|The Sisyphus of White Rock Lake
Here’s a picture from today’s bike ride around White Rock Lake. For those unfamiliar, it’s up on the dam, looking south toward the spillway. There’s about a 60 foot grassy drop off to the right, and you can see a bit of the lake to the left.
I saw this turtle on my first lap. (He hid when I pulled out the camera…)
I’ve named him “The Sisyphus
of White Rock Lake.” I’ve seen this same thing three or four times on rides this year. Best I can tell, these little guys climb all the way up the grassy side of the dam.
In fact, today I saw this guy the first time around. He was gone by my second lap. But later on my third, an entirely different turtle was trying the same thing about 200 feet South towards the spillway.
What must they think after climbing all that way, yearning for still green waters, only to meet two impenetrable feet of concrete?
Do they feel defeated?
Is this what it was like when Manifest Destiny finally stared out over the big blue Pacific?
And am I any better, riding loop after loop around this same concrete trail? I rode five loops today (50 miles). I’ve ridden dozens this year.
Am I moving forward?
Just in circles?
And how could I ever tell, really?
Maybe life is both.
Maybe it’s moving in circles –trekking up and down that hill time and time again–but also, sometimes imperceptibly, moving forward.
Lord knows, my life, has taught me this.
You can wake to the same locale every day for decades, as I have now, and it will never be exactly the same.
The lake has taught me that too.
Take today, for example. When I started out about noon, it was overcast and (I kid you not) cool. In the 70s, which is unheard of this time of year. The lake itself by was pure green glass. No wind at all. No lapping waves anywhere around the shore for the first three laps. Wish I’d stopped to take a shot of that. (Here’s an awesome sunset from last year instead…)
But during my third trip around, the clouds burned off, and suddenly it was hot. The wind picked up. First from the East. Then the West. It was like the wind was surprised by this sudden entrance of the Sun and couldn’t make up its mind.
The shadows are different too, on a mid-day ride, than they are during my usual sunset rides. The shady places you know you can count on near sunset are totally useless at noon, and you have to re-learn where to stop so you can cool down.
All this is to say, the lake teaches me what life teaches me: Nothing is ever the same, even when looks like it is.
The chemists and physicists will tell you, even the rocks slowly sag and change shape…big rocks that look like they haven’t moved in centuries, are always changing if we’ll stop to notice.
Sisyphus was cursed, but I like to imagine he had read Heraclitus.
Like the turtle up the hill, he was cursed to roll that dam stone up the hill time after time.
But surely it was never the same hill, yes?
I mean, it couldn’t have been.
I’ve got a fantasy that, cursed as he was, now and then he came to see even beauty in what others saw as mind-numbing repetition.
Wonder what these turtles read and how many times they’ve made this climb?
Wonder how many times we will?
Wonder if we’ll notice that it’s always a new hill, a new lap, a new life?
What grace it is when we’re given those eyes!
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