I mentioned here on ye olde blog a few weeks back about how I’ve had some extra time on my hands due to the company I once worked for shutting down. I’d like to say I’ve pulled off the freeway into the Rest Area and have been resting up, but in actuality there really hasn’t been much of that.
Things happen, you deal with them, you go for a bike ride, you move on, you get over it. If you don’t have to work all day the bike rides get even longer, and next thing you know you forget all the picayune, day-to-day bullshit and start concentrating on the big picture. As Friedrich Nietszche once wrote: “when the house burns down one forgets even his dinner, but later he eats in the ashes”. Let’s just say I’ve been sitting in the ashes having a nice meal, interspersed with some great local bike rides I’ve begun replenishing my soul.
Granted eating the cheapest Top Ramen for dinner every night is not exactly haute cuisine, but despite economizing and occasionally bellying up to the sodium and empty calorie buffet I’ve seen quite the transformation of myself in a few key areas. For instance, such a great amount stress had been building up in me at the end of the year that I had gained a few pounds through stress eating. Those pounds (plus a few more) are all gone now. The occasional 100 mile bike ride helps for this too I guess. Funny thing is, my soul feels full.
That bird sitting on the distant fence outside Santa Ysabel the other day? It was a merlin, not a kestrel. I know this because I could see the feathers of that proud little avian fighter jet again from a distance. My eyesight, which had been strained and was becoming a little blurry from staring at computer screens in fluorescent-lit offices for long hours has returned to a nice crisp state of normal. You have no idea how happy that makes me feel. I also can sense that my blood pressure has fallen back to where it should be. All told I feel pretty damn good right now, as long as I don’t look at any bank statements of course.
It’s times like these that I recall the story of John Muir. I discovered his writing kind of late in life, but his words have always resonated with me. Sure a lot of it has to do with sharing his love of California’s Sierra Nevada and his role in the creation of America’s National Park system, but there’s more to it than that. The unabashed joy with which he writes about his time in the woods is unmatched by any writer that I’ve ever read. John Muir was a guy in love with his surroundings, and right now my daily ride through the Springtime perfume of the blooming North County San Diego citrus orchards is like making love with the wind. Minus John Muir of course, I don’t swing that way.
It’s not hard to determine where all of John Muir’s joy came from. A well-known story about him is that he was working in a factory making wagon wheels. One day a tool he was using slipped and struck him in the eye, nearly blinding him. Stuck in a dark room for six weeks he wondered if he would ever see again, and when he emerged with his vision still intact he saw the world – and his purpose – in an entirely different way. From that point on he vowed to be true to himself and dedicate his life to exploration and the study of plants. He promptly took off and walked 1000 miles from Indiana to Florida, then later went to California where he found his true calling. I used to think of this story often while I worked in the machine shop at my last job.
As I write this post I’m in the process of accepting a new job offer. It’s a position that pays good money with a stable company working for someone that I know is a decent human being. If I have to work for a living (as most of us do) I really can’t complain (yet, give me a few months haha). But I can’t help but look back on my time off and feel a bit wistful. Having had plenty of time to do the things I love on a daily basis (reading, biking, wandering) has left me in such a great mental state that I don’t want to lose it. But how to maintain it?
My detour into the Rest Area has provided me with my personal John Muir moment. I don’t want to spend my days behind a desk running on the wheel and destroying my health all for the sake of a paycheck. Of course I knew this before losing my job but it has been reinforced by recent events. It’s time for me to figure out a way to live a sustainable lifestyle that allows remaining true to myself while contributing to society in whatever form best fits my talents. I have no time for small-minded people that care only about the bottom line and use up people like me for their own petty, selfish gains. I’m heading in a new direction and have miles to go before I sleep. The next time I pull into the Rest Area it may be forever, and I have way too many of the truly important things to take care of before that time comes.
“This grand show is eternal. It is always sunrise somewhere; the dew is never dried all at once; a shower is forever falling; vapor is ever rising. Eternal sunrise, eternal dawn and gloaming, on sea and continents and islands, each in its turn, as the round earth rolls.”– John Muir