Monday, August 06, 2012


Toward Freedom XIV

There is no sword. There is just the bicycle, sunshine-yellow in this thickly overcast dawn. There is the ocean to the left, languid swells approaching, rising, breaking into foam somewhere below the riprap, out of my sight. Muscles, wind of passage, damp sea-scented air. The speed indicating sign reads 16 as I approach it. There is my seeking soul, hungry for beauty but often driven too fast to feel anything.
    Every once in a while I'm free to try something else. Pacific Coast Highway in a car can be a trial. Early in the morning it's easy but it's still a steel tunnel. Now there is the damp wind in my hair, even some raindrops on my face. The world passes by at a pace I can comprehend and accept. There's no plan. Just ride and see where we end up.
    We... the bicycle is Peregrine of-the-Flowers, frame made by Waterford to Grant Petersen's specifications and assembled by his Rivendell Bicycle Works. And God, although I'm a bit nervous about him. I think he enjoys my enjoyment, but that's a tough sell to a rational ex-Presbyterian, ex-evangelical infected with "seize the day" and "redeem the time" propaganda.
    Who knows anything about what human beings need? God is the only one I trust with this, and I suspect he has lots of surprises in store for everyone, if we leave our doors unguarded for a moment. I guard mine, I tell God what he's allowed to do and where he's permitted to touch. He doesn't seem to mind, but he never stops presenting me with images of freedom. Gradually I grow. Gradually new leaves spread. Gradually the bicycle and I roll westward. Some dolphins surface and dive, surface and dive, also going west.
    I have passed through Malibu once on a bike. I had other places on my mind and went on through. Today I stop and walk out onto the pier, watching surfers catch the low but long break off a rocky point near the beach. A raucous gull scolds me from the top of a post, and two smaller black birds squawk back from a lower post. Small breakers land themselves on the beach with a drawn-out sigh. Occasionally a bigger one thumps as it breaks. The surf break has far more surfers than waves, and when a surfer catches a green glassy rise he must thread a path through the others like a motorcycle on a rush-hour freeway. In Venice, a ride may last five seconds. Some of these people are riding the wave for 15 seconds as it peels away along the angled shore.
    Farther along is a major intersection. I guess this is Malibu proper, on the seaside flat below Pepperdine University's mesa. I ride around on the side streets, just looking to see what's here. It's 20 seconds in a car unless one is stopped by the light, or a minute if one is a determined road bicyclist putting in the day's miles. Being neither, I take a way less travelled and stumble upon a park whose ceramic tile gate invites me to take a closer look.
    Malibu Legacy Park started as a stormwater processing place and turned into a restoration and education project. Unlike most committee-designed art projects, this one is beautiful. Large sculptures of local animals stand up here and there: a coiled California king snake, a burrowing owl, a red-tailed hawk, a frog. Each has its skin or feather texture and color done with ceramic mosaic tiles by someone with an eye for delight and design. In this small area meet at least three different ecosystems, the central one being a vernal pool fed by the water reclamation facility. Right now it's nearly dry and the plants are mostly brown. In spring it's probably very colorful.
    I ride across the highway to take a look at the lagoon but it's being rebuilt. Years of misuse left it in a bad state, with no drainage. The reconstruction is supposed to take care of that. On the east side of the creek is the Adamzon House, a seaside getaway built in the 1930s. Its interior is decorated in locally made ceramic tile--something of a theme here, I see--but, as they're getting set up for a wedding, there will be no tours today. I walk around the grounds, enjoying the greenery, and then turn my nose east.
    Traffic has picked up. More surfers are arriving. Packs of bicyclists ride west and I'm glad I'm not with them; ride with a group and you see nothing but the back of the rider in front. I'm rather tired, so take several breaks to watch pelicans and breaking waves. Sand and water and rocks. The rocks came from the sea millions of years ago, pushed up by ongoing tectonic flow, to be torn down by storm and washed back into the sea, battered into pebbles, rounded, reduced to sand by more years of patient salty water. It's the stuff of sand sculpture, but not here. This sand is too coarse. The fines have all migrated to Venice, which is something of a mystery. Sand is always moving around.
    I keep moving, east, bending around to the south. I've seen a surfeit of wonders and am tired. Now I'm just pushing along, turning chemical energy into displaced air. The sky is becoming lighter as the clouds become thinner. They're still too think for the general light to be anything other than grey, but it's a lighter grey.
    Even this doesn't go unpunished. My Kansas upbringing: no pleasure until the work is done, and the work is never done. I feel as if I've sneaked in a bike ride, and God's presence in my life is colored by that upbringing. He, however, brings his own light to the grey clouds, and the light gradually turns into something more like a rainbow. A spectrum of possibilities.
    Don't quit. Please... just don't quit.
    OK, God... you keep your hand around the judges and I'll keep walking. Sometimes I wonder why. Whom else can I trust?

2012 August 6

Wednesday, August 01, 2012


Toward Freedom XIII

I've been drifting the last couple of days, not thinking in any depth, nor doing much beyond the basics. This has been a problem in other times. I'm defined by mind and action.
    God has a different view. My importance to him doesn't change with my moods. He walks with me even when I can't walk, waiting for me. Patience doesn't even enter into it. The appearance of patience is the perceptual pigeonhole I put the behavior into. The reality is something else. Most patience isn't very patient. People tap their feet, check their Email or texts, every sign pointing toward "Let's get on with it." God's waiting is a wholly different thing. More like the waiting of a plant to grow. Each day to itself, at its own pace.
    I did think a little bit, and slowly, about being affected by the future. To go back to my trip-to-Poughkeepsie analogy: it's not my responsibility to try to predict if there will be problems there when I've just left Lock Haven. That's just completely outside my control and ken. I can choose when to leave Lock Haven, though. Not a good idea to join rush hour, and it makes sense to have fuel for the motorcycle and for me... and watch out for that pedestrian darting out from between the cars. We'll deal with Poughkeepsie when we get there.
    It's a curious state I find myself in. It's as if pushed a couple of anvils off my shoulders.

2012 August 1

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