What are dreams? Are they torches to guide your way in the darkness or seed you sew for the future? Do they live in your memories or steer your desires? Recently, two trips left me spinning in the netherworld between past and present where I could visit with all of my dreams, demons, and nightmares. I learned there is more to dreaming than motion. Dreams form the very fabric of your soul and the core of your identity.
The Bonfire of my Vanities at TAG Fall Cave-In
The 20′ tall bonfire towered over the Fall TAG Cave-In , an annual caving campout and party held near Cloudland Canyon Georgia. All through the evening, we watched the fire tenders doused the structure with diesel fuel. Being cavers, they, of course, did this on rope and summarily rappelled down in dramatic style. We even heard rumors of through-trips of the pyer starting with a squeeze between the logs at the base and terminating with a climb up the chimney because that’s just what cavers do.
Once upon a time, I was one hell of a caver. I was the president of the Southern Arizona Grotto and went on expedition caving trips to Belize. Heck, Jenn and I even had our names in the credits of one the caving books down on Vendors Row. When I wrote Dream Maintenance – the Art of Letting Go, I suggested that you need to release old dreams to make room for new ones. Staring into the massive fire, I questioned that conclusion.
Once a Caver….
I realized that I wasn’t done being a caver, and caving wasn’t done with me. Jack Kerouac wrote “The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved…the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.” I could see the mad ones of TAG who pushed their limits for pure adventure. It will take some work, a fresh set of gear, and more time than I have to commit right now, but someday I’ll be back to join them and their mad underground world.
That bonfire represented all the stages of dreaming. Before ignition, its structure held the promise of things to come. The red-hot flames danced and transformed night into day with the power and intensity of active dreams. The beauty of the glowing embers floating in the night sky danced like fading memories. Watching the logs burn connected me to past and guided me into the future.
Returning Home to Roanoke
The weekend after the Cave-In, I traveled back even further into my past to Roanoke Virginia for the Go-Fest and Outdoor Blogger Summit. This trip was a homecoming of sorts as well as a chance to reconnect with another old love of mine – mountain biking.
I was born less than 50 miles from Roanoke, even though I moved before I formed any cognitive memories. Virginia’s Blue Ridge was my first taste of mountains. During my youth, my Aunt Jeanie hosted our annual family reunions at her cabin near where Skyline Drive meets the Blue Ridge Parkway. I can clearly recall playing The Entertainer on her player piano and a flight of geese that passed overhead every day at 5:00.
I remember my final trip to Aunt Jeanie’s cabin many years ago when I learned a thing or two about Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. My ex-wife and I took a spring break beach run to Virginia Beach that left during an unseasonably warm spell and ended with us huddling inside of the camp bathroom during a tornado warning. On the ride home, we wore everything we packed. Despite three pairs of socks on our hands, and our tent and sleeping bags bungee corded onto our bodies, we were still frozen to the core.
Zen and the Art of Your Motorcycle Breaking Down
The best part of the trip was the bike breaking down 10 miles from the cabin. Uncle Hugh loaded the bike into the back of his truck and brought us back to the cabin to wait for my parents to drive down and rescue us. Not only did Aunt Jeanie feed us in true southern style, but I discovered beautiful hillsides on the edge of her property covered with apple trees in full bloom. Zen works in mysterious ways.
Thirty years later in Roanoke, I saw Zen in action again. I now believe that adventure is the fastest Zen path to enlightenment. My heart raced with excitement as I flew down the nearly 800’ vertical descent of Mill Mountain single track, a beautiful little trail system that’s only 3 miles away from downtown. More importantly, my mind cleared. By the time I reached Blue Cow Ice Cream at the bottom the hill, all my stress and worry melted away. Mill Mountain might be known for having the largest freestanding illuminated man-made star, but Mill Mountain Park is part of the reason Roanoke is the East Coast’s only Silver-Level Ride Center™ as ranked by the International Mountain Bicycling Association. To paraphrase True Detective – I realized that all your life was all the same thing. It was all the same dream, a dream that you had inside a locked room, a dream about being a person. And like a lot of dreams, there’s ice cream at the end of it.
Catch a Star and Save it for a Rainy Day
Dreams are like that family cabin in the mountains. They can lead you to adventure, shelter you when things break down or preserve memories. They are a destination that will always guide you home. I will cave seriously again someday and mountain bike sooner than later. I plan on returning to Roanoke soon to bike Carvins Cove, hike McAfee Knob, kayak the James River and still make it back to for the craft beer trail and award-winning restaurants. Who knows, I might even do some wild caving while I am there. J.G. Ballard said it best, “Memories have huge staying power, but like dreams, they thrive in the dark, surviving for decades in the deep waters of our minds like shipwrecks on the seabed.” Caving, mountain biking, and the Blue Ridge mountains are keys to deepest parts of my mind and time. I will do this all again. Time is a flat circle.