strength and beauty

Bloged in worship by rod Saturday September 27, 2008



strength and beauty

Originally uploaded by rod lewis

Perhaps I am not too simplistic or presumptuous to scrunch the perseverance of a marriage to two key ingredients. I would not dare say that these are the key ingredients of all marriages, or even most marriages, but I’m ready to contemplate their importance in ours.
Strength and Beauty. And not necessarily in that order.
Also, contrary to what might be expected here, gender roles have not necessarily dictated the shifting distribution of those two ingredients. Perhaps at any given time, one of us has corrected the imbalance created by bringing the neglected ingredient into a moment that was heavily flavored with the other. But over time, we’ve shared these two ingredients between us until each of us strive to bring both to our union. Lest you think that my strength and Allison’s beauty have combined to create what we have, you may have a very simplistic, superficial view of beauty and strength.
Perhaps even, her obvious beauty and my obvious strength have had to be struggled through to overcome buried ugliness and hidden weakness. Eventually, we both bring a bit of strength and beauty, but neither is quite enough without the other’s strength and beauty. Together, we are quite beautiful and strong!
Truly, at any given shared moment, one of us can perceive the moment as sheer beauty, while the other feels only sheer strength. This is a phenomenon that we can become only merely aware of through continued growth toward intimacy. I wonder if one of the greatest achievements in a marriage, is to realize the beauty of strength and the strength of beauty. I’m guessing that it is possible that this realization is what stops two people from living as though each bring the missing piece of the relationship, and find that the division between the two pieces has disappeared.
Is this what it means to become one?
What an incredible mystery that two individuals can become more complete, individual, self-aware, and real when melded together with another.

ravine

Bloged in worship by rod Thursday September 18, 2008



ravine

Originally uploaded by rod lewis

Yesterday when I woke, I had thoughts. So many thoughts pouring indiscriminately from my half-awake mind that I couldn’t get to my computer fast enough to catch them all. When I did get to my computer, I couldn’t type fast enough to turn them all concrete. When I looked back from my seat at the computer, there were thoughts strewn all about in a trail leading back to the bed from whence I’d sprung. Some of them lay there still recognizable and recapture-able – pick them up and blow three times on them and all is well. Some of them though, had already begun to melt. Little puddles of melted thoughts with soft, shrinking mounds in the middle like pats of butter in the omelet skillet.
Even so, there were still plenty left unspilt, or at least recovered to keep my fingers flying and my brain confused for a good while as I tried to sort them out and place them neatly in paragraphs that would make sense to me later.
I tried opening several blank documents and sorting them as they spewed forth, but I couldn’t shift between windows fast enough. Instead, I used the “cork board” in Scrivener and just tacked them up as fragments to be sifted later.
Everything came to a screeching halt when I typed the word “rivine,” and had to deal with the squiggly line beneath it. “hmmm,” I thought. I’ve used that word all my life. I dug around in my dictionary widget. Nothing. I googled, yahood, dict.com’d, you name it. I couldn’t find that word. Surely I’ve not used a word that doesn’t exist. Everyone has always known what I meant by it. I gorge, canyon, hollow, deep and steep. Come on dictionary, it’s a bit of land that has been riven by a stream, rent by an earthquake, or some other such earth-shaping action.
I ceased to think my thoughts and instead, obsessed on the word that had riven my flow of verbiage, had rent the very fabric of my stream of consciousness. Eventually, it occurred to me that since my correct etymology and spelling were unrecognized by the dictionary, perhaps I’d do well to misspell it purposely and trick the dictionary into finding it for me. So, I typed in “ravine.” Ha! I did it. I tricked the dictionary. I tricked google, and yahoo, and dictionary.com. All of them said, “canyon, valley, a deep narrow gorge with steep sides.” See? Why would it be spelled that way? Allison said, “maybe it comes from the word, “ravish” instead of “riven.” No way! Way!

Ravine – from 18th c. French, Ravine – from Latin, rapina, to pillage, or rape.

Go figure.

gentle filling

Bloged in worship by rod Wednesday September 10, 2008



gentle filling

Originally uploaded by rod lewis

It is impossible this morning merely to sit at the kitchen table and watch the gentle play of low morning light spotlighting the ballet of breeze and green in the backyard. In fact, the play of light is not readily apparent. It is diffuse through thick, stationary rain clouds. One has actually to sit still in the midst of the morning for quite some time to acquaint his skin with the temperature and humidity even to perceive the ever-so-gentle stir of the air. He must become acclimated to the stillness to detect the stir.
The rain is falling steadily, but so gently that it can’t be seen by looking through the air at the deep, damp green canopy and walls of the yard. It can be heard though, and of course felt. Heard to play its under melody, not a counterpoint exactly, but more like the chant tune above which the birds and tree frogs have added their vernacular text in florid lines to create this morning motet of supported stillness. The stir of atmosphere against my skin is so slight that it doesn’t move the leaves – they only jitter at the gentle drops dropping from the higher leaves.

I think it is profound that midst a barrage of beauty, it is easy to completely miss it, or at least miss most of it. Storms are quite common here this time of year. One moment, the sky is blue and suddenly, over the trees roll dark, strangely lit greys that roar and shoot bolts of bright white among themselves and toward the earth. They don’t open valves, but rather burst a main and pummel trees, break branches, and wash lawns and gardens into the streets to overflow the storm gutters and leave patterned lines of debris scattered on pavement.
Just as suddenly, this outburst of emotion seems to abate, and for a moment the sky seems to go about the process of pulling itself together, sobbing and wiping away the final tears. It’s as if the blue has come to calm the grey and wraps its arms around the angered clouds and presently around us all.
It is difficult to see the beauty in the purging of meteorological emotion. Perhaps it is as difficult as it is to see the beauty in the deep blue of joyful skies. It all comes so fast and furious that one can’t perceive it. It is almost as if the elements must be separated and experienced one at a time in order to appreciate truly their beauty and power.
This summer, while riding across utterly flat, vast Colorado wilderness, I saw a storm an hour ahead of me. During that hour, I rode in still, dry desert air while watching black clouds hang wispy sheets of smoky mist against the ground. I watched bright, undefined flashes illuminate the blackness from the inside, I saw sharply defined, jagged bolts of brilliant neon white reach across the sky, flashing. I saw thick, heavy electric spears flung to the ground as if they would stab the earth and stand there lighted, smoking, and consuming the desert sage and blackening the loose, rocky soil.
As I approached the blackness, the air cooled by 20 degrees, and the wind pushed my bike sideways. Huge drops of water pelted my faceshield and pricked my arms and legs. The bolts were landed in the soil so close to me that I imagined I could feel their heat. I saw space behind the bolts and experienced the storm in three dimensions rather than against a two-dimensional backdrop of dark, cloudy sky. Unfathomable power unleashed at once in a display of overwhelmingly terrible beauty.
I rode another hour in the midst of this awesome anger before reaching the breaks of dusky blue on the other side at the edge of the Rocky Mountains. I stopped my bike to breathe and realized that the storm hadn’t stopped, or moved on, I’d simply come through it and out of it and left it there, still kicking and screaming and pouring out its wrath on the desert landscape. Days passed before that storm ceased to be a part of my current experience, and became instead a powerful memory of fear, power, respect and submission.

Rarer though, are these slow, long lasting drizzles. A couple weeks after the Colorado storm, I rode nearly 700 miles northward along the Pacific ocean in a three-day, chilly, foggy drizzle. A slow ride in slow rain allowed the beauty to be slowly absorbed through my layers and trapped inside where my capacity for beauty was stretched.
Such is the rain of this rare morning. Evening’s gentle thunder and occasional flashings subsided, but without the blue to come from behind and hug away the anger, the sky remained melancholy through the night. I woke at intervals to hear the gentle, constant patter of rain in the leaves outside the window, and at first light, I was past being satisfied with only sound. I made my way to the covered front porch and stepped out into the drizzle, just long enough to prime my skin to feel the practically imperceptible stir of rain-breath, and perched myself in a rocking chair to watch, feel, listen and absorb.

These are the gentle, washing mercies, new this morning. They are slow, constant, and faithful - gentle, so as to be absorbed. The whelming storm is awesome, powerful, terrible, and cleansing, washing away accumulation and dispersing it in the runoff. But this welcome morning is experienced, absorbed and cherished.

I suppose it is difficult for me to accept that mercies come in many -often contradictory -forms. But of course, sometimes one needs to be washed, and sometimes he needs to be filled.

future past

Bloged in worship by rod Saturday September 6, 2008



future past

Originally uploaded by rod lewis

So I’m sitting alone at the kitchen table past any sane person’s bedtime, staring at my son’s canvas wallet. It is much too thick and stuffed for a kid who is unemployed and dependent. I lift it, hold it, weigh it in my hand. I’m surprised to find that it is filled with coinage. Bulky, and heavy with coins. It is also a bit soiled with light dirt, from serving as an inadvertent hand rag for the hands of a teenage boy.
Will was right, this bit of pocket organization will probably go on forever. Never wear out.

A couple weeks ago, Allison presented me with a new wallet. I’m not sure why, except that I actually needed one. But that doesn’t really seem like an adequate reason. I’ve used the same wallet for all the years we’ve been married, which in 16 days will be 22 years. That wallet has held up quite well over the years, but of course 22 are a great many. The edges are worn, torn, and the seams are opening,. When I reach in to pull out a bill, if there are any, I also always pull out a thread as well, and of course this furthers the deterioration process. The once textured leather, alligator-like, is worn smooth and flat and polished to an unnatural sheen.
Upon receiving the new one, I sat at this very table and emptied its contents into sorted little piles and rid myself of the bulk of bits of paper and notes that had long since lost meaning, of receipts for possible returns that showed no signs of ever having contained any written information. Several years of expired car and motorcycle registrations found their way to the trash. I carefully folded and stowed bits that would of course, always be needed – like the yellow legal pad corner that contained, in the blue ink, all-caps, block printing style of my father, the fuel/oil mixture ratio of gasoline and 30-weight detergent motor oil on which the boys’ Maytag engine runs.
When finished, the new wallet made its way to my pocket and the old, no doubt feeling suddenly cold and deserted, lay where it was emptied.
The next day, Will asked me what I would do with the old wallet. “I have no idea,” I told him, “I suppose it will lie around until mom gets frustrated and throws it away.” Will asked if he could have it. I told him of course he could, but asked why he’d want a falling-apart, worn-out billfold. He answered that he thought he’d like a wallet that could be worn out. He didn’t think his wallet could be worn out, and that there was something friendly about a wallet that would grow old and worn.
My heart smiled and wondered at the depth of his contemplations. I wondered if he was feeling vibrations of my years in the emptied, frayed folds. Perhaps he was picturing me in younger, more textured, less worn and thinned days. Maybe he was reaching into a past that he could only trust existed but of which there is no evidence, save bits of weathered and worn leather, textile, and saggy skin. It is possible that he could be merely fantasizing that he, too, as apparently his dad had, could grow older, and richer, and have a deeper past on which to ponder, for at the moment there was no evidence that he was any different than his canvas wallet. In fact, they seem quite the same – rough, indestructible, sturdy construction, and slightly soiled.

There is a moment, maybe a long one, between the invulnerable, immortal, forever-young freedom of adolescence and the growing responsibilities and reality of growing up, during which a boy’s thoughts begin to morph. He begins to contemplate if maybe this slow becoming never actually comes. Suddenly his short past life and shallow experience whisper to his untrusting heart that he’s had all there is. His short past grows longer in his mind and he feels as if he’s lived forever with nothing to show for it. He begins to look for himself before he existed. He searches through the past of his father for glimpses of his becoming, and perhaps sees his reflection, but as of now, he feels no gathered wisdom, no garnered confidence, no assurity of future success based on past work. He glances at himself in the now and sees smooth skin, peach fuzz, lean muscle, tender feet, and green behind his ears. These observations provide little confidence for the young man who has only begun to imagine the road that lies ahead, has measure himself against, and found that his whole being is out of balance.
It may seem like a strange request, the owning of a discarded, worn out leather wallet to replace a newer, indestructible, hip, canvas one. But there is great solace in knowing that hard work makes a mark and assures us that we’ve done well. Reminds us that we work toward an end, and that the infinite vanity we feel in our seemingly pointless pursuits and preparations actually moves us slowly forward toward a goal that brings with it the trophies of physical erosion and the marks of the passage of time as evidence of work well done.
Indeed, many of us carry the previously discarded, the finished-with, the no longer needed. I carry, and use a pair of 60 year-old pliers, and wire clippers in my guitar case as I live out my routine and search through my pre-existence for images of me as assurance of purpose, and meaning, and perhaps even immortality in the post-Rod era.
Until now, I’ve had only the past for promise. I’ve had only the bits that I carry. But I guess I’ve reached a stage where I begin replacing the used-up and the used-up is used for future promise.
It is profound what promise is held in the empty folds of worn out leather, what image is reflected in the polished shine of the tired surface of an old wallet.

Promise and reflection, these are elements of wealth, and one should always carry them.

park

Bloged in worship by rod Friday September 5, 2008



park

Originally uploaded by rod lewis

So here I am tonight, alone in my own bed. Only the fifth time I’ve been in a bed in a month. The windhorse is resting in the garage. The first time he’s been in a garage in a month. The barely waning sturgeon moon has risen above the house at exactly the same phase as the thunder moon when I left 28 days ago.
I looked at my total mileage for the trip and noticed that it’s one of those numbers that reads the same flipped and turned. How appropriate. Coming or going, forward or back. I’m back where I started, and hopefully, as T.S. Eliot says, “to know the place for the first time. “

winding road coffee

Bloged in worship by rod Friday September 5, 2008



winding road coffee

Originally uploaded by rod lewis

August 17, 2008
To Home
429 miles (9,006)

When I woke up this morning, the dew was so heavy that everything was soaked. The insides of the tent were soaked with condensation, and it was cold. I certainly didn’t expect it. I’d chosen the route south through Chattanooga, and Atlanta because I’d miss most of the mountains, and I was seriously contemplating riding late into the night for an early arrival home. I knew I’d freeze out across the smokies. By the time I was 50 miles south of Nashville, it felt like I was back in Wyoming. So I found a campsite and gave up for the night.

This morning’s coffee cup shocked me. As I sat beneath the tree at my site, I looked at the cup, which read, “Winding Road Coffee – The shortest distance between two points is a straight line, but isn’t the meandering road more fascinating?” You can laugh at me, but I feel those kinds of things as blessings of affirmation.

An hour’s ride this morning, put me in Chattanooga, where I pulled off for gas at apparently a pre-appointed place. Before I could finish pumping 2.5 gallons into my tank, I’d been approached by a homeless man. Actually, before I climbed back on my bike, I’d had conversations with 3 homeless men. All had different stories, but the most interesting, and the one that grabbed me most deeply, was a man who was released from prison 5 days ago. He’d served 7 years for stealing cars. We were headed to the same destination, but I hadn’t room on my bike for him. I gave him shuttle fare to Atlanta, and bid him godspeed and quick work. The other stories were only slightly less interesting.
I don’t think I’m exaggerating to say that I spent an hour at the Exxon station talking to homeless guys. The most amazing thing to me though, was that each one told me, “thanks for your time and for talking to me. I’m glad you didn’t run from me.” Honestly, each of their departing statements were barely paraphrases of that very sentiment. I got back on my bike with “Message in a Bottle” playing in my head.

“A hundred billion castaways, looking for a home.”

All this loneliness only strengthened my need to be home already. I rode south with a growing loneliness. I thought of nothing else, and a few miles into Georgia, I began to calculate miles, speed, and ETA. I determined to see Allison before she went to work, and was positive I could do it. When I stopped for gas just north of Atlanta, I realized that I’d crossed into the eastern time zone. I thought I’d done it last night, and that I wouldn’t lose an hour today. My hopes were dashed.
Further on, the hope returned as I started devising plans to see her. Finally, I realized I could redeem 20 minutes if I intercepted her on her way to work rather than getting home before she left. So in the end, I rode the 331 miles from Chattanooga with only short gas stops without even removing my helmet. It began to rain as I came into South Carolina, and I rode the 65 miles from the Savanna river to Columbia watching the rainbow I’d become so familiar with welcoming me home.
I actually got to downtown Columbia a full 15 minutes before she did and was waiting beside the street when she came by. During those 15 minutes of course, I met 3 more homeless guys. One guy from Miami, a guy from Columbia, and a fellow who had JUST gotten off a freight train from Illinois and was looking for the Salvation Army. I told him I was in Illinois yesterday, and gave him directions to Oliver Gospel Mission where he could get a change of clothes and a bed.

“Seems I’m not alone in being alone…”
“I’ll send an SOS to the world…”

When Allison came by she stopped for a kiss, and we lingered too long. I’m sure I made her late for work. I rode home, got the same from the kids, complete with welcome signs, Will making supper, and the whole enchilada, so to speak.

arch

Bloged in worship by rod Friday September 5, 2008



arch

Originally uploaded by rod lewis

August 16, 2008
To Almost Chattanooga, Tennessee
590 miles (8,577)

No sleeping in today. No No No. I set my alarm for 5:30 and yeehawed when I woke. Then yeehawed again when I awoke a second time 90 minutes later. Yeehaw.
Still early enough though to get a good start I thought. So I packed up, and headed on east to Hannibal, MO, birthplace and forever in the moment, of Samuel Clemens, aka Mark Twain.

Actually, Hannibal is a cool little town in which every single building, street, business, or idea, is named after Mark Twain. I remembered mentioning the quote about San Francisco’s weather that is attributed to Mark Twain, though he never said it. Apparently, Hannibal isn’t the only place who capitalizes on Clemens’ wit and fame.
I headed south from Hannibal to St. Louis. There, I experiences the usual “rod is not a city boy” assurance. There was a lot of road construction going on, so there were signs directing me to roads and exits that were closed, signs that had fallen over, and signs that were just plain wrong. Without any “tour turns” I made it downtown to the Gateway Arch, but I am sure it took me an hour longer than it should have. I had traveled over 20 miles in town traffic, rather than found my way through the intricate freeway maze that could have taken me there in minutes. Not to be beaten, I kept to my plan to have a walk on the riverfront, and beneath the arch, which I did.

From the Arch, I had no problem finding my way across the river and into Illinois, but by now, it was certainly getting late. I spent the rest of the day trying to imagine an accomplishable destination goal that would still allow me to arrive home at a reasonable hour tomorrow. My original goal had been Chattanooga, so I decided to stick to it.
Tonight, after I passed through Nashville, avoided the temptation to just call it a day and stay there, the moon rose bright and beautiful, and suddenly I decided to ride under the moon for the next 8 hours, and arrive at home before Allison made it home from work.
That would still take me to Chattanooga, so I set out, energized for an all-night trip that would accumulate well over 900 miles for the day.
Yeah right.
Though my body felt fine, my thermostat gave out about half way to Chattanooga. This, I didn’t realize until I saw a campground sign along the I-state, and I realized it was time to stop and warm up.
Here I sit then, all cold and tired, shy of Chattanooga, but well beyond Nashville. Tomorrow I’ll be home for sure.
For sure.

tom’s fence

Bloged in worship by rod Friday September 5, 2008



tom’s fence

Originally uploaded by rod lewis

August 15, 2008
To Macon, Missouri
469 miles (7,987)

Determined to make up the miles I’d lost to the storm, I set my alarm for early and promised myself I’d make it to St. Louis and be back on track. Apparently, in my morning stupor, things weren’t all that important to me, so I turned off my alarm and slept myself out. When I finally did become coherent, I had a moment of panic and then decided I would still be ok. I was determined not to get on the freeway until I absolutely had to, so I decided to go directly east when I hit Norfolk, NE, and catch the I-29. When I got to Norfolk, I was having so much fun on the back roads that I decided just to stay there and ride them all the way in to Omaha. This decision cost quite a few temporal bucks, as I drove through intense traffic and stop and go signal lights finally to reach the interstate.
My own boss used to work in Omaha, so I decided to look up his old school and play a little joke on him. His school, of course, was registering new students, so I dropped in, took a photo and played like I was interviewing for a job there. This little side trip didn’t take long, but I was already behind.
From Omaha, I headed down the river in Iowa with all hopes of removing myself from the freeway as soon as possible. The Midwestern wind can be really hard on a windjockey such as myself, and I felt that I was hanging on to the bike for all I worth. I took the first opportunity afforded me, and hopped an only slightly more accommodating rt. 36 directly east across Missouri.
I’d given up hope of making it to St. Louis, but I thought maybe I could drop down and make it to Columbia, MO. Eventually, I realized that there was no reason to head due south toward Columbia, when I could ease my way east toward St. Louis if I rode all the way to Hannibal.
Darkness and chill befell me before such a goal could be accomplished, so I stopped at a State Park in Macon, just as the sun was setting and the nearly full moon began to rise over the lake. I found an ultra-dark, secluded campsite beneath a heavy tree canopy, and watched the moon rise over the lake. In fact, that’s where I am now, typing these words in the moonlight by the fire.

maintenance

Bloged in worship by rod Friday September 5, 2008



maintenance

Originally uploaded by rod lewis

August, 14, 2008
To Omaha, Nebraska Norfolk, Nebraska Oneill, Nebraska
399 miles (7,518)

As I sit down tonight to type the tale, at the tail of today, my mind is whirling. I’ve had no time or chance these past two days to catch up on my trip log, and so I’m two days behind, but with SO many thoughts,
So tonight, I have not only to type the tale of today, but finish my started tales of the past two days as well.
Today, I had planned nearly 550 miles to Omaha. Never mind that I also planned to visit Mount Rushmore and take my time through the Badlands. I got up fairly early, showered and broke camp and visited the all-you-can-eat pancake, and bottomless-cup-o-coffee deal. As I finished my coffee, a nasty, all-you-can-stand wind blew in dark clouds and harassed all the tents in the campground. Stakes were being pulled up, picnic tables cleared, and folks were scurrying about to batten down the hatches. I took it as a sign to mount the windhorse and get out of Dodge. I headed south to Mount Rushmore, less dressed than I should have been, but more dressed than was comfortable hiking around at the feet of the presidents.

I have to say that as I drove around the bend and got a glimpse of the carvings, I was less than impressed. This, I thought, was one of those rare things that are more impressive in photographs. Honestly, even after I arrived, parked and milled about the observation area, I kept thinking that it was less hulking and large than I’d thought it would be. I knew, intellectually, the dimensions, but visually, it just wasn’t happening. As I walked about the trail, I noticed some workers standing on top of Thomas Jefferson’s head, and soon they began to rappel down to his nose.

This was the perspective I needed. From that point on, the whole thing took on a new meaning. I’d have to say that my preceding itinerary had its affect on Mount Rushmore. The enormous, cliffs and rock faces that I’d ridden between, and under in the Big Horn forest had definitely eclipsed the size of the Black Hills. One should see Rushmore first, before riding from Cody to Sheridan along scenic, seasonal, route 14.

There was another factor eclipsing my experience of Rushmore though, and that was the juxtaposition of natural beauty and human accomplishment. I stood there and wondered at how someone could carve such incredible likeness from stone stories high. I wondered at the fact that most who worked on the project were merely laborers, hired by the artisan and told what to do and how to do it. That the ordinary finesse of bringing out the art in a hunk of stone was rendered by dynamite and pneumatic hammers powered by huge air compressors hundreds of yards away from the work being done. All this was wonder worth pondering.
Meanwhile, back at Yosemite and Yellowstone, rain, wind and rivers whittled formations in granite and earth. Wildfires burned away vegetation that had held topsoil in place and exposed the ground to those same elements. Nature formed its abstract patterns, structures and ever-changing landscapes. The hand of God rendered never before seen, or dreamed of wonders. Nature constantly awes us in its ex nihilo art, while humans merely imitate it.
In fact, as I gazed upon Mount Rushmore, all this took on two dimensions.
The first was that the “art” that was created here was a perfect illustration of man’s imitation of the creativity of the creator. God crafted humans, and in we are so completely bent on exact imitation. Here is art in which the likenesses of men are carved in stone, hundreds of times larger-than-life. Also, the likenesses carved there are not really the point, but are to commemorate human accomplishment. The irony in that moment was profound, though I cannot properly verbalize my thoughts.
Yes, Rushmore is really cool. Yosemite,Yellowstone, and all the paths to get there -breathtaking. In the commonplace of nature, we forget that it, in its inception is abstract, innovative and so creatively created.
But, I digress…

After I visited Rushmore, I made my way to East route 44 to take the scenic route through the badlands, and to make an appearance at the National Park. This, my friends, despite the chill, and winds, I’d experienced in the Black Hills, and the threatening storm clouds that remained above the desolate landscape, was a string of magic motorcycle miles. Back here, in no-man’s-land, the airl was calm, the windhorse purred, and the rolling, gently winding landscaped smiled on me as I barreled through. I rode at 75 mph, and seemed to sit still while I felt the silence and stillness of the badlands simultaneously with the three-dimensional forces of the bike. I felt as if I could be moving and experiences stillness at once. I experienced a moment, and a span of time, simultaneously. It was a tremendous 60 miles.
From the badlands loop, I decided to head down into Nebraska and make my way to Omaha on the back roads to avoid the wind-pummeling from the elevated freeway stirred by tractor-trailers enjoying a respite to the high fuel costs. At first, I was turned back, yet again, by an unexpected gravel road, but finally I found a paved two-lane to take me south through the Rosebud reservation, into Nebraska.
Frankly, though I notice, I try not to comment on the physical beauty of people, except to them. But I gotta say, “Rosebud” is an understatement. I stopped for fuel in the tiny town of Mission, and everywhere were beautiful people.
Also, at Mission, I thought I’d successfully dodged a storm that I’d been following for quite some time, but shortly after I left the town, I caught it and we fought for the rest of the evening.

Eventually, the storm won, and I stopped 150 miles short of Omaha, beaten. I’d stopped once and waited out what I thought was the worst of it when it was getting too painful to my legs. When I started out again, the rain was manageable, but as darkness joined the dark of the storm, I began to have intense knowledge of wildlife waiting in the alfalfa at the edge of the road to cross in front of my bike. After 60 more miles, I came to rest in O’neill, Nebraska, where the store clerk told me I’d chosen wisely. Two men had been killed this week by collisions with deer while riding motorcycles.
I prayed the prayer of gratitude, and drifted off to sleep.

find me in the river

Bloged in worship by rod Friday September 5, 2008



find me in the river

Originally uploaded by rod lewis

August 13, 2008
To Rapid City, South Dakota
410 miles (7,119)

Today’s ride was an unexpected gift. I had no idea what would await me from Cody, to Sheridan, except that route 14 on the map says, “closed in winter.” The 140 miles through the Big Horn National Forest was breathtaking. Frankly, more breathtaking than Yellowstone itself, though that could be due to my state of mind and circumstance in the park.
I woke very early and showered, did my laundry, wrote some thoughts, and stuffed myself with all you can eat pancakes. During my walk-around, I saw that I was dripping fluid. It was dripping from the side-stand bolt. The only fluids are oil, gasoline, and coolant, and this was too clear to be the fresh oil I had just changed. I guessed that it was coolant and worried myself all the way to a fuel stop, keeping an eye on the temperature. At the fuel stop, it was no longer dripping, and didn’t for the rest of the day. Apparently, it was just condensation from the cool night whose path of least resistance flowed over the side-stand bolt.

After a short jaunt on fairly straight, valley road, I turned off to the closed-in-winter road. This road wound, and banked on wide, high-speed fun up to 9,500 feet where I had to stop and put on more clothes.
When I reached the junction with I-90, I couldn’t bear to think about interstate, so I caught route 14 and stayed in the backwoods for another 108 miles, before a storm rumbled in, and I dressed and took to the I-state.
This storm and I raced for the rest of the evening. All the way to Rapid City, I would catch up with the storm, stop and wait awhile and take off again until I caught up. Also, because I was riding east, and the sun was setting in the west, between the storm and me, for the entirety of the ride was a glorious rainbow, stretched end to end across the road in front of me. As the road twisted and turned, the rainbow perspective changed, and it seemed as if I was starting to ride through it. Then, as suddenly, the other end would move and I chased that rainbow until it finally disappeared into the strange, sunset/storm riddled sky of twilight.

When I arrived in Rapid City, just behind the storm, the sky was tremendous. I texted to Allison that it was the strangest, scariest, most beautiful storm sky I’d ever seen.
I set up the tent, built a fire and settled into a short mental moment before drifting off to sleep.
I’ve been thinking of the fact that I considered the ride through the Big Horn National Forest to be more beautiful than Yellowstone. It strikes me that there is really too much beauty to be understood. We tend to take for granted, the beauty that is around us, so that we have to look elsewhere to find it. It only makes sense that beauty would be found in a designated beautiful place. A place to which you travel in order to see it. A place to which you could fly, and there would be the promised beauty. A place, set aside, to be beautiful. A place quarantined from the ugly world, preserved as an oasis midst a dry and thirsty land.

But beautiful places don’t tend to exist like that. Actually, beauty tends to exist in the midst of beauty. We tend to notice a particular because the beauty around it increased right up to its edge. The increasing beauty began at the edge of another beauty.
I traveled from the beautiful Mojave Desert, northward into the Eastern Sierras. I was awestruck that there were no beauty boundaries. What I saw was a brilliant morphing of beauty to beauty. There was not gate-to-beauty that one passed through to view the wonders of Yosemite. I traveled from Oregon desert into Hell’s Canyon and across the Idaho lava fields into the Tetons and each beauty morphed into the other.
If one decides to travel the country, he finds that he merely travels from one beauty to another, via beauty. If he meets people along the way, he finds the same to be true. Beauty to beauty. One beautiful person to another. One is wearing a cowboy hat, another, a John Deere cap. One holds a Stop sign while you wait on construction traffic, another works at the feed yard and a short conversation teaches you that we’re all the same. One worries about deadlines, and the other about hailstorms. One celebrates seeds planted and one celebrates seeds harvested.

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