For me, motorcycle riding is a spiritual experience. I don’t plan it out, it just naturally happens. In less than two miles of hitting the countryside a feeling of gratitude comes over me. Gratitude for the countryside I’m riding through – whether plain or magnificent – and gratitude for the things in my life: family, friends, my job, my students, and of course Big Red, my Harley. I don’t wait on the feelings to come, I don’t anticipate them, or start them off with a little prompting. They just naturally descend on me like the satiny dew that covers the morning grass. Did the grass conjure the dew up? Was it waiting for it? Nah, it just appeared when the grass wasn’t looking, leaving one blade to say to the other: “Hey, guess what’s back?”
Once the gratitude arrives I start expanding it to things I see and smell: the fresh mowed grass, the colors of the sky, the drifting oyster colored clouds that sometimes remind me of Eeyore, that old leaning barn with the rusted tin roof, the brown horses grazing in the buttercups, the crimson clover looking like strawberries on a stick, amidst the uncut roadside wildflowers. Then I start praying for family and friends, the ones I like and the ones that have really pissed me off recently. Fortunately, there’s not too many of the latter. Lovingkindness has to travel down both sides of any divided highway. Then I just center into riding. Sometimes it’s like the bike is standing still and the road is rushing underneath, the trees running beside me on their tiny, spindly legs. Other times, I’m accelerating and listening to the staccato thunder of the engine, or I’m leaning into curves trying to find that sweet perfect balance of speed, gear, lane location and leaning. Motorcycles will teach you, or else you’ll fall off them, that the only way through curves and problems is by leaning into them. It’s an act of faith to lean into them, and coming out on the other side is a gift of grace.