29km north of Owen Sound, along Grey Road 1 that snakes along Georgian Bay, I stopped for a break in my bike ride. No more 3G data here. No service at all. Perfectly alone with my thoughts.
On my way to this idyllic place of rocks and gentle lapping waves I passed by the house where I had grown up, in a place called Balmy Beach. Memories had flooded back to me. Many were great: an at times perfect boyhood spent exploring the natural world of bay and river and falls and ancient native trails.
But some of my memories of this place are truly horrible.
I passed by the spot where I broke down screaming in tears of total anguish when I was 18 years old, realizing that my father was dead and gone forever, my family torn to shreds in an instant, never be the same. It’s the place where I passed painfully and suddenly out of childhood. The memory made me shudder.
Then I appreciated how this painful experience made me the person I am. My empathy, my patience, my desire to make a better world, my belief in the importance and transformational power of community all began out of those painful birth pains into adulthood.
And I noted that here I was 20 years later riding faster and longer distance than I would have then. In a way, I’m finally able to be carefree at moments like this. I focused on my legs and my breath and let go of the painful memory.
Hill climbing the Niagara Escarpment, the Chromatics electro cover of Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill” arrived in my earbuds at just the right moment, magically helping me float to the top of the cliff.
Passing Wiarton airport, I remembered watching airshows with my dad and feeling smug in the gold Audi turbo most of my peers couldn’t afford. I was a selfish and materialistic child, learning from my father that objects signified self-worth. That strategy didn’t work well for him in the end. I kept riding, letting go of the memory, appreciating how I’ve unlearned bad parental lessons.
The Frostie Freeze in Wiarton appears unchanged since it was started in 1958, I guessed. I made some poor choices, feeling indulgent: fries with fake gravy and fake soft ice cream dipped in fake chocolate.
I took the more direct and less scenic Grey Road 17 back to Owen Sound, and refocused on my ride and my body. I felt stiff (I blame the ice cream) and my knees were getting angry. I took a moment to stretch my IT bands. I thought about the day-to-day experience of my 76 year- old mother living with chronic pain and chronic fatigue with no specific cause and no treatment. I felt empathy for her pain, and as I got back on the bike I let the feeling go.
100km later, I’m reflecting on the past and looking forward to the future. But the biggest lesson I’ve learned is to focus on being present in this moment.
In this moment we can give or receive love. In this moment we can appreciate and love our bodies and the world around us. In this moment we can love climbing the hill, because the hill is energy experienced on the downward side. In this moment we can be present in the work of living, because the work creates the potential energy for gifts, joy, community and love and sex and magic.
The road runs from the past into the future. But the road can only be experienced in this moment. And this one. And this one. Enjoy the moment.