Editor’s Note: A short winter ride turns into an adventure full of thoughtful introspection and inspiration for the coming year. This is one of my favorite guest posts.
Location: Three Lakes, Wisconsin
“Welcome to Paradise,” says the sign in the background. In the foreground is everything I own. I can carry it all on my bicycle without the help of panniers or a trailer. I got here with the power of my legs alone and that’s a great freedom to experience.
Over the river and through the woods, to Tamarack’s house I go…
CouchSurfing in the city was a pleasant surprise and really couldn’t have gone any smoother. I am truly humbled by the generosity of strangers and their willingness to help travelers like myself. Both of my hosts were intelligent and courteous, welcoming me into their homes with open arms and treating me with trust and respect as if I were a family member –and essentially I am. The city; although quaint, was fast and far different from what I’ve become accustomed with over the last month at the wilderness school. I couldn’t help but to feel a little like Henry David Thoreau, leaving Walden and going into the village to observe the lifestyles of the people, much like they might venture into the wilderness to observe the animals. Overall, it was an enriching experience, full of insights and the chance to focus my energy without distraction, into projects that were demanding my attention.
The Teaching Drum Outdoor School offered me an extension on my stay and welcomed my return after the week-long vacation and reflection in the city. Happily accepting this invitation, I began the journey back to Three Lakes from Rhinelander on my bicycle yesterday. Being that it was the nicest day of the year so far; temperature wise, I decided to MapQuest a scenic bike route with the hopes of avoiding traffic and soaking up some of the beauty on the way home. Carrying everything I own, my guitar and stuff sack balanced on either side of the bike’s handle bar and a pack on my back, I started what was only to be a twenty-six mile ride through the countryside among the many lakes of northern Wisconsin. Everything was lovely until my directions took me to a road less traveled, unplowed and impossible to navigate. I attempted to cut across the snowmobile tracks on Stella Lake with the hopes of reaching a plowed road on the other side. Pushing my bike through the snow with a heavy load, I spent two full hours on the lake alone, exploring. In the end, I was forced to suck it up and turn around, backtracking all the way to County Road C on melting roads with a sloppy preview of the spring to come. Cars shot water eight feet high in passing and brand new rivers ran downhill as I broke trail through the muddy slush. Expecting the trip would only total two hours, I left ill prepared and brought no food or water. Eating snow got me through my thirst until I was able to take alms from a man working outside. An Elder from the school just happened to be driving by as I pedaled down the road. She stopped and lightened my load, taking the guitar and stuff sack off my hands in exchange for an apple she had. What a trade off that was. The rest of the trip was into a gusting north wind, mostly uphill. I stopped and took a short nap in a snow bank but eventually made it back to Teaching Drum, exhausted.
Trusting MapQuest as the authority seemed to be a mistake in this venture. It’s most likely a gorgeous way to pedal in the summer time but whoever wrote that route must’ve never attempted it in the winter months. Although it was surely one of the ways to get to where I was going, it wasn’t the only path and definitely not the best route for me at this particular time. Remember that when dealing with others opinions on the right way to go. When I say ‘the right way to go,’ I’m referring to everything from simple choices to travel directions, to spiritual paths and beyond. We all find our truths a little differently and no one has ever reached enlightenment through another person’s doctrine. There are many paths and no one right way to get to where you’re going; so try them, try all the paths if you will. Find your own truth and live by your own doctrine.
The most important thing I learned from this trip deals in my relationship with creative expression. Being back on my bicycle was amazing because I was reminded that the greater majority of creative ideas come to me through movement and physical activity outdoors. That’s where the brainstorming happens and the seeds for intelligent sharing are planted and nurtured. Having a quiet place to be still is where my creative expressions take fruition and to have that balance between motion and a stable place to work is essential in my creative process. It’s interesting how we forget our truths sometimes and rediscover them through our struggles. I am at the school again and getting settled, back at my Walden, ready to put this knowledge into action with new projects and I’m excited to explore the trails around here with the green season, finding new paths and old truths, awaiting discovery and remembrance. Thoreauly ready for spring’s blossoming.