Clearly, the trip over the weekend was wonderful, and yet it was one of those times when I really wanted to be enrapt but just wasn't. The landscape was beautiful, the company entertaining, and I love to ride my bike, but I didn't feel subsumed in the experience or the place. I talked to D about this deadened feeling a bit yesterday and the fact that she could relate to this experience was comforting--she has such a good emotional perspective (you do, D, you do).
Beyond that, I could recite for you a narrative of events, or a list of facts and figures, but reading text on the internet isn't the same thing as stepping outside, strapping stuff on a bike, and going, going, going.
The other thing that really stuck in my mind was conversations with one of my traveling companions, P. I should back up for a moment and mention my connections to the entirety of the group, because it was not a gang of the usual suspects. Well, one suspect was kind of usual, a grad student with a professed love of bikes and interest in touring. The other three are people who I have gotten to know through biking in various formats (the co-op, bike rides, biking-related events, bike shops)--it seems that K is right that like-minded people end up eventually finding each other here, whether through usual or unusual channels.
Anyway, one of the other riders is a "ships in the night" sort of person for me--even when we are in the same space, we can't quite talk to each other in a straightforward way, but look past each other and see mostly ourselves. I wouldn't ever expect to be able to really talk and don't necessarily want to be able to, but this slippery quality makes me think of other people with whom I've had transient connections but who have nonetheless had a disproportionate impact on me. In the present case, our infrequent contact and conversations give us interesting perspectives on each other. The previous time I had talked to him he said he was quite pleased with how his life was going, what with a switch to a new, stable job, and that he wasn't really looking to date anyone or make any drastic changes to his life--things were good. Subsequently, of course, he proceeded to start dating another biker, which is another great thing for him, and on the present trip he could not contain his joy about having a job that lets him do what he loves, a great girlfriend, and opportunities to do incredible things like go bike touring for a weekend through beautiful country.
As a transient outsider, I couldn't help but agree--his life does sound like it's going well. Yet something about the conversation bothered me, but not in any way I could articulate to him or myself (I don't really have to articulate the bother to him, but to myself, I must always articulate). I thought of my own life, which is also going well by many such standards--I do like the emotional rollercoaster of my academic profession, I have the opportunity to do the many things I love (rowing, biking, Scrabble, etc.), and I am surrounded by loved ones.
And yet--it is the "and yet" in my brain that makes me wonder and that reminded me of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs
(read the entry for both definitions and criticisms--even if incorrect, the concept has utility). All of the things that he has described and that I have described for myself fill our basic human needs for a sense of security and even more "advanced" needs like a feeling of participating in a larger context and making a positive contribution to society. At least for me, though, there's no way for me to stop striving and seeking out more, more, more, and I don't mean the material more or the social more or the artistic more. I just mean the beyond. I could tell you that I accept this truth of myself, but I don't, always. Right now I think the "more" lies in a need for a connection to the land (is this "more" merely the restlessness described by Berry?), but I don't know for sure until I try the thing out.
Last night I went on another bike ride with a larger group of people--since it's a week before a major Christian holiday, we decked ourselves out in festive colors and played Christmas carols as we rode through the neighborhoods. I attached dangly snowflakes to my handlebars, where they twirled in the wind, and hung a Jolly Gnome Ornament from my saddle. In the darkness, riding my bike felt safely dangerous and fast, and as always the lights on the sleeping lake drew me in as we rode alongside.