Whether you’re keeping a journal or writing as a meditation, it’s the same thing. What’s important is you’re having a relationship with your mind.
— Natalie Goldberg
Christmas morning, a short ride through the valley, alone on the road with my thoughts, an experience I’ve come to call meditation. Lest the word become off-putting I have to say those meditative experiences range from quiet reflection to exhilarating thrill with great measures of fun stirred into the mix. I find both riding and writing play an important role in how I wrestle with the sights and sounds of the road I travel — literally and figuratively.
I keep three journals. One, a small Moleskine journal which travels with me almost everywhere to dump noise and fear, frolic and joy as needed. Another larger plain, black Moleskine classic notebook that I sketch ideas for blog posts and riding dreams and nightmares. And the third is Scooter in the Sticks where many posts take shape from a blank screen as I push my fingers over the keyboard with undefined need.
In each case, riding and writing often play a role in sorting out what’s moving through my head.
Standing alone in a field and gazing across the valley I call home is common. Sometimes it lasts only a moment while I make a photograph. Others are a more extended visit while I engage a larger conversation with the universe or as someone recently suggested a conversation with God.
Everyone has limits — real and imagined. For riders it might be weather, location or time of day. Riding through a little gravel track in the woods on a Vespa scooter may work for me but rise toward the top of the stupid list for another. Regardless, for every rider the important part is to ride and for many that act is a challenge with so many competing demands for time and attention. Sometimes it’s just hard to make the choice to go for a ride.
The same applies to writing. Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within is perhaps the finest book on writing I have read and helps move from a few scribbled notes on through doubt on to something called writing.
For me writing has been a faithful friend through joyous and troubled times alike. It requires little more than a willingness to invest myself with time. Most of what I write is never seen by anyone and I seldom look back at what I’ve written. The act itself is the end much like riding — the movement through space, physical or mental, is its own reward.
If pressured to describe myself I’ll say I’m alone in the world. Many of my photographs are probably a reflection of that feeling. Perhaps I see myself as the Vespa. That idea isn’t important. What is important is how I’ve come to know myself.
Riding and writing open doorways to access what otherwise may remain hidden — thoughts and feelings bubbling below the surface yet animating actions and behaviors. Finding those tools along with others has been a gift. When asked about Scooter in the Sticks I tell people it’s a blog about riding a Vespa scooter. And while that’s true it’s more than that for me — it’s an opportunity to sift through experience and hold onto the little lessons that are easy to miss.
Standing in a field on looking out at the world I see my long dead parents and the Christmas mornings we had. I see my heart attack and physical life beyond. I see my family and their hopes and dreams. I see myself as an old man riding a Vespa. And without writing I would be blind to those lessons.
Riding and writing — the gift to myself on Christmas.