One of the things I like best about running and riding is the solace of lonesome places. Last night during my ride in rather windy conditions, I found myself in need of a roadside break to adjust some things and just by chance, the wind let up a bit where I was standing. The landscape even grew silent as the hum of cars on I-88 to the south abated.
For all the thrum and thrall of cycling, the wind in your ears and the whirr of the road below you, it is important at times to stop out there and pause in some lonesome place to just look around. Even if it is just to appreciate the fact that you’re out there, and even if there are no great thoughts swirling around your head, or ideas, just stop and look at the clouds, or the pending sunset, and just take it in. The solace of lonesome places is quite healing.
Back when I ran 15-20 miles at a time (I no longer do) there was a strange independence in finding yourself alone on two feet out where the roads narrow and the red-winged blackbirds sit on wires waiting for the chance to nail you on the head. Perhaps a red-tailed hawk or kestrel would flap ahead and land impatiently on pole after pole, hoping you did not come any further.
But when that company even disappeared there would only be nothing but a long line of fence posts stretching out into a field. Each had their company of desperate weeds clustered around the base where the land-hungry farmers could not reach with the plow. I always saw this as a small show of peace in an otherwise acquisitive world.
I’d go running mile after mile in environs such as these. My little Timex or Casio watch was a loyal companion as the miles passed underfoot. With an uncanny sense of pace, I knew just how far I’d gone, and how far there was to go. Nothing more was necessary. I didn’t even carry water or food. I just ran until I could not run any longer.
Back at home with a tired body and restful mind, there was time to think back on the run. Often a single image from the day would stand out in my mind. It might be the turn of a creek or the presence of an old road sign at an intersection of country lanes. These days, I get the same imagery in my head after long rides. It’s funny how you can ride 80 long miles and come home with snapshot of the day in your mind.
But that is the solace of open spaces. It gives our minds something to dwell upon. For all the oxygen we inhale and the carbon dioxide we breathe out, we are also exchanging mix of thoughts and visions with the world. And that is what sustains us. The solace of lonesome places is the life’s breath of the mind.