13 Days Until I head off to Alaska: Motorcycle Riding as a Spiritual Experience.

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.

12,541 Motorcycle Miles Last Year. Reflections on My First Year in Rome, Georgia and Thanks

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12,541 Motorcycle Miles Last Year. Reflections on My First Year in Rome, Georgia

Last July I moved over here from Ireland. The kids had grown and my marriage had fallen apart. So after some painful reflection I decided to go home. I squeezed 16 years of my possessions and memories into four suitcases and said “goodbye” to a beautiful country and great friends. When I arrived back in Georgia, Jeff loaned me his Harley, Big Red, and eventually, reluctantly, he sold it to me. They are still on good terms. I promise. He can ride her whenever he wants to.

I had a tough time adjusting when I first got here. New land, new people, mixing with old memories, reflections and dreams. The dreams were the worst bit. I’d wake up feeling vanquished and shipwrecked, tossed onto an unfamiliar shore. I went through a period of mourning, which Freud says is love’s rebellion against loss. He was right. I viscerally lived out all the various meanings of the word: bereft. What has helped me survive and prosper has been my family, the incredibly hospitable folks of Rome, messages from friends in Ireland, God, prayer, and, of course Big Red. They all gave me hope and encouragement. I’m not there yet; I still have quite a few miles to go.

Big Red especially helped me stay in the “here and now”, practice my mindfulness and distracted me away from painful memories. All those miles, the long cross country trip, gave me time for peacefulness, silent reflection, centering, letting go of the past, prayer, forgiving, gratitude, redemption and for hope to spring anew. Prayer comes easily on a motorcycle, especially a Harley. Hope, for Emily Dickinson might be “a thing with feathers” but for me hope comes on two wheels, barreling down open and unknown roads, where sometimes you can see only as far as your headlight shows you. And that’s good enough for me.

Thanks everyone and thanks Big Red.