RoadRUNNER Zen Motorcyclist

Sense Memory

Sep 29, 2013 View Comments by

Sense MemoryI’m a sentimental sort, as anyone who’s read any of my posts is aware. There are a couple things I bring with me on every ride. One is my dog Chester’s collar tags, which are on my key-chain. He passed away last year at the age of 13. The jingling of his tags has become one of those sense memory triggers that can take me back instantly to another time and place. Another thing I carry is a handkerchief that belonged to my father. Whenever I dry my face with it I can still catch a faint sense of him. It’s sometimes as though they are there with me and, in some respects, they are.

Riding down from the rim of the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon near Wellsboro I have an odd experience. My friends Harvey and Walter and I are descending on a cool, crisp September day through gently sweeping curves under a sky that can’t seem to decide how to present the day, my favorite kind of weather: blustery, cool, and uncertain. Rounding a sweeping curve on the steep decline trailing Walter with Harvey visible in my rear view mirror, the wind blows a rainfall of multicolored leaves down on us and I have the profound sense that I am in the midst of creating a memory that I’ll recall someday, kind of a reverse sense memory. Ordinarily I’m reminded of past events; but today I have the unmistakable feeling that I’ll never forget this and I’ll compare future riding moments to this perfect one.

A Hothouse Flowers song that I love says, “I’ve spent my life watching sky and sea change color, hypnotized by the beauty of it all.” Today I am profoundly aware that I’m experiencing exactly that, being hypnotized by the beauty of it all. I know that on future rides some part of my senses will trigger a remembrance of this one moment with Walter and Harvey riding down from Colton Point Lookout on a perfect early fall morning with hundreds of miles of idyllic country roads yet to ride before we get home.

Sometimes senses remind you of the past and I relish that feeling. Occasionally though, like today, they can’t quite find anything similar that’s come before and so they burn the experience into new memories. Ordinarily I don’t realize it when it’s happening but today is special and that’s just about as good as it gets.

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About the author

I have been motorcycle commuting since 1998. I created Zen Motorcyclist (formerly Commuting Motorcyclist) in 2011 and work as a motojournalist, software developer, CAD designer and IT/CAD manager in the Surveying and Civil Engineering field.