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.
Lucille Rees: Always more smile than frown, more friend than foe, and more sweet than sour. Every day she demonstrates how to be more full than empty, more strong than weak, and how to give more than take. Lucy is all these things because she's more interior than exterior, more pond than pool, and more Mom than Dad.
Terre Haute South Winter Homecoming Coronation, January 2015
"Beer and wings, Wednesday at
7:30. Attendance is mandatory, unless you can't make it." I expect
to receive this cryptic message, or a derivation thereof, at some point in time
every Tuesday. Twenty other guys receive the same knock at their door, and on any
given Wednesday, 10-12 answer by showing up at the appointed place and time. We
will squeeze around 3-4 tables to share food, stories, laughter and a couple
hours of time.
Time has no agenda, emotion, feelings
or concerns, yet it's always here. Here, not there. Time waits on no one. Time
doesn't care if you dance; it just sets the beat and keeps itself. I try to
surround myself with people who recognize this simple, yet difficult to grasp
concept. The implacable drum beat of death plays for us all, whether we realize
or accept that is an entirely different matter.
It was August 2014, and my son,
Jack would be leaving soon for his first year at DePauw University. I asked him
to join me for a Wednesday night outing, I wanted to spend time with him and thought
it could be a good experience...think about the scene from Gran Torino where
Clint Eastwood takes the kid to the barbershop to learn how guys talk to each
other! Per usual, the cadence of endless conversation and story telling created
enough laugher to bring grown men to tears. Jack participated fully,
occasionally at my expense. It was a wonderful evening.
That night, Jack got to spend time
with Coach Smith, a legend in many circles; the boy took notes on Chad's
lessons about life. Chad Smith is a teacher, some of his lessons are
literal and many are best taken figuratively. Spending time with him is
irreplaceable; spending time with anyone is irreplaceable. Lessons for all to
more seriously consider. Those couple hours were time well spent and won't fade from memory any time
soon. Chad has ALS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or Lou Gehrig's disease.
The disease is real, relentless, and unforgiving.
In December, over his holiday break,
Jack accompanied me to a New Year's Eve party at Chad's home. Both, Jack and
Chad, own infectious smiles that light a room. I may or may not be unique in
noticing such things, but the room lit up as they greeted each
other. Chad asked Jack if he'd learned anything during his visit to our
Wednesday meeting earlier in the year. Without hesitation, Jack answered: "Always answer on
the first knock. Always." Chad smiled.
The context of the story is
irrelevant; the application of the quote and its lesson are not.
In late January, I met Jack and his
buddy Emily at J's Bikes to pick up some helmets. He was planning a mutiny on
my Trek Madone. I've always made my kids wear bicycle helmets; never in his 19
years had he been so excited about a helmet! He also needed shoes and cleats
compatible with the Look pedals on the Madone. The shop didn't have a pair of
shoes that both fit and appealed to his sense of style. Jerry had mentioned he
had a pair of used shoes in the back that might work. He liked them at first
sight; white, flashy, expensive looking, super light, and they fit. We had a
The guys in the shop, all Wednesday
Night Door Men, explained with a sense of reverence that these were Chad's
shoes. Todd and Joe offered Jack an easy out, or opportunity to decline:
"Chad's feet stink, really stink. The shoes likely have an odor to them that
will never come out." Unfazed, Jack said it was all good. Later, he would say, "Dad, these are Chad's shoes. "It was as if
those stinky old shoes had super powers, he knew it and wasn't letting go.
I am a better man because I know
Chad Smith. I suspect that anybody who spends time with Chad is a better person
for it. It is easy to wish our paths had crossed earlier, but I believe things
happen when and how they're supposed to happen.
Thanks Coach. Attendance is mandatory and always answer on the first
On a regular basis, I purposefully enter the woods to find myself lost. It's a fact, you have to be lost before you can be found.
A couple weeks ago, while getting myself lost, I quickly discovered how ill-prepared I was for the intended expedition. The ground was frozen and I had the wrong tires on the bike with entirely too much air. I went down three times. The first two falls were relatively harmless. The third fall harbored a greater level of intensity. It caught my attention. In fact, there was enough intensity involved that I took inventory.
After testing the larger pieces of my body to determine if I remained intact and was working properly, I laid back down. I was lost. It was beautiful.
Eventually, I started talking to Me: "What in Hell do you think you're doing...riding a bike in the middle of a 250 acre forest...alone? Seriously, you're closer to 50 than 47!"
Then, Me says to I: "Relax, I'm out here to fall down. You can't pick yourself up until you've been summarily knocked to the ground."
Good things come in threes. True. But we also hear that bad things come in threes. Again, true. For future reference please note that bad news is readily available and nearby when a person is looking for and expecting it!
The same can be said for good news or good fortune. How many times have you heard Hard Luck Charlie exclaim, "Good luck follows (insert a name) around like a lost puppy! He wakes up and Fortune has coffee brewed and waiting on his front porch."
Good things happen to those who are looking for it. One, two, three. Ready, set, go!
So what's with the number 3? No idea, all I have is a cool picture of three girls on a beach.
"There is more to life than simply increasing its speed."
I pedaled by this 'twice-blasted road closed sign' at about 20mph, on Friday, January 2. The day was brisk at 36 degrees Fahrenheit, yet it wasn't cold. Cloudy but not grey. I was making good time on a planned 35 mile shake-down on the Domane, and a shake-down of myself after spending much of December on rollers.
Most of my surroundings on this Midwestern January day had assumed the color of winter, earthy and largely brown. Throw an orange sign in on that back drop and it tends to jump...if you're paying attention. I was paying attention. But I was making good time! Still the urge to capture an image of what had just caught my eye was strong. I rode on. Making good time.
At about a half-mile 'post sign' I got on the brakes, stood up and turned around. Why was I so intrigued with a road closed sign where there was no road?! Mounted to a fence post at the gated entrance of a picked corn field was a sign that had in fact been shot twice with something much heavier than a .22.
I took the picture, got back on my bike and continued doing what I was doing. I was happy. Oddly, satisfied. Five minutes of down time didn't cause me to miss my favorite TV show (don't have one), show up late for dinner (I was making dinner), or ruin my ride in any way. It actually added value to my ride. I was happy.