Thursday, July 31, 2014

A Country Ride

I took a moderately long ride today in what I call "the country."  It's only about 15 miles from where I sit when I'm typically typing something here, but it might as well be 100 miles away for its isolation from convenient sources of bread and milk.  Yes, that "bread and milk" thing is important to me, having always lived within walking distance of both, even now when what I consider to be a reasonable walking distance is much shorter than it was even ten years ago.

To be sure, I love the country, but in the same way that I love dogs.  I love other people's dogs.  I love other people's homes in the country.  I don't want a dog that lives in my home, and I don't want a home in the country, though the latter I might keep if one fell into my lap figuratively, while I most assuredly would not want the former to stick around for more than just a visit if a representative example leaped into my lap quite literally.

As is sometimes the case, there was no particular issue, thought, or problem running through my head as I rode along today; rather, the thoughts flowed from what I was seeing as I came around the next curve or topped the next rise.  My "captions" for the pictures here will be extensions of those thoughts that I remember having in the moments in which the pictures were snapped.

When I choose to visit the particular area in which I rode today, it's a simple left turn off a main thoroughfare that takes me quickly from tightly packed neighborhoods into places where there is sometimes little to see but nature itself for miles at a clip.  These boxcars provide a bit of visual relief from roadway and greenery.  The railroad right of way dates back to within a few years of the end of the Civil War and was built by the Lehigh Valley Railroad as a hub from which to distribute its main commodity, coal, from right here where it was mined in the Wyoming Valley and surrounding regions.

No matter where I go, the mountains are never far out of sight.  I remember riding home from my Uncle Joe's house after an occasional Sunday or holiday evening visit with my family and being amazed at how the moon seemed to follow the car all the way home.  So it seems the mountains follow us here in the valley, though it is we who are following them southwest to northeast not only through here, but all across Pennsylvania.

Today, as my favorite poet once wrote about, I took a road less traveled by, in this case the tired and worn one you see here beside an old church and graveyard.  Were I to retain some degree of sight and sentience beyond my interment, I'd not mind a view such as this which seems to kiss heaven itself in the distance.

This photo has potential to become one of my all time favorites.  I shot it through the window of the old church and it is somewhat ethereal with the reflection of me juxtaposed with the vastness of the sky, the linear regularity of the pews, and the windows that almost seem to provide glimpses into other worlds.

It would seem that the passage of time affects what is below and what is above in similar fashion.  Nothing is forever, least of all we who seek to be remembered long past our mortal existences.

Right outside the churchyard a left turn brings the living world back into a view that seems to go on for miles.
It is a fitting end to the time spent among the markers of those who have gone on before us.

I think I'd not mind visiting a museum that has nothing in it but pictures of simple, pastoral scenes such as this one.  Now and then I do find a spot that would quickly make that bread and milk thing seem not important at all.  If I could build a home right here on the spot from which I snapped this photo, I might.  Perhaps I could have a cow or two of my own for milk, and learn to bake a perfect loaf of bread.

There were no children to watch as I rode into Milwaukee, though at the outset of my ride, before I left the city, I heard a child on a porch cry out, "Motorcycle!" as I rode by which made me chuckle.  Of Algonquin origin, "Milwaukee" suggests a place of beauty, and pleasant land.  Indeed, this village is aptly named.

There was precisely one place of business on its Main Street, the Old Milwaukee Cafe and Bakery.  Were I a more patient sort, and not afraid of a little rain like one of my blogging heroes, Steve Williams of "Scooter in the Sticks," I'd have purchased something to eat right here in the front window and taken the time to record the treat itself for you to partake in vicariously.  I was in a little bit of a hurry at this point, though, in having remembered that the hourly forecast when I had seen it this morning showed some possible precipitation for around 1 p.m. and it was about 12:30.  I selected a thick slab of blueberry cobbler to take with me and got back on the road.

But, not before getting this shot of the quaint exterior with my trusty Piaggio posed out front.  Had I been there with the car, I might have lingered just a bit longer to soak up the sight of this place and its ambient charm.  I'll return.  It's that kind of place.

I cannot imagine, except in the same "romantic" way that I imagine the working life of a railroad engineer to be, working a farm to earn a living.  That getting up early, being one's own boss, living off the land all sounds wonderful to me on paper, but I doubt that I'd survive a single day as a working farmer.    God bless the men and women who raise our food, especially the many small farmers here in Pennsylvania who are struggling to keep their farms going for another generation.

And, God bless the internal combustion engine and all those folks who understand how such things work and keep them going for the rest of us who know little more than "turn the key, give it some gas, and go!"

A swing through McDade Park in Scranton provides this pleasant view.  The U.S. Bureau of Economic Research recently named the greater Wilkes-Barre/Scranton area among its least happy places in the country.  Happiness is what you make it, though.  As long as I can find joy in the sight of something as simple as this fountain, I don't have much to complain about in living here.

And rounding out today's trip is this final picture of the scooter posed in front of St. George's Orthodox Greek Catholic Church around the corner from Scranton in Taylor, Pa.  Though I've never been inside I find this to be one of the most beautiful churches in the area.  Its blue roof suggests that it is an extension of the sky and the Celestial Abode itself which, I suppose, is what a church of any kind should be.

My stop in front of the church was, indeed, a fitting ending to today's ride in which I was treated to so much of the visual goodness that has been put into the world for our enjoyment.  May we never lose sight of all that!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Dinner for One

Sometimes I feel a little guilty when my posts here don't directly pertain to scootering in some way because this was supposed to be, and still is, a "scooter blog." In this entry I will attempt to tie together an aspect of my personality with the scootering theme that almost makes sense to me.

When I started college and chose psychology as my major I used to claim that my choice was because I wanted to understand myself.  I believe now at the ripe age of 56 that we give far too much credit to 18-year-olds embarking on college careers in that we believe they are capable of making decisions as wise as they might be if they weren't quite so green.  There was nothing in my study of psychology that even remotely explained to me why I made some of the choices I made, why I did some of the things I chose to do, and even why it took so long for me to realize that psychology was at best a pseudoscience.  I have, however, figured out a thing or two about myself through the years and can credit scootering more than studying psychology for the conclusions to which I have come.  So it is with this current entry, "Dinner for One."

I grew up in a home in which my mom, dad, sister, and I lived with my maternal grandparents and my bachelor uncle.  It was a traditional home in that all of us gathered for dinner at the appointed hour each and every day.  When I was in the fourth grade our nuclear unit moved to a home that my parents had had built and that tradition continued with one noteworthy exception.  Each year on my parents' wedding anniversary the four of us went out to dinner to a small bar and grill where, no doubt, my dad took my mom on some of their dates because my sister and I remember being told over and over again about how the lobster dinners there used to cost $.90 back in the day when three good-sized tails along with fries and coleslaw could be had for that price.

Eventually I left mom and dad's house, got married, and the tradition continued even as my girls were born and were growing up.  Each and every night we sat down to dinner together at the kitchen table with an occasional restaurant meal thrown in for good measure.

It was, a paradigm shaker, when about 10 years ago my younger daughter returned home one evening after having worked on a school project at a friend's house.  When I asked what she had had for dinner she replied," Emily made us macaroni and cheese."

"But what did their family have for dinner," I asked?

"Oh, they don't have dinner together.  They just make whatever they want when they're hungry."

It had never occurred to me, in my then 40 some years that there might be a family that did not sit down to dinner together every day or at least on a regular basis most of the time.

All of that leads up to this.  Because of my assumption that all families sat down to dinner together just about every day, all my life it broke my heart to go to a restaurant with my family and see anybody eating a meal alone.  I had always assumed the worst whenever I saw someone dining alone.  A spouse had died, perhaps.  A falling out with one's family had left one estranged from them.  Whatever.  It just never entered my thoughts that someone might be eating alone because one lives quite happily alone.  I never thought that perhaps a single person living alone didn't feel like cooking dinner that particular night and went out to enjoy a restaurant meal.

And what does this have to do with scootering?  Precisely this.  It wasn't until I began scootering that I was ever truly comfortable with myself.  My alone self.  It has been riding the scooter for these past seven years that has put me in touch with my alone self, and which has made me comfortable in appreciating and enjoying my own company when I am alone.  I would have chosen to go hungry before ever sitting down to eat by myself in a restaurant because I did not want to be perceived as that "poor person eating alone."

This evening I went to a local buffet and had a splendid meal with one of my favorite persons – myself!  It felt like a glorious scooter ride, but with food.  We no longer live in that same world in which I grew up where home was the place where they had to take you in and where you could count on a delicious dinner with the rest of the family each and every day.  I guess, I'm okay with that after all, because if you can't ride a scooter by yourself you are bound to miss out on a lot of fun, and maybe even go hungry now and then.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

No Coincidence at 16,000 Miles

Let me begin by saying that it was about fourteen years ago when I reversed my thinking about coincidences of the good sort.  Until then I'd believed that uncanny occurrences were simply the operation of mere chance, but it was in in 2002 when I saw unfold a number of unrelated events that came together to cause a transition in my life that could have been catastrophic but instead became glorious.

It was two years ago when again, a number of circumstances and events happened nearly concurrently in just the right order to enable me to be in a place where I was needed, but where I'd never have been able to be had not the events that coincided happened as they did.

I was a philosophy major in college and at that point in my life I enjoyed a good philosophical argument of just about any sort, but where I am now, I'm not out to win any battles or change any minds.  I know what I believe and will continue to believe it despite the protestations of those who might want to draw me into battles of words for which there are no endings nor winnings.

When I set out on my ride this morning to my cousin's dental office in Tunkhannock, it was without consciousness of my odometer's reading being under 100 miles below another 1,000 mile milestone, although sometime last week I had noticed that.  After my appointment I took the long way home along back roads and byways, deciding at various junctures which way I'd go without a plan in mind at all.  I was back in Kingston, in the hustle and bustle of city driving when I remembered that another milestone had been near last week.  I glanced at the odometer at that point and was stunned.  There was the 16,000 mile mark, including a zero in the tenths place!

You can call it mere chance, some subconscious mental operation, or whatever you'd like to account for my having arrived at 16,000.0 miles at exactly the precise second that I remembered that I'd been close to achieving it.  I see it as God's way of reminding me that He's in my life, not as a bystander, but as an active participant in it.  I see it as His saying, "Hello!" lest I ever become lax in knowing that He is always here, even in what would seem to be the small and insignificant moments.  I'd have been horribly disappointed if I'd discovered that I'd ridden past that milestone without being able to get the picture you see above.

The rest of the ride back from Tunkhannock...

I'm not sure why, but the parking situation was much better in Tunkhannock this morning than it had been last week.  I scored a space right on the end of the block where Chris's office is located.  It's a picturesque town along the Susquehanna River, nestled in what's known as the Endless Mountains section of northern Pennsylvania, and the name is derived from an Indian name of "Bend River Place."

If I had been in the very same place at the end of a school day, I'd never have lingered near a storefront to get a picture such as this of classic tin toys from days long past, but when the hours of a summer vacation day lead from only one relaxing minute to the next I take in as many visual delights as I can without hurrying to kick off my shoes and slow down from a long day of teaching.

A slow cruise along the side of the river is always something I want to do when I have the luxury of time to play with and the park in Tunkhannock between the railroad tracks and the course of the river itself makes for a scenic passing of the time.  It seems to me and others who've made the similar observation, that the greenery this year seems to be much more lush than in typical years.  We wonder if it's because there was so much snow this past winter.  Old timers would have us believe that lots of snow makes for wonderful subsequent growth of farm and garden crops.  If it's true, perhaps it works its magic on the "regular" greenery as well.

Something that makes my love of taking pictures such as this one so much easier, is the nimbleness of the scooter and its ability to do a U-turn quickly.  So many such photo opportunities are lost when I'm in the car only to drive by a scene that I'd like to capture in a photograph, but without an easy chance to reverse direction in sight.

A stop to have lunch gave me this view of the mountains in the distance.  From a good vantage point, I'd be able to see mountains such as these around me in all directions.  There were places on my way back from here where I'd wished I could capture some such pictures but with nowhere to pull the scooter over where I might safely shoot, they were lost except to my memory of them.  I was on long stretches of two lane roads with nothing but dirt and gravel at the shoulders.  I won't stop on such a shoulder for anything short of an absolute emergency lest my foot roll out on the gravel when I put it down.

I always enjoy the sight of a creek from above, and on roads in the Susquehanna River's watershed they're abundant.  I can lose myself in thoughts of water flowing down from the mountains as I can in pondering that God had no beginning in time.  There is something remarkably peaceful to me in watching water moving here in this part of Pennsylvania along its course toward the Chesapeake Bay and ultimately the Atlantic Ocean.

If given the chance to live somewhere like this where the next jug of milk or loaf of bread are miles away instead of a few blocks, I'd probably stay put right here where I can touch my next door neighbor's house from my own front porch, but I do envy the folks who make their homes in the country and are happy with being there.  That distance from "civilization" seems to me a thing that one must be born into in order to appreciate it fully.  I like it on vacation, but couldn't take a steady diet of it.

The little guy on the left came out of the barn to watch me watching him.  Curious animals nearly make me giggle with glee.  It was only a few years back when I learned that if one stops along a cow pasture, eventually every last cow will come over to gawk at the viewer who is watching them from the other side of the fence. Pigs do it too, much to my amusement.

I admire folks who live in the middle of nowhere and keep up their homes to fit in beautifully with their pure surroundings.  For every hovel I pass by while riding through the country, it seems that there is a property such as this which looks so cozy and inviting.

There's that sky again making it appear as if the road I'm on just drops off at its edge in the distance.  Surprisingly, on a ride around here coming to that spot in the distance often reveals the sight of another group of mountains stretching as far as the eye can see.

When I came around a bend and caught sight of this unfortunate fellow whose truck is firmly embedded in the pavement he was on the left, out of the frame of this picture, approaching the truck with the long board he's holding.  The guy motioned for me to pass, but I called out, "Go ahead!  I need to get a picture.  This is too cool!"  His grin was priceless.

And, here I am at those 16,000 miles which are nearly twice the perimeter of the continental United States.  Long before I'd ever thought about getting a scooter, I dreamed of someday going coast to coast in a motor home.  Now and then I dream of doing that on a scooter. Thank God dreams are easy!