Switching from Two Wheels to Two Feet; Venice Beach

Switching from Two Wheels to Two Feet; Venice Beach

A few days ago I went with my son and daughter to Venice Beach.

The boardwalk was filled with people walking, riding bikes, skateboarding, roller skating and using Segways. There were street musicians playing guitars and pianos, singing, folks selling art, henna tattoos, massages, t shirts, cds, Harley merchandise, and every kind of food or drink you could imagine.  Sweating people were playing basketball, paddle tennis, handball and lifting weights. The sand was the color of oyster shells and the sea so blue it must have borrowed some from the sky. The sun beat down but a cooling zephyr of a breeze blew across the boardwalk. The air was fresh and heartwarming.

Judging by the accents there were people from all over the world traversing the wide path. So much beauty, eccentricity and energy! When we were having lunch at an open café, I watched the stream of consciousness pass by, sipped my Firestone 805 beer, glanced at my kids and was overwhelmed by a sense of gratitude.

But it was bittersweet, because we also passed folks searching through trash cans and plenty of people who were homeless and/or had mental health problems. A woman sitting on a bench arguing with an imaginary person, a man coming over and speaking a string of sentences that didn’t make sense to me and then abruptly turning and walking off. When you meet one person at a time like this sometimes you can do something about it, even if it’s only a kind word, a few bucks to ease today’s pain. When you see so many people in this condition it’s overwhelming. It doesn’t really matter what religion you are or aren’t, which politician you support, whether you’re a Harley or a BMW rider I figure we all want to see suffering reduced. For them and for us. Yes, it’s not only for the good of the person needing help – we have to get past that narrow notion – it is for ourselves, our own sanity, our own sanctity. I know I need it. The Dalai Lama nailed it:

Experience has shown me that the greatest inner tranquility comes from developing love and compassion. The more we care for the happiness of others, the greater is our own sense of well-being. Cultivating a close, warm-hearted feeling for others automatically puts the mind at ease. It helps remove our fears and insecurities and gives us strength to face obstacles – it is the ultimate source of success in life.

What’s in it for me? Missing the Harley. Compassion.

Yesterday I rode the bike for the first time in over two weeks. It felt great. Here in Georgia, it has been unseasonably warm as it has been in so many places. I ride my Harley all year ‘round, so if the weather is half decent, I’m out on Big Red. I rode a lot in December, back and forth from college, took roads I hadn’t been on in a while and visited that free meal program where I volunteer. These last two weeks I had been in LA (no, not Lower Alabama!) visiting my daughter, son in law and son for Christmas. My other son was stuck in poor old London. Cheap LA flights on no thrill airlines where the seats won’t even go back was too hard for me to resist. A five hour flight, but you know, if I’d had the time, I would have preferred the five day motorcycle ride.
I had a great time in LA. Watching the new Star Wars movie in IMAX 3-D at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, having a drink at Timmy Nolan’s pub, watching football with my kids at the Starlite Cantina, visiting a pirate themed bar, playing cards, a day trip out with my daughter to Venice beach, walking all over the place, and just being with family were some of my favorite things.
Still, I was missing Big Red. I even Googled how much it would cost to rent one of those new Indian motorcycles while I was there. It seemed too wasteful to me so I passed on it, but of course the ad now follows me everywhere I go on the internet. I drank a lot of coffee, did a lot of writing on my new novel and walked every chance I could.
It was a challenge for me walking the streets, because the only people who would make eye contact with me were homeless people. To native Georgians, a man is considered rude if he won’t smile and make eye contact with you. My daughter told me that so many people in LA, not just the homeless, want something from the people they meet, that folks are suspicious of random contacts. My daughter and I talked about how this was like the line in White Christmas where Bing Crosby says that everyone has a little larceny in their heart, that everyone has an angle they’re playing, a what’s in it mentality. This seemed to be true as I overheard a number of conversations (a writer’s obligation) at coffee shops where people were selling something, sometimes selling themselves (for a job), and negotiating deals. It took me bumping into someone in a grocery store or picking up something someone had dropped to start a real conversation. But then the ice was broken and folks were nice.
What’s in it for me? Is that the motive behind a lot of our actions? I had been thinking about this a lot when I was working at the free meal program a few weeks ago. So what was I getting out of it? Then I accidentally (yeah, more like karma) stumbled upon a passage in a book that I was reading that sent the message right to my heart. From Nadia Bolz-Weber’s “Accidental Saints”.
While we as people of God are certainly called to feed the hungry and clothe the naked, that whole, “we’re blessed to be a blessing thing” can still be kind of dangerous. It can be dangerous when we self-importantly place ourselves above the world, waiting to descend on those below so we can be the “blessing” they’ve been waiting for, like it or not. Plus, seeing myself as the blessing can pretty easily obscure the way in which I am actually part of the problem and can hide the ways in which I, too, am poor and needing care. Seeing myself or my church or my denomination as “the blessing” –like so many mission trips to help “those less fortunate than ourselves” can easily descend into a blend of benevolence and paternalism. We can start seeing the “poor” as supporting characters in a big story about how noble, selfless, and helpful we are.
Wow. Don’t get me wrong, acts of kindness when and wherever they happen are great things. We’ve all got to keep them up! But I’ve got some thinking and reflecting to do. Which is okay because the spiritual journey lasts a lifetime (hey, if you’re into reincarnation you might even get a few lives out of it!).
As with motorcycle journeys, spiritual discoveries and journeys are always waiting for us. We just have to open our eyes, trust and keep riding.

Have a happy, compassionate and safe new year.

Falling in Love with Hate. Motorcycling Meditations.

It’s December, and cold, but I’m still getting a ride on my bike every chance I get. Heated gloves help and so does layering up. We year round bikers are forever optimistic and try and make the best of things. So I’m still riding, reflecting and meditating. I’ve been going to the free meal program I help out at and talking with the poor and homeless I meet there. I make paper airplanes for the kids that read books to me and for the younger ones who will let me read to them. I mop floors and I’ll tell you right now: I swing a mean mop. Last night at the program the troubles and violence of recent events in the world were very far away from the normal trouble and violence experienced there by the poor and homeless every day. There were people sleeping in tents in nearby woods, others trying to get enough money to stay the night at a Motel 6, a man worrying about traffic fines and the jail time he’d get if he couldn’t pay them, and he knew he couldn’t. What was going to happen to the grandkids he was taking care of? Foster care? I spoke with a couple who used to ride Harleys but had to sell them to cover medical expenses. One man told me he wants to give me his old Harley gloves because, he says, “I’ll never get to ride again.” Some folks talked about last week’s football games, upcoming games, and coaches hired or fired. I watched laughing kids run past me to the playground and listened to their happy, screaming voices. And I witnessed small kindnesses – a man who has a car will give someone a ride to visit a loved one in the hospital; when the donated milk runs out a man gives his to a woman who didn’t get any; folks help with sweeping the floors, cleaning tables and taking the garbage out. And I have to say that the beauty of the children, their smiles and high fives, always melts this biker’s heart.
What with all the shootings around the world recently it’s easy and understandable to feel anger, even hatred at the individuals and organizations that have committed these horrific crimes. Beyond the compassion we feel for others, we worry about our own family and friends. Rippling out from these feelings can be a sense of helplessness, vulnerability and an angry determination not to have these events ever happen again on our watch. So we look for quick solutions. Gun control advocates hurl their angry comments. Gun possession advocates fire back with their claims of defense. Some people get angry at all Muslims. Others get angry at the people who stereotype all Muslims as killers, all refugees as evil. Regardless of the “side” we take in our words and writings (postings etc.) we can all too easily move beyond any sincere questioning of our own views, any honest searching for the truth, any engaging in rational analysis and argument. We can come to take pleasure in making fun of others, ridiculing them and their beliefs. Sometimes it seems like we have reached the point where we have fallen in love with hate.

I know a lot of folks’ mommas, like mine, used to tell us that if you can’t say anything good about anyone, then keep your mouth closed. The opposite now seems to be true. Don’t say anything good about others, just share your anger and ridicule for them. Falling in love with hate is a terrible path to head down. It’s not going to take you to any good place, to where your religion or beliefs want you to go.

I think of the children smiling and playing at the free meal program and it gives me hope. On all of our parts it’s going to take some deep soul searching, compassion, compromise and cooperation to solve the problems our world faces, both in the random suffering and violence we hear about in the shootings and in the ongoing suffering and violence of the poor and homeless, who are constantly in our midst. Compassion, mine and yours, and the spiritual and practical beauty it can create when it’s combined, is our only way out. Otherwise, our only choice is to fall in love with hate.

Ride safely. Ride with compassion.

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”?

Hula girl is Back! Pure Consciousness, Shifty Shifter Shafts and Coffee.

Hula girl

Hula girl

My buddy Jeff “El Jefe” picked me up yesterday and we drove to the Harley dealer to pick up Big Red. As we rode down the highway in his police interceptor we had one of our usual manly conversations. This time it was about pure consciousness,the “luminous” quality of the mind, how it’s like a mirror that merely reflects thoughts but is not those thoughts, about how attitudes of gratitude and lovingkindness can crowd out negative emotions. The usual Harley talk.
When we got to the dealer the bike was ready and it had been awarded the prize of an astoundingly high repair bill. Even though the mechanic explained everything he had done to that bike I still didn’t understand. If he had explained it in terms of pure consciousness I might have had a chance. Instead he talked about the cams, the cam chain and a whole lot about the shifter. I recall a bit of the conversation.
“So,” I said, “Let me get this straight: You had to replace the shifter shaft seal, fix the stripped shifter shaft lever and the stripped shifter shaft?”
“You got it.”
I laughed. “I don’t even know what in the hell I’m talking about!”
Essentially, in terms that even I could understand, Jeff explained that everything below the engine had been repaired or upgraded. The bill easily reflected that. But Big Red does have 56,000 miles on her. She has safely ferried me across the country twice. She deserves a bit of pampering. And it made a difference. On the 30 minute ride back to Rome I noticed she had more torque, idled lower, gears shifted with less clunking, she rode more smoothly and there weren’t any rattles. Certainly ran more smoothly then I walk!
So I took her out again today. The temperature has soared and right now is knocking on 65 degrees. I had fun on the back roads, a few twisties, slaloming in the curves. I stopped at K Mart to buy a new hula girl to put on my bike. (I’ve written in a previous blog about how a Harley mechanic broke her off at the legs. The poor thing.) I rode out to the Oostanaula river and parked the bike and attached the new hula girl. That completed my trinity of tokens. I have a Yin Yang medal on the bike to remind me to stay balanced and in the here and now. I have a St Columbanus medal, the patron saint of motorcyclists, to remind me to be reverent and I’ve got hula girl to remind me to be silly and not take myself too seriously. I’m ready for anything now!
I found a spot by the river to sit and think about things like shifter shafts and pure consciousness. (Realizing ironically of course that if I’m thinking about pure consciousness then I’m not dwelling in it. But that’s okay.)
I mainly felt gratitude. Thankfulness for this moment. I dwelled in that zone for a spell.
I hopped on the bike again and went for another ride and stopped at a spot near the river. There I ran into a friend that for some reason I keep running into. A few minutes ago she took off for a walk and we’re going for coffee when she gets back. So right now I’m sitting by the river, writing, listening to the geese honking, watching the river flow.

Day 24: Home! Total Trip Miles: 6794 Miles, Sleep, Journeys, Angels, Hospitality

It’s been about 36 hours since I returned from my trip and I’ve slept about 24 of them. The last day of the trip I just kept going and ended up doing around 660 miles in 12 hours. And yes, that part of my body was sore. But there are folks who belong to the Iron Butt Club which requires that they do over 1000 in a day. Compared to those iron amazons I’m more like aluminum.
I left before 7am on my last day, July 4th, and knew the roads would be comparatively empty due to the holiday. They were. Peeled through towns: Abilene, Ft Worth/Dallas, Shreveport, Tuscaloosa, Birmingham, and Gadsen. Saw folks gathered in parks festooned with red, white and blue bunting. Others, on the road like me, were traveling somewhere.
Tolstoy said that “all great literature is one of two stories; a man goes on a journey or a stranger comes to town.” Well, needless to say, this ain’t great literature but on the trip I did both; I was the man going on the journey and the stranger riding into town. And I met a whole slew of amazing people; some celebrating a marriage and others coping with tremendous loss. I was enriched by getting to know them and their stories, however brief. And there were many more stories I never got to tell, but I hope to add them here someday. The trip reaffirmed for me that whether we are physically moving anywhere, or merely staying put, we’re all on a journey somewhere. And our journey intersects and influences the lives of so many people, for good or ill, whether we know it or not.
A few days before the end of the trip I came upon this quote which I think applies to all of us.
“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
Good and bad experiences brought us to where we are today. Let’s cherish the now.
The Bible says: “Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it!”
I’m certainly no angel. Maybe the people, the strangers we meet every day are angels and maybe they’re not. I find it hard to judge. It’s a safer bet to try and see angels in everyone we meet. That’s what I want to remember from this trip. We’re all on a journey. At the very least let’s be kind to our fellow travelers, some of which most certainly are angels.
So thanks for riding with me. Best wishes on your journey. Ride safe!

Day 5: Cold Night under the Stars, Vacuuming the Mississippi River, Heading out, but First, Hardees, Then Zen again.

The good side was that the night was breath stealing, the sky so cobalt and clear that new stars came visiting our galaxy just to check us out.
The tent was easy to set up and the Thermarest sleeping pad worked perfectly. My new sleeping bag was also plenty warm enough.
The bad side was that it was freezing, going down to 43 degrees. And having to get up a few times during the night made it rough. In addition, a loud sound in the distance carried on throughout the night. I can only describe it as sounding like someone was running a vacuum cleaner over the Mississippi and the hose kept getting clogged.
Still, I felt good in the morning, surprisingly refreshed. Took a while to break camp, dry things out, fold them up. I worked up an appetite and drove about 5 miles to Hardees on Highway 61, where I am now, trying to get fortified for the ride ahead.
Not sure where I’m going to get to tonight, my predictions haven’t been too good, but I’m heading up towards Burlington, Iowa and then heading on Hwy 34 towards Lincoln, Nebraska.
The first thing that happens when I finally get on the road in the morning is that a wave of gratitude sweeps over me; gratitude for this ride, my bike, for God, my family and friends. Prayers come next. Praying that I will be loving and kind to everyone I encounter today. Easy to forget that part. Then I slip into that Zen awareness of the road, the beauty of hurtling through the countryside taking ‘now’ with me everywhere I go. I hope you will too. Namaste.

Day 2: Simple pleasures, Hannibal Missouri, Mark Twain, Huck Finn and the Lamed Vov

Packed and Ready to Ride

Packed and Ready to Ride

Day 2: Simple pleasures, Hannibal Missouri, Mark Twain, Huck Finn and the Lamed Vov
Baths are great. I don’t do anything weird like candles and scented bath oils (I leave that to my normal riding buddy Jeff Stafford). I usually only take them when I’m on the road. They remind me of when I was a kid and things were simpler. Sometimes I’ll even turn the shower on and hide behind the plastic shower curtain and imagine I’m in one of those plastic tents I used to build in the backyard. Not much more than a sheet of plastic thrown over two sawhorses. Being outside in the rain was vastly superior to being inside with my two sisters and their Barbie dolls. Simple pleasures.
This morning the sky is blue and clear but it’s in the low 60’s and feels nippy. I’m waiting till after the morning rush hour before I head out. I managed to stay off the interstates for over 300 miles yesterday but that comes to an end this morning. Other than ferrying the bike across the Mississippi River I can’t see any other way of getting across other than interstate. When I reach the other side I hope to take Hwy 61 north, the great river road, but even then it disappears every now and again, as does Route 66, which I did last year. I’m heading toward St Louis and then Hannibal Missouri, but of course all that can change depending on what happens on the road. Hannibal is the birthplace of Mark Twain. If Huckleberry Finn was alive today he’d be riding a Harley Road King (like mine!).
The other day something weird popped into my head. It’s the story of the Lamed Vov, the 36 humble, righteous people who the fate of the world rests upon. God preserves the world on the basis of the actions of these 36 holy people, so humble, simple, content, grateful and kind that no one, not even them, thinks that they’re one of the 36. If we can’t be one, we can at least accept the challenge to try and live like one.
I’ll be thinking about that as I ride the Mississippi River Road.

Day Four: El Reno Oklahoma to Tucumcari New Mexico. Namaste!

Back in Georgia the time is now 8:50 pm Monday, in Ireland it’s 1:50 am Tuesday and here in Tucumcari, New Mexico I’d say it’s about 1950. That’s because the town still holds onto much of the grandeur of the 1930’s and 50’s when Route 66 was the only road in town; almost literally.  Once the interstate was built much of old Route 66 was abandoned. But some old diners and motels persist! Beautiful relics to a time long ago.

Today was a long biking day. Over 400 miles. Right now I’m sitting in the Desert Inn motel drinking a Tecate beer with the air conditioner on and feeling like I’m in somewhat of a stupor. Despite a couple of rounds of factor 50 sunscreen I’m toasted.  I hope I can write more intelligibly later but for now just a brief update.

Jeff took his bike to the Harley shop first thing and they managed to sort the problem out. By 10am we were on the road. Due to our different styles of riding with Jeff being a man with a mission, and me being a bit of a dawdler (“Hey, let’s see what’s down here!) we decided to again meet up somewhere later and ride at our own paces. We kept in touch a few times by texts during the day but otherwise we just met up an hour ago. He took off on Interstate 40 where the speed limit soars to 75mph. His story, which he can tell better than I, is that once we split up his handlebars starting going a bit wonky; too loose. He got to Amarillo, visited another Harley shop then drove on to Tucumcari.

He later admitted that the problem had been his own fault. Last night I had given him a small Route 66 gremlin bell and he had failed to attach it to his bike.  Motorcycle gremlins love to hitch rides on motorcycles. They are mischievous rascals who cause all sorts of mayhem. A minivan cuts in front of you; your battery goes dead, road gators charge after you, or as in some reported cases, your handlebars come loose. Apparently, if you get a bell on your bike (it has to be given to you-you can’t buy it yourself) the gremlins get trapped in the bell, the ringing drives them nuts and they lose their grip and fall onto the road. Jeff has promised me he will put the bell on tomorrow.

I decided to go Route 66 for awhile, back through Bethany and Yukon and El Reno where legal speeds can gust up to 55mph. I managed to take the wrong roads twice (not the same road-two different ones) but I also stopped and took pictures of an old bridge, of the great bar Jeff and I went to last night and then tried to go a bit further on Route 66  but I ended up on a section of pre-1937 route which was built with poured Portland concrete. I began to realize why they don’t drive much of the old-old route anymore: bounce, smooth, bounce, smooth-every 10 yards!

So I went back onto I-40 and settled into the 75 mph mantra. I crossed the rest of Oklahoma, then went across the top of Texas and slithered into New Mexico. I had to stop every hour or so to gas up,  rehydrate and to administer to myself a mental status exam to ensure I could still ride safely. I know there is a population crisis and that we should take this very seriously but really, has anybody been to the top of Texas and ridden across I-40? Miles and miles of deserted land. I know I went more than once about 40 miles without seeing a gas station. Consequently, I almost ran out of gas.

Amarillo was a bit dicey when I came upon a rolled up carpet and small pieces of wood blocking my lane. I braked, down shifted, looked left to change lanes but a car was there, to the right was another car so I somehow managed to slalom the bike and thread my way around the debris. I also dodged a metal bar in the road and avoided attacks by those pesky road gators, bits of tires lying in wait to pounce.

I decided not to take a chance on running out of gas again and so stopped about 20 miles east of Tucumcari. The filling station it turned out was run by Indians-no, not native Americans but real Indians. I stopped at the pump and it said: sold out. So I rolled the bike back to a pump that didn’t have a notice. Engine off, kickstand down, glasses off, helmet off, fingerless gloves off and I start filling. Turns out this one is out of gas too. I roll the bike over to another pump and try again and I get 20 cents worth. I stop and go inside and explain my problem to the Indian cashier. He says that they are out of premium gas. I ask whether I can have $5 of regular gas and give him $10. For some reason the cash register jams and I hear him discussing and arguing in some Indian language with a man standing by. This takes about 5 minutes.  I’m exhausted, frustrated and I’m thinking: I need to show love and compassion for all beings! Finally, the man says “You can do it now”. I ask for my $5 back from the $10 I gave him and he says: “Oh I thought you wanted $10 dollars on pump 5!”

I say: “That’s fine.” and “Namaste” which essentially means: “The Spirit within me salutes the Spirit in you”. I go back to the pump and the tank will only hold $9 worth. “Namaste” and I ride off.

Later I make it to our motel  and the receptionist is another Indian man (not native American) who is delightful, charming and helpful. I kind of mutter but he is patient and suggests places to eat and drink.

And drink I do! I’m on my second can of Tecate right now and ready for bed.

Nameste to you and good night!

Biker Mind in a Cage and Enlightenment in Piggly Wiggly

I was having problems with my Jeep about a month ago and I took it to Mike’s to have it checked out. Mike has a reputation for doing good, honest work and he’s a nice guy.

“I’ve got good news and bad news for you.” I was told.

“What’s the good news?”

“You only need one part replaced.”

“And the bad news?”

“It’s your engine.”

So began the journey of various Jeep engine parts to Rome Georgia, an odyssey which is still going on.

No big deal, I thought.  I’ve got the bike and over the last few weeks, rain or shine, I’ve ridden her faithfully and wetly.

But today was different. I had to run a few errands (“messages” in Ireland) and I needed a car. I’d been asked by a friend to drop off some food for a housebound woman. No big deal for me, I was honored to do it.

My nephew Matt loaned me his and it was a strange experience. First of all I tried to get in on the wrong side of the car because my old reflexes from Ireland kicked in. (The steering wheel is on the opposite side of the car over there because they drive on the wrong side of the road!) I finally managed to get into the car, something we bikers call a “cage”.

Now, how do I operate this thing? Right, take the parking brake off. It’s already off. Again, I have to remember that I’m not in Ireland where they always use it. I crank her up and since it’s an automatic I reverse easily and then head out. First thing I have to do is roll the window down. I have to have the wind on me. There’s a great quote I heard which says that only a motorcycle rider understands why dogs love to stick their heads out of car windows. I mosey up to the main four lane. I’m thinking: There’s a cage turning, probably not paying attention. What about that lady driving talking on her phone? (Illegal in Ireland.)  I don’t try and make eye contact with her to confirm her driving intentions instead I stare at the car’s front wheel to make sure it’s not moving. It isn’t and I pull out onto the highway.  I realize what I’m doing. I’m driving a cage like a biker. I’m scanning the area looking for hazards, especially people who don’t see you and cut in front of you. I had the biker mind going in the cage. It was weird. I relaxed a bit and I thought: hey this isn’t too bad. Got a roof over my head, listening to some blues music. I can take a sip from my coffee cup. Smoke my pipe if I want to. (But not in Matt’s car!). This is kinda cool.

But I still had the biker mind going and found myself waving a salute to other bikers as they passed by.

I had to pick up some groceries for myself and while wandering around in the Piggly Wiggly I was thinking: better not get too much I don’t have a lot of room in the saddlebags. Then I realized again that I wasn’t on the bike. I could get anything I wanted; there’s plenty of room! This was great. But I didn’t like how my mind was shifting back to the idea of “buying stuff”. I used to be quite a collector of things: books, old coins, baseball cards, bad habits-you name it. But when I left Ireland after 16 years I gave most of my stuff away and managed to pack my life into four suitcases. It wasn’t easy or fun. In fact, it was painful because I was attached to all the things I had and the people I knew and loved. And yet it was freeing at the same time. It helped me to realize how little I really needed; what was important in my life and what wasn’t. It reminded me of what the Dalai Lama said: Attachment is the origin, the root of suffering; hence it is the cause of suffering.

Non-attachment means letting go. It means recognizing that all things are impermanent: material things, our bodies, even our relationships. This might sound depressing, but it isn’t. It’s actually liberating. “When you’ve got nothing, you’ve got nothing to lose”. You don’t suffer from worrying about getting something or losing someone. When I can keep this kind of awareness in my mind it helps me to appreciate every moment, to be centered and content with what I have, to be aware and grateful.  I’m much happier and healthier now.

I bought the few things that I needed and got back into the car. I drove over to the house, dropped the food off, rang the doorbell and left. On the way home I reverted to biker mode: watching for potholes in the road, tar snakes, inattentive drivers, road gators (bits of shredded tires from semi-truck tire blowouts), and steering aids (Bikers hate these! They’re gouges/ruts in the road from trucks. The ruts can guide your front wheel in a direction you don’t want to go.) None of us want to get into ruts. To go in directions we don’t want to go, because of someone else.

Surviving these hazards today, I came home. If I can stay centered I might survive tomorrow as well.

It was fun driving the car. But I still prefer the bike.