I woke up late in the warm sun on the farmer’s field with my arms stiff
and unbendable. I carefully stretch them in my tent but cannot unknot them
fully. I know now that my descent is in play. I can feel the disease in my
organs like my heart and my kidneys. The very core of my limbs ache as if I had
acid in my marrow.
hopping on my bike, after a breakfast of bread, cheese and water, we pedaled
along Highway 2 just off the gravel shoulder on the pavement. It wasn’t nearly
as busy as the main highway going to Montreal so the cycling was good and
relaxing. There were no trucks.
As we passed Gray’s Bay we heard honks from a muffled horn of a distant
train. Its faint sound was all Canadiana. After a couple hours of
riding, Doppel saw a trail so he took it. I had no idea where it led other than
it goes north so I followed. Through flowers our wheels rolled and through
vegetation chest high and white, all was momentarily frozen in a shimmer. Time
had become beautiful.
We whipped down the trail through the grass down the green and gray
corridor at a comfortable speed going east with a northerly flow. There was so
much color that the bumps and sweat didn’t disturb me. We pedaled until we
reached the road again. There were no cars around.
“I think the town of Ivy Lea is just around the corner,” he said.
“Good off-road hit.”
“Yes. Did you know that in the theory of relativity there is no unique
absolute time, but instead each individual has his own personal measure of time
that depends on where he is and how he is moving.”
“But you see, there’s a subjective view of time.”
“Tell me riding off-road like that didn’t change time?”
“It became more intense.”
“More qualia, more color, more butterflies, more bumps, more smells,
more memories than the same kilometer we did before it. Just like time within
the workplace is different from time you spend on your bike. It’s quantifiably
the same – one minute is one minute – but the experience of time is different.
They’re qualitatively different.” He put down his bike and walked in the
waist-high grass feeling the tops with the palms of his hands.
“Are you having a moment?”
“Well, I’ve come up with a word: zeitqualia. It’s what we just did:
experiencing the flow of time in all its color and texture. That’s what we were
doing on our motorcycles in Taiwan. The serious green of the mountains and the
cool breeze of the wind and the rocks on the road; they were all part of the
qualia of the ride. It is the kaleidoscope of tactile images that penetrate the
veil of our senses when we are executing an exploit.”
“Zeitqualia. How’d you get that?”
“’Zeit’ is German for ‘time,’ and you know qualia: the Latin root of
the word ‘quality’ meaning the qualitative, experiential ‘feel’ of a mental
state or process. For instance, the redness of a visual experience, the hurt of
pain, or the chocolateness of a taste. To maximize the zeitqualia of an
exploit is the task for our Viking-Poets.”
“I see you’re getting your words in order. Pretty soon you’ll have a
complete and comprehensive philosophy you can call your own.”
“Sure, after I’m dead I guess.” The mention of death on such a
beautiful day and in such a glorious place didn’t fit. Everything around us was
teeming with life. I began to wonder if he was giving me hints that he knew I
was ill. I would keep my eyes open henceforth.
The sun was hanging over my right a bit, just shy of midday. Very few
cars passed us as we rode by a series of 19th-century country estates
every few moments with the majority enclosed by greenery. The windy air smelled
of freshly produced oxygen, from the never-ending trees and bushes bringing
with it the farm-like aroma of soil and harvest. The wind picked up and was
coming in gusts south from the United States. My steady flow of motion was now
periodically slowed by intermittent gusts. I can see the logic in what Doppel
is saying though it must be a skill to master it.
A highway sign near Brockville signaling an historic site appeared. A
quick calculation produces the answer “yes” in response to whether we’d pull
over to read it. We turned at the next sign not knowing what the historical
site was. Doppel spotted the arrow pointing to beside the water where there’s a
plaque. We cycle over and read it:
THE BATTLE OF CHRYSLER’S FARM
In November, 1813, an
American army of some 8,000 men, commanded by Major James Wilkinson, moved down
the St. Lawrence en route to Montreal. Wilkinson was followed and harassed by a
British “corps of observation” consisting of about 800 regulars, militia and
Indians commanded by Lieut.-Col. Joseph Morrison. On November 11, Morrison’s
force established in a defensive position on John Chrysler’s Farm, and was
attacked by a contingent of the American army numbering about 4000 men
commanded by Brigadier-General J.P. Boyd. The hard fought engagement ended with
the American’s withdrawal from the battlefield. This reverse, combined with the
defeat of another invading army at Chateauguay on October 26, saved Canada from
conquest in 1813.
The wind seemed to pick up the restless spirits on the battlefield. I
felt the presence of death, not knowing if they were spirits in the ethers or
the stench of death coming from my own person. A feeling of history here, as if
the blood that was spilled was still fresh and the wounds were still healing in
the nourishing breeze. The 30-foot monument stood at the top of a small hill by
the water and beside the old farm of John Chrysler. There were now government
employees serving as early 19th-century farmhands. I stood in the
wind by the monument and read another plaque that was below it.
OF CHRYSLER’S FARM
Here on the farm of John
Chrysler, was fought one of the decisive battles of the War of 1812. On 11
November 1813 Lieutenant-Colonel Joseph Morrison, with 800 British and Canadian
regulars, militia and Indians engaged an American force of 4,000 under
Brigadier-General John Boyd. The open terrain was suited to the training of the
well-drilled British regulars who after two hours of heavy fighting, routed the
enemy. This victory ended a major American thrust to Montreal. Many units composed largely
of persons residing in the American provinces at the time of the Revolution
fought valiantly in support of the Crown, forfeiting their property and
suffering great privation. They and their descendants played a leading role in
the rapid development of the province. For this cause are known as United
UN INCEPIT SIC PERMANET FIDELIS
AS LOYAL SHE BEGAN, LOYAL SHE REMAINS
could feel it all in my heart as I stood there straddling by bike beside Doppel
with my head down, heavy with battle imagery from the War of 1812.
lay of the land here is perfect for a pitched battle,” said Doppel, looking
across to the field where it met the trees and the water.”
much was decided right here.”
to think so many go by and never know it’s here. Thank God for the Loyalists.”
must have been canon balls splashing at will. The imagery of a lead bullet in
the thigh is heavier than a bullet in the head for some reason. All wounded
wounded always wounded. A pain in the soul for the lost time between you and
me. Our separation. Too much time has passed. I always thought we’d have more
time to hang out.”
have our road trip.” Could not hide the sadness in my eyes. “I wish we had had
we should plan another one. Go somewhere for another exploit.” I looked at him
in his khaki shorts and beard.
we are on one here right now. There is no other place I want to be right now
than here with you at this battle site beside the river. This is the final
chapter in your handbook. This is the culmination of years of study and action
for you to distill what it is to be alive. But now it’s coming to a close.”
is it coming to a close?”
tree withers that on a hill-top stands; protects it neither bark nor leaves:
such is the man whom no one favors: why should he live long?”
you not well?”
am as well as I need to be for this tour along the major artery of Canada, and
the early highway of exploration to the West. There are no philosophers here.
See I am a descendent of David Hume. ” His laughter was taken by the wind and
flung to the towns downwind.
I believe the Scotsman’s words to be true when he said: ‘It is confessed, that
the utmost of human reason is, to reduce the principles, productive of natural
phenomena, to a greater simplicity, and to resolve the many particular effects
into a few general causes, by means of reasoning from analogy, experience, and
observation.’ That is my work. That is how I see the world. And to do this work
one must live in the now. Human lives come and go but the first
principles of life’s conundrums remain.’” I took off in an instant, like the
blades of cut grass on the field.
on the road dragonflies buzzed in front of me flying the same speed as I had.
We cruised momentarily together, me and the dragonflies, passing
inconspicuously along the hot August pavement. One dragonfly faded to the left
and then darted past me just missing my eye. I was thankful I was wearing my
eye tackle to protect from bugs and debris and UV rays.
one point I approached a guy walking his dog who was using the entire length of
the leash. It all happened in an instant. I passed him crossing the railway
tracks where the edges in the road were chipped and deep along the iron rails.
As soon as I rode around the guy and his dog, a black Porsche came screaming by
just missing me by a hair, all in a moment. The fumes of the squeeze still hung
in the thick air as I coasted on one pedal. I let my head fall forward and
relax my neck muscles and back. A surge of soothing blood rushes to my
shoulders quenching a prolonged pinch.