A fundamental condition of life …

Several weeks ago, I had been out hiking and had sat down and write. Looking up from my notebook—at the large outcrop across from me—I saw a group of friends trying to navigate their way to the top. I watched for several minutes as they tried several alternate routes, all of which got them no closer to the top.

Then—not accepting defeat, but rejecting it—they sat down on a spacious ledge and took in the view. I snapped a few pictures but one in particular was my favorite.

I’m not a graphic artist by any means, so I apologize for any shortcomings this image may have … but I hope you all enjoy it.

BeingTogether

Well that’s convenient.

The following is an excerpt from my book The Divide. Find the ebook here.

I needed a break. I stopped at a convenience store for a drink. There were two guys inside, both Hispanic, one behind the counter, leaning on it, and one in front. We talked about the day’s heat and how they had been seeing cyclists since the racers came through.

“Yeah man, where is the rest of your group?”

“Oh it’s just me. I’m riding solo.” The two raised their eyebrows and glanced at each other. The guy behind the counter stood up. My brow furrowed in response to their movement. “What?”

“Well, it’s just that this isn’t the best road for bicycles. Not a lot of people around here care enough to share the road, you know? And on top of that you’re alone. This isn’t the best road for a white boy to be alone. You know what I’m saying?”

“Yeah, I hear you. Thanks for the heads up.”

“Yeah, when you get back on your bike I wouldn’t stop until you get to Cuba. That’s another 40 miles down the road.”

“What’s the road like? Flat at all?”

The clerk’s friend spoke up while he shook his head. “No, it’s all up and down. It’s not even the best road to drive because of all the hills. It’s probably worse on a bike.”

Awesome.

I was riding a prejudice, non-cyclist friendly road. Great detour. I finished my snack and grabbed another sports drink.

“Good luck out their, man.”

“Hey, thanks guys. I appreciate it.”

How to get a dinner invitation… while smelling to high heaven.

The following is an excerpt from my book The Divide. Find the ebook here.

“Are you broke down,” the driver asked. He wore a blue plaid shirt under a set of red Carhartt suspenders, white hair blended into gray sideburns that faded back to snow white on his chin.

“Oh no, I’m just lubing the chain.” I arched my back into a stretch.

“You must be doing that bike race.”

“Well, I’m not racing, but I am riding the route.”

A woman spoke from the passenger seat of the car. We all talked a bit about the route and the documentary that had a scene filmed at the church we stood outside of.

“Do you two know this road pretty well?”

“Sure do.”

“Good. I’m trying to avoid the rain and mud and am thinking of following this road to get to Silver City. Is there anything on this road? Any place I’ll be able to stop?”

Without a look to his passenger, the driver said, “Yeah. Mile marker 23.”

Mile marker 23? Now here’s a man that knew how to give directions. I laughed with his specificity. “What’s at mile marker 23?”

With a quick glance at his wife this time, “Well, we are.”

I glanced around for a mile marker. “You mean we’re at 23 right here?”

“No. I mean us,” he said pointing to himself and his wife. “Our home is at mile marker 23. Why don’t you stop by. We’ll feed you and let you used the spare bed, get a good night of sleep. How does that sound?”

Too good to be true. “Well, how far is it from here?”

“I’d say about 25 miles.”

“Well, that sounds wonderful then,” I said, not sure what to make of the situation. We hadn’t even introduced ourselves, but I had accepted an invitation to dinner. Strange? Maybe a little. But I wouldn’t have to stay if I felt at all uncomfortable.

“All right. What would you like for dinner?”

Like? I must have looked ridiculous, slack-jawed and sweat-stained. I was still so surprised at having been invited to dinner that I couldn’t comprehend deciding what dinner would be. “I’m not a picky eater, especially these days.”

“All right. Can we take your bags for you and lighten your load?”

“Oh no, I’ll hold on to those.” I didn’t have any suspicion of foul play. To give up the bags was another step toward an easy ride that I didn’t want to take. An easier route to avoid weather was one thing; pawning my gear off onto somebody else was quite different. “Mile maker 23, right? I think it will be a couple of hours before I get there.”

“We’ll be there. Just ride on in.”

“Ok. I’ll see you soon.”

Something you should get out of your system.

The following is an excerpt from my book The DivideRead more about the book and see the index of excerpts here. See Mike & Maggie’s website here.

Mike took the lead again. “So what made you want to do this anyway?”

“Well, I had recently finished school and just wasn’t sure what I wanted to do… I thought it would be a pretty cool item for the life resume, a good challenge. I thought I’d come out here and try to find myself.”

At that last statement, Mike chuckled and said, “Yeah, get that out of your system.”

I thought I saw Maggie turn her head just slightly to Mike and give a look of incredulity at what he had just said. Then again, maybe I was the incredulous one and had just imagined Maggie was on my side.

“Well that’s great, Nathan,” Maggie said, “has it been a good experience so far?”

I thought about it before I answered. “Yeah, it has.”

We talked a few more minutes before I let them go. Decided on my course, I started on the 6 miles of pavement up toward La Manga Pass.

Mike had said, “Get that out of your system.” I couldn’t get that out of my head. I didn’t take offense to what he said. I wasn’t insulted. In a weird way, I was inspired. But why?

Out of my system!

What Mike said had clicked. Being inspired by his statement didn’t seem strange any more, rather it made perfect sense. I had said the trip was, in part, an attempt to “find myself.” Well, where did I go? Did I lose myself? Was my body just mindlessly wandering around without me? No! So what the hell was I looking for!

In my study of philosophy I had read about switching our energy from action to contemplation. This made no sense to me when I read it. Wasn’t that counterproductive? But Plato, he defined contemplation as “knowing and being.” We should switch our energy from “seeking and becoming” to “knowing and being.” Switch your energy from seeking to knowing. What was it I sought?

I had been suffering from the illusion of an internal separateness. I had thought there were two versions of me: the person I was and the person I wanted to be. I was searching for that other person, as if there were a secret that other person had, as if he knew what I wanted and needed, what was best for me, what I should do. What a bunch of bullshit. Mike was right, I needed to get that kind of thinking out of my system.

The wind will drive you crazy.

The following excerpt is from my book The Divide.

The wind was ceaseless. It filled the sails of the boat and pushed me further out to sea. It raised bumps on my skin as well, but the sun was bright and the sky clear. I breathed the ocean salt and bid farewell to land as it retreated over the horizon. I turned to face the ocean ahead of me and said goodbye to a love lost. Laurie. We had been in love. She had been a fairy tale.

I met her before I started college and only knew her briefly. We lived far away from each other and fell out of touch. It wasn’t until after my first novel was published that we reconnected. I had been traveling around the country to promote my book when I landed near her home. She came to a book signing. I recognized her instantly, but I didn’t let it show on my face. She walked up to the table and handed me her copy.

I can’t remember what I said, but it made her laugh. Her laugh was the greatest and sounded just how I remembered. She scanned my face for any sign of recognition, but I played it off like she was another person in the crowd. I handed her book back and her face fell.

She was halfway to the door when I called out her name and told her to read the inscription.

Laurie — You are even more beautiful than I remember, which was already more than I thought possible. Please have lunch with me.

That was the beginning of our relationship. We were together for several months, but the distance made it hard. She flew cross-country to visit me for a weekend. She broke it off. She went back east; I went further west and refused to stop at the ocean. The wind carried me away from all of that pain. Or so I thought. What if I hadn’t gone west? What if I had followed Laurie east? What if I had tried to make it work? What was it about tragedy that I found so appealing?

Wait.

I didn’t get on that sailboat. I didn’t have a relationship with Laurie. I never wrote an inscription in her book.

I never wrote a book.

I never left my bike.

But the wind was ceaseless.