Last week I was visiting with a friend that I hadn’t seen in a month. We had both been gone on different trips and he asked me about my recent two week motorcycle adventure down the California coast. I sat there thinking about it I could not really find words adequate to describe it. As I fumbled with my response to the question my friend rescued me with the word solitude.
He was right. That was exactly what was so meaningful about this trip. The experience of solitude creates time for contemplation about the existential questions of life. The gift of solitude is that it is a time for self reflection where I get to renegotiate the terms of my contract with myself about how I choose to live life.
As I rode mile after mile I experienced transcendence.
I recognized the weight of the recent past while simultaneously I felt it lifting off my shoulders as I embraced the journey and lost myself into total concentration on the ride.
This was a familiar feeling and something I had journaled about in my travels many times before. It basically boils down to the expression of “You have to get lost in order to find yourself.”
Most days I would ride listening to music that energized me to power through the the smoke and extreme heat of the desert sections that preceded arrival at the cool coast line.
When I arrived at the Redwood forest I was able to let go of all the noise in my head and turn off the music. I felt a spiritual rebirth happening.
Looking up at these gentle giants and recognizing that their lives predate my own (and will continue long after I am gone) is both humbling and awe inspiring. Every troubling thought falls away and I feel nurtured through the soft texture of ferns, fog, and dappled sunlight.
The long dark vertical lines of the tree trunks invite me to look up in prayer and self reflection. Standing in a patch of sunlight bearing witness to the beauty of the forest gives me hope and optimism.
Nature provides a complete illustration the cycle of life and death in the forest and by thinking about it I feel better prepared to live.
This epiphany is neither new or original. It is only the initiation into a life affirming awareness that was perhaps best summarized by Thoreau when he wrote, “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”