A Velveteen Goodbye…

“… all the knowledge gathered from your past has finally enabled you to arrive here with everything you need to begin the great work, no matter how old you are. It will take a long time;
it might take the rest of your life.”
~ Jonathan Carroll

Yesterday, Miss Gracie received another clean bill of health from my mechanic … the last one before our journey. And yesterday, I said my goodbyes to Lady Seneca. As I stood by her shores, the wonderful, wet scents of midsummer swirled ’round me … the waves were big, crashing as if ocean tides on the rocks. The gulls skreed, the herons winged their way home. The mallard couples watched their young as they learn to paddle. There is no doubt I will miss these green hills and temperamental waters, the changing of blues to greens to grays; and in many ways Geneva will always be home to my heart and soul … but there is also no doubt that it is time to move on, to strike out as my own ancestors did several hundred, and some even a thousand, years ago to find new lands, and a new home.

Later that afternoon, a providential moment told me all I needed to know: On the way home, I stopped at my Grandmother’s grave for one last “Goodbye.” As many of you know, she helped raise me for seven years and was the only stability I had in my young life. As I crouched by her gravestone, whispering my gratitude and farewell, tears began to sting my eyes … in that moment, I realized I’d never actually said goodbye before, though she has been gone since 1979 and I’d left – and returned – a few times. I thought I had, but I’d never truly let go in my heart. This time, 39 years later, it was different. And I knew it.

Standing up, I touched my lips to my fingers, blew a kiss and turned to go. Suddenly I saw a beautiful deep red rosebush in full bloom, just a few grave markers away. My Grandmother adored her roses … she had dozens of bushes, but most especially loved those flushed crimson ones. The ones with petals soft as velvet and a scent that lingers in one’s soul forever. She and I spent many hours caring for them when I was a child. We’d follow the horse trails, collecting the dried manure, we’d prune the bushes with love and conversation, and she’d often pick a prized bloom and gently float it in a crystal bowl to adorn our dining room table. It was her luxury. When I moved to NY in 2002, I’d promised that I would plant a rose bush at her grave … of course, I never got around to it. Time passes so quickly, and I was always too busy. But here, within a few dozen feet, stood this exquisite thicket of red. In all the times I’d visited that spot, I’d never seen it before. In deeply humble gratitude, I silently plucked two …

One for she. One for me. Thank you, Grandma.

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Just 7 Days….

“If I’m an advocate for anything, it’s to move. As far as you can, as much as you can. Across the ocean, or simply across the river. The extent to which you can walk in someone else’s shoes or at least eat their food, it’s a plus for everybody. Open your mind, get up off the couch, move.”
~ Anthony Bourdain

Just 7 days to go before these wheels start rolling once again, and a new Ride begins.
Hope you’ll stay tuned for stories from the road….

Addendum to a Suicide…

“Death is my redemption,” she whispered…
~ Dianna Hardy

Today, celebrity chef and traveler Anthony Bourdain was found dead … suicide. Three days ago, designer Kate Spade. Robin Williams. Ernest Hemingway. Diane Arbus. Dana Plato. George Reeves. Junior Seau. Jeanne-Paule Deckers (The Singing Nun). Many others. We sometimes forget that these stars and superstars were more than celebrities, more than a face on a television set or a competitor on an athletic field, or a reclusive artist, designer,  singer … they were people. People who played as children, laughed when tickled, wept when their first lover broke their heart, and learned to drive at the hands of a nervous teacher. They got good grades and they failed some courses, too. They teased their friends, they talked back to their parents. They danced to their favorite music, probably ate dozens of ice cream cones and skinned their knees. They grew up to love others and to find a way to express their soul. But did we pay any attention to that? Or did we only see the facade, the mask of celebrity-dom?

Today many on social media are expressing sadness at the self-inflected death of Mr. Bourdain … someone who seemed to “have it all”. What I find more tragic – not only about his death, but about all of the other thousands of people who choose to end their life every year – is that we often fail to find the time, or make the effort, to see behind the mask, the smiles, or the laughs. Do we know the meaning of the tattoos they proudly wear, or why they wandered into the world of drugs or alcohol? Do we know why they chose the profession they did, or why they moved across the country, or the world? Do we know of the darkness or the tears; the fear, the pain? Do we care for anything beyond the persona we see on a 52″ screen or a concert stage … or past the idle “hey, howareya” we unthinkingly ask as we pass a friend on the street?

Many are posting the National Suicide Hotline number (1-800-273-8255), and while it may help some, few will reach out and call in that moment of desperation and blackness. I have walked that tightrope twice in my life, and it is a space – a blackhole – like no other. It is not a place of rationality.

The truth of the matter is that it is up to us, individually and as a collective, to help … to connect more, and more often. To connect deeper and with real meaning. To take the time. To make the the time. Just because someone seems to be widely admired or “loved”, “have it all” or supposedly has thousands of “friends”, it does not make them any less human; it does not mean they are not hurting inside, or worried, frightened, or lonely. We need to look past ourselves, to look past our own tiny little world, and into the hearts of others … before it is too late. Before they get to that moment in time from where they can never return.

Reach out … every day … to someone. To your friends, to your family. Talk … and listen. Listen to their stories, their heartbreaks, their loves and losses. Listen and learn about their moments of joy, their accomplishments, their proudest hour. Ask questions, learn about them. Connect. Stuff is just stuff, and it can all disappear in a heartbeat, or with a match. Things can be rebuilt, re-bought, re-made. A living soul cannot. Reach out. Now. Please….

An addendum to the “Addendum”: I realize this may seem to have nothing to do with “The Ride”, but I recently wrote to the question of why I do what I do. And this connection is exactly why … it is the point of why I ride.