Riding through life one day…I came upon a gate. Fashioned from scrap metal and finished in Mother Nature's signature patina of rust, it was a long forgotten discouragement, left behind after the coal was gone.
Helplessly named Private Property, a custodian assigned to limit and control access to something…or somewhere; all while freely sharing through a holey, windowed construct, the remote beauty and intrigue within.
There, through her cold countenance, in a shroud of snowfall, a pearly path of ascension rolled and ranged ever up and out of view. Riding through life one day…I came upon a gate.
I don’t know why I was so unsettled; the end
was inevitable. But still, there is something deep within us always surprised by change.
Here today, gone tomorrow.
Coasting down the slight grade on South State
Street one September afternoon in 2015, I was moved to stop and take a picture. The bricks and
mortar constituting the structure have stood for more or less 100 years. Thanks
to a long-since changed demographic and the vicissitudes of time, the building was condemnable, making a last stand in what was once Lewis, Indiana’s business
district. With roof missing, walls shifted and cracked, windows shuttered by
plywood long turned grey, she spoke softly with the sadness of an unvisited
Earlier this fall while on my way home from
somewhere I took a detour through the increasingly unfamiliar streets of Lewis.
My grandparents, Helen and Titus, lived on the corner of E. Green Drive and S. State
Street. During childhood, my summer job was to patrol these streets on a bike.
Hundreds of hours…hundreds of miles. The regular patrols have ceased, time has not.
Countless times I had
ridden by this building, rarely ever giving her a moment of consideration. On this beautiful 2016 fall afternoon, she's gone. I reflect upon my childhood joy and peace. In this moment I pause...I listen and take a simple picture.
Winding away from me, down the tracks in either direction, no end in sight, are hoppers filled with anthracite. The sounds about me, wind whistling in my ears and gravel popping under my tires, dims and disappears as I approach and stop at the railroad crossing. Nature’s beautiful silence fills the void...birds singing both near and far.
It’s November and my coordinates are roughly 39.30*N and 87.23*W, the days grow short and the shadows long as the South Pole tilts toward the sun. A coal hopper casts a shadow of doubt over what is an otherwise glorious day. Roadblocks tend to do that.
Lucky for me I have a bike with attitude, it will go just about anywhere. And so we do. After a quick survey of the situation and a smile for myself, obstacle turns to opportunity. No, I didn’t hobo the train...it wasn’t going anywhere. Along the rail-bed I head East and eventually South. About a quarter mile down the line I find one end of the train. There was no locomotive attached to the last hopper, only what must have been the “End of Train” device, a technological replacement for the caboose.
As I cross the tracks behind the final car I’m bathed by the November sun, discover an access road to deliver me somewhere new, all while I enjoy the expansive view of rolling Indiana farm ground. And that my friends is what happens when you follow your heart and chase the light!
Life, like a river, does not sit on the bank and watch itself flow by. Moving...always toward destiny under different circumstances, in a state of peacefulness, rage, flood or recession...always moving. Regardless of the conditions, we need only courage and grace: the courage to put our boat in the water and the grace to delight in the journey. We will get there...eventually.
"Sometimes, if you stand on the bottom rail of a bridge and lean over to watch the river slipping slowly away beneath you, you will suddenly know everything there is to be known."
-Winnie the Pooh
Situated on a country road in the shallow valley of a forest near
my childhood home there sits a moss-covered concrete bridge. The canopy above
opens and closes at the wind's command, letting golden sunlight dance on the
water gently flowing out from under the bridge, toward tomorrow.
I have crossed this bridge too many times to count. An
interestingly uninteresting structure, this bridge is, for a couple reasons. It literally delivered
me from childhood to points near and far about the globe. But more importantly…because there were other roads from my house to the world…this bridge served as a portal
for the imagination, dreams, and adventure of a boy.
But we forget.
We allow the act of crossing a bridge to become so
common place that we fail to recognize or acknowledge the important span
between the supports. I passionately work on perspective and its role in my life, yet I still catch my
thoughts far beyond and long away; especially when the destination is
predetermined and the journey but a means to that end. I suspect most adults are
exceptional at crossing bridges in this manner.
We adults also contend with the bridges built in the mind, bridges that
cause grown men to yield. They give us pause because we know not where they
lead. What happens? The unfortunate manifestation of fear circumvolving change
and uncertainty serves adults in a terribly limiting nature.
Always crossed on the way from one place to another, bridges provide
important and necessary structure in the world. A bridge will deliver us to the
other side of something otherwise difficult to pass, or by not crossing will deviate the path
meant for us to take.
Here I sit, on a bridge, contemplating the gentle flow of water
toward tomorrow. Here I sit, at a bridge. Contemplating.
"Perhaps on the rare occasion pursuing the right course demands an act of piracy, piracy itself can be the right course?"
There is something seductive about the sea that beckons man to her shores. She dances, whispers, calms, and quenches the soul. She comes and goes by the pull of the Moon and kisses the beach endlessly with the mysterious intonation of a siren.
Here I sit half in and half out of the water, touched by time long passed as it marches up the beach, wave after wave, moment after moment. This water, witness to the legend of the world - having rained down on a garden named Eden, made holy by Honorius II, and fallen salty from the cheek of a crying child - now bastes my legs.
My mind is quiet, all is quiet. I am present, but not here. Completely connected and totally disengaged. In the distance a two-masted schooner, a pirate's preferred vessel, sails on the dark blue edge silently becoming one with the horizon.
As diamonds dance on the hope and faith of sapphire blue, turquoise leads us toward truth, before finally turning to champagne in celebration of the moment. Swelling and crashing, she runs, rises, and falls with Time.