“Upon the upland road
Ride easy, stranger:
Surrender to the sky
Your heart of anger.”
James K. Baxter
This is the second half of the poem “High Country Weather” by James K. Baxter. Along with other poems, this was gifted to us by my mum as we left NZ.
Little did I know at the time of departing NZ that the words of this poem would become so valuable as we cycle.
As well as simply exploring some new countries we hoped that this year of travelling slowly would allow us to enjoy some new rhythms, to take some time out from normality in the hope of having time to reflect and grow our inner selves.
After three months I can see it takes quite a while to learn to properly slow down and enjoy the chance to live with new routines and opportunities. Time and time again there is the temptation to rush, an inner pressure to squeeze in more experiences, to get somewhere quicker, to keep moving. I am slowly learning to ‘ride easy’. Slowly learning. A work in progress.
Amongst the cycle touring community the commonly spoken of enemies are headwinds and rough roads. We’ve several times met with these two so-called enemies. To begin with they drove me crazy, they slowed me and frustrated me, it was easy to fear them. Over time I’ve begun to make a greater peace with the head-winds and the rough roads, in an almost cliché remedy I’ve discovered that the best way to overcome them is to make friends with them. If they force us to ride slow, then we simply ride slow. It really is that simple. Nothing is wrong, things just take longer! To fight against these things becomes painful, to find a new rhythm and surrender to the slowness has been a wonderful discovery.
On occasions other things, like illness, become the slowing factor. Again my first reaction is frustration, I want to move on but can’t, or shouldn’t! Yet in this too, pleasant surprises have repeatedly arisen. This week in Khorog has been a classic case where we planned to depart after two days rest but sickness prevented such plans from eventuating. As a result we’ve enjoyed four wonderful days of relaxing sunshine, shared meals with new friends, games of chess, reading books, writing, darning socks and gloves, making movies and even the promise of the annual Khorog Arts Festival opening tonight! (mmm…that all sounds busy rather than slow doesn’t it?? I assure you it’s been slow time!!) Had we had our way how much we would have missed!
How richly we are blessed by the slowness, even if it’s often not of our own choosing. I suspect and hope that the surface has just been scratched and many more good lessons of life will come to us as we make our way through this land.