Angels Sighted: Part Three

I managed to get four good rides in this week as I was searching for angels. Riding to work I prefer to avoid the interstates so I often take Highways 53 and 41 up to Dalton. I love the old roads, the blue highways, the aging main thoroughfares for towns before the behemoth, impersonal, concrete monstrosities were built. The old roads have dusty hearts and souls, folks out walking, the occasional tractor, high school football stadiums, roadside dinners, farmers selling fruit and vegetables, old motels resurrected as apartments. The stretches between towns have forests and fields with horses, cows, rickety leaning barns, clapboard houses and shotgun cottages with stacked ricks of firewood, old sofas and Weber grills on the porches. Colors seem brighter, shadows darker, as if they’re being sharpened by the sunlight on the roads and grasses.
On interstates the colors are dull, lifeless, the scenery monotonous. These are industrial strength roads more likely to attract zombies or zombies in training. Besides, no angels are allowed on interstates. They’re prohibited along with pedestrians and non-motorized vehicles. It’s on the signs, for heaven’s sake!
I will confess to being distracted a lot this week. Between marking papers, preparing for classes, trying to get some walks in and editing one of my novels I realized I had bouts where I had sunk back into ‘everydayness’. As we say here in the south, ‘I caught myself’ rushing, getting angry at other drivers and avoiding strangers at times. “Catch yourself on”, an old Ireland expression kept coming to mind to remind me that I was looking for angels. You have to be open, alert and friendly if you’re going to spot them in their various disguises.
One thing I’ve realized is that angels usually show up when someone needs something. An angel in disguise like Elijah might show up in need or we ourselves might need some help. My first angel encounter this week happened when Big Red and I were turning into a shopping center too slowly and we hit a bump and I dropped her. I was fine; thank you for asking. I just hopped off, but Big Red was on her side looking like the beached figurehead from a ship. I was embarrassed, for her and me, and tried to upright her as fast as I could but I was struggling with her 739 pounds (that’s right after she gets out of the shower). A guy came out of nowhere and helped me lift her, then he smiled and took off. It reminded me of how we all want and expect to be the angel, and never the person in need. We all want to be the Good Samaritan and not the wounded man.
Other sighting were scarce. I realized again that if I was hunting for angels I needed to go to where there were people in need. So I headed back to this free meal program again where I knew some folks. I was dressed in my usual off work attire – in torn jeans (fashionable now!) Harley shirt and leather vest. I met a guy outside that was living in his car at a truck stop. We talked awhile. He said he wanted to get one of those motel rooms you could rent for a month. Did I want to split the cost with him? I thanked him but declined the offer. I went inside, said hello to some folks, grabbed a plate of food, sat down and started eating. Some church group had fixed the food. They were happy, generous and friendly, in no way condescending. There was a woman eating across from me that was thanking the coordinator for the food and the take away bags she’d gotten for her and her family. When she got her check, she said, she wanted to come back and cook the meal for everyone at the center. Another woman wanted to get a take-out plate for someone who was back in their tent and too sick to come. There was talk of who was in jail, who had gotten jobs and who was in the hospital. There were jokes and laughter and talking about when they might have their next karaoke night. An older couple were flirting and pampering each other and folks were teasing them about it. I wanted to say to them (the one I knew), jokingly, “Get a room!” when I remembered that they lived in a tent. Sad, poignant but beautiful. Love’s healing glow will angle into any nook or cranny and find us, wherever we are.
I finished my food, thanked the servers from the church and the coordinator and got ready to leave. A server graciously asked me if I wanted some food to take home. I politely declined and thanked her again. I went outside and talked with the smokers for a while. After a spell I said goodbye and took off on Big Red. Along the blue highways I rode the Buddleias, the butterfly bushes,were blooming, the branches shooting bright flowers into the air like bottle rockets. There was the scent of newly mown grass in the air and the fragrance from cut pine trees stacked on chugging timber trucks. I enjoyed the silence and the humming cadence of Big Red’s engine. And I thought about angels.

My Book is Published! Hope Bats Last. Cross Country Motorcycle Trip.

I finally have my latest book, Hope Bats Last, published on Amazon, available as an eBook. You don’t need a Kindle to read it! On the website you can download a Kindle app for free, enabling you to read it on a variety of devices from PCs to phones to tablets. It is a stand-alone book, meaning that you haven’t had to read the previous novels to know what’s going on in this one! Please support struggling independent artists! Hope you enjoy. Here’s the blurb.

Twice widowed, recently retired, and now an official senior citizen after turning 65, Rory Conner wants to take one last motorcycle journey across the USA. The former detective and child protection social worker wants to ride Big Red – his old Harley Davidson Road King – from Georgia to California. His plan is to take only the blue highways, the back roads, and leave all of the other decisions to chance, fate, and Divine Providence.
His son and daughter aren’t happy about his trip. He’s been forgetting things lately, won’t use a GPS system, nor will he plan his route. His son worries about his dad getting lost. Rory replies. “It’s California son, a big state. Even I can’t miss it.” What could possibly go wrong?
Rory’s sojourn takes him across the Mississippi River a few more times than necessary and he encounters murder, mayhem, mechanical problems, and romance along the way. He finds himself calling on his detective and child protection skills one last time to try and save a child’s life.
Will he make it to California? Is this his last ride? And what does it mean that “Hope Bats last”?

Motorcycle Haikus/Poems, Nearly 5000 Views of Our Website with Visitors from 66 Countries. Visit Here and Push us Over 5000!

By way of explanation a Haiku is a 17-syllable verse form consisting of three metrical units (lines) of 5, 7, and 5 syllables. It’s a popular form of short verse and has its origin in Japan. The challenge, of course, is trying to write a meaningful poem with these restrictions on syllables. For some reason, the other day parts of verse started to come to me. So here are three:

Leaning with the bike
Feeling one with everything
Unknown curves ahead

Battered by cold winds
I slalom through twisty roads
Grateful for this journey

Below is an old biker saying I fashioned into a haiku.

Most bike accidents
Involve the nut connecting
Handlebars to seat

Jeff and I have nearly reached our modest goal of 5000 views. Also, in the last 10 months alone our viewers have come from 66 different countries (as opposed to 66 of the same countries!). So that’s great! We hope you have enjoyed our exploits and reflection. We’ll keep riding, reflecting and writing for as long as we can. Thanks for riding with us! Kickstands up.

Taoheading and Zenheading – Winding up Anywhere, Tao and Zen

“A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.”
Laozi (Chinese: 老子; pinyin: Lǎozǐ; Wade–Giles: Lao Tzu)

This trip will be like no other trip I’ve taken. To start with, I don’t know where I’m going. Normally, not a good idea as the old saying warns: If you don’t have a destination in mind you can wind up anywhere. And I guess that is my goal-to wind up anywhere.

All my life I’ve had goals and destinations, plotted things: college, jobs, cars, motorcycles, trips, kids’ education, holidays. Other times, I’ve been resident in some place, hunkered down and on the annual treadmill calendar of events there. New Years, St Patrick’s day, Easter, 4th of July, Labor day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas. Work, parties, meals, football, baseball and baseball coaching, soccer, basketball and hockey. Taking care of myself, my relatives, my children. One can live one’s life out on this treadmill, not altogether unpleasantly. Along with the death and separations that inevitably come along there are the births and the new beginnings. The revivals of hope.
My buddy Jeff can’t be on this trip with me because he has a new beginning, as of yesterday. He’s a grandfather now for the first time. It’s a girl and dad gum is he proud.
But every now and then I ask myself: What if I did something different? And I don’t mean just taking a class in watercolors or tai chi at the local community college ( both of which I’ve done!). What if I put myself in new places, different places, where I had no plan, where I didn’t have the security of routine, the family and work responsibilities, the usual contours of escapes, distractions and pleasures?
So that’s what I’m going to do. I know I need to be out in LA (not lower Alabama!) by the 12th of June (and today is Monday the 12th of May) but I can ramble any which a way, as long as it’s generally west, to get there. So I’m not going to plan the trip, book the motels. I’m going to get out on the road and see what happens. Have to admit it’s a bit scary. But all true adventures have an element of peril in them.
So what’s going to guide me?
I plan to mix a bit of Taoism and Zen with whatever jams I get myself thrown into.

The Tao (Chinese: 道; pinyin: dào) is a Chinese philosophy and literally means “way” or “path”, but it also signifies a cosmic order of things; that in life there is an underlying flow, rhythm and balance. To follow the Tao means to tune into the rhythms we find in nature, ourselves and those we meet on our road.

“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.”

Zen is a very popular word that’s thrown around rather loosely. (I have been known to do that!) For the record it refers to a type of Buddhism which relies on meditation as a way to enlightenment.

Derek Lin describes some of the qualities of Zen

“…the closest we can come to describing Zen in words may be as follows:
• Zen is more of an attitude than a belief.

• Zen is the peace that comes from being one with an entity other than yourself.

• Zen means being aware of your oneness with the world and everything in it.

• Zen means living in the present and experiencing reality fully.

• Zen means being free of the distractions and illusory conflicts of the material world.

• Zen means being in the flow of the universe.

• Zen means experiencing fully the present, and delighting in the basic miracle of life itself.”

So I’m getting ready to hit the road. One more day of gathering things, packing and saying goodbye should do it.
I’ll be Taoheading and Zenheading come this Wednesday morning.
Follow me on my journey! I’ll keep blogging now and then, Tao and Zen.

Solo Cross Country Trip – 2014!

The pear trees are blooming white, the redbuds, a dark magenta and festive. Crosses are adorned with purple cloth. My buddy Pat Kelly is off alcohol for 40 days and in some corners people are wishing each other Chag Sameach (Joyous Festival). Sure signs that Spring, Lent and Passover are here. I wish that these are indeed joyous occasions for you all. And after the glorious dust from these settles (as dust must) it will again be time to spend some serious time planning my next motorcycle trip. I need to regain that mental peacefulness, the Zen mind that the road provides.
I’ve already begun to give it some thought. This year’s trip is going to be different. First of all, much to my regret, my buddy Jeff can’t go this year. Now sure if that’s a punishment for him or not; I knowed I ain’t the easiest riding partner. But Jeff’s got a great reason for wanting to stay. His daughter is expecting their first grandchild. It ain’t much of an excuse but I’ll let him back out anyway. I’ll be going on this trip alone.
Secondly, I’m not going to take any interstates on the way out, if I can avoid them. I want to take the old blue highways, named that from their color on the old maps. “On the old highway maps of America, the main routes were red and the back roads blue. Now even the colors are changing. But in those brevities just before dawn and a little after dusk—times neither day nor night—the old roads return to the sky some of its color. Then, in truth, they carry a mysterious cast of blue, and it’s that time when the pull of the blue highway is strongest, when the open road is beckoning, a strangeness, a place where a man can lose himself.” William Least Heat-Moon
Thirdly, the only destination that I have that is firm is that I need to be out in LA by the 12th of June, when my youngest boy Colin flies in for a visit with my daughter Hannah and son-in –law Bill. So, by the time I’m finished teaching around the 10th of May, I’ll have plenty of time to wander a good bit before I head over there. Right now I’m thinking of following the Mississippi River up from Memphis to Davenport, Iowa. Then, maybe head over to South Dakota. But I’m going to make up my mind each day depending on the stories I hear along the road, the omens I encounter and, basically, however I feel.
I hope that you will follow me on my adventures this year. Stay tuned.