Awakening on a Bed of Rocks
Written by George Balarezo, Intrepid Global Citizen
Ice cold water infiltrated my tent at 4AM and saturated my clothing. My prayers to the sun gods were not answered. Overcast skies and piercing wind gusts were all that the heavens had to spare for a man who was thrown out of his element at the hands of Mother Nature. I continued to shiver as daybreak transformed the Xinjiang landscape into an abyss of relief. The gradual temperature increase seemed to take light years. Time stood still as suffering overwhelmed my pain tolerance.
It was time to put on my half wet clothes and mount my bike once again. The water in my clothing added another five kilograms of dead weight to the load I carried on my shoulders. Time to suck it up and keep moving. So is life. All I knew was one thing- I was alive to see another day. The incident at 4AM that morning really sucked an immense amount of energy out of my system and now I had no choice but to continue along. It was as if my life energy had been washed away downstream. The only thing that could restore it was food and rest. The giant hole in my stomach became more hollow with each passing second. I had about eighty kilometers remaining until I could have another home cooked Chinese meal at the next village. I was frothing at the mouth like a dog with rabies and ready to tear apart anything edible that brought itself into my field of vision. There were little menu options in the villages of Xinjiang but I was looking forward to consuming the same meal I had been having for the previous several weeks- a homemade version of ramen noodles called ‘lakhman.’
The road continued to go up and up along a slow but deadly gradient. It was like being on the incline portion of a roller coaster that never ends. However, I was not propelled by a motor engine but just my own willpower. The brush with death I experienced that morning left me feeling more human than ever before. I was no longer a superhero who could defeat nature and take on the world. I was just a little speck in the infinite universe whose existence was meaningless. I am just a living being making a brief appearance as a guest on the earth for a infinitesimally short period of time. At that moment I felt as if I had overstayed my welcome. Was Mother Nature trying to tell me something? Was I not doing everything in my power to take care of her? I vowed to do anything I could to give back at that moment since she spared me. I was humbled by the thoughts that everything in the universe would have just kept moving without me had I perished that morning.
All I could do was keep moving my legs one movement at a time and not allow my weariness to defeat me. Even though I felt like a zombie from a 1980’s horror movie I was happy to be able to see another day. After about thirty kilometers into my ride I collapsed on some rocks for a nap. It never ceases to amaze me that regardless of environment I was able to sleep just about anywhere. At that moment I could have fallen asleep on a ring of fire with gasoline doused all over my boots with the flames of hell racing towards me. I still would have been able to lay my head down in peace. After all this was nothing more than heaven on earth. The beauty of life was all around me at that moment. The rocks became a part of me as they pierced into my skin. I found my bed of roses in the Xinjiang Provence that afternoon. Perhaps I was receiving natural Chinese acupuncture that aided me in arriving at such a blissful state. It was such a privilege it was just to lie down in a warm, quiet place. No bed, mattress, pillow, grass or trees needed. The warm sun was radiating down on me finally. The rays pierced to the depths of my body and slowly restored my life energy. Food was scarce but my hunger subsided for the moment. The vitamin D intake would have to suffice for the time being. I mustered up the will to spread out some clothing around myself on the rocks in order to relieve my shoulders of the burdensome load they were carrying. The sun’s rays would work its magic and lighten the load for the next segment of my ride.
What a relief it was to lie down and let my body and mind rest. Sleep came to me within microseconds. They say nature rewards sleep to those who are living out their life to the fullest all the time. If that is the case then I was pushing my limits to the extreme. This is the polarity of life. Out of work is rest. If you want security, you have to live a life of insecurity. If you want to be authentically true to yourself then you have to take risks. Repression is the only way to avoid risk. Life and nature are not logical. There were many times when I was laying down on my soft mattress in the bed I grew up in, restless and unable to fall asleep. I had a refrigerator full of food, a bathroom with running water a few steps away, a system built into my home to adjust the temperature at a moment’s notice and a family in the adjacent room ready to support me through life’s trials and tribulations. Security was commonplace in my life and sleep would not come easily. My imagination would run wild painting pictures of all the adventures that were out there waiting for me in the world. I was not being true to myself and nature was punishing me. Now I was at my most vulnerable and all I had was a bed of rocks to rest my head on and the open sky engulfing my entire being. The irony of life was all encompassing and I was swept away into dreamland by its truth.