Zen Motorcyclist: Never Lost

Zen Motorcyclist: Never Lost
"Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine
flows into trees. The winds will blow their freshness
into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves." —John Muir

In my last column, I mentioned my former fear of being lost. I was young then and had never been anywhere. I lived under the adolescent misconception that life only happens when we get where we are going—that responsibilities and to-do lists are filler. I don’t necessarily want to have been anywhere, I’d rather simply “be” and appreciate everywhere I go. A motorcycle is the best way I know to accomplish that.

Being lost implies there’s someplace else you need to be, that you are not where you intend to be. “Here and now” is the only place I feel comfortable these days. My mother, Mary, is, for all intents and purposes, dying. I often wonder (and we speak of it just as often) what memories she is reliving and what she regrets not having done. I can’t help but put myself in her shoes—shoes we will all find ourselves in one day. What will I wish I had done, where will I wish I had gone, who will I wish I had stayed with or left?

I was taught a lesson along these lines by a friend I spent one riding season with last year. My mathematical, analytical mind always tended to select a place to stay for the night and I set a clear timeline for getting there. This method, I have come to realize (or rather it’s been shown to me) leads to many missed moments along the way. My friend’s method was to ride until a predetermined time of day, to simply enjoy the ride and then to begin looking for accommodation when the time came.

Love Where You Are

I tried this approach last fall on a multi-day ride to Vermont from my home in Pennsylvania. I was unnerved at first and revisited the thoughts from my youth. What if I do not find a place that has a room, what if this, what if that…?

Fears and schedules can deprive you of experiences as you ride, though. I embraced the idea and—as I passed through the quaint, cool town of Troy, NY, along the Hudson River—I stored it away in my mind as an option. As I rode through Troy, I noticed hotels and breweries within walking distance. It was also near enough to Vermont to offer a full day of exploration, so I eventually doubled back and easily found a room downtown and a great meal with an excellent craft beer selection a short walk away at Brown’s Brewing Company.

The joy of a trip is not in being there, it is in going there, with all the missteps and wrong turns. The journey, not the arrival, is what we tell stories about. My mother is the reason I can put a sentence together. Everything and anything kind or generous about me comes from her. But she had a lot of dreams, she is a creative, artistic soul like myself and my siblings, yet she never pursued many of those dreams. It pains me to no end that those things may be running through her morphine-addled mind now as she nears her end.

None of us likes to think about those days, but such thoughts live in me now, and always will. You are never lost, you are always “here.” To paraphrase Dave Chappelle’s character from A Star Is Born: sometimes you forget where you were going ‘cause you love where you are.

The losses I have chronicled, and sadly those on the immediate horizon, have given me the gift of remembering that, one distant day, there will be a place that will be my last. What a shame it would be to arrive at that place regretting that I may have missed others along the way. The views, the emotions, the friends I make today may be the ones I recall when I can no longer ride, and ones I will not regret having experienced at the expense of an arbitrary timeline. Moving forward, I intend to keep using this new approach to be sure I miss as little as possible.