When you’re planning a trip of the kind I’m now doing, you imagine a montage of sunshine and strangers set in a revolving backdrop of European cities. The reality is a lot slower. There is a wilderness to being trapped on a bike for 6 hours. I do a lot of maths during these hours, estimating arrival times, guessing at my average speed before checking my on board computer. There are, however, only so many distraction on a bike, especially when following a river like the Rhine which makes it hard to get lost. The first two hours of cycling are always a joy but the penultimate hour is usually the low point. This is when familiar demons make their home in my head. It was during this hour on my way to Mainz that my thoughts turned sour. The atmosphere was muggy and hot, almost tired, waiting for a storm to clear the air. I noticed the concrete that is ever present where humans deign to go. A symbol of humanity’s lack of creativity. The grey, uncompromising efficiency saps my enthusiasm for travel. The same jaundiced drunk wanders the street and even the optimism of young lovers becomes a parody of lovers everywhere, repeating the same pattern of impossible expectations, inevitably disappointed. I’m reminded of lines from Ecclesiastes ‘there is nothing new under the sun…everything is meaningless…a chasing after the wind’ or into the wind in my case. But getting to Mainz and meeting old friends lifted me out of this melancholy.
The next day I was reading 21 wonderfully written words of wisdom, which you should all read (here), and found myself inspired but again melancholy. Disappointed that I don’t see the world with same optimism of Rumi or the hope of Rebecca Solnit (you have to read the piece to get the references). And after the melancholy came the loveliest epiphany, rather like a butterfly unexpectedly landing on your hand. It was a delightful sense of peace, and a sense that who I was, was ok. It was the flip side of the melancholy coin I had experienced the day before. With the futility of things comes an equality. Chasing after the wind is still fairly pointless but it’s ok to do it. The sense of peace fluttered away as delicately as it had arrived but I still remember it.
Tomorrow morning I head off for Wurzburg before Nuremberg on Monday. I have a host arranged for both stays and as it happens a friend, Drew Worthley, is playing a gig in Nuremberg Monday night.