To the right sort of person a farm in Maine could sound idyllic but to an restless adolescent, content enough, maybe even happy, and musingly accustomed in the pleasantries of Great Falls,Virginia, such as myself, the reality of moving to a farm 700 hundred miles away in central Maine sounded like a thousand miles of bad road. The farm had a name, 'The Lone Elm'.
Once moved in the first order of business was painting the place. No easy task. The barn was connected to the house and the shear volume of the structure was larger than a small condo complex. My dad hired two professional painters to help our family do the job. All in we were seven workers and it still took 10 days to finish.
A lifetime later I still think of those 10 days.... painting away in my solitary corner of the Lone Elm. Minutes felt like hours and days were like years at the time. The Tom Sawyer in me wanted to finish the job rapidly but the Huck Finn was a-lone to contemplation. My head spinning, thoughts shaving everything away I held too dear, abandonment I didn't deserve. I shaved it all down, man, over and over. I counted and recounted every loss in mantra to take me to a white washed realm that at the time I thought was anger but I was wrong. Yeah, I missed Virginia terribly and I hated the happy transcendentalism this experience appeared to give my parents and siblings. But you know what, in retrospect I think I got the most from it. You see, time spent in solitude taught me things. I wish I were a better student but I think riding bikes is a lot like painting the Lone Elm and I've had a rich lifetime of rides doing it.
The picture above was a late afternoon shot taken the day we finished painting the Lone Elm. We're cleaned up and showered, just getting ready for a cookout. Looking at it now, the texture and feelings in that moment are a lot like those after a long hard ride.
The first time I saw this picture, a short time later, I barely recognized myself. My appearance looked eerily changed, older, nothing boyish at all left and I felt very differently as well.
That sturdy man knew what he was saying.
-Peace and roll strong