Some of us think holding on makes us strong but sometimes it is letting go-
Late last year I found myself working and “living” in our fair city, Cambridge, UK. Having fallen back in love with cycling after trying to kill myself running, instinctively I brought a few bikes with me. Riding in Cambridge is not the horror show many would lead you to believe. The streets, bridleways and footpaths this spring and summer have been refreshingly pleasant. I wake early, and not long after that, I’m out finding a pedaling flow before the sun comes up – Bliss! My almost daily rides have truly been wonderful, that is until last Sunday morning.
As I approached a blind corner near the top of Chapel Hill, which runs into a lovely, peaceful wooded path. There was a woman walking ahead of me, and my presence startled her.
“You need to be riding back on Chapel Hill road with the other cyclist,” she told me hastily.
“Good morning ma’am?” I replied, as my unquestionable ‘Murican accent wafted in the still air.
“Why don’t you cyclist follow the rules like everyone else” she replied.
I dismounted slightly ahead of her, and as softly spoken as the world awakening around us … “My name is Jeremy, and I’m out here for the same reasons you are – Peace, kindness, finding equanimity in this mad world. Plus, my bike is filthy dirty … The road weenies don’t like it when I spray them with mud.”
Kate smiled and laughed at my “Cars R Coffins” jersey. I on the other hand, melted, as Kate let down her startled guard. We walked for a short while, then parted ways further down the dirt path that was unfolding in front of us … I had broken into her peaceful temple, and for that I was deeply sorry.
Cambridge, the United Kingdom, Europe and little ‘ole Omaha, Nebraska are desperately trying to “fix” cycling related things. My solution to our (yes our) epidemic of hostility and intolerance involves a fundamental change in the prevailing attitude(s) of each one of us. Kindness, gratitude, honesty and a smile are free 🙂
I have to be alone very often. I’d be quite happy if I spent from Saturday night until Monday morning alone in my apartment. That’s how I refuel-
For the past two years in late August, I bike for nearly ten hours, one hundred plus miles, into the picturesque countryside around Omaha, Nebraska.. Out here, I don’t have a laptop, a navigation gadget, or anyone to talk to. It’s just me and my bike, and a few Western Meadowlarks greeting me kindly.
The first twenty miles are the hardest. I’m on an adrenaline high at first, I wake early and start riding East, where the brilliant glow of a sunrise brings a smile to my tired face. The air is clear on these desolate gravel roads, there is no sound of traffic, yet suddenly – I start to feel lonesome. I feel an urge to text a picture of what I am witnessing to someone, and when I realize I can’t, my phone is resting at home in the garage, a feeling of anxiety pours over me. I can’t turn back now as I turn south into a gentle breeze, so I begin to listen to my thoughts; I go over the events of the week, honoring my thoughts makes me feel less stirred up. Something surprising happens mid-ride, I feel a sense of peace. There is no particular switch that is flipped, I recall thinking at the time: I’m alone, and I’m happy.
Rarely do I get lonely riding anymore. I have loved ones and friends in my life whom I deeply cherish and value, yet, I don’t feel the need to be with them constantly. While it’s wonderful to go on a weekly group ride, I also happily wave so long to them when they turn around to head home, and I continue on … My time, this tender moment, is completely my own again.
I don’t partake in these grueling rides to prove anything. I’m out there, because I have fully surrendered to the power of solitude. It has taught me so much about myself. Most importantly, there’s no one to share opinions with, about who I am or what I’m doing. I don’t have a FaceTube status to update, nor do I have a future conversation with someone sloshing between my ears. What hits home the hardest is when I hit the 100+ mile marker, when I’m alone this much on a bike – man and machine, I can’t turn my back and avoid the problems in my life or allow a stray emotion to weigh me down. I can’t distract myself by blogging or surfing the net. What shines through, is the warm glow of my heart.
Time passes differently after 120 miles. I once watched a young doe leap over an eight foot fence from standing; slowing down as she turned to look at me, the sun passed directly overhead during this time, and I didn’t even notice I was heading West. I patiently listen to the wind as I unzip my jersey to cool off as I head home.
The most exhausting part of the ride, is heading home. I have forgotten about the traffic late at night, the stimulation, the nauseating advertisements seemingly everywhere. Sprinklers running, dogs barking, are a jolt to my body … Although friends, the cold shower awaiting me is simply divine.
The only reason why we ask other people how their weekend was is so we can tell them about our own weekend-
Romanticizing, endlessly, about the past is a passionate avocation, and dare I say an easy one to indulge in, as long as you overlook the self-serving conversations such as renewable-clean energy sources, carbon offsets, living a gluten-free lifestyle and what happened this past weekend while on holiday. That said, some cultural bygones such as meaningful conversation among close friends really do have their merits.
Few “things” in life are in fact as pleasurable and fertile as engaging in heartfelt, close conversation. Whether you’re falling in love again for the first time, riding some sweet trails with a cycling buddy, listening to an insightful yoga instructor during class (thank you Cheryl, Suzanne and Maia) or beginning a new friendship. Open ended, seemingly unimportant conversation is essential to building a close relationship. Conversation is also the means by which we learn, via other people, how in which the world works. A meandering conversation unlocks doors to memories long ago stored away, and forgotten.
Without conversation, conversations that take us on spontaneous journeys through various ideas and opinions, how can we being to explore and awaken the minds of others, and ourselves? Be well and have an inspiring day!
Biking is about rhythm and flow. It’s the wind in you face and the challenge of hammering up along a hill. It’s the reward at the top and the thrill of a high-speed descent. Biking lets you come alive in both body and spirit. After awhile the bike disappears beneath you and you feel as if you’re suspended in midair-
Flipping through some old photo albums while spring cleaning our spare bedroom – yes digital aged kids, photo albums! I stumbled upon a picture of myself thirteen years ago. In the background is my beloved mountain bike, a Cannondale “F” something or another, the same bike I ride while walking our beagle after dinner. Looking at the picture I recall that frustrating, exhilarating process that is learning to enjoy riding after suffering though a series of injuries. I needed a lot of help back then and still do to this very day. Sprinkle in a ton of support and patience from others to get me to this point in life – Close family and friends, caring but rigid doctors, rehab therapist, yoga teachers, open-minded “folks” who listened to my quibbles – All helped me
walk ride a path towards “whatever” I suppose.
A bright cloudless summer day in Upstate New York; my patient father watching me taking my first solo ride on my battle torn BMX bike, as I wobbled and bobbled right, then left, trying to find that savory spot of – Balance.
I was deathly afraid of falling on the asphalt hill in front of our house. So I would try riding into the grass when I started to lose my balance. It would hurt less if I fell in the lush green grass, right? Shortly after an early morning shower, I got my seven year old legs pumping away as fast as I could coming down from the top of the hill. Rain splatter streaming from the front tire onto the down tube as I picked up speed, as I neared the intersection at the bottom of the slick hill, the handle bars started to shake, and I lost control trying to make it over and through the inviting lawn to my right. I promptly keeled over and slid along the greasy asphalt for what seemed like an eternity and smacked hard into the raised curb, completely missing the grass. Crying with road rash down the left side of my body, bleeding knees and elbows … I limped to sit on the curb to gather myself.
A few days later I was pedaling my bike in varying circles at the top of this very same hill. Suddenly, a moment of unbridled bliss washed over me, I felt myself balancing, not shaking, not thinking about the newly formed scabs irritating my skin as I effortlessly pedaled. I was being, I was riding my bike without a worry in the world!
Not much has changed over the years, there will be lots of falls, bruised knees, bleeding elbows still to come. But eventually there is – Balance. It may be very small and fleeting, although it will happen.