How to Find the Holy Grail: 5 Questions to Ask Yourself

FInd the Holy Grail

A few weeks ago I had the privilege of attending weekend meetings with Adyashanti (Adya), whose spiritual teachings draw from cross-cultural wisdom.

One of the stories Adya referenced was that of King Arthur and the Holy Grail. While legend refers to it as the cup that Jesus drank from, in today’s world, the Holy Grail refers to, “A thing being earnestly pursued or sought after (Dictionary.com).”

Adya told us we’re not going to find the Holy Grail in the familiar. When we pursue our heart’s calling, we plunge into the unknown. We’re called to the deepest darkest parts of the forests where there are no paths. Sometimes we find a scary monster; sometimes we find the Holy Grail. Eventually we make our way out.

But how can we be certain we’re headed in the right direction?

When called to do something (a.k.a. find the Holy Grail), whether it’s relatively minor or daunting, like a cross-country moto-book tour, these are the questions I ask myself to confirm my intentions.

  1. Am I following my heart? I question whether the undertaking is meaningful and whether it’s consistent with my values.
  2. What’s the worst that can happen, and what’s the likelihood it will? When I worked in Health and Safety, I was constantly evaluating work practices based on risk and potential severity of an injury. I learned to apply that same logic to other life decisions. When pushing your comfort zone, your mind is going to come up with all kinds of reasons why it’s better to stay “safe.” Keep questioning and be objective. The answers will surprise you.
  3. How does it feel if I don’t do it? In other words, do a gut check. Imagine what it feels like to go. Then imagine what it feels like if you stay put. The more you exercise and trust your intuition, the easier it is to follow what it’s telling you.
  4. Do I expect that I already know it all? I ask myself this when threatened with overwhelm. Anything new will seem daunting at first. We need challenge (within reason) to thrive. Take it one step at a time.
  5. What is the opportunity cost of doing/not doing what’s being asked of me? This is actually a trick question because you can’t know the answers. You don’t know what doors will open or close with either choice. You may have expectations on either side or perceptions of how things will go or not go, but you’ll never know for sure. The biggest opportunity cost is failing to live up to your potential because you were afraid to follow your heart.

Recovering from failure and learning is inherent in living. We fall many times while learning to walk. We learn how to balance by losing our balance. Why do we think things should be different with “adult” challenges? As with riding a motorcycle, we’re less likely to lose our balance and fall if we keep our eyes trained on where we want to go, and keep moving!

Photo credit: ErgSap on Visualhunt.com / CC BY

12 Ways to Respond to the Call of the Unknown

call of the unknown
call of the unknown

We’ve all been there. We hear the call of the unknown but there are too many reasons why we can’t do it. How do we get started? We tell ourselves life isn’t so bad and we should be content with the way things are. We’ll make changes as soon as we have time, or as soon as we have enough money, once we’re retired, or fill in your own excuse. That voice keeps whispering and years go by.

Here are twelve things to guide you when you’re called to the unknown.

  1. Follow your heart.
    That voice is leading you true. Entertain input from your mind, but recognize it will deliver all kinds of mental chatter to keep you safe. And stuck. Do what’s aligned with your nature and what you’re here to do.
  2. Don’t wait for the guidebook.
    When we venture into the unknown, we don’t know where life will take us. This is uncharted territory – you know the time is right to make a change. Even though you’re unsure of where you’re going, it’s the departure that’s most important.
  3. Value your wisdom above any other.
    People will comment and try to dissuade you from doing something they see as ridiculous. Remember, they see life through their lens, not yours. The fears and uncertainties they try and project on you are theirs. Thank them for their opinion and move on.
  4. Allocate your resources.
    Life demands our attention from so many directions—career, family, volunteer work, and social activities. They’re all great but we wear ourselves out trying to satisfy everyone. Newsflash! We CANNOT do it all, nor are we meant to.
  5. Prioritize.
    How do you best use the gifts you have to make the most of your life? I love teaching others to ride motorcycles but it’s time to give it up. Instead, I’ll turn more attention to my presentations, workshops, and client work.
  6. Enlist the help of trusted advisors.
    In planning for my upcoming moto-book tour, a call to the unknown, I’ve consulted with others like adventure travel author Sam Manicom who’s gone before. Nancy Frater, owner of local independent bookstore BookLore, has been invaluable in advising me how to approach other retailers to increase the likelihood of success.
  7. Complete unfinished business.
    Following our heart doesn’t mean throwing caution to the wind. We still need to plan, organize, and pay attention to details. We don’t, however, need to carry excess baggage. Clear out what’s no longer needed to make room for the new.
  8. Let go of expectations and attachment to outcome.
    Although we envision a goal and a way to get there, that may not be what’s best for us. There are many paths to get to the same destination, and there are other destinations that we can’t imagine. Trust that you will be guided, even when things don’t go as planned.
  9. Maintain your personal integrity.
    Life isn’t black and white and decisions challenge us, especially when we feel alone in the crowd. Call on your courage.
  10. Trust.
    Trust in your Higher Power, in whatever form that takes. We are never alone on our journey and guidance is available for the asking. The answers may not be what we want, or come in the forms we expect, but they’re there. Listen for them with all your senses.
  11. Give yourself space.
    This is not so much the need to be alone as it is for emotional, physical, and spiritual space. Take time to nourish body, mind, and spirit. Meditate to stay in touch with that wise person within.
  12. Go.
    Then keep moving, even when you stumble and fall. Help is there. That’s how we learn and how we get to where we’re going.

Your turn…
What would you add to the list? What’s something you should when you hear the call of the unknown? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.

Celebrate Life and Party Like It’s 1999!

Party like it's 1999

I’m not a party animal but Prince’s Party Like It’s 1999 keeps playing through my mind. Why now?

Written in 1982 it impelled listeners to let go and revel because why not? The world was ending in 2000. There were two choices: let terror take over or party.

Almost three decades later, the vernacular refers to celebrating the end of an era. It’s apt given my recent sixty-fifth birthday.

A major era ended sixteen years ago. I’d left a twenty-five-year marriage and was winding down a corporate career. I had no idea what the future looked like, only that it stretched out in front of me like a blank slate.

Those moves liberated and empowered me, although they astounded family, friends, and co-workers who thought I had a perfect life. They called me brave, courageous, and asked if I was scared. It’s one thing to leave a long-term marriage, but to give up an established career at my age, when I now had to support myself added a new dimension to people’s perception of risk. Many colleagues had decades of seniority and planned to stay until retirement. They couldn’t understand why I’d walk away from what they called a good thing, or how remaining in the wrong roles drained my life energy.

There have been other eras since, but turning sixty-five stands out above them. I feel as I did then—as if a whole new era of opportunity stretches out in front of me. New places within and without I’ve never visited.

While it’s exciting, there’s also a trepidation that would like to hold me back. Orchestrating a more than two-plus motorcycle road trip/book tour can be daunting. (Oddly enough I went for a two-month motorcycle ride that time, too, although the circumstances were different.) Making new connections in unfamiliar places, looking for venues, and finding receptive hosts and audiences pushes me outside my comfort zone. The alternative, staying home, is out of the question. Maybe it’s “safer” but I’d feel stifled.

My heart wants to go and so I shall. Time, and life on earth, passes quickly. We each have a calling; mine is to the Road.

The Shamanic tradition I studied, talks about death as an ally. It means living mindfully with the awareness that our time on earth is limited—treating the earth and all living beings with respect; making the most of each day.

As long as I can, I’m going to celebrate each day with gratitude and embrace this adventure we call life. Party like it’s 1999!

Photo on VisualHunt

Porcupine Wisdom and Speeding Through Life

porcupine wisdom

The irony of last week’s blog title, Caught Speeding, only dawned on me yesterday. It’s not the first time I’ve been caught this year. But it was an unexpected encounter with porcupine wisdom that made the lesson stick.

porcupine wisdom

In January, while I was in Calgary for the motorcycle show, Mom’s cousin, who lived two hours away, perished in a fire in her apartment. I’d planned to visit her, but not at the funeral home. Returning through the Alberta prairie after the visitation, I got pulled over and ended up with a ticket for 1 km over the limit. (I was going much faster. He reduced the fine.) A gentle reminder to slow down.

Last month, on a gorgeous Virginia backroad and only twenty minutes from my Horizons Unlimited destination, I was travelling at 70-mph in a 55-mph zone. The friendly sheriff let me off with a warning to watch the driveways.

I do try and stick to the speed limit or ride with traffic. My last ticket was in 2008. I appealed it and it got thrown out after getting bogged down and timing out in the court system. It was definitely the first in a series of reminders to cut chaos from my life and realign with my priorities. Since then, other than a conversation at the side of the road one Mother’s Day, my record has been unblemished.

A shy and rarely-seen porcupine, who appeared on my birthday last week, added perspective. Hiking through a hardwood forest with a friend, the rustle of dry leaves a few feet away caught my attention. A big porcupine emerged and waddled away, unruffled by our presence. She began to climb a tree, reconsidered, and shuffled off to the next one. As she casually and with deliberation scaled the trunk, every once in a while, she’d glance in our direction, keeping an eye on her surroundings.

Porcupines take a leisurely but mindful approach to life, make the most of the present, and know that they are protected. They respect your space and model that you honor theirs. Barbs only come out when you violate their boundaries. The self-assured porcupine knows her limits, including the pace at which to travel through life. Porcupine wisdom is good for all of us.

Last week’s title carried more depth than I appreciated when I wrote it. Mirroring the frenetic energy of spring, there are many exciting new activities and opportunities coming to life. They’re all appealing but I have to allocate my resources—and attention—wisely.

Lessons are all around and often from unexpected sources. Thank you porcupine.

Caught Speeding: Traveling Through Life at 65

life at 65

As of yesterday, I’ve walked this earth sixty-five years! Without question, it’s the most significant milestone ever.

It beats turning fifty, a year into my new life as a self-employed single person. Half a lifetime of trying to adapt to roles that didn’t fit (and convince myself they did) drained my life energy. After years of professional consultations, I left a twenty-five-year marriage and long-term corporate career (in that order) for the road less traveled.

My sixtieth was also monumental. In what can only be described as my soul’s calling, I set out on a quest to understand who I was before being told who I was. I wanted to understand how my cultural conditioning had shaped my beliefs, life choices, and world view. Expecting to be gone up to eighteen months, I divested myself of home and material possessions, only to crash three weeks later.

The phenomenal and life-enriching experiences of those years have led me to yet another threshold where I’m crossing into more of the unknown.

I’m learning to follow the call of my heart, tempered slightly by my mind. No longer are my choices influenced by what others may think of me. Or more accurately, what I think others think.

Life has taught me to let go of expectations and over planning and be open to the magic life delivers when I stay out of my own way. I couldn’t possibly orchestrate the events that unfold when I do.

In his dying days, Dad taught me to be fearless and trust. It’s the greatest legacy he could have left. While that wisdom is applicable to any stage of life, it’s even more meaningful as I lean into the unknown.

My heart is full of gratitude for my health, the amazing people in my life, and the opportunities I enjoy. I am privileged to live in a land of freedom and abundance through no doing of my own.

Most of all, the years have taught me that life is precious and every moment—and action—counts. The impact of my choices on nature factors into every decision I make.
I aim to treat the earth and all living things as I treat myself, because we’re all connected.

I honor the past for the lessons it’s taught me (even when they have to be repeated) and prepare for the future by savoring the present. Life is precious. Tomorrow is not guaranteed. Death is certain.

I had toyed with the idea of an extended motorcycle trip/book tour this year to coincide with the release of Crash Landing. For a variety of reasons, it wasn’t practical but until this week, I hadn’t replaced it. I’ve dealt with migraines most of my life. As painful and disruptive as they can be, they’ve also opened up creative ideas and insights.

Tossing and turning with the remnants of one this week, it dawned on me that I need to get out on the road, even if it’s not the way I envisioned. I’m sixty-five, love the open road, and am physically and mentally able to ride. How much longer will I be able to do that? One year? Five? Ten? Thirty – like Gloria Struck? I hope so, but who knows?

Most of my work, including freelance writing and working with energy-medicine clients is delivered online. I’ve designed it purposely so it’s location independent.

Motorcycling is a gift and a major way through which I can serve my purpose. It energizes me and fuels my creativity. I meet amazing people and discover amazing opportunities. It enables me to be of greatest service.

Life is fleeting. Sixty-five years have passed in a flash and I’m told time only seems to move faster. All the more reason to make each moment count.

What am I waiting for?

After summer’s heat has passed, I’ll get on Trudy and we’ll head out, destination and timing yet to be determined.

It’s an exciting time, full of possibilities I can’t even imagine. That I’m stepping into the unknown is nothing new. We always are – we just think we have control over what’s happening in our world.

If life at 65 has taught me anything, it’s to listen to my heart and follow my intuition. Nothing is guaranteed except this moment. Make the most of it.

Photo credit: ansik on VisualHunt.com / CC BY

Dancing on the Edge of Comfort—Without Crashing

Dancing on the Edge of Comfort

Sunshine, blue skies, and mid-70s-breezes embraced me as I set off for home from the Horizons Unlimited Travellers meeting in Virginia last Sunday. Perfect riding weather belied that I’d be dancing on the edge of comfort before long.

I’d taken two days for the 1,110 km/620-mile trip down but wrestled with making the return trip in one day. It’s further than I like to ride at once but Monday’s forecast predicted rain and temps barely above freezing. Conditions didn’t improve for days.

Cold is manageable; cold and wet are miserable on a sliding scale matching temperature and rainfall.

Stopped for a picnic breakfast on a bench in front of a Court House in small town VA, I debated my choices. One long day would push my physical limits, but the alternative seemed much riskier and way more uncomfortable. I could always stop.

I planned for two and prepared for one, taking steps from the onset to fend off hypothermia and fatigue.

The air chilled as I headed north. By the time I crossed Pennsylvania’s Allegheny Mountains, the cold, drizzle, and threatening skies had me thinking I’d have to call it a day. But the rain held off and the air warmed as I moved west to lower elevations. As conditions improved and Monday’s dismal forecast loomed, I decided to push all the way home.

My heated jacket helped keep my core warm. I’d taken the express rather than the scenic route and kept my speeds at the posted limit to minimize wind chill. My supply of high-fat goat cheese, avocados, and protein shakes provided extra calories to fuel the furnace.

Frequent breaks and staying hydrated by drinking from the two-liter water reservoir in my tank bag (which also ensured I stopped often) warmed me up and allowed me to monitor my temperature. The insidious onset of physical and mental clumsiness that accompanies hypothermia is hard to detect while riding but evident when you stop.

I may not have exceeded the speed limit but I pushed past the edge of my comfort zone. Time slowed to a crawl. It got COLD, the last few hours barely above freezing. I knew I had the physical, mental, and emotional resources to do it, yet many times I thought about packing it in. Tomorrow would be worse though.

My internal dialogue reminded me how people, including Oliver Solero who’d given a presentation about a trip to northern Manitoba in much colder temps, had persevered through hardship. My cold (or distance) didn’t even rank on Oliver’s scale. Others have dealt with far greater adversity.

Those paths, however, were not mine.

Growth happens when we overcome perceived barriers, whatever they are. The only one to calibrate against, and answer to, is ourselves. That also means basing decisions on internal guidance, not what we think others will think of us.

While we must consider our safety, we are called to not run from the discomfort and even fear of growth. What we find when we’re dancing on the edge of comfort is a more perfect understanding of ourselves.

I rolled into my driveway just before midnight. A friend had unlocked the door and turned on the lights. The blast of warm air that welcomed me felt like heaven. It sure was good to be home.

Photo on Visual Hunt.

Tagged with: ,

What’s in A Name? Five Women Called Elizabeth Jansen

A recent social event included a few people I hadn’t met. “This is Liz Jansen,” said the host, introducing me to a woman sitting at the end of a sofa.

“Ah, Jansen,” she said. “Danish!”

“Right.”

Names tell us much about a person. Or do they?

Our parents name us at birth with expectations of how they see us and who we’ll become. It doesn’t take long before we pick up on that. Starting around age two, we perpetuate that image, tempered by our own sense of self. Names become a major influence in shaping who we are.

Names also conjure up images and stereotypes in others we interact with. Professor Liz Jansen (see below) pointed out there’s literature on professors’ grading biases based on names on exams. (Biased) Grading of Students’ Performance: Students’ Names, Performance Level, and Implicit Attitudes https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5954233/

Curious, I Googled my name. There are more than 100 Elizabeth Jansens on LinkedIn alone. That doesn’t include the sixth-grade student at Roxbury Central School named to the second-quarter honor roll.

We share a name, yet the answers to Who am I? and Why am I here? differ for each of us.

In the interests of brevity, and because you’re likely familiar with my story, I’ve linked to it here. I also haven’t included my grandmother Elizabeth Jansen, a.k.a. Liese. Read her story of courage and character in Crash Landing.

This post is dedicated to three other Elizabeth Jansens. We share a name and we’re all white women. (I’d love to meet an EJ from a different race.) Our lives are unique. My deep gratitude to each one for sharing their story.

PS: Not a Dane amongst us!

Elizabeth Jansen

Elizabeth and I met through LinkedIn at least a decade ago, attracted by our name and love of motorcycles.

Elizabeth Jansen

I live in Hubbard, Oregon, in a farming community, amongst hop and hazelnut orchards. It is a lovely spot to call our home.

I am married and have two daughters, one son, a son in law, a daughter in law, and three grandkids. We are very lucky. My brother, mom, and dad all live in Washington State and we love getting together as a family. My husband and I have been married for 2 1/2 years.

My parent immigrated from the Netherlands in 1960. My brother and I were born in the United States. We didn’t speak Dutch in our household so my brother and I did not learn the language, just enough to figure out what my parents were talking about around Christmas time!

I am a mortgage banker with a local credit union. I have been in banking most of my life and love what I do. I help our members achieve their goal of home ownership by putting together a financial plan, advising them on different loan programs, answering questions about their credit reports, and advising them when they are ready to make an offer on a home. My goal is to be their home loan banker for the rest of their lives. I am also there if they need to refinance to cover remodeling or college expenses. I have the honor of helping people make one of the most important purchases in their life.

I love music and play the guitar and some African Djembe drum. I am passionate about photography and love to take off on long weekend trips with my husband and our motorcycles. I also love art, reading, and taking long hikes in the beautiful Oregon scenery.

My core values are fun, freedom, and responsibility. That is why my job is so perfect for me. I love the freedom of being able to set my own schedule. It’s a bit like running my own business. I love the adventure of helping my customers put together their financial loan requests, which can be like putting together a complicated puzzle. And I love the responsibility of making sure the needs and deadlines of both customers and the bank are met.

And then, I love being able to take time off to have fun and adventures with my husband and family. We like to head out without reservations or a specific destination. We enjoy spending time meandering through the beautiful countryside, exploring new restaurants, and visiting old favorites.

Family is the most meaningful thing in my life. I cherish time spent with my college-age daughter. Watching her grow into an amazing human has been one of the most humbling and wonderful experiences. I love spending time walking through life with my husband. The way we have built our new life together has been wonderful. As we learn to live together as husband and wife, we are falling into a rhythm and making new memories. I like to call it the dance of marriage.

Links: Onpoint Employee Spotlight

Elizabeth (Liz) Jansen

A few times someone looking for Liz has contacted me and vice versa. A little homework would have prevented that, but then we wouldn’t have met!

I live just outside of St. Paul, Minnesota, USA, and grew up in this area. With the exception of a year in Colorado, I have lived here all my life.

I am married and have three children in their late teens/early 20s. Watching my kids grow and become who they are is my greatest joy. I am of predominantly Irish heritage.

I am a college professor at Macalester College, a small liberal arts college in St Paul.

My PhD is in neuroscience and my research has focused on neural plasticity (the brain’s abilities to change in development and in response to experience and injury). My PhD is in neuroscience and my research has focused on neural plasticity (the brain’s abilities to change in development and in response to experience and injury)

I love to read, travel (have visited Canada, Mexico, South America, Europe, Africa, Asia), many outdoor activities (skiing, biking, hiking, rollerblading) and playing with my kids. I am a huge fan of folk music (especially Bob Dylan and John Prine) and love seeing live music (especially outdoors). What drives me? I feel privileged to teach at Macalester where the students come from around the country and around the world and are bright, interesting, and eager to learn.

I try and make the world a better place in a small way by trying to be a positive force, supporting young people, and teaching about the beautiful and amazing world of biology.

I have never driven a motorcycle but I love to ride on the back of them!

Links: Macalester College Faculty

Elizabeth Jansen

I found Elizabeth through my Google search and am humbled and inspired by her energy and resilience.

I grew up in New Canaan, CT, am of Scottish, British, German descent, and currently live and work in Boston, MA. I have a mom, dad, and an older brother, Robert, who is/was 2.5 years older than me. Unfortunately, he was killed in 2012 in a rockslide while climbing out in Colorado. I am also married to Kyle, my husband of 8 months.

My major in college was Chinese Studies, and I studied abroad in Shanghai during my college year, which is actually where I met my husband! (He was also studying abroad there). I love languages, especially Mandarin.

I am a Pre-K teacher and have been teaching for 6 years. My first year I worked in a 1st grade classroom and also taught middle school Mandarin. I then got a job teaching Pre-K and absolutely love the age! I also started my own running coaching business in summer 2018 called ‘Strongest Self’. I am an avid runner and am passionate about helping others become stronger runners and reach their goals.

My passion is running. When Robert was killed in August 2012, I was very sad and didn’t know how to process his death. I was already suffering from a Binge Eating Disorder and put all my attention on my school work (I was a senior in college). I would suppress my feelings with food and didn’t take care of myself. I started running and realized how much better I felt after a run. Slowly but surely, I began running and ended up losing 25 pounds and getting in the shape I’ve always wanted to be in. Now I am a 14x marathoner and run in Robert’s memory. (#Run4Rob). My dream is to qualify for the World Marathon Majors and qualify for the Olympic Trials.

The love I have for my brother, my family, running, and believing in myself drive me. I have proven to myself over and over again that I am so much stronger than I ever thought I was—physically, mentally, and emotionally. I am recovering from my eating disorder as well as PTSD. My goals for running are so big and they set my heart on fire.

My family and my health are most meaningful in my life. They mean everything to me and are my biggest supporters and cheerleaders. They also come to my races and cheer me on whether it’s sunny or raining. I am so happy I took control of my life and got healthy physically, mentally, and emotionally. I want to be running as long as I can and have it be a lifelong sport.

You can do anything you dream you can do. Not long ago, I couldn’t run over three miles and now I’m a 14x marathoner with dreams I never even knew I could reach. Be patient with yourself and with your goals, and don’t give up. Consistency and a little work every day will take you places. I am hoping to grow my run coaching business and make it my full-time job eventually.

Links:
Running for Robert Blog
Instagram

What stories do you have about your name? Leave them in the comments.

How We Can Learn About Joyful Living from the Dying

joyful living
joyful living

Death has been on my mind a lot lately. Not because I sense mine is imminent, but it’s all around. And it’s teaching me about joyful living.

Last week I attended a celebration of life for friends’ thirty-five-year-old daughter. Earlier that week, one of my closest friend’s mother passed on. In March I honored the life of a 95-year-old man who served his country and everyone in it for his entire life. Most of that time he rode a motorcycle. An uncle passed in January. Last year I said good-bye to my best friend of fifty-five years, a cousin, and my and everyone’s favorite uncle. A few months earlier it was an aunt, my friend’s husband, and a month before that, my Dad.

It’s not so much about what happens to our physical body and spirit that captures my attention. I do think about it, but more importantly, death makes me think of life.

Cleaning out my parents’ apartment I looked around at what remained after ninety years. Although they embraced a simple lifestyle, I was amazed at how much stuff they packed in. It made me think about focusing even less on things and putting my energy into that which endures.

During one of my shamanic training exercises, we role played, imagining we were at the end of life. We reflected on how we’d lived and what we were leaving behind. We questioned ourselves about any unfinished business. The exercise was powerful and life-changing and helps us understand why in the shamanic tradition, we refer to death as an ally. It makes us view life through a different lens.

We have a finite number of days on earth. That’s no big secret but for some reason, it only sinks in as we age. The realization that there were more days behind me than ahead of me led to my quest in 2014. As a restless sixty-year-old, I felt I wasn’t living up to my potential. I wanted to make everything I did for my remaining days count. My soul was calling, pleading for my attention. To do that, I had to find myself under the layers of roles, expectations, and cultural conditioning I’d accumulated over my lifetime.

I was able to go back and examine the stories that had led me to what I considered a life of mediocrity, and almost stifled my spirit. By placing myself in the lives of my parents and grandparents, I could look back at the culture and community that had conditioned me and see it through new eyes.

Everything and nothing changed. Through what became an arduous but soul-enriching journey, I just changed my perception without altering the past. That enabled me to reconcile with my spiritual roots and deepen the connection with my family, while belonging to me first.

Death teaches us how to live and reminds us to use our time, gifts, and resources wisely. If we practice that every day, we get better at it. We have no idea when our time on earth will be over. Living our fullest every day means we’re less likely to face unfinished business or regrets when the time comes. We did our best.

Photo on VisualHunt

10 Spring Motorcycle Hazards and What to Do About Them

spring motorcycle hazards
spring motorcycle hazards

Updated from: March 12, 2013

As eager as we are to get out for the first ride of the season, it’s important to prepare for unique spring motorcycle hazards.

Trudy and I went for our first ride last week. It was an early start but she needed routine maintenance beyond my repertoire. We’ve got travel plans for later this month so the work had to happen. We lucked out with a beautiful sunny day (sandwiched between two snow days) for the ninety-minute cross-country ride to my local Triumph dealer.

I wasn’t as ready as I would have preferred so I stayed away from traffic and rode more deliberately, aware of what I was dealing with.

10 Spring Motorcycle Hazards

  1. Automobile drivers. They haven’t had to share the road with motorcycles for four months. Add in their general inattentiveness and distractions and it’s a recipe for trouble. Give yourself plenty of space, watch other road users closely, and make yourself as visible as possible. Assume they don’t see you.
  2. Spring fever. Last week’s sunshine and above-freezing temps brought out many other riders eager to get out after a long winter. I hadn’t warmed up my skills (like I recommend) and I’m sure most of them hadn’t either. You have the whole season ahead of you. Take your time, take it easy, and get used to riding again.
  3. Sand, salt, grit. Road crews clean up as soon as possible but watch for sand, especially on corners and at intersections. You don’t want to discover it when you’re leaned over in a curve or trying to stop at an intersection.
  4. Rusty skills. You likely haven’t done much riding since late autumn. Muscle memory fades with inactivity and you may not have the same instinctual reactions, even if you’ve been riding for many years. Practice in a parking lot before heading out into traffic.
  5. Motorcycle. Make sure it’s ready to go. If you’ve done the proper winter maintenance, it should be in good shape. Before you take it out, check cables, fluid levels, tire condition, tire pressure, loose parts.
  6. Weather. Early spring can mean unpredictable weather that can change and cool significantly in a short time. Wear appropriate gear and layers. Stay alert to the effects of cold. Fatigue comes on insidiously, reducing your reaction time and ability to respond to unexpected situations.
  7. Frost heaves, potholes. Winter in northern climes is brutal on roads. Watch for heaves, holes, and crumbling edges of pavement.
  8. Physical fitness. As wonderful as it feels to be out in the wind, riding is taxing. Starting out rested and fit offers a more enjoyable and safer ride.
  9. Animals. They start moving in spring too and appear out of nowhere – often with young in tow. Watch the roadsides for signs of movement, especially in rural areas.
  10. Other motorcyclists. Whether they’re experienced or not, they too have spring fever, rusty skills and face the same hazards you do. This is even more important when you’re riding with a group – i.e. any more than one person.

Plan and book a skills refresher course under the guidance of experienced instructors. It’s wise to refresh your skills every year, whether it’s at an off-road course, at the track or at another recognized course. I t can save your life. And it’s fun!

What other hazards do you watch for? Leave them in the comments.

Read more: Valuable Motorcycle Resources
Photo credit: sniggie on Visual Hunt / CC BY-NC-SA

Signs of Spring Bring Out Signs of Dad

Signs of Spring

Dad always farmed, his life revolving around the seasons. Only in winter, when nature hibernated, did the frenzy ease. That’s when he pruned his orchards, removing what was necessary to keep fruit trees strong and bearing as much as possible. He had to be ready for spring when the landscape, and the work, kicked into high gear.

It shouldn’t have been a surprise when he paid a visit last weekend as I celebrated two rites of the season—Spring Open House at Clare’s Cycle and an equinox fire.

Without hesitation, I accepted Lisa Taché’s invitation to take part in Clare’s event. Clare’s, a family business founded in 1955, is a fixture in the community. They were the go-to shop in my early riding years and they’ve been tremendously supportive of my more recent work.

Setting up my book display, I reached into my brown leather jacket pocket for tissues. The jacket is one of my favorites but I hadn’t worn it for a while. As it turned out, not since Dad and I travelled out west together in August 2017 on a pilgrimage to the lands he’d lived on as a boy. What I at first thought were crumpled up sales receipts were the boarding passes from our trip home.

I looked up and smiled, sensing his presence.

Dad had always been supportive of my riding, as he and Mom were for all their children’s interests. He didn’t blink an eye when I began motoring around the farm at age sixteen. He loaned out his barn for maintenance workshops I hosted and Clare’s participated in. Whenever I’d visit, he’d have a parking spot cleared out in the barn for my bike. As far as I know he never rode but he loved to chinwag with my moto friends.

Of course he’d be at Clare’s spring open house but I didn’t expect him two days in a row.

On Sunday I gathered with a group of friends for a fire ceremony to honor the spring equinox. One of them is an aficionado and collector of old wooden wind instruments. I didn’t recognize the five-inch wooden slat he brought.

“It’s a bullroar,” he said. I thought I’d misunderstood.

“Pardon me. What did you call that?

“A bullroar. You attach it to a string, whirl it in the air, and it roars like a bull.”

Dad had a few derogatory Plautdietsch (Low German) terms in his repertoire but he didn’t use coarse English language in front of me or in public. Maybe in front of my brothers or other farmers. He used the term “bullroar” in place of “bullshit,” as in “That’s a pile of bullroar!”

Again I looked around and smiled. He was at the fire too, honoring the seasons and the Creator.

Wherever Dad is, I doubt there are seasons. Yet he recognizes and responds to times of awakening. Our relationship evolved enormously during our time together and is a significant part of my journey as told in Crash Landing. Even though he’s no longer here in human form, he’s around, supporting, celebrating, and ready to help me in my growth in any way he can.

Thank you, Dad!

Related post: Bookkeeping, Spring, and Signs of Awakening

Photo credit: Joe Cosentino on Visualhunt / CC BY-ND

Top