Saturday, March 22

1976: the culmination of three years of writing that left me in Maine with an unpublished manuscript, the utter inability to start another, no job and a failing marriage.  My wife asked that we separate for the summer.

So I stuck my life on a 10-speed bicycle and began pedaling west. I had never ridden a 10-speed before; I bought it the day before I left. On the first day I went 80 miles. I nearly died, but kept plugging. In August, I reached Sheridan, WY and the Big Horns, part of the Rockies. At 2:00 on a hot afternoon I began to grind my way up.

By 6:00 I had climbed 10 miles of switchbacks, reaching the pass at 8000 feet. I was exhausted, rubber-legged, sweat-crusted, surrounded by house-sized boulders. Then I looked into the sky to see a cloud the color of midnight.

There’s no arguing with a cloud like that. I pulled into the lee of one of the giant boulders, put on my poncho, and sat down beside the Schwinn. The cloud let loose with torrents of rain, splits of thunder and lightning. It was a doozy.

For a long time, filled with failure, I wept in despair. But then came a series of events that even at the time seemed like miracles.  First, the rain stopped. And everything became metaphor. Then, the real miracle: the sun came out. I stopped and looked behind me. There was that cloud, dark but moving away east, where a field of wheat lay, shining like burnished gold in the afternoon sunlight.

That day was a turning point in what had been until then a fairly irregular life. We all have everything we need to overcome our failures, as I discovered that afternoon in 1976, when the storm and I wept together high up in the Big Horn Mountains.  Bless us all.

— John Gould