I drive my truck up the steep gravel road leading to the Bracken Mountain trailhead, my mountain bike in the back, my journal and pen in my pack.
A few years ago, in the face of a budget crisis, the city of Brevard was presented with an easy way out—a developer offered to buy 400 acres owned by the city. Instead, the city of Brevard turned the area into a trail that bridges downtown with Pisgah Forest.
For the first time dread doesn’t consume me as get on my bike, because the alternative, sitting down in front of my computer and work on my book, seems much worse.
The climb robs me of my breath within the first five minutes, a welcome distraction from thinking about how to write the difficult parts of my book.
Writers lore has it that ideas drift about, waiting for a person with whom to partner. It seems possible that among all the woodland creatures, sprites and gnomes spread ideas like fairy dust. While I’m not buying the open-your-hands-and-an–idea-will-find –you philosophy, writing has been tough these past few days and I’m open to muses in whatever form.
I pump my legs, which more often than not came out in stomping bursts instead of fluid rotations. As the trail steepens, I push the flat pedals with as much force as I can muster and when I can’t pedal any longer, when my pedals stubbornly and resolutely refused to turn, I push.
Ride and push. Sip some water. Repeat. That’s how I summit Bracken Mountain, an elevation gain of 1200 feet, pedaling and pushing and luxuriating in long stops when I sprawl on the forest carpet and stare at the pine needles dancing above in the gentle breeze.
The summit sparked my imagination – the forest dense with hardwoods and hemlocks, where rhododendron and mountain laurel grow in abundance. I turned my head at every rustle in the leaves, half expecting to spot wild turkey, a deer, or perhaps even a bear.
I press my back into the truck of a solid oak and practice being as still as the tree. Siting in the presence of all those lofty giants, I root myself, going deeper inside of myself and quieting the noise of daily life.
Every time my mind wonders and self -destructive phrases loop through my head about how awful my writing is and that nobody will read it anyway, I think about trees.
Trees stand exactly where they grow, owning that space, stretching and reaching upward and out. Trees don’t judge. They don’t say that hemlock is a better writer. They don’t look think I can’t do this and even if I do, nobody will ever read it.
No, trees stand and stretch and reach for the rays of the sun.
I write like a tree, without judgment, accessing parts of myself that I couldn’t before.
In the shade of the trees, I write about other adventures, of the endless ocean stretching on the horizon, the turquoise of the Caribbean waters, the relentless sun beating down. Distance frees me somehow to write about those stories without judging their magnitude or worth, to let the words flow knowing I’ll edit later.
As I ride back downhill to my truck, my hands hover on the brakes, my mind turned to how riding Bracken was breaking me. Bit by bit, with every pedal stroke mental blocks about what I considered possible are falling down.