Consecutive Days Riding: 4 Consecutive Days Blogging: 5
Today’s Mileage: 10 Total Trip Mileage: 32
Five days ago I started my virtual journey by noting my propensity towards humming. Today I mounted my stationary bike to the reframe: “On the bike again!” My legs are feeling good and I hope to make it another 10 miles up the road. Studying the scenery along our virtual route, I noticed the ruins of Old Highway 1 bridge (see photo #1). I am reminded of how often on my life journey I have found ruined or abandoned structure along my path. These have included abandoned railroad right-a-ways, broken roadways leading to nowhere, WW1 gun emplacements, or decrepit buildings. I long ago realized that I have a strong attraction for old stone structures.
One of my early drawings (see photo #2) was of a long abandoned bank in Egan, South Dakota. I called the artwork “Memory Bank.” The building was made of the pink granite quarried in the near by countryside. It is a beautiful but starkly solitary building. It speaks to me of earlier times, when these small towns that dotted the prairie were filled with a sense of hope at the influx of new immigrants brought by the constant westward march of the rail line. Who knew which of these small towns would spring up to become a County seat or a future small city, or which would stagnate and crumble till they were filled with a handful of retired farmers and abandoned schools and businesses. These buildings were built and filled with the hopes and dreams of local craftsman, farmers and businessman. Sadly such buildings and dying villages now dot the plains.
I suspect, like the existential philosophers, that our (humankinds) attraction for stone is in part due to a sense of permanence it conveys. It’s a way that we humans try to defend against the knowledge that death will come to all of us. This is included in the knowledge that groups, communities, and cultures sometimes thrive and then disappear. We know of the ancient cultures, not because of their flourishing communities and belief systems, but because of their stone monoliths, pyramids, aqueducts, their ruins. We know little of nothing about the individuals or about the beliefs behind the structures (like the spiritual purpose of Stonehenge). Scientists and linguists make guesses and form theories, but we will never know for sure.
Of course there is a practicality about building with stone, including its strength and availability. On the early prairie there were no trees for lumber, just below the rich black soils surface was plentiful stone that in some places even protruded from the surface. But I also suspect that stone harkens back to ancient times predating our share written history, to caves that were cool in the summer and warm in the winter, that offered shelter and safety. A safety that lasted till our creativity and intelligence came up with means to bring down even the strongest wall or castle.
We continue to build with stone today, but how does this relate to our pilgrimage or journey? I believe that the major wisdom traditions (religions) strive to relieve us of the burden posed by thoughts of death, those worries about a lack of permanence (will we be remembered, how will our loved ones survive, will the things that gave our life meaning matter to our survivors, why act properly when if it all just ends). Most religions preach of a continuation of our essence, as a soul or spirit, long after the demise of this physical vehicle. They preach that what we do today, with our karma, sins or respect for our ancestors, influences the quality and direction that this nonphysical continuance will take. I believe that the same urges/needs that draw us to more permanent building material, draws us to religions which argue for a nonmaterial permanence. Of course not all religions proclaim the existence of some eternal substance that will bear our identity for all time. Some paths find comfort in the “unfolding” of reality, in the experience of reality and not in reality’s perceived or hypothesized permanence.
So as I approach the 10 mile mark on today’s journey I am reminded that while ruins might attract and intrigue us, they are also reminders that even stone crumbles, till it is but a ripple on the lands surface, a simple marker of a brief moment in time.
Thank you for joining me on today’s a ride I hope you have a wonderful day and a restful night’s sleep.
A special thanks to the photographers associated with Panramio for the beautiful scenes from along the roadside.