This ecstatic landscape

Florence to Newport, 53 miles

How many times have I ridden these miles. My home stretch. Favorite coastline. Childhood playground.

This ecstatic landscape. Stunning vistas. Rugged mountains meet the sea. Swells break on volcanic rock ledges. Long beaches tempt the lonely soul, to walk, reflect, meditate, discover.

Of some 2000 miles of the US Pacific Coast highways, the stretch between Newport and Florence are some of the most spectacular miles. Forested headlands, barren sandy beaches, now an easy ride.

In just a week, I will be cycling another ecstatic landscape, the Big Sur coastline. At first I thought Big Sur to be too arid, desert brush, sheer rock faces, so few trees. Now its emptiness calls me. My soul needs to cycle those miles, empty my mind, release the grief in my heart, find my center again.

The natural world holds such healing powers. The loneliness seems easier to encounter, to tolerate, to release, when confronted with what is our source, nature itself. How simple to lose sight of this, in the fray and chaos of the city, the work life, the economic stress of a daily grind.

I’m eager to return to Big Sur, and apprehensive. I know I will lose myself, and thus find myself again on those beautiful, lonely miles, just as certain as I will find friendship in the many strangers I meet along the road. Just as certain as the tenderness and passion I carry in my heart, for my beloved.

My ride today reminds me that inspiration comes from many sources. A favorite poem speaks to me now, Wild Geese, by Mary Oliver. My rendition:

Full text of the poem:

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

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