I’ve turned over a new leaf, or new spoke, in that I bike on the NC Triangle’s Tobacco Trail once or twice a week. It’s a converted rail track that spans about 24 miles and is straight and flat. I do about 16 miles which is the limit of my artificial ankle and a goodnight’s sleep. Most times I go with my friend, Larry Williams, aka Kayak Larry. We pedal next to each other down the path starting in New Hill for about 5 or 6 miles as I regale him why everyone is against me and that life has never, ever given me a fair shake. Oh, the injustice! But after 30 minutes or so, Larry accelerates down the trail without me like the Roadrunner does in those cartoons; then waits for me at a cross street or rest station in the next town. What can I say, my name is mud.
But lately Larry has been on a long sojourn in Italy followed by hikes in Western NC on the App Trail and Blue Ridge Parkway. I miss him, but the solitude and my ITunes playlist make it bearable. During the week when everyone is working, the trail is lightly traveled, and November is almost the end of summer so autumn is the perfect time to pedal. Solitude meets low humidity.
With my playlist punched in, I scissor down the path with an Elise Robineau Adagio. I imagine I’m riding on the crushed stone path that belts around Lake Lucerne in an early morning mist, then “Billy’s Theme” by Jessica Williams, puffing the perimeter of Manhattan’s Central Park. Three miles in, I thumb a short Zydeco tune – the perfect bike music. The Creole music is brief because in the middle of the woods, I don’t want to reach even the lowest edge of Tachycardia. With “Bye, Bye Boozoo” by Beau Soliel, I’m pedaling on the flat expanse next to Bayou Teche in Louisiana. Then Stephane Grappelli in Paris and Oscar Peterson almost anywhere. What fun! I’m positive everyone I passed must have admired my form. In the music, I pedaled like a dizzy snake. We can’t always go through life riding the break.
I also biked with happy thoughts knowing I finally solved the ointment issue. Men, unlike women, develop certain medical issues when biking (okay, okay…chafing). As you know, unlike the female, men have outside plumbing…I’ll say no more. On previous rides, I’ve tried an ointment from our medicine cabinet that Donna had recommended a week or two before. It had a long name that I thought started with the letter “m”. She told me afterwards that I used the wrong ointment on two consecutive occasions – the tube I applied had the opposite medicinal remedy, i.e., skin tightening. Of course, this must be all her fault. In her defense, Donna told me, somewhat unconvincingly, she left the appropriate tube by our sink. My defense is that the “m” tube I chose looked important, and besides, I wasn’t paying much attention to her when she was advising me, and besides that the print on the tube was too small to read. No matter, I forgive her.
Third time is a charm though. I wrote bike in bold magic marker on the correct ointment and brought it with me in my bike bag.
But that got me thinking. Why do men have outside plumbing and women the reverse? In other words, why does God like women more than men? Any argument to the contrary will provoke a question by me, “Have you ever been in a baseball catcher’s stance and missed a fastball without the benefit of support? Well, have you?”
That’s a question only God can answer. I kept thinking, though, and started to put the playlist in the background and wonder about God. With age I try to seek the experience of God instead of just reading what others have written. In a paradoxical way, that experiencing leads back to thought. After several mile markers on the trail, the Our Father suddenly popped in my head and I started reciting it. It’s my go-to prayer from Matthew. I always say it as a first gesture of worship when I go to Mass. Perhaps because it’s so grand in scope, so full of God’s purpose. I thought about how many times I’ve said that prayer (6 times in the rosary…6 times forever) and not focused on the 2 words in the title. If I’d thought about it at all, it was in an ethereal way. If you’re a Christian, you believe that God is the Father of the trinity, the Creator, and through inference, our father. John says God is love; He is with us always, comforting, teaching, guiding, correcting, and hoping we obey His will. Hard to see for us sometimes, although easier to see in other people’s lives.
I know that, but the thing I ran through my mind on the Trail and became a deeper realization. He is my father – he sent Bud and Millie to be my parents (and great parents they were!), but in the bigger picture, His love encompasses all His creation – and by creation, I mean all of us. Bud and Millie were my and my sister’s parents and He, being our father, was theirs. Just as my sister, Nancy, and I, are parents now, and so on and so on. He is our father in fact and not just spiritually. See what I mean? My bike goes in a straight direction, but my thoughts go circular.
On the one hand regarding worship, I thought about the fact that I’m an alcoholic and alcoholics have large egos – it’s baked in. I can easily veer from intimacy and worship of God to my own self-importance – and I’m cognizant of that danger. I can make myself the biggest profile on God’s tapestry of faith – so a push-back occurs, and I strive to humble myself, limit myself to being one link on the theological chain and a small one at that. It may make me humble, but if I raise the guardrails too high, I make God humble as well. And God is not humble.
No He’s not.
On the other hand, my worship can be filled with another tension. As I get older, I realize more and more that we’re in the post-modern age of relativism where culture cuts God’s anchor chain of truth, and we consequently substitute ourselves as the last word on morality. Even many believers do this at times, and I’m not excluding myself. During the ride, I think about my time left in this world, and to retrench and use it to follow God. To obey…even when I don’t understand, even when it’s hard, even when I don’t agree, or think it’s just, even when I don’t understand. I will do it imperfectly, but I will try.