I have just returned from a 550-mile bicycle trip. It was the first extensive tour I’ve ever taken—over 10 days—and I did it alone. There were many times out there, bicycling in the early morning light, sore and tired, where I asked myself: Why am I doing this?
It’s a good question, one I ask myself a lot in life. There are so many reasons to go back into my comfort-zone shell. Spend money, get someone else to do something for me, or simply go into denial. Writing is also hard work and I often ask myself why I bother. What are the rewards versus the effort? It is hard to put into words—except that it is a bit like touching the sublime.
That fleeting moment when all feels in balance and you are your truest self. It is the golden sunset before the blazing orb dips below the horizon. Here and then gone. The fire extinguished.
This feeling is not of time or physical matter. It is a mysterious state of surrender.
While riding there was so much beyond my control. Road conditions, the busy traffic, swooshing up from behind and passing so close I can smell the driver’s breath, filling me with sudden panic. There is weather: the sudden cloud bursts, the hot sun, the early morning chill, wind—lots of it, from possibly the “wrong” direction. There is also the fact that bicycle mechanics is not my strong suit. Any number of things can go wrong. The jumble of fear in my heart is exactly that: chaos. The knowing of not knowing. Of being at the mercy of everything.
And, then, while pedaling I feel this fear subside, melt into the here and now. There are no hours, minutes, even seconds, only this.
Soon enough I awaken to some new crisis or the stabbing pain of beauty or a physical sensation that wow! I am doing this, or to worrisome thoughts, or . . . .
On my last night on the road I awoke early, unzipped the tent, and there in the sky was a tapestry of stars. Momentarily the answer to my question hangs above me: This is why—