10 March 2016

Archival footage: My ghosts engraved on this landscape

The following post was originally published at FlagstaffBiking.org in March 2004.

Carroll Ballard is one of the best film directors you've probably never heard of. But it's quite likely you've nevertheless been consistently impressed, as I have, by his movies -- cinematically gorgeous depictions of the natural world -- each of which speaks, I think, to how we humans often find ourselves humbled and awestruck by our insignificance. 

Remember the sea of caribou in Never Cry Wolf? The brilliant contrasts of water and sand on the island in The Black Stallion? The mysteriously compelled formations of Canadian geese in Fly Away Home? All beautiful examples, each composed by Ballard, of how unremarkable humankind is when viewed against the expansive backdrop of the natural world.

Like geese following an ultralight, I too am mysteriously imprinted and compelled. Often I'm totally surprised by what's imprinted me and on whose behalf.

Out in the woods, there is a long climbing section of singletrack that always reminds me of Wade. There's a difficult rock trap that recalls Chris to my mind and a log that always bears Lyle's name. There are also various overlooks, well-kept secret trails, twisty paths through widely spaced trees, and remote waypoints as well, all of which awaken long dormant but distinct memories of longtime and mostly long-gone friends like Ken, Shawn, Scotty, Mark, Huge, T-roy, Hils and the Bens. 

The recollection of friends, the ghostly apparitions these places and trails conjure, is profound and impressed upon me repeatedly, whenever I ride them.

Some rides have special moments, you see, where we become awestruck and imprinted. That's what I believe. Like images in a photo album, memorable passages from a familiar story, or notes jotted indelibly on the palm of my hand -- I will not, cannot forget these memories. Almost daily, I find myself both humbled by and grateful for their powerful influence on my life. 

They are my ghosts and they are engraved on this landscape.


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