The soft morning light slowly unveiled my long shadow dancing on the asphalt in front of me as I crested the short hill on my bicycle. Careless and free with elbows jutting outward from my handlebars, my silhouette swung back and forth, left and right — a rhythmic pattern in-sync with my effortless breathing — like Dorothy’s Scarecrow skittering up the Yellow Brick Road, off to see the Wizard.
The rising sun warmed the nap of my neck and cast a golden tint on the stunning pre-fall colors, the Maples and Oaks pumped up to an intense raging green about to explode into a multitude of orange, yellow and red. Like a painter with smooth, confident strokes, the image playfully leapt to life inviting me to follow its lead.
The scratching sound of the tires gripping the pavement set a hip-hop beat. The scent of pine flashed through my nasal passages, replaced by the sweet forest aroma that transported me back to my youth, hiking through Bishop Woods on the last days of summer freedom before school would start again. All five senses screamed with anticipation on this stellar morning.
Seven months earlier the physical effort to charge up this incline sparked an internal change of gears, from aerobic to anaerobic training. The shortness of breath and burn of lactic acid in my thighs seized control of my attention.
Back then I was oblivious to the big picture, even though the light was nearly the same from the parallel positioning of the sun to the solstice. The temperatures were much more chilling then as winter transformed to spring, rather than summer to fall.
But today, oh, today was so different. Change was eminent. I could sense it.
Strange how autumn is my time of awakening instead of spring. I’ve felt it before, this overwhelming awareness of the moment. They call it “the zone” in athletics, when everything appears to move in slow motion, allowing the senses to create individual harmony. The mind and body become one, and magical things happen. In my life, these moments wake me up like splashing cold water from a mountain creek on my face.
This wakeup call sent a clear message. Like a cold waterfall drenching me, every cell in my body sprung to life. A chill ran up my spine, not down. My life, once again, felt perfect. The images that cascaded through my head were Debbie, Sierra and Taylor. Three beaming smiles of the girls who make me what I am. Their love blinded me for second. What followed was the feeling that life just doesn’t get any better than this.
As I said, though, I’ve felt this before. I can never get enough of it.
I experienced it on the eve of heading of to college, spending that evening with with my girlfriend Tasha, soaking up every bit of its essence, instinctively knowing that when the sun would rise, things would never again be the same. That would be fine. Better than fine. Actually, it would be inspiring.
The first time I held Debbie in my arms it hit me, too. It felt so natural. No, supernatural. My heart knew we were soul mates even though we barely knew each other. Her kiss aroused a sense deep inside of me that screamed “I want to kiss this woman for the rest of my life.” At the same time it calmed me with the knowledge it would be reality.
The wave of emotion also hit me the night we sat on the grassy knoll of Alpine Valley Amphitheater, with a bright full moon rising over the forest beyond the stage. As purple lights bathed Bruce Springsteen sitting on a stool; with guitar and harmonica strung around his neck, he sang “Racing in the Streets” hitting me straight in the heart.
“Some guys they just give up living,
Start dying little by little,
Piece by piece
Some guys come home from work
And wash up,
And go racing in the streets.”
Not long after that Debbie and I were toasting a new adventure, heading off to California with no jobs or promises, just the essential belongings and our hearts filled with dreams so as not to start dying, little by little, piece by piece.
Of course, there was the night sitting around the campfire in the Sawtooth Mountains of Idaho, when the light of the moon sparkling across the gentle ripples of Lake Alturus signaled clearly there was only one way to improve on the perfection of life we enjoyed. Eleven months later, after 14 years of marriage, Sierra rocked our world. Just two years later, Taylor followed.
These moments of epiphany seem to come more frequently as I get more in touch with myself. Abstinence created a clearer view of everything. Yoga and meditation brought the clarity to another level. Ginseng managed to crank it up yet another notch.
At the same time that I feel on top of the world, I’m saddened. I remember countless times of explaining to friends and family these wondrous moments when I sense that if my life were any more full I might explode. I only see an emptiness in their eyes. They have no idea what I’m talking about. They haven’t made it to this place yet. My single wish for the world is that everyone finds it not once, but often. As I do.
The ability to wake up each day and know that it will be better than the last. To just know that life has much more in the future than you could ever imagine, then to experience it, and know that more is yet to come makes my heart literally rise and float around the room like a graceful eagle in the sky, able to see the minute details that often slip past even the most perceptive people.
That is the cloud of wonder I rode on this morning. I know things won’t be the same again. Something is in the air. Like waking up on Christmas morning, I can’t wait to see what it will be, because I know the change would be for the best. As usual, I must note the date for future reference: 9-11-01.
NOTE: I sat down at my desk after my ride in that morning and wrote all of the above. Just as I finished, Joe Salas walked in and asked if I have been listening to the radio. I said no. He said something was going on in New York … Never forget.