Friday, January 12, 2007

Perspective

The serene tranquility of the holidays has passed. Work has not yet ramped up for the year. These are in-between days. They feel like those hours between night and day. Not really dark but not really light. On the one hand I am vexed by the forced inactivity. On the other, these days are a rare opportunity. I am free of the din of the "to-do" lists. Pounding reminders of all that needs accomplished drown out time for deep thinking. This week has been quiet. It has been filled with contemplation.

Tuesday brought a day spent working from home. Katie was working with the munchkins at the elementary school. By noon my attention wandered more and more outside. Windows revealed hazy winter sunshine. No rain, no wind. My resolve faltered, weakened, then shattered. Somehow I found myself standing next to Sophie with my gear on. Nothing to do but saddle up and ride. A lunchtime jaunt would become two hours.

Wisdom fills the air. Eons of living have spawned knowledge and understanding. Where does it all go when those alive pass on? Wisdom is scattered into small pieces. I believe it's all around us like radio waves. Tuned to the proper frequency we are receptive. If not, wisdom passes us by. So many people seem to spend their lives on the wrong channel. I have determined to search for the proper frequency. It has been a long hunt.

For me, the act of riding is like an antenna. Moving through the air on a bike causes a harmonic resonance. Ions align in my mind and soul. While riding is when I'm most receptive to the signals around me. It's feels like searching for a radio station. Off the bike I'm in the neighborhood. Getting on the bike starts the dial headed nearer to the sweet spot. Moving on the bike brings the final clarity. Reception is rarely perfect. Riding puts the tuner as close as it will ever be for me.

I've written about re-discovering perspective while riding. This picture shows what I found on this short journey.

I'm just over the crest of Palestine Hill, looking East. About 1200 yards behind me is the cemetery where my biological father is buried. He passed away at the end of July. At the bottom of the hill is where my widowed mother still lives. I'm looking after her and Grandma. I am now the family Patriarch. It is both my duty and pleasure. Sometimes it is tough. Both need physical help. Both need emotional support. I have my own family, as well. Look closely at the picture. There is a snow-covered mountain. Hazy clouds hide its glory. It is Mount Jefferson, part of the Cascade Range.

Front and back I face reality. Along with all it brings. Yet one has only to lift the eyes. There is a larger view to be taken in. Success in life is similar to success in riding. Eyes up, looking well ahead. Deal with the immediate path of travel. Remain focused on the projected path of travel.

A small coffee story

Wednesday brought snow. Wednesday night and Thursday morning brought more. For us it is a lot. Still, it is measured in inches, not in feet. By Thursday I could wait no longer. I had to ride in the snow. Katie was upset with me. Still, I could not resist the urge. Mid-morning saw the temperature rise above freezing. There was some ice but mostly slush. This is not about riding in the snow. It is about coffee.

I stopped at Starbucks for a cup to warm up. A man in raingear was there. His pants were bright yellow. His coat was blue with a hood. A friendly face was lined with age. Razor had not met skin for a week or more. White stubble covered his cheeks and chin. He stood next to me in line. On a whim I paid for his coffee. Just a friendly gesture. A short conversation followed. His name is Ron. We exchanged greetings and small talk. Nothing too deep. He hobbled on his way. One leg was stiff and not moving as well as the other.

Thursday night. Katie had a class. Due to weather I dropped her off. I like the small pickup so it saw duty. A book was due back to the library. I enjoy Calvin and Hobbes. Light relief through the eyes of a small boy. I saw Ron sitting on the sidewalk. His back was against the building. A young woman was squatted beside him. I put the book in the slot. I'm headed back to the truck. A female voice accosts me. She asks if I have a cell phone. I ask her for her name. It is an old cop thing, I guess. She tells me her name is Jessica. She looks like one copying a fringe element. Jessica is very concerned about Ron. She had driven by with her children in the car. Seeing Ron, she had stopped to help. Jessica is very concerned about Ron. Jessica is a cross between Marilyn Manson and Goldilocks. Strange looking with a warm heart.

Jessica tells me that she saw a man lying on the sidewalk. He is drunk and somewhat incoherent. She is concerned that he will freeze. Temperatures at night are to drop well below freezing. Her children are looking at me through the car windows. I tell Jessica I will see to the man. I tell her his name is Ron. That I had met him that morning. It is a strange coincidence. Jessica leaves but extracts a promise. A promise that I will do something to help the man. Jessica is a good samaritan. I hope her good nature does not bring her harm. Bad guys turn trust into traps.

I go talk to him. Ron is a little drunk. Thoughts take a while to come together. He is still friendly. I see his bicycle under a bush. His situation is slowly revealed. Ron is staying at a homeless shelter. His bad leg and intoxicated state have de-railed his plans to ride there. The shelter is four miles away. A long ways for a drunk, lame man. I put Ron's bicycle into the back of my truck. Ron is installed in the cab. He marvels at the heat. His day has been spent out in the cold. Warm air is a great blessing. Another case of perspective. This is not the place to discuss why some are homeless. It is only a true story. A man who has little to show. We take things for granted. To those with little these things are treasures.

Ron joins the others at the shelter. Interestingly, he does not ask for money. Ron tries to give me two dollars for the ride. It is refused. I cannot solve these problems. I can only make sure Ron has a warm place to sleep it off. I drive away thinking about perspective. I end up back at Starbucks. There is time to reflect before I need to pick up Katie. Starbucks coffee cups have quotes on them. They are called "The Way I See It". The quote on my cup is #187. It is credited to a customer. Jeffrey Kuchi from Wilmette Illinois. Let me share it with you.

"Life is a school for angels. Love is the Teacher, so do your homework without fear. Death is merely graduation".

I am no angel. However, it has been an interesting day. So much wisdom waits for us to embrace it. We just need to be receptive to its signal. Riding can be an effective antenna. My bro' Gary has written something similar. Riding well truly equates to living well.

Miles and smiles,

Dan

9 comments:

gary said...

This was definitely worth the wait.

Ride well,
=gc=

balisada said...

Tuesday was a nice day. I went riding too. (Today looks okay too, except that it's rather cold.)

I have always thought that you should always be nice to people because you never know when you might see them again.

Combatscoot said...

I was raised in an upper-middle-class family. I don't think I would've ever understood that side of the coin until I found myself with a wife and child depending upon me and only $20 a week for groceries. Help doesn't come very often when you are down-and-out, but when it does, it means alot.
John

Steve Williams said...

You are out there and aware of what is going on around you---on the road and on the way to get coffee. Real easy to not see people who need a hand.

Your writing forces me to take a look at myself. Thanks for that.

steve

Bill Sommers said...

Wonderful post. I'm glad I came here today.

Have fun,
Bill

irondad said...

gary,
Sometimes a little time to re-charge can do wonders.

balisada,
You're right. I've always believed that what goes 'round comes 'round.

combatscoot,
Been there, done that. Little things can be big, for sure.

steve,
I don't head out to "save the world" but I don't turn away from what I find in front of me. If we all do a little it adds up.

bill,
Hope you found some inspiration. Thanks for the kind words.

Allen Madding said...

Isn't interesting how we're both on the same trail on the same day? I think I like your experience better than mine.

Thanks for sharing. It keeps me lifting my head and looking up - from whence my help comes.

Jeffrey Kuehl said...

You may be no angel - yet - but doing what you did captures the meaning of my phrase, "do your homework without fear".

I am in the process of building a website "schoolforangels.org" designed to provide resources for those who share this vision of serving others. I would appreciate your permission to include your story on this site.

Dan Bateman said...

Jeffrey,

You have my permission. I would be honored if someone were to read the story and understand this: helping others doesn't have to be complicated or a great orchestration. It's just little touches here and there. All together they add up.

How amazing that I should hear from you! On the other hand maybe not. I've always believed that nobody truly walks alone. We're all connected by eddies and currents we barely grasp.

Your words are very inspiring. Three simple sentences. They speak of a simple concept that people readily grasp. School, learning, graduation. When a person's heart, mind, and soul look further, there is so much more behind the words.

The real beauty of your words to me is when people finish reading them. They're very likely to say "I can do that".

How did you come across the story? Are you a rider? Did someone you know send you here?

Dan