“I began to feel that myself plus the bicycle equaled myself plus the world, upon whose spinning wheel we must all learn to ride, or fall into the sluiceways of oblivion and despair.
That which made me succeed with the bicycle was precisely what had gained me a measure of success in life — it was the hardihood of spirit that led me to begin, the persistence of will that held me to my task, and the patience that was willing to begin again when the last stroke had failed.
And so I found high moral uses in the bicycle and can commend it as a teacher without pulpit or creed. She who succeeds in gaining the mastery of the bicycle will gain the mastery of life.”
~ Frances E. Willard, Nineteenth century women’s suffragist.
I have a bike. She sings.
And then there’s life. It runs on heartbeats and they’re numbered. So you must learn to count.
1. “After your first day of cycling, one dream is inevitable. A memory of motion lingers in the muscles of your legs, and round and round they seem to go. You ride through Dreamland on wonderful dream bicycles that change and grow.” ~ H.G. Wells
Age 6: The world didn’t have many objects then. So the few presents I got during my childhood were most likely sent by the gods.
I still remember falling for the first time. It wasn’t the bleeding elbows or the shaking knees or the young heart beating on the sidewalk, pulled out of my chest by invisible hands without any previous warning.
It was the the possibility of falling turned real. Mortality’s first blow. The first shadow of shadows to come, the first Why.
Suddenly the nickel-clad horse takes the bit in its mouth and goes slanting for the curbstone defying all prayers and all your powers to change its mind—your heart stands still, your breath hangs fire, your legs forget to work. ~ Mark Twain
I blamed it all on the bike. I hated those stupid bright colors, the stupid shape, stupid wheels, and everything I knew and loved, so stupid. I swore I’d never touch it again.
My dad laughed. I killed him with my eyes. The first of many parricides.
And I lay on the ground with dirty cheeks, half-dust and half-tears, and thought about how close I’d been to making it into Neverland.
2. “When I was a kid I used to pray every night for a new bicycle. Then I realized that the Lord doesn’t work that way so I stole one and asked Him to forgive me.” ~ Emo Philips
Age 10: By now I knew that Neverland was a dream. And like all dreams, half real. You gotta’ hold on to it like candy, but be ready to give it up like white sugar.
I soared through the streets of a lonely city, like a black, early bird on two wheels. I was certain I had superpowers. I had to save the world from something (still not sure what) and, like any other superhero, I was always suspicious of the dark forces interfering with my mission.
My bike was my batmobile. I built a world. An Office of Wonderful Affairs. I had long talks with Batman.
Cycle tracks will abound in Utopia. ~ H.G. Wells
3. “The journey of life is like a man riding a bicycle. We know he got on the bicycle and started to move. We know that at some point he will stop and get off. We know that if he stops moving and does not get off he will fall off.” ~ William G. Golding
Age 15: Neverland was a joke. So was biking. What kind of idiots fly with their arms? I learned from magazines to laugh with my lips and keep my eyes serious. At fifteen, you have to look older.
During the Middle Ages it can get so dark, you can’t really see any sign of the Renaissance, building up under your skin:
Bicycling is the nearest approximation I know to the flight of birds. The airplane simply carries a man on its back like an obedient Pegasus; it gives him no wings of his own. ~ Louis J. Helle
I parked my bike and took a run-for-your-life detour. It sat in a garage for a while. The wheels became a home to spiders. The metal tasted funny. Nobody knew it was alive.
Adolescence = a westernized, televised product.
Heartache = a life sine qua non.
The problem is that current Society thinks we should mix them. And then, she prescribes you pain killers.
“But this too, shall pass.”
4. “The bicycle, the bicycle surely, should always be the vehicle of novelists and poets.” ~ Christopher Morley
Forget the devil, he gets old.
Art, come and save our soul.
It was like when, after a long winter, you wonder where all the birds are coming from or how they got here. And all these scented colors, and where was I before today?
As if you didn’t know spring existed… Yet all you had to do is call.
Think of bicycles as rideable art that can just about save the world. ~ Grant Petersen
So I sent all the spiders away, and wiped off all the dust, and got back up on New Old Bike, and it felt like first love all over again.
And this thing they say about being sculpted by life and never returning to your original shape, it’s only half-true. You can be melted flesh and blood again, anytime and ten times over.
Listen to me, there is no stone, only poetry. Life is elastic. We must stretch.
5. “The bicycle had, and still has, a humane, almost classical moderation in the kind of pleasure it offers. It is the kind of machine that a Hellenistic Greek might have invented and ridden. It does no violence to our normal reactions: It does not pretend to free us from our normal environment.” ~ J.B. Jackson
Age 29: Now I believe in old age and in wrinkles. (Wisdom is ageless, anyway.)
I tried applying for citizenship to Neverland a few years back but they never responded and while I was waiting for a neverlanding passport I decided to put up my own country.
Oh well, mail is slow these instant-click days.
I hardly notice my bike anymore but I do like to talk about it and use it as a weapon against global warming.
It’s turned into a natural extension of my legs. I just pedal on and the ground moves. And the trees.
The bicycle is a curious vehicle. Its passenger is its engine. ~ John Howard
It’s easier to anticipate the falls now, easier to stop at red lights, and easier not to run people over. It’s also easier not to get in the way of trucks or trains and easier to pump up the tires.
But sometimes it’s not.
And when all the above happen (what’s even worse, at once), it’s okay to sit on the sidewalk, with a bruised heart and bleeding knees. And a dirty face: half-dust and half-time, regretting some, forgiving some and celebrating some.
Plus you, plus time.
There’s a new feeling on two wheels now. It’s called ‘silence’, and it can sit with me and do nothing for days. Be nobody. And in that nakedness, find some kind of ancient, nameless joy, like a baby taking its first bath.
Some call it death. Others, new life. Perhaps they mean surrender? I think it’s more like simple oxygen for complicated lungs. But I have no idea.
Maybe it’s an indirect result of my feet leaving trails, or of nature making love all over (to) me, or the tired old pores drinking in young sunlight, like engine.
Some kind of me still exists, but not the kind I used to love or hate. A more breathable kind. Like air, I know not what, or where or who or how or when.
I realized that no matter where I end up, I’ll never leave Earth. And there’s a kind of terrestrial freedom in knowing that.
If the awareness of death makes you appreciate life, then knowing that you’ll die here—on this round thing spinning in circles in a remote corner of the galaxy, in an improbable spot in the Universe—is somewhat liberating. You’ll still be here, no matter where you go.
Life is like riding a bicycle—in order to keep your balance, you must keep moving. ~ Albert Einstein
I think Journey and Destination are synonyms. Not just mere siblings, but ancient twins. There is no need to escape, so welcome back the astronauts. Earth is dust—and any dust is home.
And judging by the sound of your breath, who knows, maybe you and I are slowly (but steadily) biking our way there.
More Rideable Life:
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