I visit the log a few times a week. It’s on one of my dog-walking routes, close to the entrance of a local park. I’m not sure how the log got there or how long it has been rotting next to the trail. I just know that one day last year, on the way home from a mountain bike ride with friends, we stopped to see if we could ride it. We dragged another, smaller log up to it, to create a smoother entry, and then a mini-session ensued. The log is neither fat nor skinny. Just after the entry, there are a couple of large knots that sit directly on its spine, and so you have to be rolling fast enough to carry your momentum through the knots, then just maintain your balance for the rollout and exit.
I rode the log. It is not the most amazing piece of riding, but I was very happy with it.
And since then, I daydream about the log constantly.
Maybe this is just coming from the fact I was off the bike for nearly a month with a back injury, but really, I think so much of my forward momentum with riding comes from my daydreams, and I’ve just gotten much more in tune with them since I’ve been off the bike. I have this idea that what’s going on really is that my brain is looking for some dopamine and suggesting a good way to get some, so it paints this idealized picture of what riding a bike might look like, because that’s where I’ve gotten that dopamine shot before.
This is worth paying attention to.
Most of my daydreams are about running or riding. In them, nothing hurts. Nothing is hard, or it’s hard but I’m in love with it being hard. Everything works. I’m flowing through space. It’s glorious, and the dream fades and I want it. I want to get out the door and get it.
The daydream though, is not at all like my actual experience of being out there on the trail. I won’t describe what that’s actually like, because you know. You’re out there. You know how fleeting those magic moments are.
When I was in college, I went through a film phase (doesn’t everyone?), and it was very much the time of Blue Velvet. I think of the opening scene, the idyllic neighborhood, the white picket fence, the too bright music, roses in full bloom, then things turn sinister, a man has a heart attack watering his yard, the camera panning down to a seething mass of insects just beneath the surface, the rot right there, just barely out of view.
So much of what we say about being outdoors is idealized, the hard parts and pain conveniently excised, all of it polished and perfect.
David Lynch used Roy Orbison’s haunting In Dreams as the anchor for his soundtrack. Orbison sang:
A candy-colored clown they call the sandman
Tiptoes to my room every night
Just to sprinkle stardust and to whisper
“Go to sleep. Everything is all right.
The paradox is that, even though we will suffer the indignities of our bodies out on the road or trail, everything really is alright. Oh, our backs will give way. We’ll cramp. We’ll sit by the side of the trail, soaked in sweat, wondering how we’ll hobble home. Maybe we piss our pants, or vomit. Maybe we cry.
We didn’t set out to break our own hearts. We wanted that dream run, that flowy ride, that left us feeling whole, not torn apart.
But just before the dawn, I awake and find you gone
I can’t help it, I can’t help it, if I cry
I remember that you said goodbye
That’s right. That’s reality intruding, the rot beneath the surface, our bodies unable to sustain the beautiful daydream.
But it’s alright, and it’s all right. Everything is just as it should be, the perfection of the daydream and the pain of reality. What’s remarkable is that sometimes, occasionally, the dream permeates the daylight, and mercifully, reality seldom ruins the dream.