Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Knowing and the Doing

I roll Blaze up the ramp for the last time this season. It is always a bittersweet moment. Images swirl like a vortex, complete with flashes of light as the neurons fire across the memories of the season’s travels. I look at Blaze affectionately and see each inch of her as I inspect how she fared this year. For me, Blaze has a personality all her own, and so unlike Jade. Like each of us, she is an individual unto herself. Strong, steady, sure. She’s calm amidst crazy traffic, sure “footed” on rain slick hardtop and pebble strewn gravel. She’s powerful, yet has no need for public antics. Responsive, gentle, steady and kind to her rider’s backside; qualities that at first sound understated, but upon reflection hold a value like none other. She’s been good to me, and I return the favor. Sta-Bil for the gas tank, removal of the battery to keep protected indoors on trickle charge, cleaned, lubed, and covered. It’s the best available under our circumstances. Yet, though it doesn’t seem enough, I know she will fire on the first try come spring. It’s who she is.

Last year at this time, I was intent of crafting a route for our Maine Lighthouse Tour; scanning the internet, generating GPS coordinates and mapping out possible routes. The planning was almost as fun as the trip itself. My mind is now on to next season. Where shall we go? Andy has always wanted to do Sturgis; while I’m not opposed, I have to consider our time-off restrictions. Then there is the copy of RoadRunner’s Riding America’s Backroads. There are several possibilities here, all need examination and consideration. The book has an abundance of great destinations, and attractive photography to lure the wanderer in anyone. It will be my companion through the long cold winter months ahead.

For now, I’m content to scroll through the photos of this past season. I’m amazed at the places we’ve been, and the miles we’ve logged. My other love tugs at me too. I know there is a book here. A book unlike any I’ve read. A book not just of destinations, photos and routes, but what is inside each of us when we travel by motorcycle; the physical and philosophical. What touches our hearts, awakens our senses, gives up pause, and all wrapped up is the gratitude that we go, experience, arrive and return; with returning unscathed at the top of the list. For while we motorcyclists know full well there are dangers always close at hand, and we do what we can to minimize them, always we should give consideration to our motorcycle safety training. We all know for example what is good for us; eating healthy, alcohol in moderation, exercise. However, as is human nature, the knowing is not always the doing. With motorcycle safety, we must always be doing as the knowing is never enough. As this season closes, and especially at this time of year, join me in being thankful for not only the knowing, but the doing.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

“There is a season and a time for every purpose under Heaven” *

As Blaze fell in behind her partner to enjoy an unseasonably warm November day, little does she realize where she is taking her rider this day. From my vantage point in the saddle, it is a fender pointer only. The lead rider’s whim is the only compass we use. We head for the roads less traveled, and find our way via quiet back doors to surrounding towns. In an instant, the images of times long past begin flashing like a video documentary across the movie screen in my mind.

We ride backward from my teenage years to my childhood. The time it took to live these years, now feel as fleeting as the afternoon ride. The first inclination that I’m dropped so suddenly and unexpectedly into the past, is the tingle traveling up and down my spine when we drop into New Boston by way of Joe English Hill. We pass Molly Stark Lane, where my best high school friend spent her own childhood. Memories wash over me of the good times we had together, and the pranks we pulled on others. The faces of other friends flash across my minds viewing screen, and I am again feeling the joys and sorrows we experienced back then.

Me and Karyn

The experiences then were all so new; a time when emotions would swing from tender to raw. We take a turn and follow Mountain Road along the Uncanooics past where the old boyfriend used to live. The tender moments remembered are sweet; the first infatuation, the intensity of our first love. Yet the raw continues to be raw, when remembering how we first faced death and began to understand for the first time that nothing here is guaranteed. I wonder what kind of people those who left us early would have grown to become.

We pass the high school and ride toward my childhood home. The faces I am now remembering are younger and more innocent. Our carefree play along neighborhood streets flood back, and as we near the old neighborhood, I bid Andy to turn right on Plummer. I have not been here since my parents sold the house many years ago. We stop our bikes and sit examining every inch of this transformed home. It’s larger now and expanded; yet with the extra living space, comes a price. The pear tree and apple tree have been sacrificed. The three season porch which I so enjoyed on warm summer days no longer exists. Yet, I can still smell the apple blossoms, and hear the buzzing bees busy at the fruit that has dropped beneath the pear tree.

Our Childhood Home

Andy comments that the railing at the front door looks original. And yes, so it is, and I am once again standing on the stoop with my siblings in our Easter outfits, having our photo taken. I know I am chuckling out loud now remembering those Easter hats that were so mandatory back in the day. One photo in particular comes to mind in which I am six years old. I don’t look too happy in this photo, as I want church and photo over with so as to dive into the Easter basket. Some priorities never change.

Yet our journey is not yet over. We visit Manchester’s West Side, my mother’s own childhood home and loop our way to Auburn and Chester and finally Derry where Dad spent his youth. We take a right on Wyman to where my Aunt and Uncle once lived. My brother lives here now, yet I haven’t been inside since he’s owned it, and it’s been many years since my feet have crossed the threshold. As I do, I’m a kid again here for a family gathering. My Aunts and Uncles voices like white noise in the background, as we kids get busy playing with cousins or walking out with fists full of chips or cookies. It is here that I first experience the concept of home movies. Uncle is holding a camera but I’m instructed to walk around as the end picture will be motion and not still. What a concept!

Me and a few siblings with some Derry cousins.

We head for home with the setting sun blinding us to our path, and we need to take great care for our safety. Yet despite the concentration it takes to ride westward into the setting sun, the analogy is not lost on me. I too am making my way to a sunset. We all are, it is the human condition. While the ride may seem happenstance to some, it does not feel so to me. There are reasons for events and I believe there are no coincidences. The young girl of so long ago is with me still. I wonder about her path and what lead her here to her present. Is she using all her gifts? Is she applying all her power? Is she giving away too much? Does she love fully, care deeply, forgive easily and make the most of her circumstance? I will be holding these thoughts in my mind. My journey continues and I still have time to bring the girl fully to the person she was meant to be.


Sunday, November 7, 2010

Walking Backward Through Time

The clouds scuttle across the sky and the sun plays tag with the shadows cast by them as the fallen leaves race ahead in childlike enthusiasm. Today is our anniversary*; with the weather replicating our special day as if on cue. We have no hard fast plans for a magnificent celebration. We have after all been married now for 34 years. As any who have traveled a lifetime together know, it is no one day that makes the celebration. The path to this day has seen joys, sorrows and strife. Yet, we are here together still. While I am one to always be looking ahead, I give him a gift he so often enjoys, the looking backward. This is how we come to visit Benson’s; to walk hand in hand in this newly repurposed park, to pretend we are living our infatuation again.

From Benson's Wild Animal Farm

Benson’s Wild Animal Farm, once a cherished destination of so many and closed since the 1980’s has found new life as a town park owned by the town of Hudson, NH. Volunteers tirelessly restore old barns and animal cages, care for the grounds, and blaze trails throughout the nearly 200 acre site. It is here that we hold hands and select one of the trails to walk. This one will take us past the elephant barn, the cage that once was home to Colossus, the 500 pound silverback gorilla. As we make our way, I feel an unmistakable prickling along my spine. Images of two of my children, very young and impressionable, pop into my mind. If feels to me that this is the place where Crystal first discovered her compassionate self and asked that we release the animals to freedom; and where Stephanie lost her favorite “little pillow” which she never traveled anywhere without. Our friend Ron, then a teen, is remembered fondly and I chuckle with the memory of his teenage antics.

From Benson's Wild Animal Farm

From Benson's Wild Animal Farm

From Benson's Wild Animal Farm

Though the rides and amusements are long gone, I can smell the cotton candy and popcorn as I come around the bend. While there are many people here today, it is not their voices I hear, but the laughter of children, and the distance trumpeting of an elephant. The real live people here are dedicated volunteers, some with scouts doing community service, other’s just regular folk wanting to give back to the community and restore a place they remember from their own youth and still dear to their hearts. It is here we meet and speak to many people, something that did not happen back in the day when we were more interested in the next ride, or treat. Many dog breeds are out walking their people. They stop politely to inspect us and allow us conversation for a moment or two, until they tug on the leash that tells their person it’s time to move along.

Near one of the former bird cages, we find John and Diana Crafts, wiping their brow, as they struggle with roots and weeds. They have adopted this spot and plan the flower garden that will occupy this place next season. It is no easy task. The more they pull the more they find. They are not discouraged however and point to another former bird cage as an example of what can be achieved. It is giving them perseverance in their task.

From Benson's Wild Animal Farm

From Benson's Wild Animal Farm

I have a bit of fun of my own, and enter the gorilla cage. It’s a somber place, as I peer inside the secret places by which Colossus used to escape the crowds. Yet as Andy takes his turn within the cage, I snap a few photos and teasingly remark that it should not take 34 years to finally have control over one’s spouse. Andy thumps his chest and stalks around the perimeter, and I know full well, that in whatever confines he finds himself, he is the master of his world. Knowing that Colossus spent a great deal of time watching television here, it isn’t so far away from what Andy enjoys too. All that is needed is an armchair and a glass of rum and coke.

From Benson's Wild Animal Farm

While pretending to be infatuated again was great fun for a day, it is not what sustains two people for a lifetime. Benson’s is the perfect place to visit in this regard. The people here are examples of this concept. It is not the cotton candy, the wild animals or the rides that call them here to service. Despite the excitement of these having long ago faded away, they know it was not these things that made Benson’s special. It was the connections; family, friends, community, that live long after the infatuation and excitement faded, that has them holding hands to keep Benson’s in the community for generations to come.

*Wedding Anniversary October 16th.

See all the photos here.