It is here you can listen.
“…turn off the voice in your head until you can hear the voices outside it. The shhh of wind in leaves, water trickling over rock… and something more – something that is not for us, for which we have no language, the wordless being of other in which we are never alone”– Robin Wall Kimmerer
It is common to infer a disconnect with the landscapes we travel through when we race. Touring has the inherent appeal of travel, ticking the boxes on places been and landmarks seen. Racing the same routes is understandably questionable, do you not miss out on the places you pass through?
“Wouldn’t you enjoy it more if you slowed down a bit?”
If anything, racing enhances ones’ relationship with the landscape. You climb it, cross it, descend it, meet it on its own terms and give yourself to its lumps and bumps, rocks and soil. It is unforgiving, but welcoming. It challenges you and invites you.
Time has a different meaning to a landscape. The pace of my movement and the pace of its movement run on very different clocks. The effort of travelling fast enhances the delights and majesty of a landscape in a manner not matched by a slow pace. To cover great distances each day allows a closer perspective on the land, a knowledge of its changes and similarities, an intimacy with its inherent vastness.
But to counter that, if it is the speed of travel that is questioned, it could be said that we all go too fast. Touring or racing are essentially the same when compared to stopping.
I stop in the woods, under the green canopy with dappled sunlight across the moss and ferns. I settle in to the curve of the roots and listen.
To be present in the presence of ancients. To stop and immerse yourself in the moment, that is when you can learn from the greatest teachers. You instinctively want to be quiet because nothing you could say would add a thing.
It can also be argued that by travelling fast you get to see more, you cover more ground. But that is not really the point. For everyone the reason is the same, whether sitting or walking, touring or racing, it is to be out there. To get a sense of that size and our own place in it. To search for meaning of our existence out there in nature. The real disconnect is between us and life. The endless pursuit to remove physical effort and replace it with convenience has created a chasm. A gap where our connection to the land should be. An understanding of the gifts our planet has given us and how we can live as one within it. Our senses are muted within four walls. Inside my attention is on me instead of all that is more than me. Inside I am lonely in a vast world.
“If there is meaning in the past and in the imagined future, it is captured in the moment. When you have all the time in the world, you can spend it, not on going somewhere, but on being where you are.”Robin Wall Kimmerer
Of course, however we travel we can’t ever match the pace of the landscape. In summer it is green and bright, in winter, brown and muted. In decades it can change its features to be unrecognisable. We pick out clues in the landscape to infer its changes over timescales outwith our lifetimes. You would have to be present a long time to know a landscape that intimately. Perhaps we cannot know the land. But we can pursue its secrets at different speeds, in different ways.
A race takes the mind to a different place. The adrenaline and endorphins, fatigue and sleep deprivation. In this place your mind and body are both present in the now. The past and the future have no bearing on your present self. You are engaged with the landscape you are crossing, immersed in your relentless pursuit of forward motion. You notice the trees and the rocks, the hills and the valleys. The landscape gives itself up to you and you absorb it all in. You observe beauty where others would see none. You see the scars we have left and feel genuine sorrow. You are present in the world at that moment and you are a welcome member of its family.
You can’t control anything except this moment. Each moment has its own story and you are fully immersed in its narrative.
Whether you move fast or slow.
It is here you can listen.