Many mornings of late start with just wandering through the countryside near home. More to help brain and body greet the day than any sort of riding adventure. There’s a slow, reflective state that I can enter as the scooter quietly rolls along, and I just soak in the view.Continue Reading
Those days with no meaning or purpose, just seeing what the road will reveal is happiness. This process is infused in much of the work that appears on Scooter in the Sticks — the writing and photographs — are reflections of those experiences.
I photograph, write and post the results to better understand the journey I’m on — both the literal ones where the Vespa scooter moves through the world, and those trickier trips where my mind conspires to understand what the hell is happening to me. In either case, I’m a spokesman for myself and don’t pretend to offer much to anyone else.
While I accept a reader may find some value, I can’t claim to be able to answer any questions since I’m still struggling myself. If there is any ongoing lesson I might share it’s in the ongoing and relentless self inspection of motives, ideas and appearance.
Labels of navel-gazing and self absorption often surround these kinds of activities. I’ve always suspected they mask a terrible discomfort facing the possibility that one might discover they’re not the person they think they are. Myself, I have a long list of defects.
The camera provides a different kind of evidence. It reveals changes in the world around me that I’m too blind to see. Or when the camera is turned my way I can’t pretend I’m someone I’m not. The camera never blinks. I try to do the same.
Is that really me?
What is it that draws me down little paths and byways? As a kid I was always searching for evidence of something — the detritus left my others in places seen as acceptable locations for abandoning “stuff”. Decades later I ride my Vespa scooter down paths searching for something else, somewhere else, a different world, perhaps oblivion.
This ride, or at least this track through tick infested grass was a bad choice as the roots and rocks trounced my lower back with ample opportunities to bring bone and nerve together in a curse inducing manner.
I knew it was a bad idea, but sometimes, I just want what I want.
While cold enough to have nearly all my cold weather gear on my back, save for the Gerbing electric gloves, I felt every warm ray of sunlight on my face as I rode along the winding roads that trace the entire region. I’ve been pushing myself to ride despite the mental resistance cultivated from my back.
When things get crazy the scooter makes things right, just hold on tight and see what I can see.
Perhaps this explains why I take the same pictures over and over again.
I keep telling myself that I need to make videos. Short confessions on the road. If I were the stop at this location along Spring Creek would have yielded a groaning, labored commentary on fall sunlight and the fragrance of drying leaves as I struggled to stand erect after some miles astride the scooter.
Maybe I should make that video.
At this moment typing out these thoughts it’s really hard to know much at all. Two dogs and a wife sleeping quietly nearby. Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here” plays in my head:
“So, so you think you can tell Heaven from Hell
Blue skies from pain
Can you tell a green field from a cold steel rail?
A smile from a veil?
Do you think you can tell?”
The clock just struck midnight. I should stop.
Go out to the garage.
Push the Vespa into the driveway. Go for a midnight ride.
Speaking for myself…
Anyone investigating our home will find an extensive collection of journals. Mine are worn and tattered Moleskine Classic Notebooks of various sizes, all crammed with notes and passages written when ever time and fortune permit. Writing in journals is a habit I began as a teenager and have continued since. I found Moleskines not long before I started to ride the Vespa. They’re compact and durable and put up with a lot of abuse.
There’s usually a journal in my topcase, under the seat or in my riding jacket pocket. I carry them in my shoulder bag and have them stashed at home and work to support my need to scrawl thoughts and ideas on paper — a reliable cure for the mind chaotic.
While walking dogs this morning I was perusing an old journal grabbed of a shelf. It’s unnerving to open them and bear witness to the disjointed ramblings, spelling errors, errors in dates as appears on this spread where I introduce an entry with the wrong year. I’m also reminded of how I abandoned cursive writing in second grade as a result of the system’s relentless desire to save me from a perpetual graphic and ink smeared left hand.
Had to read this entry since many, even blog posts or work related text can be, well, less than kind. Reminds me of the supreme rule in our home, “Thou shalt not read someone else’s journal”.
Journals occupy a sacred place which Kim and I both respect. Meaning we can leave them around the house.
Do you journal? If not, perhaps you may want to give it a try. You may be amazed what’s piled up in your head.
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.
Sometimes old habits of frustration just bite you in the ass. One of my recurring sources of exasperation, completely self-inflicted, is the careless way I handle things –objects. My pockets usually contain crumbled up wads of cash that tend to fall on the ground when I’m fishing out keys or phones. Important notes, lists, and other stuff vanishes I’m certain because I pay no attention to those sorts of details.
It drives me nuts.
Yesterday I purchased a lovely Sheaffer VFM fountain pen — the Sheaffer VFM, Strobe Silver, Nickel Plate Trim, Fountain Pen: Medium Nib (E0940053). It’s an inexpensive pen — I paid $17 — but it’s a dream to write with; at least for the two sentences I crafted while testing it.
Today I was in a hurry and pushed the pen in my jacket pocket, one of those hand warming style pockets that aren’t deep but rather easy to access and not good for carrying things. Not surprising really, the pen fell out somewhere, another casualty of my habits of frustration. I’ll buy another because I’m marginally obsessed with fountain pens and love one that makes fine lines and is smooth on the page, but shouldn’t I be old enough to show a bit more respect for things?
Thankfully this kind of behavior never reared its head with photography gear or in riding. But beyond that, it’s a mess.
If anyone finds a silver Shaeffer VFM fountain pen — it’s probably mine….