Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Changes In Life

Thinking in 'the moment' and 'living in the present' are things we value highly, phrases brought down from on high by buddhist teachings and espoused by people who teach everything from business studies to wedding photography workshops. I'm currently reading a book all about the concept of time and our relationship to it. It's a fascinating and absorbing read.

It leads me to a place that I've often found myself. I find it very hard to connect the me that I am today with the me that I was before. So the me that lives in California seems quite distant to the me that lived in Paris. The me that lived in Paris was disconnected from the me that lived in London. And all of them are utterly disconnected from the me that was born and grew up in Nottingham. One of the oddest things about connecting with old school friends on Facebook is trying to figure out the thread that binds us from twenty five years ago. And it's not always easy. Old school nicknames are not something I've heard through all of these lifetimes.

There is a certain joy and wonder in that other worldliness too though. I remember, early in my time in Paris and I was on the Friday night 'roller'. This is the craziest thing in the world, where thousands and thousands of roller bladers take to the streets of Paris every Friday night. They ride a different route each week, they organise it themselves and they now even get help from a rollerblade mounted division of the Paris police force. This was my first ever ride out with them and we ploughed around the streets of Paris that were closed in a rolling road block just for us. We started on up a hill which seemed to go on for miles, rounded a corner, then another and came out in front of... the Arc de Triomphe. We then took a left and started riding down the Champs Elysées. So here I was, riding in a group of maybe 8000 roller bladers, on a Friday night, riding down one of the most famous streets in the world. Closed for everyone except us. It was an amazing moment of the present connecting through to the past and elevating that moment into something altogether wonderful.

I have similar moments here in California. The little boy from Basford, Nottingham. Living in California, working in Silicon Valley. When I moved here I wanted to buy a convertible. I just did. It's the first time I've lived in a place where the climate allows me to have the roof off a car day after day. So I bought an inexpensive two seater and I LOVE driving it. I pull out of my garage and let the roof down...


Often times the sky is blue and the sun feels good in my face. Right now the cherry blossom is popping out all over and everything looks fresh and rather beautiful.

On the route to work, when I was a teenager, I took the bus along Valley Road in Nottingham. I passed under road signs for familiar districts like Beeston and Radford. At the moment I hop on the 101 freeway, which, if I were to continue straight on for 400 miles would dump me into Los Angeles. If I were to hop off at the next junction and take the 101 northbound it would lead me up through San Francisco onto the rugged northern California coastline, into Oregon. It would then traverse the entire western edge of Oregon and into Washington state where the road would round the Olympic National Park and deposit me into Olympia, WA. And I would still be on the 101 freeway, 1128 miles later. So, not even counting the southbound part to LA and San Diego, the 101 is 300 miles longer than the famed 'Lands End to John O'Groats' drive in the UK. Scale in this country is awesome in the truest sense of the word.

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Doesn't matter how stressful life gets and, given the global economic meltdown, it is pretty stressful, if we look hard enough there are things to wonder at. We just have to learn how to see them, in the moment in which we live them.

Normal programming will resume soon...


orenziv said...

Very thought provoking. And interesting for an expatriated-Californian to hear and see your impressions of the state. It also brought back memories of you teaching Maria and I to rollerblade on the streets of Paris. That too was a good time.

Thomas Boyd said...

I grew up on Hwy. 101 on the Oregon Coast. I was on it everyday including my one hour bus ride to school. Many years later when I was in the Marine Corps, I was always fascinated and skeptical that the same highway was a 12-lane death ride in Los Angeles. Then, just a few weeks ago I drove from Astoria, Ore. over the bridge to Washington up Hwy. 101 into a part of the highway I've never explored. Many parts of it were washed out down to one lane. Other parts had a foot of water over the road. I drove for over 30-miles and never saw another car. It couldn't possibly be the same Hwy. 101 that has run through my blood my entire life.

Now I can say I've travelled the entire length of Hwy 101.