Struggling to focus my thoughts about a cold morning ride in the central Pennsylvania forest I heard my wife talking out loud about a book she was downloading — The Seasons of the Soul: The Poetic Guidance and Spiritual Wisdom of Hermann Hesse — and everything became clear.
It was 38F when I woke with a steady wind and forbidding sky made riding the Vespa scooter seem foolish and when it began to snow only the simpleminded would venture forth from the coziness of a warm home. It’s the kind of thinking that the cold season provokes in me — a sacrifice of mental wellbeing for physical comfort. The mental process is indicative of one of the seasons of the soul.
The light over the Ski Patrol office at Tussey Mountain Ski Resort is a sure sign winter is near. Lately it’s been dark when I get ready for work and dark again when leaving the office for home which makes the sun more distant than the season already does.
With my cold weather gear in place and my brain coaxed into place the pilot light of desire bloomed into a hot flame as I moved through the winding forest roads of Rothrock State Forest. And I thought about something I read about how a person might think about how their life is going.
Of the ten messages shared the first stayed with me — you’re alive!
Regardless of what has happened or will happen, being alive is better than the alternative. And it’s a precious gift far too easy to take for granted. Being on the road gives me the space to think about all the moments that should be seen with gratitude rather than those that haven’t happened.
Or weather that’s not warm and cozy.
I’m alive. I’ve survived a serious heart attack and the accumulation of age on my body. I can’t do the things I once was able and some dreams are in the rear view mirror. But still there is mystery and adventure ahead because I don’t know what’s around the bend.
Riding on these narrow little forest roads is fun because I never know what I’ll see — a flock of wild turkeys or a bear, or a glistening sliver of water tracing through a cathedral of hemlock trees. There’s no place I would rather be.
The road took me to my granddaughter Emma and I like to think her reaching toward the camera is really her way of saying, “Grandpa, give me the keys to the Vespa.”
By the time Emma is old enough to ride I’ll be 76 years old. It’s possible I’ll still be around but there’s no predicting what will happen. I’ve still not wrapped my head around the natural cycle of life with my daughter and granddaughter. I understand it but at some level it remains impossible that the world has spun round so many times.
A scene on the way home, one of the many winding rural roads that the scooter can soar along like a bird.
I’ve always felt it important to feel passion for something. It doesn’t really matter what, just something that keeps the mind and body in motion and not surrender to the television or easy chair collecting regrets like so many extra old socks.
The Vespa, my Vespa scooter, is like bacon to my dogs. I want it. I almost drool thinking about it. At 1:16am it seems entirely reasonable to go for a ride into the night just to be on the road. I have no right to have such desire. I have no idea if other riders feel this way. But I know it’s a good thing and keeps the fire of being alive bright regardless of the seasons of the soul I may find myself amidst.
My god, what a great day it’s been…