My “no drive” days remind me of my children’s “no touch ground day.” During recess when the ground was muddy, their teachers directed them to stay on the jungle gym and climbing bars as much as possible. It was a special day where they stayed in mid air making believe they could fly. Days when I choose to stay out of the driver’s seat I too get to fly – feeling the freedom and simplicity of being on a bike. I don’t log many miles or pedal fast. It is a simple day where I just have to pedal to work, yoga, or a coffee shop. Errands and the grocery store don’t weigh me down and I feel free spreading childlike wings. I don’t have to roll down a window for fresh air. But can smell the sweet grass and flowers by my wheels. For our 32nd wedding anniversary my husband bought me a straw basket for my handlebars. It was important that it was a basket, not bike panniers or anything fancy that could carry much. Carrying little and often returning home with even less provides more space for finding an inner peacefulness void of the everyday external. Spinning pedals calms spinning thoughts. As I near 60, like with running, I’m slower than many. But I hold a beautiful secret – a slower pace can feel victorious when the goal is finding a sanctuary in a spinning world.
My love of bicycling started young when I first felt the expansive joy of my father letting go as I balanced my way toward freedom. As I grew so did the distance traveled first around the neighborhood and then across the country. Recently I read my thoughts on a worn yellow pad of paper held together by a rubber band documenting 80 days of pedaling 4200 miles. Each day I recorded small moments – a warm shower, a friendly waitress, a treacherous rainy mountain pass, fresh peach pie, headwinds and doing laundry. They were just simple notes reminding me of one of my happiest summers. Life was not complicated; we just had to pedal approximately 70 miles a day passing through small towns where it often felt time stood still. Our narrow existence in turn allowed us to explore our wide beautiful country.
Serendipitously when I traveled to southern Colorado this summer for a meditation retreat I passed through a town on my bike route exactly 39 years ago on the very same day in July. That crossing of past and present brought together something very similar. Reducing my life to sitting still in meditation is a match for spinning wheels as I find a gentle peace. When I returned from my retreat I opened a small gift from my mother. It was a tiny silver necklace with a charm of a bicycle with a small basket. It continues to be my reminder that “no drive day” for all of us actually places us in the driver’s seat to create a healthier world inside and out. And that makes having the wind at your back worth the pedal.
-Priscilla Dann Courtney