Day 11: Pocatello to Dubois, Idaho – 100 miles (so far); Happy Birthday Walker Percy; Man with a Sign on the Corner; Brian; Blessings.

Today is the writer Walker Percy’s birthday. He would have been 101. He’d be my favorite writer of recent times. I was thinking about a couple of quotes from his book “Love in the Ruins”.

“Why did God make women so beautiful and man with such a loving heart?” And

“I believe in God and the whole business but I love women best, music and science next, whiskey next, God fourth, and my fellowman hardly at all. A man, wrote John, who says he believes in God and does not keep his commandments is a liar. If John is right, then I am a liar. Nevertheless, I still believe.”

This morning I sat at a McDonalds getting a quick breakfast. I watched as across the street in front of a gas station a man was sitting on a box with a sign for the passing cars. Nobody seemed to be stopping. What thoughts occur to you right now?
I decided that after I filled up Big Red I’d give him a few bucks. No big deal. Maybe you have some opinions about this action?
As I was filling up I could hear the man talking and I listened closely. No, he wasn’t talking like a schizophrenic, though that wouldn’t have mattered, instead it sounded like he was muttering prayers and blessing on each car passing by. I went over and talked with him. His sign announced that he was veteran and that he was looking for work. He told me how he had been in the army down in Columbus, Georgia in the 70’s and told me a few stories. He had grown up in Illinois but preferred living here. The Mormons, he said, really help the people here; not so much the Catholics and the Protestants. They do good work other places, just not so much here. We talked about the VA medical care he has received and his dislike of Obamacare. He said he had too many physical problems to work regularly but that he could do odd jobs. He smiled. He was overweight, his face was tanned and he was missing a few teeth.
I told him that I thought I had heard him praying aloud. He said he liked praying and blessing folks that passed by. He had a lot of time on his hands and he enjoyed it.
Had many people been stopping and giving him some money or talking with him?
“Naw”, he looked down and shook his head. We talked a bit more , then shook hands and I wished him well.
No bible I’ve ever read says anything about judging people before you help them. Mother Teresa used to say that if you’re judging people you can’t be busy loving them.
And isn’t this what the whole religious business is about? Finding ways to translate the words we profess, like loving others, our enemies, the poor, not judging, into a reality? That’s what I struggle with because I’m sure as hell not doing it right.
His name was Brian. Bless you Brian.

Autumn Rides and Reflections

November 1st.
I don’t know about you but when Autumn comes things always begin to unravel for me. The days grow shorter. The leaves, fighting their surrender like children holding their breath, take on magical colors, crimson, apricot, bronze, burgundy, the purple – pink of the maples. And I, too, long to hold onto things but know I have to let them go. It’s so strange that we cling to permanence in everything – relationships, jobs, luck, when nature is constantly telling us to enjoy each moment but not to get attached.
Since coming back from my trip to Destin (see previous posts) I have mainly done short rides – an hour to work and to the free meal program I help out with. I was there last night – talking to folks, reading books to some of the kids, making paper airplanes, pushing kids on swings and then sweeping up.
It’s wonderful to be around happy children, watching them color, play tag (tig), fly their planes, do somersaults, and wrestle with each other. One young boy who was new, maybe eight years old, sat beside me on a bench for a few minutes. He didn’t say anything. He just needed to be in the shadow of the safety grown ups can silently provide until he could see where he could safely join the other children at play. He glanced at me once and a brief, confident smile flashed on his face. Then he ran off to join the others. Reminded me of what Dostoyevsky said: “The soul is healed by being with children.”
There is a great deal of physical and emotional pain in the adults who attend but I’m always amazed at the laughter, the joking, and the personal stories of redemption folks freely share with me. I watch people helping out with the chores, sharing what little they have with others. It’s humbling and who couldn’t do with a weekly dose of humility? I’m certainly not there to judge. Mother Teresa said that if your busy judging you can’t be buy loving. It’s your choice, one or the other. Choose wisely.

I try to ride year round and manage a lot of days every month, as long as it’s not too cold, rainy or snowy. I learned a couple of years ago while crossing the Rockies that Big Red doesn’t enjoy the snow as much as I do. Come to think of it, that day my childlike excitement about snow sort of disappeared too.
Riding to work at dawn yesterday the temperature on the bank sign said 44 degrees. I was bundled up in my leather jacket, scarf, heated gloves and had my rain trousers over my others. I was still cold. The sun was rising and chariots of red and orange rode through the sky. It was magnificent. I stopped at Hardees for breakfast and watched the retired men and women, meeting in their stammtisch (German for the tables of the regulars, an informal gathering), joking with each other, sharing health updates of missing members and talking about upcoming trips and medical appointments. Every day, as those autumn leaves fall, I seem to be edging closer to these groups. And while I admire them and the camaraderie, bonhomie and support they provide, Big Red and I still have a few more miles left in us. I hope. I plan to try and enjoy every day. Nothing’s permanent; Autumn reminds us of that.