There I was, in her garden too, a man passing through. Glimpsing her life. Soaking up her happiness. Growing more content the longer I stayed around her and in her city. And, that afternoon, with my knees in the mud, hands in the dirt, shoving onions into the ground in the small allotment beneath the mountains a philosophy formed in my mind. A philosophy that seemed to subside all previous thoughts that had been been spinning through my brain like a miniature particle accelerator these past three months… For an hour I’d been planting seeds. Seeds I would never see grow. Onions I would never taste. Putting back into the land, giving back to the earth, creating life and harvest for others I had never met and never would. The soil between my fingers was cool and damp. The seeds dense and hard and full of energy. I enjoyed the physical action. The manual labour. Regardless of the outcome. Regardless of the benefits I would never receive and I would go on to leave this place, leave the garden to grow and flourish. Spring would come and I would be far from there, in another land and on other adventures, still cycling around the world. The onions would pass from soil to air, from hand to plate and from mouth to body until the cycle began again. I had been a part of that cycle. I had pushed it forward and then let go, patted the earth, packed up my things and returned to the city. My search would go on. I would never know the taste of the onions, but at least I had been in the garden where the enjoyment had been in the digging.
Humankind is searching. Reaching out. On an endless quest for meaning. Each person’s action an attempt to gain reaction from the unresponsive universe. Our movements an attempt to connect with it’s patterns and it’s mysteries. The search for meaning is the single unifying adventure that binds our species together. It is the eternal frontier. On our small planet, drifting through space and time, it’s so easy to feel lost. Nothing should exist and yet here we are and here life is. Only in humans, throughout all life on Earth, is the idea of meaning and the need for it present. Consciousness created this need and the bi-product was confusion, a sense of hopelessness. But, what it’s also provided is the ability to question, to appreciate and the desire to turn that hopelessness upside down. It is in our hands. For me this search is being felt more than ever before. A physical journey I may be on, cycling across continents. But the metaphysical element is far stronger and far more apparent to me right now. It plays a much larger role in what decisions are made and which turns I take. By the time I reached Greece I was in need of something much greater than an athletic journey. Riding had become so irrelevant and so easy and my thoughts seemed to have taken full control. My mind was racing at speeds much faster than was able to cycle. I was analyzing every interaction, every choice I’d made. I was looking at every event and asking myself if I was growing happier, enjoying more, whether it was showing, whether this journey gave my life meaning. I was desperate to make the most of my time in countries I perhaps would never visit again. Some days I’d get so tired just left alone for hours on the bike with my mind over-acting, over-thinking. You want so badly for the change in you to be as epic and dramatic as the journey itself and all the while you are questioning whether it is. Something about Mary and Komotini and Northern Greece had calmed me down, slowed me down, if only for a moment. Mary never seemed to be in need of anything. She never seemed worried or confused. The town, the area was muddy and brown and humble. Backdropped by small mountain ranges. A cold, grey winter mist always hanging in the air. Yet it was here that she found happiness.
She would teach her students and talk to me about their progress. She would grow her tea leaves and take time enjoying a cup of them in the late morning each day. She would dig in her garden, alone, in the winter, knowing full well that she would see no return until the spring. She seemed content. She seemed like the last person to begin a round the world bike ride.