During the busyness of the season, I want to remember to pause and enjoy life, to seek out beauty for no other reason than it exists.
While road biking the other day, a friend told me about his recent three-month ride on the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route. For those of you who have no idea what that entails, it’s the longest off-road bike route in the world, covering over 2,700 miles. The ride starts on the border of Canada and Montana then continues through Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado and ends on the border of New Mexico and Mexico. The route’s remoteness lends to its beauty, surpassed only by the calf-busting terrain. With over 200,000 feet of elevation gain on basically dirt-roads, it takes grit and heart in equal measure to make it to Mexico.
When the miles stretched into days of riding alone, my friend told himself in turns to harden up, then at other times to soften. When I asked him whether it was possible to do both simultaneously, he responded with characteristic confidence.
“Oh yeah, big time possible! Two paths to the same place. There is a lot of strength in yielding, you know?”
Actually, I didn’t. As I’ve been tackling trip planning for a month of sailing with my four-year old and various crew this January, I’ve mulled over his response. I owe all my great accomplishments to adopting the devil’s-in-the-details attitude toward hard work. I’ve applied determination, focus, time, and resources until I’ve accomplished my goals. As the trip nears, I’ve honed my to-do list of must-bring items along with mapping out routes with associated contact numbers. In sum, I’ve taken a hardening up stance to making the trip a success.
In the past week, crew members have bailed on the trip due to the logistics not coming together for them. I’ve attempted to coordinate with youth groups in St. Thomas to get local kids out on the water, only to have my emails go unanswered. I’ve talked to crew who will be on the boat at the same time to coordinate food. One wants to go as low-cost as possible, eating peanut butter & jelly sandwiches and ramen noodles. The other values fresh food, especially while on vacation, and considers healthy eating a vital part of maintaining good spirits.
I’m reminding myself to soften up to these unexpected obstacles. I’m trying to trust that the trip will happen either way, realizing that responding by hardening can turn bad to worse. Instead I’m opening up to other people and events to influence the journey, letting the story unfold with twists all its own, and tapping into the magic of yielding.
It turns out that soft isn’t the opposite of hard, that I can retain my focus on trip planning but go with the flow when the unexpected occurs, softening enough to allow pauses to enjoy life; to seek out beauty for no other reason than it exists.
While trip planning, I stumbled over this quote. “Sail the winds you have.” It reminds me that I can’t change the direction of the wind nor it’s strength, but I can adjust the sails to make the most of the wind that exists.