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fat bike parked in garage

I was recently told that I must REALLY like bicycling to ride on days when the weather isn’t nice, in other word, when it’s rainy, snowy, cold, windy, hot, cloudy, etc. I couldn’t think of a way to explain why I prefer riding my bike to driving a car, at least not in a way that I thought the person would understand.

Later that week, I was in an outdoor gear and clothing store, looking for a neck warmer that I could pull up to also protect my face from the wind. A male employee grabbed a striped, brightly colored, fleece neck warmer from a display and said, “This one is warm.”

I said, “That looks like it’s for fashion. I’m looking for something for bicycling that still breathes and will dry when it gets wet.”

“For yourself?” the employee said.

“Yes, for myself.” I said.

In my head, the response went something like this, “Hey! Are you looking at me like I’m some damn old lady who might break a hip if I ride my bike in the big, bad wintertime? You know what? I might. So might you, just crossing the bloody street! Especially if I’m waiting outside and trip you with my cane!”

I did not buy a neck warmer.

fat bike tire

So now that I’ve had some time to think (and to cool off), here’s my explanation for why I ride my bike, walk my dogs, snow ski, and do all sorts of craziness outdoors.

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dog

dog

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted on my blog. I needed some clearing and gathering time. And time to determine what to clear and what to gather.

This has required a great deal of thinking — thinking while I’m driving (distracted driver), thinking while I’m walking the dogs, and thinking while I’m trying desperately to get some sleep.

It has taken some wandering, experimenting, and hibernating time as well.

In September, I received an email from Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew, which was the prompt that started me on this journey. Elizabeth facilitates a writer’s group that meets once a month. It’s different than most writer’s groups as we don’t read each other’s work or do critiques, instead we talk about the sorts of questions that a writer might ponder.

Elizabeth’s email prompted the group to think about the word “play” in relationship to writing.

Play?

As I thought about this word, the words that popped into my mind were free, light, uninhibited, unworried about outcome, adaptable, unrestricted.

And I realized how little time I spend in the state these words bring to mind.

fat bike

I work hard to get from point A to point B. The goal is usually for me to become an expert on something or at least good at it. I want whatever it is to become something that comes naturally, that flows and is no longer difficult for me. If I can’t reach that point of flow or at least reach the point where I no longer feel self-conscious about my lack of skills, I will often decide that it wasn’t that important anyway and quit to move on to another it.

During our discussion about playing, some of the writers used the example of music and how you gain muscle memory where you no longer have to think about the notes and which fingers go where. Instead you play freely, taking the energy you put into learning the music itself and putting it towards infusing feeling and personality into the piece. By doing so, you make a song that has been played by millions of musicians into your own unique creation.

And that is how I’d like to think about life.

walk in the woods

I think that playing freely and making my own unique creation means that I need to make some changes. Like…

  1. On the days when no one seems to value or appreciate me or my unique creation, that it doesn’t mean I, as a human being, have no value. More than likely, the people who don’t appreciate my Maeryness don’t see any value in the things I’m good at. They may not even see those things are even there. I think (I hope) this just means my real life is somewhere else.
  2. Believing that I am more than the things that don’t come naturally to me. I want to quit striving to mold myself into something I don’t even want to be.
  3. For my own sanity and well being, I want to play around with the things that I enjoy and I feel good about. If I feel the need to define myself (which is limiting and I should stop it), but if I must, define myself by those things.
  4. I am the person who alone has lived my life and knows the lessons it has taught me. I would have preferred to be oblivious of some things, but life has granted me a certain set of wisdoms whether I want them or not. I am a conglomeration of what I have lived and I’m tired of trying to pretend that I am something else because something else has been seen by me as being better than what I am. It’s time to find value in the tools I’ve been given and stop looking for the ones I don’t have.

I’ve been trying to remember what it was like to be a kid — to remember what I played at and imagined and loved. I want to see if the things I started out loving provide clues to how to bring those playful feelings (free, light, uninhibited, unworried about outcome, adaptable, unrestricted) back into my way too serious life.

And so I’m returning. Slowly. But playfully.

bicycling in woods

bike commuting

It’s April. Time for April showers and 30 Days of Biking.

Taking the pledge to ride my bike every day in April last year is what got me started down this road of bicycling in all four seasons. It was the getting out every day – no matter how windy, rainy or snowy – and discovering how much I loved riding that has led to some unexpected changes in my life.

train station with bike

Being that I started bike/train commuting at the end of last month and have been fat biking through the winter, saying I’d ride for 30 days in April 2015 didn’t hold the same challenge as it did in 2014.

Still, there are challenges — like time. Some days it’s tricky fitting bicycling into the day. It will be tough this week with the AWP conference Thursday through Saturday (and recuperation on Sunday).

bike commuting

I’m reading May Sarton’s book, “Journal of Solitude,” and in it she wrote:

“I am proud of being fifty-eight, and still alive and kicking, in love, more creative, balanced, and potent than I have ever been… Wrinkles here and there seem unimportant compared to the Gestalt of the whole person I have become in the past year.” ~ May Sarton, “Journal of Solitude”

Perhaps just turning fifty-eight myself in March, this is the perfect time to be reading Sarton’s story again. I too feel more vibrant, balanced, and strong than I did when I was younger. Not really physically stronger but a strength inside that I didn’t have previously.

fat biking

I’m still fearful, but am better able to face my fears and not let them stop me from doing the things that are important to me.

I actually credit bicycling with many of the positive feelings I have now. Something about being able to navigate the streets and bike paths with all the obstacles and rough, pot-holed pavement, and being able to deal with the threat of cars while maneuvering through traffic has helped me better navigate through life. It has built confidence in myself that wasn’t there before.

road bike

I’ve been surprised by the way my bicycling has improved. I’m surprised because I didn’t think there was anything to improve. What is needed to ride a bike besides some balance and turning pedals?

A lot more, it turns out, if you are making left turns in the lane with the cars and trying to avoid people unexpectedly backing out in front of you or pulling too far out at a stoplight, right into your lane.

road bike

I was like a newby driver at first, riding my brakes out of fear of picking up too much speed and then slowing almost to a stop to turn a corner. It’s not that I’m now overly confident. I’m aware that my age means I don’t bounce back from falls the way I did thirty or more years ago. But with experience I’ve learned how fast I can make a corner, how much I can lean my bike into it. I’ve become more attuned to my surroundings, which is always a good thing, whether you are on a bike or not.

Decisions come more easily and quickly with practice. This is true for anything in life, not just bicycling. And that ability to see, think and act has leaked over into other areas of my life.

Midwest Mountaineering

And one more thing my bicycle (and my helmet) has done for me, it starts up many a conversation with interesting people on the train, at work, at stores, on trails, at traffic stop lights — all over the place! I’ve conversed with people I never would have met or talked to, all because I’m bike riding and somehow it makes talking to people come more naturally.

So when people wonder why I ride my bike when it would be easier and more comfortable and convenient to simply hop into a car, those are my reasons. The skills and confidence I’ve gained have done so much more for me than just make me a better bicyclist.

It’s had a positive effect on my life overall. I’m so glad 30 Days of Biking in April of 2014 got me headed down this road.

fat biking

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