23 October 2010

Pedalling To A Dream, Twenty Years Later

The other day I pedalled to and from work--my regular and side jobs.  And during my ride home, I took of my favorite detours.

I took this photo from Fort Totten, on the North Shore.  I think it's the first time I rode inside the former base after sunset, much less by the light of the full moon we had the other night.  

Once, when the Fort was still an active military facility, I took a moonlight ride through the park just outside the gates.  Then, as now, a path skirted the edge of the water and passed underneath the Throgs Neck Bridge. That path and park were as lovely then as they are now.  

That night--more than a lifetime ago, at least for me--I coasted down Bell Boulevard, from St. Mary's Hospital, where I was doing poetry and creative writing workshops with handicapped and chronically ill kids.  The wonderful thing about doing poetry with kids of that age--especially those who have never gotten out of their wheelchairs or beds-- is that you don't have to tell them to dream.  For them, their unconscious and conscious lives are one.  Even if they cannot escape the constraints of their bodies, they aren't simply imagining that they are running, flying, jumping or dancing because their minds and are actually in moving in a jeu d'esprit with the light of their own stars.

I remember pedalling on that cold, windy night with a moon as full as the one I saw the other night and wishing that I could have brought those kids there with me.  After all, if I could be so moved, I could only imagine what kind of effect such a night in such a place would have on them.

Then I got very angry--at myself, because there was no one else there that night, and at that place for stirring up such passions in me--when I realized that all I was wishing for them was my own experience which, by definition, they never could have, any more than I could have lived their lives.  And the crisp clarity of that night's sky--which was reflected, again, the other night--was, in reality, as chimeric as the lights seen in the mist.

They might have enjoyed being in that place as much as I did, but they didn't need it--or, at least, they didn't need it as much as I did--in order to dream.  In fact, the crisp, almost brittle, moonlit chill seemed like the clearest sort of reality the way any sort of shock or trauma seems the moment after you experience it.  It seems so real precisely because it's the only reality you have at that moment.  But that is exactly the reason not to trust whatever perceptions or sensations you have at such a time--though, of course, you cannot trust anything else. There is no past or future, there is only the present--not even the Eternal Present-- just the moment, repeated a million times every second until there is no other moment to repeat.  Repetition does not generate clarity; it merely breeds familiarity.  

And so I pedalled home that night.  And some of those kids where wheeled back to the homes of their biological or other families, while others stayed in their beds in the hospital.

What I didn't realize, at least consciously, was that I was dreaming of the ride I took the other night.  Heck, I didn't even want to know, much less admit, that I could still dream that way.  

I was very tired the other night:  Some would say that I probably shouldn't have ridden.  But, somehow, even though I was pedalling at about half my normal number of RPMs, I felt as if I were levitating on bay water rippling between the surface of the path and the moonlight that was reflecting off it.  That is not to say that it was all effortless; I was very, very tired.  But I was not exhausted; I was not beaten:  I couldn't help but to ride, to keep on riding, as the light of that moment filled me.  

In other words, I was in a dream.  I hadn't gone in pursuit of it, at least not the other night.  But I really never had any choice but to follow it, even when I didn't know that I still could still dream it.

I fell asleep not long after getting home.


  1. I love night photos, especially when they include a full moon! And your bottom photo with the bridge is so peaceful looking. That sky is gorgeous with the orange-yellow-blue all combined.

    Aren't kids with disabilities amazing? They always seem to be so optimistic and happy, even in light of all their problems.

  2. Traci: Thank you for your compliments. And, yes, not many people can teach us more about what's important than handicapped kids can!