Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Mile markers.

Katie and I went by to see our daughter's new house. Amanda and her husband, Russ, just purchased their first place. The man living there before was the subject of foreclosure. He never took good care of the place when he lived there. He didn't leave with warm fuzzies so the house suffered a little more. Still, the house is basically sound and just needs some cosmetic TLC. Despite that, this abode will always be special to them since it's their first. I didn't notice it at the time but you can just see the girl peeking out the front door. Probably wondered who the rowdies were in front of her new house. We'd just arrived and I was trying to get a quick photo. The sun's always in the wrong place for my pictures, it seems. My point and shoot digital camera doesn't let me do much to adjust for circumstances. Maybe I'll have to get a better camera that lets me change "f" stops, etc.

I've been more keen to record memories and images these days. Part of it's from hanging out in our blog neighborhood. Putting a photo in the posts became the desirable thing to do. Then Steve Williams showed up. You know who he is. Just in case you've been on another planet, check out "Scooter in the Sticks here. Gary and I sort of started this thing. Ok, I tagged along on Gary's coat tails. Now Steve's surpassed us all in the quality of his blog. Especially with the photos. I'm not planning to try to compete with Steve. I'd always be a technician while Steve is a true artist. On the other hand, I've had this urge to get better with pictures. Isn't it amazing how the internet can connect people from far away? I think the sharing that happens by means of our blogs helps bring out the best in each of us.

The other half of the equation is the fact that I'm getting older. I have to say that I used to get a little frustrated with Katie in our early married days. Every time I'd turn around she'd be wanting to take pictures. Relatives come to visit? Take a picture. Take the kids someplace new? Take a picture. School project? Take a picture. New vehicle? Take a picture. You get the picture. Pun intended.

I was an aggressive young man full of life and future promise. Deep inside I had this thought that we didn't need to keep taking pictures of today because we'd make plenty of new memories tomorrow. And the day after that. And the day after that. You know what?

One day I woke up and reality crashed down onto me. The number of days under the "Yesterday" column started to outnumber the days under the "Tomorrow" column. Yes, we can still make new memories. The new ones will never be like the old ones, though. Kids grow up but once. Innocence and naivete fade, never to be seen again. Time doesn't rewind like it does on my Digital Video Recorder hooked to the cable. Thank God for Katie's pictures. What I feel when I look at the old photos could take up several posts, so I won't go there for now. This post is about marking the passage of time.

As you might imagine, I've been spending a lot of time cruising the Memory Trail recently. Something that struck me is that many of the times in our life are bookmarked by which motorcycle(s) lived with us. Back to that in a bit.

Like many who grace us by visiting the blogs in our neighborhood, I commute to work on a bike. As much as possible I use the bike for work, too. I didn't decide one day to start riding a bike to work as a way to save money on fuel. I didn't suddenly realize I could cut some time off the commute by using a bike. Riding to work is actually just an extension of what I've always done. I've grown up riding a bike and so a bike is what I ride to work. I've always lived on a bike. Except for a few years when my life wasn't totally my own and I couldn't ride. Long time rider, motorcycle safety professional, and a passionate devotee of all things two wheeled. Since they've lived with me, the family's gotten swept along.

A multitude of mile markers have been observed passing from the seat of a bike. Too many literal ones to count. I was a mileage junkie for many years. Much to Katie's chagrin, I'd inform her I was going for a ride. Telling her I'd be home about supper time, off I'd go. Too many times I'd call and tell her I wouldn't make it. How did a two hundred mile loop end up with me being four hundred miles away from home? There was this obsessive enthusiasm for unfolding a map at the end of a day. This morning I was "there". Now I'm "here". See how much distance there is between the two points? The longer the line the happier I was.

Next Monday will be our 30th anniversary. Evidence that I conquered the obsession before Katie ran out of forgiveness. Next spring I'm planning on putting a whole lot of distance between the "there" and "here" points. This time, Katie will be cuddled behind me. So much for literal mile markers.

We've seen many mile markers on life's highway pass by, too.

First time I piloted something mechanical to school? The other guys had cars. I had an old Honda Scrambler. First date with Katie? A Suzuki dual sport 185 in gleaming blue and white. When Amanda was born a new Honda CB900 graced the garage. It still sits with Sophie. Oldest boy born? A 1982 Honda GL500 SilverWing had joined us. Back before the SilverWing became a big scooter. When the other two kids were born I didn't buy new bikes. Hope they don't get a complex!

Have you ever heard people trying to remember when something happened? They'll mark events by which house they were living in, which car they had, when they started a new job, or whatever. Most of the references used in our family are either getting a new bike or around some bike related event. "Remember that time we took the Pacific Coast up into the snow at Breitenbush?" "It had to have been then because that's right after the time you and Larry showed up home on the bikes and Larry told the children he was God. Remember how they thought that was true for so long?" ( yes, that really happened ). "I'm sure it was then because it was the first summer we went camping on the Chetco River out of Brookings. You know the campground you found on that Memorial Day ride?"

That's the way it's always been for us. Always around bikes. A guy should be so lucky, I guess.

I know this isn't any great revelation. Like I say, I've been spending time in the past. I'm amazed at how intertwined bikes have been with the water flowing under the bridges. So many times we'd have some social engagement like a wedding reception, a party, a picnic, or something similar. Sometimes we'd all go together in a car. Often, though, I'd be teaching on a weekend, or working, or out on a ride. I'd join the family later. When this guy on a bike showed up, nobody was offended. Rather, people were intrigued. Like riding's done for my life, a bike added a new and interesting dimension to the proceedings. It's been a wonderful ride.

What's the takeaway? Is this blogger just sort of wandering aimlessly down some dark path? Pretty much.

What I've found on this dark path is that memories are treasures. Especially those of family, relatives, and loved friends, the years spent trying to raise and do right by your children, the memories of a man and woman struggling to leave the world a better place than they found it, and too many more to list. Make new good memories but treasure those gone by. Today's world is a crazy place. If you can stand it, I want to leave you with the wisdom from one more Starbucks cup.

This is a quote from Bernie Brillstein, a film and televison producer.

"In a world where celebrity equals talent, and where make-believe is called reality, it is most important to have real love, truth, and stability in your life".

This Road Warrior says that memories are elusive and solid at the same time. Don't let them fade into nothingness. Hold them tight. We need them. Nobody knows how many days are left for each of us to make new ones. Mile markers past are the foundation of what we are today. They give us stability.

As I rolled Sophie from Portland down the relative calm of Hwy 99W; literally the long way home, I found new resolve. Each day will be a blend of tomorrow's dreams and yesterday's cherished memories. Time to lighten up again and go find some adventure and mischief. Although I'm getting kind of fond of parking lot fights!

Miles and smiles,



Scott Thigpen said...

Well, what you lack in pictures, you make up for in words. (But some close up pictures of your bikes (and what type they are and all that) would be cool.)

Kano said...

Steve definately could teach us a thing or two about taking pics that's for sure! In the past I used to take photos all the time too and found it became a big headache to manage all the negatives and slides. I also thought that I had become an observer of life instead of a participant. So I gave up taking pictures and let my wife handle it. Recently though with the acquisition of a digital camera, I am going to get hooked again. Digital cameras are a giant leap in convenience over the film cameras. -This time I hope to keep things more in balance and be an observer and participant in life.

Great post Dan and a welcome reminder of the importance of the past and our memories. Unfortunatley they are subject to loss over time. Which is why Today is so significant and why living today to its fullest and appreciating those who we share it with is perhaps the best thing we can do.

Anonymous said...

Nice post Dan. You make a good point about memories and the past. Balance...in all things balance!

Steve Williams said...

First, thank you for the kind words about Scooter in the Sticks and my pictures. I continue to enjoy the affair between riding and photography.

I have been interested in memory and how images inform it for a long time. You may not have seen it but I posted a video about memory in a post called RIDING AND MEMORY. As you rightly point out in your post time passes and kids grow up quickly. I wish I had thought to make more pictures of the kids. And my parents.

Your post has me thinking that maybe I should write something about how to make better use of a camera while riding. They make great paper weights on windy days you know.

I loved your memory timeline marked by motorcycles. Mine is marked by dogs.

Steve Williams
Scooter in the Sticks

Bryce Lee said...

Photographs are great HOWEVER
in this digital age prints tend to
be kept longer than electronic images and the other thing, when are you
the photographer ever in the photographs. Particularly of family.
As Steve Williams commented, he wishes he had more photos of his parents. Perhaps it was his Dad who was always taking the photo and hence
didn't get in the picture.

Maybe we who read this blog should instruct somebody else in our family to take photos of us, either
as a family portrait or as a spontaneous image.

And a note too for Dan, we see
Katie and Sophie, however katie could be anybody in that yellow rding suit, people do have faces...
and faces are how we recognize those we love. Or have loved.

This may sound macabrae...for Dan.
Take a photograph of your Dad's
gravesite, now. With the tombstone
or marker placed. Your Mum
at some future (hopefully way in the future) will also occupy a portion of the same site, and the
marker/tombstone will perhaps
change to reflect her material body being with your Dad.

Discount Motorbike Shop said...

Strange isn't it - I have a great motorbike and my wife insists that I go to work on my pushbike. Ah well, you can't have everything.