmers, no, three, were tilling their land to keep the weeds from growing up between the rows. I think I saw two people today besides these farmers. One was in an older Chrysler. I saw him twice, going and coming. The other was in a pickup. I see this pickup all the time but don't know where it "lives".

When the pickup passed I looked right at him to make eye contact, and waved as usual. Well, I should have been wearing my sunglasses because contact is what I got. A tiny piece of grit flew up from the vehicle’s passing and flew right into my left eye. The eye teared up and this eventually took care of the problem. Of course, I didn't rub my eye. But I sure wanted to. After about two miles it was much better though I could still feel "something" there. When I got home I washed it out with a garden hose and now it is almost like it never happened. I need to remember to look down immediately on the passing of vehicles if I am not wearing my sunglasses.

Well I guess I have gone on long enough with this post. If you are looking for meaning and purpose and great truths they are here but the accretions of mundane living shield them from the discerning spirit. I remember reading of a seeker, in China, he lived in a cave, and one day he was sweeping the dirt in front of his cave, just doing a little but necessary chore, you see, and suddenly it hit him, right between the eyes, so to speak. He "achieved" enlightenment on the spot. No doubt he was contemplating in the act of this mundane chore and no doubt he had been involved as a seeker of ultimate reality for most of his life, attending schools, finding teachers, comparing different approaches, experimenting with differing methods. So, if you come prepared, and pay the strictest attention, there is ultimate truth on hand everywhere, in the smallest things. I like that line from Robert Lewis Stevenson, used to rejoice in my heart of hearts when I would read it to my son:

A violet by a mossy stone
half hidden from the eye
fair as a star
when only one is in the sky.

Life is so simple. It is not necessary to look beyond the immediate for release from the perceived turmoil and trouble and pain of existence. You can spend your entire life looking for the answer. There are countless teachers, ministers, so called authorities on spiritual culture. All of their words are so much chaff to be blown away by the wind when the truly discerning mind finally penetrates the veil of tears, let’s down its guard and in a supreme act of vulnerability accepts the cosmos in its entirety. And the resonance from that confluence ripples across the stars enriching the heavens with another “fait a compli”.

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