Friday, January 30, 2009

Puerto Escondido, Mexico- before the trip begins

My life has been rich and yet I hope to do more: to create more sculpture and elevate the work to a higher level; to live once again in the countryside; to visit some museums I’ve yet to see; and most especially, to deepen my practice of yoga and meditation and possibly realize a greater truth. Despite these ambitions I now am finding the path to be a bit obscure. Less and less often do I envision a new work of sculpture, mentally see the way to meet some goal, or meditate in a way that seems to plumb the depths of my being.

For four or five years I’ve been intermittently sick with a thyroid problem that can be severely enervating and sometimes undermines my confidence. Lately, swimming in the Pacific, pushing against a rising tide of fatigue, it has occured to me I might never feel all better, that this might be a permanent burden. But on other days I feel more normal and energized. On those days I look forward to my trip, albeit with some fear.

There are days filled with drive and direction but at other times it seems to be time to let go of drive and direction altogether and settle into a quieter life. I imagine a cabin in the woods, a modest workshop, and a meditation hut. But then I wonder if that isn't premature, if this isn’t still the time for meaningful work and adventure. A moment later I might add into the fantasy picture of my country home wheelchair access and a spare room for a nurse.

As an antidote to all this angst and confusion I will go on retreat: a time for deeper thought, and for no thought at all, wrapped into a forty-day bike trip. Traveling alone, self-propelled, carrying all my own gear: these have always been delights. If there were former lives, mine would have been spent as a shepherd or a scout: connected to my people but off by myself for long periods. In all my travels I’ve never experienced loneliness and, despite the love I feel for them, have never missed family or friends. I’m suited to aloneness and it renews me.

Often in the past, I would go off by myself to some wild and secluded place for a few days of fasting and meditation. Nowadays, I prefer to travel, to go somewhere, to see something new, and to test myself, even as I also look within. And so I take these trips: kayaking, walking, biking, or sailing. I’m getting older, though, and arduous self propulsion may soon be a thing of the past.

I'll go from Vero Beach, Florida (where my sister lives) to Santa Barbara, California (not too far from my daughter's home), about 3500 miles. I would like to think I’ll make it, but I have some doubts. The trip is likely to be hard, especially with my hypothyroid. And, I'm now spending six weeks in Mexico, not riding a bike, loosing conditioning, and especially loosing those butt callouses that make hours on a bike seat tolerable. Each day off the bike increases the pain later on.

I’ll be camping with only a minimum of equipment and cycling long hours. The route is far south but it will be February and March, and there will be mountains and desert, so any weather is possible. On my last bike trip, through New Mexico and Colorado a few years back, I was severely hypothermic in a mountain ice storm one day and nearly collapsed from desert heat a few days later. Looking forward to such things brings out the wimp in me.

The biggest challenge will be to simply keep going enough hours each day, day after day, to complete the trip in just under six weeks. That’s how much time we’ve allotted before my wife, Subagh Kaur, meets me in Santa Barbara. I haven’t done hundred mile days in quite a while, years, in fact, but I’ll have to more or less do forty of them. What am I getting myself into?

Despite the doubts and fears, it is definitely time to renew vision, to get a deeper sense of who I am and how I might serve in the world. I’ve gotten stale these last few years and some laziness has crept in. It's time to get squarely back on the path. Hours and hours by myself, pedaling mile after mile, there will be plenty of time for contemplation and meditation. I intend to use this time to empty myself of everyday concerns and enter into the simple routines of meditating, pedaling, eating, and sleeping and the relatively still mind that should induce. Then I shall see what appears.