July 9, 2015
Another thing about sitting meditation and cycling across North Dakota is that just when you think you’ve got it wired, just when habit begins to set in and complacency edges towards arrogance, something changes. The Zen master whacks the student with a willow branch, or the last three miles of a flat 30-mile stretch is suddenly rolling hills.
These are wake-up calls reminding us not to drift off and miss the prize of this moment.
I heard a meadowlark this morning. It’s the first time since I was a child. In the late spring of 1952, we moved from Minnesota to San Bernardino, CA. It was hot, dry, and brown. My mother thought we’d moved to Hell.
But the fields behind our house were alive with meadowlarks. I grew up identifying with their single, lyrical song. For diversity, it couldn’t compete with the spectacular vocabulary and brash vocalizations of the equally abundant mockingbirds. But for simple beauty, it was nonpareil and came from a shy, nondescript bird. I liked that.
I heard that song several times this morning on our early ride from Napolean to Bismark. About 27 miles in, we stopped at the small town of Hazelton. The only coffee shop in town was a volunteer-run affair maintained by the Senior Center. They only serve food once a week, and today wasn’t it.
But when we came in just after they opened, Arlene, one of the senior volunteers said, “Are you hungry? How’s scrambled eggs and ham? I can fix you some toast, and we’ve got homemade rhubarb jam.”
It was the best jam we’d ever tasted. The other volunteer, Ellen, had celebrated her 88th birthday the day before. When it came time to pay, Arlene said, “We go on a donation basis. Whatever you think it’s worth.”
How do you put a price on the priceless?