Sunday, June 23, 2013

Mountain Bike Musings: Our One Escape Before Death

My buddies and I at our High School Graduation
When I was in High School my buddies and I had a "secret club". Every Friday our club would meet in this wooded area. There we would talk about our lives, catch up, tell jokes, read poems, build forts, and whatever else we felt like doing. Girls were not allowed because, while being great, they created drama, and this was our little moment to escape from it all.

In our secret special spot we had pounded a stick into the ground and called it, very ingeniously, The Stick. When we needed to have emergency meetings we would simply tell one another to "Meet me at the Stick" and we all knew where to go. It was our secret spot. At times it felt almost sacred to me because of the brotherly feelings and friendship we developed in that place. I would often visit The Stick alone to think because if felt so good to be there. Now, six years later, I still visit. The Stick is gone, the brush is overgrown but it still feels good to sit. For my group of friends it was a sanctuary of sorts.

I have my own special place like that. My personal private secret special spot. By my house is a mountain trail, the Bonneville Shoreline Trail, on which I love to mountain bike. If you bike along the trail you reach an incline. Travel up the hill and you will reach some radio towers way up high. Before you reach the towers there is a path that goes right, up a small hill, down a bit, and you find some rocks overlooking the whole valley.

At the end of a mountain bike ride. On this particular day
there was a terrible thunder and lightning storm. The pathway
became muddy and my wheels sank all the way down and would
not spin. I had to pick up my bike and carry it up the mountain
through the rain to reach my spot. But reach it I did. 
It is a gorgeous place. That is where I most loved to sit and think. I would take all my biggest questions and thoughts there, and as consequence, on those rocks I decided a lot of things about who I want to be and what I really believe. My hilltop perch was so good for me because it was secluded from the world, but I could still observe the world from a high vantage point. The trip was long. From my house on bike to a trail that wound around the grassy fields to the hill that goes up and up. There have been times I haven't been able to make it to my spot, due to a grasshopper infestation or a snowstorm when I tried to snowshoe up. I felt really frustrated by these attempts and in a silly way it felt almost as though I had to pay the physical price to reach my spot where I would be given the answer to the questions I had. I had to make the journey to get my answer.

I feel like everyone needs a sacred secret place. Recently I was reading East of Eden and John Steinbeck explains such a place in a conversation between two characters. Adam Trask is walking in the woods with his father Cyrus. Adam shows his father the little stump where he used to hide. Cyrus replies, "I knew about it long ago. Once when you were gone a long time I knew you must have such a place, and I found it because I felt the kind of place you would need. See how the earth is tamped and the little grass is torn? And while you sat in there  you stripped little pieces of bark to shreds. I knew it was the place when I came upon it." Adam, quite astounded, asks why his father never came looking for him there. "No," Cyrus replied, "I wouldn't do that. You can drive a human too far. I wouldn't do that. Always you must leave a man one escape before death. Remember that!"

A picture of the trail. Courtesy of
Now to the whole point of this post. So...a few days ago Jamie and I went biking up the trail to my special spot. I haven't been up there for almost four years. I was shocked and not a little upset to see how much home development has been done up there. In place of my field through which I pondered as I rode are tennis courts and over sized homes. You don't feel like you're really in nature until you're  basically at the base of the hill! I felt like my special place was being invaded. Not only that, but my mind, thoughts,  and ideals were being barged in upon. I didn't like how it felt, like when you have a belligerent acquaintance who loves to challenge your beliefs and feelings and constantly condescendingly tries to convince you you're wrong.

Just as much as we need to have our secret special place, I feel we must have a sanctuary inside. Where we hold what we know and who we are. Where we should be open to learn and think about new things, but also protect from invading "home developers" who destroy the sureness and serenity that comes to one who "knows" themselves.

We need to have a special place within and without.

When I am Full of Silence 
by Jack Perlutsky 

When I am full of silence, 
and no one else is near, 
the voice I keep inside me
 is all I want to hear. 
I settle in my secret place, 
contented and alone,
 and think no other thoughts 
except the thoughts that are my own.

When I am full of silence,
 I do not want to play, 
to run and jump and fuss about, 
the way I do all day. 
The pictures painted in my mind 
are all I need to see 
when I am full of silence… 
when I am truly me

No comments: