‘Getting my Head Showered,’ Zen, Out of Gas, Name’s Sid: Buddhist Detective, Destin Florida and the Blue of the Gulf of Mexico

Big Red and I took a few days off during Fall break to hightail it down to Destin, Florida from Rome, Georgia. I needed to get my “head showered”, as the Irish say. Clear my mind. I’m starting work on my new novel: Name’s Sid: Buddhist Detective. It features a brand new “hero” and is set in Savannah, Georgia.

The trip down to Destin, a small town on the Gulf of Mexico, takes about 7-8 hours but is worth it. I guess every ride is worth it as long as you don’t think too much about your destination and instead focus on just being aware of everything around you and loving the journey as it unfolds. I did that as best I could and made mental notes of what I saw and experienced on the way down:
Leaving Rome and dodging the drizzling rain. Stopping to put the rain gear on, take it off and then put it back on again.
Cotton fields with white puffs looking like snow.
Houses and yards decorated with Halloween ghosts, goblins, skeletons and thick spider web.
At the McDonald’s -men with holstered guns on their belts.
Lakes.
Cypress trees in flooded lowlands.
Spanish moss in Live Oak trees.
Shotgun cottages.
Firewood for sale.
The scent of fresh cut pin trees coming from stacked logging trucks.
Deer processing signs
Brother and Sister David’s Holy Ghost Tent Revival. The tent is being set up.
National Peanut Festival
Signs for gun shows.
Good Luck Miss Eufaula signs
Dobb’s barbecue.
Hunts Oyster bar
Bonsai for sale
Included in the journey was a scene that unfolded like this: “There has got to be a gas (petrol) station around her somewhere.” At least the warning light hasn’t come on. Ten miles later the light comes on. There has got to be a gas station around here somewhere. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Twenty-five miles of nothing. Okay, I need to just accept the fact that I’m going to run out of gas. Only a matter of when. So let’s keep calm, just pull out my Zen mind, stay in the moment and enjoy the scenery. Riding at about 65 mph now. I ride to the crest of a hill and see nothing. I smell a wood fire burning somewhere. Balls of cotton are blowing across the road. The engine cuts off and I pull the clutch in and just coast. I’ll see how far I can get. I’m going mostly downhill and then back up another one. I’ve got my turn signal on and cars are passing me. I drift a surprisingly long way and keep going until the bike slowly and wobbly comes to a stop at the top of a hill. I squint my eyes and see a sign about a quarter mile off but I can’t tell what it is. I know that even when Big Red runs out of gas sometimes if you shake the bike from side to side you can free up so more gas that’s hiding in the tank. Had to do that once on the California Freeway in LA. I shake her and bless her heart she cranks back up. I get her up to about 60 and I’m getting closer to the shop but still can’t make out what it is. If it’s a gas station it doesn’t have the usual large sign high in front of it. I cut over into the left lane as I get closer and damn if it isn’t some tiny gas station on the other side. of the road. I signal to turn left at the next opening in the median. The bike cuts out again and I see a chance coming up where I can drift across the road between segments of oncoming cars. I go for it and the bike coasts right up to the gas pump.
Later, I’m smiling and feeling grateful as I ride along the coast staring at the crystal blue, blue, blue water of the Gulf of Mexico.
I start scouting for a cheap hotel, something with a number in its name and I find it.

Rain, Luckiness and the Great Tree of Sorrow

This week, as I ducked around the rain and potholes and tire gators and other detritus tossed about on the highway, I started thinking about luckiness and unluckiness and the Great Tree of Sorrow. I was lucky that I didn’t have an accident riding this week, lucky that for three days I dodged all the rain that was predicted. Well, you can guess what happened. On the fourth day I got soaked. It couldn’t be helped. I had been helping out at a free meal program Thursday evening doing my usual things, reading books, making paper airplanes for some of the 39 kids I counted that night. One kid, maybe three years old, wouldn’t let me read to him and instead kept sticking these rubber animals in my face: dinosaurs, tigers, hippos etc. and pretended they were biting me. After the meal, after chaperoning the kids while they were playing on the swings in the backyard and helping them get on the right van to go home, I was talking to some of the adults who come to the program. Some I know well, but there are always new ones. A few weeks ago I helped a man in a wheelchair get out of the building and back to his car. He loved motorcycles and we talked about them for quite a while. When we got back to his car he gave me a new baseball cap and thanked me. This time I was talking to a man who I had talked to before, a well-meaning, but easily confused and often cantankerous individual. I was sighing because it was dark and starting to rain and I had an hour’s ride home on Big Red. He told me that, yeah, the rain was bad and that he was sleeping in the woods that night. “Got a tent?” I asked. “Nope,” he replied. “I’ll find a cubbyhole somewhere.” Maybe needless to say, but I felt lucky that night riding home in the rain, knowing I had a warm, dry bed at the end of the trail. It got me thinking about happiness and unhappiness, the sorrows we all go through and it reminded me of the story of the Great Tree of Sorrow.
It’s an old story that I heard years ago. It goes something like this. God had been listening to all the prayers of all the people from around the world and had gotten plum tuckered out listening to them all. Finally, God spoke to everyone at once and said: “What am I going to do with all of you? (Depending on where you live that last word might have sounded different: y’all, youse, yousens). I gave you this beautiful world with all its joys and sorrows and every day you pray to me to take the sorrows and the pains back, that you can’t handle them, or don’t want to. So here’s what I want you to do. I want you to write down on a sheet of paper all the sufferings that you have and meet me in the morning over at that huge oak tree over there. (Over yonder). Everyone agreed.
They worked hard on their list, writing down all the aches and pains, losses, griefs, sufferings and fears they had. The next morning they were all there with their lists. Little children, grannies, folks in wheel chairs, some missing limbs, teachers, butchers, car salesfolks- everybody. Some lists were long and some were short but the shorter ones often bore more tragic, tear stained tales.
God eventually appeared the next morning, as God always does. God said: “Okay folks, go hang your sorrows on that tree. You can leave them there if you want to.” Well the people nearly climbed over each other, eager as they were to get rid of their sorrows. Afterwards they stood back and stared at the tree waiting to see what was going to happen next.
Then God spoke again. “Now, here’s the second part. (It was a good news/bad news kind of thing.) Before sunset today you must pick a sorrow to take away with you when you leave.” The folks went back to the tree and walked around it again reading all the sorrows. There were gasps and tears and moans and groans as they read the sheets of paper.
But as sunset approached people began to grab pieces of paper from the tree and put them in their pockets or pursues or backpacks. Soon the tree was empty again and as the last sunlight scattered so did all of the people back to their homes, carrying their chosen sorrows.
God smiled, in that sad, compassionate way that only God can pull off with a straight face. Why? Because God already new the result. Each person, no matter what horrible things they had written on their list, had chosen to take home their own sufferings.
Ride safely my friends.

“Your journey has molded you for your greater good, and it was exactly what it needed to be. Don’t think you’ve lost time. There is no short-cutting to life. It took each and every situation you have encountered to bring you to the now. And now is right on time.”
― Asha Tyson