My name's Dave. I'm working on it.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Catching Signals That Sound in the Dark

There is a contradiction here somewhere, see if you can spot it.
What started out as a simple journey to Target to use up the last of a gift card a friend had given me turned into much, much more.
I rode along the bike path overlooking I-205, all the cars and trucks gliding along down the hill from me. Nick Drake sang softly to me. Dandelions dotted the path on both sides, and above me, the most incredibly blue sky. A perfect day for riding.
I got to Target and looked for Cadbury eggs. No luck. People seem to swarm upon stores before Easter is even past to claim them all... ah well. I finished my other business in the store and returned outside. It is curious how stores like Target, Circuit City and the like never have bike racks in front of them. I guess they assume no one rides to such places. On one occasion this gave me reason to actually take Lyra inside a Circuit City with me, which was fun. She usually gets left outside; I could feel her excitement.
I rode away from Target and back along the I-205 path. The album was progressing, and I rode back towards home. When I reached the exit, I decided to try exploring a bit rather than head straight home. I knew there was supposed to be a cemetary somewhere around there, the Willamette National if I remember right. Probably a military graveyard like the one seen in Harold and Maude, or the one where my grandfather was buried. Rows upon rows of identical white markers, stretching out forever. I wanted somewhere to sit in the shade and read. A friend had recently bought me a copy of Hesse's Narcissus and Goldmund, and I had become quite taken with it.
The road opened up to the right, and all I knew was that this was the general direction... I rode a ways and the path began to wind uphill... always off to my right were trails leading into what looked like paths through woods. I asked a man waiting for the bus which way the cemetary was. His English was poor but he repeated 'cemetary' back to me and gestured up the hill a ways. I thanked him and kept on.
The hill grew steeper and I shifted gears and kept pedaling, starting to sweat. There were trees everywhere, I felt as if I were nearing a forest. On my left I saw a large church. I kept riding, the road winding around and around, and then I found it. Or at least, I found something.
Lincoln Memorial Park was not what I had been searching for. But there it was, a cemetary built into the hillside itself, cement paths winding themselves among the tombstones and trees, going up up up. I rode and rode, climbing. It went on for what seemed like an eternity, but I know it felt that way simply because it was so steep.
Halfway up the hill I passed their mausoleum, a giant white building. I stopped inside for a moment, and left almost immediately; the air smelled dead and dank. Stale. I wanted to feel life today.
I kept riding up, and finally got near the point where I saw no more hill rising above me. I was almost to the top.
When I finally got there, I found a gazebo-like structure, a perfect resting place. There were plots and graves even up here, and countless trees and squirrels and insects. I parked Lyra by one column and sat down at the opposing one, taking off my pack and pulling out the book.
I read, and wrote, and breathed. It felt so peaceful be up so high, with a clear view of most of the city stretching out before me. There was no one around for miles in each direction. I read and looked around and reflected. I am grateful that more people don't choose to take comfort in the serenity of graveyards. There was nowhere else I could have been so completely, wonderfully alone.
Life came at me and overwhelmed me. Maybe it was reading Narcissus and Goldmund, maybe it was the sound of the wind in the trees. But I felt life filling me up, and I felt joyous and calm and utterly present. I wrote a few pages, and sat leaning against the column, receiving everything and marveling that life was so impossibly infinite and wondrous.
You see, for the last several weeks I've been feeling extremely disconnected from real life, giving in to excess time on the MacBook Pro and texting on my cell phone. I've felt more and more cut off from myself and my ability to breathe and speak truth.
When I sat there today, it came flooding back upon me like a great wave. Life! I am here. I'm reading a book. I like the trees and the quiet. How fucking wondrous it is to be alive.
Before I left I wrote a note to myself, asking how I might be able to retain this sense of calm and clarity when in my day-to-day life, how to remember to just be, and be amazed. I didn't have an answer.
But having felt it so strongly, I know that I will not forget it.
I put my things away and suited up for the ride home. Clicked on Neutral Milk Hotel's In the Aeroplane Over the Sea and set out. The way up had been an excruciating uphill climb.
The way home felt like flying.

What a beautiful face
I have found in this place
That is circling all round the sun
And when we meet on a cloud
I'll be laughing out loud
I'll be laughing with everyone I see
Can't believe how strange it is to be anything at all

1 comment:

  1. my thoughts are with you, my friend~
    these ears are open if you need them~
    I am here.