Been a few weeks since I wrote, and longer since I rode the bike in earnest. A late February snowstorm excused my sloth, and I celebrated by eating everything I could find. I did have another birthday in there somewhere, with a great party at the restaurant. So now I’ve been on this planet 48 years, a Water Rabbit, a Pisces neurotic water head, spending my time crying whenever I hear the right evocative movie or story or music. Boundaries shifting and merging, making it harder to figure out who I am, what I want, where I am going. Fine enough, since recently I haven’t really been going anywhere too fast.
Backpedaling? With a freewheel, you don’t really go backwards. Instead you just find yourself coasting more. Only with a fixed gear bike would backpedaling really mean slowing down, reversing course, or stopping in your tracks, if your legs are strong enough. But for me, backpedaling means letting myself slip, back into old habits, into laziness, into free fall. Giving back hard won progress. Watching the waistline creep up again, the belt get tighter. Feeling the longing to return to the open road, the journey on two wheels, the quest for self discovery, for transcendence. Itching to take off on another adventure, somewhere, anywhere but here.
Today, a massive earthquake struck Japan, 8.9 on the Richter scale, and with it a devastating tsunami which hit coastal cities with a wall of water 30 feet high. The death toll will be in the thousands, and the loss of property in the billions. I spent the morning watching footage with dark fascination, amazed at how the huge churning waves engulfed ports, tossed cars and ships about like toys in a child’s bathtub, entire buildings torn from their foundations and crushed into oblivion in seconds. Any illusions that one could outrun such a wave were shattered as I saw how fast and complete the black water moved over the lowlands. Reports said the wave was traveling across the Pacific at 500 miles an hour. Fast as a jet. The surge flooded Kona in Hawaii. Yachts, docks and fishing boats were damaged in Santa Cruz, Crescent City and Depot Bay.
This afternoon I drove over to Yachats to see the ocean and to take a ride in a brief window of clear skies before the rain returned. Strong winds seemed to be making the surf larger than normal. Or was it the tsunami? Clearly not much danger here, for me on the land, though the Coast Guard warned that currents were unpredictable at sea.
But something else would be forever changed. No longer could I pretend to see the ocean as a place of infinite peace and safety, where the constant surf would lull me to sleep. No longer would the land, the stone, the earth seem a firm foundation. Shawn commented on just how strange the Earth really is, that what we call solid ground is really just a thin scum floating on molten rock. A massive fireball. Our continents are merely the film floating on a sea of fire. How horrifying and precious and vital such an understanding of life would be. All the life that has ever existed on the Earth, all that ever would, has lived and will live on this remarkably narrow place, the razor’s edge, the boundary between the world of fire and the vastness of infinite space. The surface alternately heated by another even more massive fireball and cooled by the depths of the cosmic void. Humbling in the extreme.
My prayers go out to all the people who lost their lives, their loved ones, their homes in Japan. And to all the people in war-torn countries, struggling for safety and freedom. And for all of the human family, who share this precious moment on this unlikely world. May we truly embrace and celebrate the gift of life, so fragile, so spectacular, so real. We don’t have any time to waste. To make this world a place of justice, and peace, and love – the time is now.