Lessons From My Motorcycle

For long-time readers of the blog, you know that I believe Suzie Lightning taught me everything I know about creativity. (Yes, my motorcycle has a name, and it’s from a Warren Zevon song.) Now that the weather is warming up, I’ll be riding through the desert more often. It’s another form of meditation–one that requires full awareness in the moment.  You don’t think of anything except where you right now when you are on a bike.  Full awareness keeps you alive.

A mesa in the desert

Riding feeds me lessons in creativity. Your heart is lightened by the views of mountains and arroyos, Saguaros and blue sky. Arroyos are dry river beds that fill up in minutes when it rains, and can lift a big car when only 8 inches deep in water. My favorite drives are away from the interstate, the roads that curve through desert and the endless sky.

The road is two-lane and largely deserted. I stick to the speed limit, because I’m sight-seeing and not in a hurry, and 65-75 is plenty fast for me. But cars appear behind me, fill my rear-view mirror, then explode past me.

When that happens, I back off the throttle, slow down, and move over. If you ride a bike, you know that you stay out of the grease-strip in the  middle of the road, and ride on either side of your lane—the first rider on the left, to protect the space, the second rider two seconds behind on the right, to fill the lane, and the third rider back on the left side.

When a car or pickup comes flying past, I move over in case they cut back too

Dawn on the road.

soon, and slow down to give them more space between us. My full-head helmet is expensive—it’s a “single-use helmet,” and I’m not eager to give it the single use I bought it for.

Watching a pickup truck cut back into the lane in front of me, I realized that that motion of slowing down and moving over is a creative tool, too. When I’m dealing with ideas that are approaching fast and need to pass, I let them go. I don’t try to speed up and catch them. Nor do I  try to stop them or teach them a lesson. Ideas are plentiful, and not all alike.

The people who participate in my art classes (and some of my business classes, as well) are always worried that each idea may be their last. It’s unlikely. There are a lot of ideas, and a few really good ones. Like the cars that whiz past, I remember the interesting ones, the unusual ones, the ones that remind me of something useful. The rest I just watch as they vanish in the distance.

Seeing a lot of cars, like ideas, allows me to choose what I want to remember and use. And let go of what is commonplace, too fast, or not remarkable. It’s a good idea to let ideas go speeding past. It helps develop discernment.

Quinn McDonald listens to her motorcycle for creative ideas. Suzie and Quinn never run out of roads, ideas, or stories.

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8 responses to “Lessons From My Motorcycle

  1. “Life is a highway, I’m gonna ride it all night long. . .”

  2. As Pirsig put it: “The real cycle you’re working on is a cycle called yourself.”
    -Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

    He also mentions somewhere in there that when scientists are searching for explanations, you’d think coming up with hypotheses (ideas) would be the hard part. But it’s not; there are always more ideas than you ever need. There’s an infinity of ideas you can just have any time you want.

  3. Sometimes ideas cross my thoughts so quickly that they´re gone before I can jot them down. Moving means to change perspective but ideas flying by so fast that I can´t look at them cause regret sometimes. Maybe they were not “mine” but just caught for a second like a leaf in the wind.

  4. Discernment. What a wonderful word! I would be prone to scatter my energies and chase EVERY thought, feeling and idea. I have been feeling swamped. I’m going to put some discernment into my day today. Thanks Quinn!

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