I left Portland with dread. My tendons were still somewhat sore and I had made up my mind to visit a doctor once I hit Eugene, another three-days’ bike ride away at a modest pace. I didn’t know how my body would handle biking again, and on top of that, the weather report predicted a 70% chance of rain at every hour of the day! However, the rain became the least of my worries. Thirty miles into the ride, I stepped out of the Safeway grocery store with nut-butters, bananas, and other assorted road-food, sat on the curb, and sobbed. My tendons were getting worse, and from my internet research I feared that I may have done serious damage. Was this it? Had I sabotaged the tour so early into the journey? Resigned to taking whatever action was necessary, I called a friend and arranged for a place to stay in Eugene. A couple more calls and the rescue mission was set in motion: from Canby back to Portland, and then, when I learned that the evening train was running too late, to another friend’s house for the night. Fortunately, this gave me the opportunity to meet and befriend two fabulous, generous people—another Parish Collective connection, Candice and Brandon of Canby House and Springwater Community respectively—and spend more time with another fabulous, generous friend Angela. The next evening I arrived safely in Eugene by train.
I visited the doctor the following day and, thankfully, was told that no damage had apparently been done, and that rest and ice should do the trick. And scouring the online recumbent forums, I learned as well that changing to clipless pedals (ironically named, since they’re the kind that clip your foot into the pedals by a cleat at the bottom of your shoe) should also mitigate the difficulties I was having. That’s the unambiguously good news. The more ambiguously good news is…well, now here’s where boundaries get a little fuzzy. What I mean by that is, while communities and bicycle touring comprise the primary content of this blog, underlying all of this is the personal journey, the pilgrimage, so to speak. Typically, I write about that journey in private and will have to negotiate the boundaries of how public that writing becomes as I go. But I feel compelled to allow a little bleed-through here.
Now, if a pilgrimage is true to its name, the pilgrim soon finds him/herself, in some sense, losing control of the journey, necessitating greater surrender in faith to the journey itself and where it leads. Oftentimes, this loss of control occurs with the onset of some form of wounding. So perhaps it’s not coincidence that my physical injury has coincided with having to revisit a personal loss and the consequences of poor choices of the past, at the same time that commitment and stability have become recurring themes in my interviews, which has prompted a deeper realization of the lack of stability and enduring commitments in my own life. Even after having lived in community for nearly ten years (well, okay, three separate communities in that time period), I’ve never been so powerfully or painfully struck as I am now by my own self-defeating attitudes, evasions, and impulsive behavior that routinely sabotage the possibility of real stability, whether geographically, relationally, or vocationally.
This makes me wonder about the deeper questions of aspiring to commitment and stability for so many of us whose initial “household formation” took the shape of our conditioning in broken homes, in a broken culture that exalts the value of individual freedom and gratification often at the expense of stability and commitment, whose energies are engaged in expanding the opportunities and possibilities for that freedom to maneuver. However long it takes to realize that this path of unlimited options is a spiritual dead-end, ultimately destructive to people and planet, that realization is only the beginning. Having made the conscious choice to take a different path, the next step is to confront the myriad unconscious factors that militate against that intention; or to paraphrase Saint Paul, though my inner being delights to do God’s will, the habit-patterns forged in my mind, emotions, imagination, impulses, and attitudes follow a different law. And the journey toward integrity of intention and action is one of a lifetime and, I suspect, beyond.
The good news then, ambiguous as it might seem, is that, according to my spiritual director, these “wounds” and uncomfortable realizations indicate that the pilgrimage is on in earnest.
So the journey must continue. I hope to be biking again within the week, on to my next stop, Lost Valley Education Center and Ecovillage. In the meantime, my interview with pastor John Schwiebert of the Metanoia Peace Community will be published shortly, and soon thereafter, an extremely interesting, thought provoking conversation with Lysbeth Borie, a consensus trainer with the Alpha Institute.