I spend a great deal of time on my bikes, both in Winnipeg and in Tucson, and in a way they constitute a kind of office. A mobile office where thoughts come in the way of meditation: ruminative, fragmentary, suggestive. There’s lots of time on a road ride to let the mind drift and for thoughts to waft like streams of smoke, winding from this to that as the wheels whistle along, matching the twittering of birds from the verge.
Some very striking thoughts have come to me while riding. A writing problem I’ve been wrestling with suddenly comes clear: of course, character X needs to ask question Y of herself. Or a phrase takes shape as the bike slides around a long bend in the road: lauded, not applauded. Eureka! It’s like the way your mind goes to work on something during sleep, the unconscious providing a solution upon waking.
Those are delicious moments. And the only drawback to the mobile studio is that these gems must be stored for later noting on the laptop, as the bike and the ride demand not to be interrupted by mere pauses and mundane note-taking.
The road makes its claims. Thoughts may float for several minutes or more on straight stretches, but the road can be a cruel mistress: sliding into a trance may mean gliding off the tarmac into the ditch or the tulee bushes. Crash, road rash, a bent wheel and conked head. There are little white crosses along the roadside that intimate darker consequences.
Here’s a little rise where a bit of a dig is required. On the sloping descent that follows, the meadowlark’s call from the prairie grasses is soothing and querying, both at once. I remember how my father, about whom I’m writing these days, would slow the car when on country drives and roll down the window to listen. Shake his head and mutter, “By gum.” He liked the haunting, lonesome call of trains in the distance, too. And purple and gold horizons as the sun sank in the west during autumn. “You don’t get that in your city,” he’d chuckle.
Quite a bit of my writing is about landscapes in Manitoba and Northwest Ontario. Moon Lake is set on Lake of the Woods, Be Wolf north of Thompson, Dickie in the mining town I grew up in, in Northwest Ontario. I enjoy immersing myself in nature, the wide-open spaces of the prairie, the enchanted woods of the Shield, the scrub and lakes of the boreal forest. I visit these places on the bike, their special scents and sounds inhabit my body and enrich my soul. I come from them to my studio at home, energized and inspired.
In a way, most of my writing is an homage to the landscapes that have nurtured me. They are my spiritual office, my imaginative home.