Philosophically-inclined guy that I am, I can find profound meanings in just about any everyday experience.
Today I rode my Streetstrider outdoor elliptical bike at Salem's Minto Brown Island Park during a (partial) break in the heavy rains that have been hitting the Pacific Northwest all week.
I'm a big believer in the adage I expressed in a 2009 blog post, "There are no rules (including this one)."
Now, there are no rules points back at itself. Meaning, there are no rules. Unless you want to follow a rule. Feel free. There's no rule that says "never follow a rule."
We all do this: follow rules. Life would be unlivable without them.
How could I turn on my TV if I didn't press the right button on the remote control? The important thing is to remember that rules are made to be broken when they need to be.
I saw this sign only after I'd already broken the implied rule -- having ridden my bike down the trail from the other direction, where I'm pretty sure there wasn't any Trail Closed Ahead sign posted.
Which shows the difference between natural reality and manmade rules. Because the trail wasn't closed. Not physically. Just in the mind of whoever, with the best of intentions, put up the sign.
Which did make quite a bit of sense for most people. Because the wooden bridge across a low area in the park was indeed flooded. Several inches of water covered the boards.
However, when I rode down the slope from the other direction and saw the water, I made a quick decision: Ride through it, dude! (At my age, I like to call myself "dude"; it makes me feel younger.)
Standing on my trusty Streetstrider -- no seat on an elliptical bike -- my feet are quite a ways off the ground. The rest of me, even more. My wallet and iPhone etc. were drily packed away in the yellow waterproof pack.
So what the heck, I thought. What's the worse that could happen?
I get stuck halfway across and have to push my bike the rest of the way. My feet get wet. I can survive that. I didn't want to reverse course and ride back the way I'd come.
Try something new! I'd never ridden the StreetStrider through standing water this deep.
Upon reaching the other side, I felt good. Which is how I always feel when I ride my bike at the park.
After using the elliptical machines for many years at the nearby Courthouse Athletic Club on River Road, I now hate to do my aerobic exercising indoors.
Today, like every day at Minto Brown Island Park, I encountered nature doing its natural thing: wind, rain, sun, rain-and-sun, a rainbow. Branches had fallen on the trails. Pools of water had accumulated. Per usual, it felt like whichever direction I was riding, a strong wind was pushing at me as I pedaled.
In other words, I was in a secular heaven.
Natural reality, mostly, intermixed with the asphalt trails and wooden bridges that made it possible for me to bike along through the park.
Unless the weather is really bad, I much prefer exercising, even while cold and wet, in what I view as The Real World, rather than being warm and dry inside. I amend the fishing saying to "The worst day riding my bike in nature is better than the best day on an elliptical machine in an athletic club."
I love how nature just does what it does, uncaring of what I prefer. At Minto Brown I have to flow what with nature gives me -- heat, cold, rain, wind, whatever.
I've got a bunch of stuff in the backseat of my car that lets me adjust to conditions.
Heavy and light jackets. Waterproof gear. Hats for all seasons. Several types of gloves. There's something deeply satisfying -- in this age of human domination over our planet -- to fully embrace what nature produces on any particular day.
Sure, I still get irritated when I was expecting dry, and cold rain starts hitting me in the face as I ride. But it doesn't take along for me to realize that what I want natural reality to be has exactly zero effect on what it actually is.
Similarly, I've learned that a manmade sign saying "Trail Closed Ahead - Flooding" may or may not comport with reality. It only may be closed to people on foot who don't want to get their feet wet. Or the sign may have been left up even though water has receded.
Again, natural reality is what it is. Human ideas about this reality may be right, or they may be wrong.
Experimentation, testing, observation, experience -- getting out on a park trail and seeing for myself what is there -- that's the best way to know what nature has wrought.
We have so many ideas... about so many things.
I love ideas, just as I love nature.
But there's a time and place for thinking about what is real, and there's a time and place for experiencing what is real. Riding my StreetStrider at Minto Brown Island Park reminds me of the difference between the two, thinking and experiencing.
I can read a sign and think, "The trail is closed," when it actually isn't.
Conversely, I don't remember seeing a sign before I encountered this flooding on the south side of the dog park.
Yeah, I realized, this trail is really closed. Ducks could use it. Walkers could probably hike around it. But me and my elliptical bike weren't going to get through the water.
So I turned around, rode to a bark path leading to the dog park, and walked my bike to an unflooded trail. Natural reality. You've got to go along with it.
Human rules, not so much. Only when they make sense.