Friday, September 05, 2008


Originally uploaded by rod lewis
August 4, 2008
Flagstaff, Arizona
400 miles (3,500)

On the move again. I just spent seven days in one general location, and I gotta say, it didn’t take seven days to make me antsy. Nevertheless, I had a hard time to pulling away from Santa Fe – both physically and emotionally. There were people still around Sunday morning with whom I’d forged fledgling relationships. Having stayed put for so long, I’d accumulated paper, and info, etc, and scattered my life about the room. So after a nice long organizational and packing period, and then a leisurely goodbye brunch, I didn’t move toward the road until after 1:00pm.
As I was flitting about, showering, packing, and getting in order, I noticed a field about 20 yards from my campsite. It was contained by a split-rail fence, filled with that rare covering of grass and decorated with horseshoe pegs, bike ramps and other sundry recreation happiness. I had not noticed that field in the seven days I’d been around. Granted, I’d come in very late every night, and left quite early. I had not explored the campground, but I do tend to notice things. Beyond my normal ability to see things, I had also been in a sort of training for taking it all in and pondering my surroundings. So I realized that I’d come to the site each night without regard for it’s delights. That is, beyond the outrageous night sky with its backlit milkyway swath spanning the entire sky, it’s Jupiter shining brightly as the moon, its dependable consistency of shooting stars, and its nocturnal constant call of coyotes.
I set about taking in everything I encountered as I rode off toward Albuquerque, where I’d turn West and follow the legendary Route 66 to Flagstaff. The Sandias shone their normal brilliance as I neared Albuquerque, and when my attention turned right, I was confronted with ominous cloudage. Nothing new, I’ve been dealing with this eastern normality everyday since I’ve left home, but I seem to have brought it with me to the normal arid southwest, where I’ve given much appreciated drinks to the landscape, even as I feel the water being sucked out of my body.
When I entered Arizona again, seven days after I’d skirted its northwest corner for a half hour, I was confused when I stopped at the welcome center to dry out and armor myself against the increasingly foreboding storm clouds, and found it to be an hour earlier than I thought it was, though the sky and dim cloud covered light seemed to indicate I was correct. It took me several hours to remember that Arizona does not appreciate daylight savings time. So I’d gained an hour, but only in theory. No extra daylight.
The extra hour did forgive my late departure, and afforded me a long, slow ride through the Painted Desert and Petrified forest, where frankly I was quite surprised. As the park ranger had promised, the dampness I was encountering was a small price for the extra beauty it bestowed on the landscape. Extremely dark eastern skies framed the badlands with colorful desert foliage, all dimly spotlit from a beautiful, if struggling, sunset. Lightning accented the background, and the rain on the formations sent out a glow of gorgeosity.
I must admit, that when I entered the park at the last possible moment, I realized that I was definitely low on fuel due to the beating high winds and but irresponsibly opted to chance the ride with my remaining gasoline fumes. Through the gate, my odometer read 100 miles, and I had 47 miles to the next fuel stop. I went on reserve at 106 miles and was sure I’d never make it out on my bike. I was careful to do the 28 park miles at 35 mph, and the 19 wilderness miles at 50, despite the 65mph speed limit.
I rolled into Holbrook and added 3 more miles before I found fuel. I filled my tank with 3.98 gallons, the most I’ve ever used. I guessed that .02 gallon must be equivalent to a teaspoon. I literally could not have made it to the next street corner. I sighed, sat quietly behind the station and thanked God for bringing back to civilization via motorized propulsion rather than by foot, through the desert, through the chilly rain, in the dark.
When I climbed back on in Holbrook, I had 90 miles to travel to Flagstaff, in the dark. The storms became more fierce for this last leg, and pelted me the entire way. I reached my campsite chilled to the bone and quite tired. I set up the tent, crawled in and lay there in the Arizona gravel listening to the rain hit the tent and pondered the beauty of decay.

Perhaps it is only in ourselves that we see decay as ugly. No one could possibly deny the exquisite beauty of the mesas of New Mexico, whose edges seem to crumble before your very eyes. The Piñon snags against the blue sky call out to a hidden part of the soul and expose dying places into which new life needs to be invited. The palpability of the fragile ecosystem here makes it easier to see how pain and struggle, is the very sustenance of health, and thriving. When immersed in this world, one ceases to see the strong and thriving preying on the weak and struggling. One begins to realize that the strong sacrifice that others may thrive and survive.
The strength of the dying and decaying can only be visible in the surviving and thriving. But for any to thrive, death is required – the sacrificial death that feeds us, and the denying of ourselves in return.
I am an ecosystem. Death and sacrifice are commonplace in parts of my being, but the decay of my parts fertilizing and nourishes and brings strength and vitality to my other parts. With this intellectual knowledge, it is embarrassing to confess the oft contemplated mourning, and dwelling on the decay rather than the emergent, growing life that is nourished by it.

ALMIGHTY and everliving God, we most heartily thank thee, for that thou dost vouchsafe to feed us who have duly received these holy mysteries, with the spiritual food of the most precious Body and Blood of thy Son our Saviour Jesus Christ.