After a few months of extending my home, opening a new business and the normal chaos of having a family and the commitments that go with it I made room in my schedule yesterday to spend a day on my Harley Davidson, Old Grey.
I love to ride. I love the liberation of my fists in the wind and more power beneath me than is probably wise for someone of my limited ability. I love the sound of the twin-vee motor and the unique tone of the exhausts as they make that sound that only a Harley makes. I love to look down at the tar hurtling past a few inches below my boots; silent and deadly, almost predatory in nature. I love the fact that on a motorcycle you are completely in touch with the world around you; no air conditioned cell and preprogrammed mundane radio station, just the smell of the world, the almost involuntary compensating for wind direction and strength or road camber, the sense of changes in temperature and the instant recognition of every slight change in the rumble of the motor or ‘potato-potato’ note of the pipes. It is a totally sensory experience. It is aural, olfactory, visual and tactile while remaining intuitive and immediate.
I ride alone. I always ride alone. I almost never plan where I’m going, for how long I’m going to be out or which road I’m going to take. I more or less head out in a direction and do whatever comes next. Sometimes it’s seeking slow roads with switchbacks and corners that make you commit to them to the point that they leave you shaking as a result of how hard you have to lean and counter steer and sometimes it’s finding wide open roads where you can put your feet forward and just tune out while taking in all the things you miss in the ‘comfort’ of a car. Selecting a route is, for me, an entirely intuitive process.
I ride for the solitude and escape. I am blessed-cursed with a mind that does not lie still. Not ever, not even for a minute. I am rarely able to live in the ‘now’. The closest I get to it is when fly fishing or riding a motorcycle. The level of concentration required is high enough to force you as close to your present reality as anything else that I’ve ever experienced. Both are surprisingly meditative activities despite their obviously physical nature.
When I ride or when I fly fish I find myself closer to the Void or Mind or Tao or God-force (however you choose to define it) than in anything else I do. I don’t know why this is. I’m not even certain that I want to try to find out why it is. There is something about doing these things that puts me right out there and into a place where I can sense the universe in all it’s peculiarity. I’m closer to the here and now than I would ever have thought possible. It is then that I think I understand what the Tao is and I feel as though I’m one with it. It feels absurd to express this in words because it is not a rational observation. In fact, it defies rational thought. Perhaps this makes it real and not imaginary.
I fantasize. I fantasize a lot. Yesterday I fantasized that I just set out riding and kept going. Another road, another day; one melting into the next until they became a endless horizon unobscured by needing to belong to anything. No allegiances, no commitments, no flag, no passport, no applying for leave, no asking permission, no pre-dawn razor burn, no pressed trousers or polished shoes, no reports, no dinner parties, no explanations, just crossing the face of the country connected to its moods and in tune with its vibration; it’s life force, it’s Tao. The wind in my face and the road at my heels. Riding hard to outrun gathering storms at my back or changing course to keep the sun from my eyes.
I imagine riding until I no longer have a place from which I come. When asked where I come from I want to be genuinely confused by the question. When asked where I’m going I want to be sure that I’m going nowhere; that I’m just here, for now, and then I won’t be here any longer. A totally transient existence.
The thought did occur to me that perhaps I’m running from something. Or that I’m running towards something. I don’t think so. Actually, I know that neither of these are true. It’s not about severing relationships, avoiding responsibility or seeking obscurity. Neither is it about running from an unfulfilled life. Not at all. Not for a minute. It’s about something more profound than these possible realities.
What it’s about is cultivating a reality where my soul can resonate with whatever that underlying force is that drives nature. Some people find it in religion, some find it in relationships. The meditative quality of being alone in a cathedral, with a lover, a congregation or something like that is, I suppose, not my path to stillness.
My path to stillness, to mindfulness, is just different. It is one of solitude and connectedness to things that I am unable to define. Perhaps it’s God. Perhaps it’s the Tao. Perhaps it’s just an unending ribbon of black.