The Mighty Viking

Conquering those things we must, one story at a time

Archive for September, 2021

Blown Away

The winds’s sudden force brought my attention back from wherever it had wandered.

I had been in the saddle of a motorcycle all day, so wind shouldn’t have been anything new today. But these highlands were no ordinary place. This road, a thin, neglected ribbon of asphalt stretching out across the mountain plateau stretched east and sometimes south until it had forgotten its purpose. A single, twisted juniper clung to the bare landscape in defiance of this elemental tyranny. Its sculpted oddity testified to the one way to live with the wind – to resist when it can, adapt when it must, and to never let go of its identity. My bike and I, and this solitary missionary of individuality were all that stood about the rocky soil. Every other rock, bush, and blade of grass hugged the ground and cowered.

But not this tree. And not me.

I had only just crested a long and dramatic climb near the southern end of Steens Mountain in Oregon, intent on crossing the desert on my journey eastward. I had the road fever, that inexplicable instinctual urge to just ride – no stopping, no sightseeing, just a compelled rush cross the miles to push on. Nothing could stop me. Until this tree. Suddenly, my instincts needed to feel the wind’s own life-force, not this mechanically-generation turbulence.

The asphalt widened ahead of me to one side, inviting me from the intended flow of travel. As the bike’s engine fell silent, the wind’s vector was no longer dictated by the bike’s travel, and so I turned to face it as it swept in from the north.

I don’t know how long I stood, listening to the song this upland desert was shaped by. With no peaks towering over me, no far horizon visible, no shelter of any kind but the bike beneath me, I felt for a brief moment vulnerable to the demands of this dominant force. I turned to my muse, this tree, and listened intently to the story its shape told. It spoke of desolate winters, of despotic summer persecution. And in its shape – the shape and substance of its identity that remained with it after the wind – it spoke its name.

And so I turned into the wind, seeing for myself the phenomenon that had brought out the tree’s own striking beauty. There was only one question to ask of this force of nature, and so I asked it a single question:

Who am I?

And because I cannot sustain myself through such a quest in the manner of scrubby junipers, I mounted the bike again, and fixed in my mind this question, this time addressing the wind along the narrow path before me.

I doubt I will ever know the answer for myself. It will be an answer spoken from me to the world, the forces shaping me in ways seen by others, but invisible as the wind to myself.

But still, I ride into it, being shaped and sculpted into what must be an odd countenance that requires some consideration to be understood – or misunderstood. This is my nature – to ride into the wind, to be tested and formed by it, and to serve as its ambassador.

Highway 140, east of Adele, OR, is a chapel of a different sort, where I don’t ask God for protection, but rather for cleansing.

I feel like a fresh-scrubbed baby.