Summer is already waning here on the prairie. For me, like many others, it has been a fast-paced blur of activity, even though I tell myself that it’s a time to relax and be still. My inner compass also tells me that summer is a time of education, although, even at my age, it rarely follows the path that I’ve planned. Perhaps it’s like that for you, too; so let me share a little about my summer.
I just returned a few days ago from a weeklong bicycle ride across the state of Iowa. I sometimes have difficulty explaining to the uninitiated why I would choose to spend my vacation riding 60-70 miles a day for 7 days. Difficult, because there are times where, even though I love it, I question why I do it. Granted, it’s not the Tour de France. However, for us cycling non-super-heroes, it can bring you face to face with your limitations as much as your strengths.
My story – a busy schedule limited my training time. Short of “too much information”, preparing the body, especially your butt, is too important to be overlooked. I showed up, knowing that I was at a disadvantage. But cycling, even in the ever-present crowd of riders around you (I do mean 15-20,000 people) is as much of an emotional and spiritual experience, as it is physical.
There are many stories, but the one that I’ll share is about one of my favorite plants. The compass plant has always been a metaphor for direction and purpose for me, it’s even part of the logo for my business. I began to see the distinctive shape on my drive to work weeks ago, even before I left on my trip. It stands tall and upright, seemingly defying gravity. Like a sentinel it towers above its surroundings, flourishing in the prairie summer heat. It was one of the prairie’s tallest inhabitants before settlers planted trees on the prairie. Its long taproot allows it to reach a gangly height. Bright yellow flowers appear to reach out in the four directions, like a signpost for the creatures of the prairie.
Some days I wouldn’t see a single compass plant – but then one would appear at the periphery of my cyclist vision. I immediately and effortlessly felt a sense of connection, to the land, and to the creatures that lived here – in a very profound way, despite the constant crowd of cyclists around me. My teacher, the gentle compass plant, taught me that I was supposed to be doing exactly what I was doing – one of those moments that rarely happens in my busy modern life. I felt a peace of mind that pushed out all worries, discomfort and self-doubt and I discovered that I was exactly whole and perfect in this moment, on the sunny prairie, with compass plants surrounding me. My connection to this place leads me to the connection to myself. Aha, stillness – the spiritual goal of the season of summer. And, at least for that moment in time, I experienced something that defies words.
As I reflect upon re-entry into my everyday life, I discovered that education is always a two-way street – not only is it about teaching others, it’s about leaving space for discovery, no matter how much we believe that we already know. Space to learn that the most important things in life maybe aren’t things after all. I hope that you enjoy the rest of your summer – and leave space for learning something new about yourself.