December 2008


It is winter, even if the near 70 degrees on Sunday and the past two 50 degree afternoons make it easy to forget. And since it is winter, and I’m spending a couple of hours each day outside in the elements, I’ve been spending a lot of time on weather.com.

I’m not sure if it is the most accurate weather site, but it has the information that I need, and I figure that at this point it is all relative information. If weather.com tells me that it is 30 degrees and I wear a certain combination of layers that works, then I know what to wear next time weather.com tells me it is around that temp…even if weather.com is off by something, as long as it is consistent, it still gives me the information I need to make my clothing decisions.

Plus I almost always have more options in my pannier.

Every once in a while when I refresh the screen for the updates on the temps and conditions, a video ad on the page starts playing. It is set to a song.

“baby it’s cold outside…”

An old fashioned kind of crooning song. It make me laugh for some reason. Maybe because that’s the refrain my coworkers keep singing. They do approve of me riding on days like today, however.

Little do they know that the wind is exhausting. Warm it was, but it was harder work by far than the 17 degree mornings thought to be.

Who would have ever thought I’d willingly brave those kind of temps to ride my bike to work?

Not me.

Advertisements

Every day I hit this button on my way home, as I transform in this one instant from a bike-pedestrian walking through the sound wall to a bike-vehicle riding on the road. Every day I see my reflection with the pinpoint of light and the bright yellow jacket, and I think “I need a picture of that.” It isn’t quite what I have in my head, yet, but it is close.

The freshly oiled chain meant that the only sound I could hear was the gentle whirring of wheels on pavement. There’s something about these extra cold mornings that make everything seem quieter, hushed. A happenstance glance to the left revealed a sunrise like nailpolish spilled across the sky. Tequilla Sunrise…

I don’t always remember my dreams, and I don’t think that dreams necessarily have some deep meaning, but I can’t shake a dream I had last night. It was bizarre, in that it was mixed with such clear memories of place I haven’t been in a long time, along with such clear imaginings of people who don’t exist.

I was at Ski Sundown. I skiing for the first time in a long time, which is accurate. I was with someone who was unsure about the skiing, and who I was convincing it wasn’t a big deal. We skied right up to the lift, no line in sight, and just as we were about to seat ourselves on the chair, there was a little boy there too, as if he was waiting to get on the lift.

I knew he wasn’t going to accomplish it on his own, so I grabbed him and hauled him up onto the chair with me.

Only afterwards did I realize that he was not a kid old enough to be skiing, but a really little kid, toddler age.

I tried to call to the people working the chair lift to get them to stop, but they didn’t hear me. And so away we went, up to the top of the mountain. The boy was fighting me, in that squirmy way little kids have when they don’t want to be held, and I was desperately trying to keep a hold of him, as the alternative was him falling to the ground far below.

Knowing I was bruising his wrists and arms, but too afraid to hold him less tightly.

The top came, and the panicky fear as we put the safety bar up, to ski off the lift. I tried to get the people working the lift to slow it down for us, as I had no idea how I’d manage to ski off while holding a squirmy kid. Again, they didn’t seem to notice our need, and so we managed to ski off regardless. There was the confusion of being at the top of Ski Sundown again, the recognition of the trails I spent so much time on as a kid. We made our way into the little building that held the controls of the lift, and the people who worked it, and it was suddenly like a super modern command central. About five people with headsets, monitoring whatever it was they were seeing on their screens. I convinced them to call down to the bottom – there must have been a frantic mother down there, right?

The people she talked to didn’t believe her. Completely confused, knowing I couldn’t possible ride the lift back down and deal again with the terror of possibly dropping the child, I tried to convince these people to help me find another alternative.

They all seemed to think it was amusing, and not at all serious. I called down to the bottom of the slope myself, and in the middle of explaining the situation, the call cut off. I tried calling back, but couldn’t get through. I thought about the easy trails I could take, imagining how I could ski them while holding onto a little kid.

It seemed impossible.

I woke up.

What a weird dream.

I’d been looking forward to Yin Yoga class tonight. I have found, since starting to bike so much, that I am not all that interested in the more physical yoga classes, I’m looking for the ones that are either primarily meditative or…yin.

Yin is hard to explain, really. If you saw us in yin class, you’d think that we were either passed out/sleeping, or just hanging about in weird positions. And you’d probably wonder what the point is, since it doesn’t look like we’re doing anything.

But see, that’s what yin is all about. It isn’t about the power, about active positions, it is all about letting gravity work on a posture that you relax into and stay in for 5 or more minutes. And it is amazing what it does. There is a saying in yin yoga…be one with the pain. I think Rich can attest to both the surprising amount of “stuff” that happens when we’re doing nothing but slumping (one of the common “poses”), as well as the surprising amount of benefit we feel after. (I dragged him to a yin class last time he was visiting.)

I always feel better after a yin class. Physically and mentally. The first posture is usually tough, the mind spins and spins. By the end, I find it easy to lay there in a twist, or in whatever passive pose we’re in, primarily just noting my body’s responses, doing periodic body scans to see if I’m holding tension anywhere and can release it. And then when class is over, I can never believe that an hour and fifteen minutes just went by. As one of my classmates said after tonight’s class, “I always feel drugged at the end of yin!”

Our teacher asked us tonight to share the peace, if we can. So that’s what this post is an attempt to do. Sharing my experience in yin class tonight, and encouraging everyone to make a space in their life where they can be still, let their mind be still. It doesn’t have to be yoga, it doesn’t have to be an hour, it can be five minutes doing anything. The important part is to take care of ourselves, and part of that is to make space in our lives for quiet.

It isn’t always easy; modern life is filled with appointments and plans and rushing here and there. Everyone in our lives expects instant access to us via email and cell phones, and if you have kids the craziness compounds. And it is the christian holiday season to boot, which means more plans than normal, worse traffic, more obligations…

So, despite it all, find that space, that quiet, that peace. Take a bath, get a pedicure, breathe deeply while you watch your kids sleep. Whatever it is, do that for yourself.

Peace.

Third time is the charm?

I continued my trend this morning, despite my best intentions, of leaving even later than the day before. Just a few minutes later each day, day after day…and I’m now getting to work an hour later than I used to! Perhaps my schedule is mimicking the light we continue to lose for the next few days.

Pedaling on the road towards the first stoplight right after leaving my condo, I saw a white blinking light on a bike ahead of me. I was pretty sure it was my new stoplight friend, and it was.

I caught up to him, and we pedaled leisurely towards the red light. I told him it was great to see that he’d started using his light, and we continued to talk about winter bike riding.

It wasn’t a long conversation, lasting only until the light turned green, but it was a great way to start the day.

My tribe, these bikers are. We’re a diverse bunch, but merely getting out on our bikes to make our way to work creates a bond between us. That daily choice renders us almost invisible to those battling congestion inside their glass and steel, but to each other, we are beacons. Assurance that we are not alone, that there is solidarity to be found.

“Morning!” a biker greeted me enthusiastically as we passed each other on the small neighborhood streets that connect to the break in the sound wall that so many of us use.

My tribe. Community made possible by stepping out of our cars and onto our bikes, removing the barriers that make simple greetings impossible.

apropos of nothing

apropos of nothing

Yesterday was one of those days where everything just felt right on the bike. It helped that it was 65 on the way home. I’m quite certain that a few months ago that sounded chilly. Now, halfway through December, 65 is tropical. Balmy. A hint of spring and summer shining through the bare tree branches.

My legs felt great. “Online” is how I’ve heard others describe it, and that feels like a good description to me.

I think there was a slight tailwind as well, since I found myself cruising a few miles per hour higher than the norm, and with very little real effort.

I passed a few cars when traffic was heavy, and they didn’t have a chance to catch up before I was merging into their lane and then into the left turn lane.

I huffed and puffed my way up The Big Hill, an eye on a SUV at the stop sign of a cross street right at the crest of the hill. The woman had her hand over her mouth – a yawn, an expression of horror that someone was on a bike, or perhaps she was waiting in breathless anticipation to see if I’d make it up the hill. Maybe she thought my obnoxiously-bright yellow windbreaker was like the yellow jersey of the Tour de France. Tour de Arlington? I breathed “thanks” as I rode by, choosing to assume she understood that even though she had plenty of time to pull out in front of me, that people often misjudge their tail ends of their cars, and she could have still made me slow down a bit and loose precious momentum to avoid her. Or maybe just choosing to believe she was rooting for me during my tough daily ascention.

This morning the beauty continued. Colder, sure, but still feeling pretty balmy at 45 degrees. (And I never would have believed that “balmy” and “45F” could ever go together!) There’s a light I pretty much always catch red within a quarter mile of starting out, and this morning was no different in that regard. What was different was the squeaking sound of an approaching (maintenance-needed) bicycle as I waited at the light. I had a feeling I knew who it was. That is, not the typical aspect of the who that we know, not his name or profession or hobbies or anything like that, just the who of a fellow bicyclist I’ve seen before. I’d, amazingly, seen him yesterday at the same light. Amazing, when you consider the variables involved, especially my lack of consistency in what time I leave my home. (Later every day, it seems!) Amazing, when you consider how few bike commuters I see on my commute. (More the later I leave, however!)

I’d encouraged him yesterday to get lights on his bike. His jacket had some nice reflective areas on his arms, but he had no lights at all on his bike, and visibility is one of the biggest keys to our safety. I told Rich afterwards that I hadn’t even registered whether he was wearing a helmet (I thought he wasn’t, but couldn’t be sure) and that most people in this country probably would have offered him a lecture on the magical (and unproven) protective properties of the helmet. Not me. I have read enough to know two things. The first is that helmets offer only the most dubious protection at the speeds we travel. They’re great for kids, given the type of accidents that kids are involved in – slow moving. But for the rest of us, the evidence either for or against helmets is inconclusive enough that I can only encourage people to make their own decisions without assuming it is more than it is. I wear one because I have one and find them to be a great place to attach a mirror and headlamp. I don’t feel they’re the beginning and end of bicyclist safety. To be honest, I think they are irrelevant to the question of safety. The second thing I know about safety is that the most important thing is prevention.

Helmets offer nothing when it comes to prevention, and may actually be detrimental in this regard, based on some small-data-set studies done, showing that cars leave less room when passing people wearing helmets. Lights, however, are hugely important when traveling in the night and half-light. In other words, for anyone who commutes to work in more than the summer months.

And so I encouraged him to use lights. Yesterday he assured me that he had bought a light, just hadn’t put it on. I told him he should, that it was important. This morning he still didn’t have his light on, and I teased him about that. I consciously noted that he was not wearing a helmet. He was wearing a thick winter hat that I can only imagine was making him overheat!

Mostly, though, we talked about how long our commutes are and how much fun it is to ride our bikes. “Sometimes it is cold,” he mused, “but it is still fun.”

Exactly.

I grin on my way to work when I’m on my bike. I can’t help it. I’m having a good time.

Next Page »