She put down in writing what was in her mind. –Bob Dylan, “Not Dark Yet”
You’re always a kid on a bike. –Heather Sellers, “Pedal, Pedal, Pedal”
My sister sent me a subscription to Sun Magazine for Christmas 2016. The first issue contains Heather Sellers’ short story on her cycling life. I am pretty amazed at how Sellers’ writing evokes perceptions and feelings one may experience while cycling. If you want to read Sellers’ story directly, here is the link to Sun Magazine January 2017 Issue 493. It’s an amazing story. A story full of truth about what cycling can do. As Barry Lopez wrote, “Story creates an atmosphere in which [truth] becomes discernible as a pattern” (Crossing Open Ground, 1989). I fit my photos from White Sands this past September–when Mai and I walked the soft sand dunes at twilight watching the sunlight splash and play on the landscape–to this blog post.
Albuquerque’s official visitors guide for 2016, published by the Convention and Visitors Bureau, has catchy slogans–change your perspective and find your essence. New Mexico’s landscape and culture can do that for you, exponentially so if you experience it on a bike. “On a bike the world seems made just for you”, says Sellers. She goes on to say, “Somehow it was the landscape…that made me feel smarter.” Cycling opens up our capacity for wonder again, and allows us to receive the information about place through our senses. Cycling makes it easier to let the place we inhabit touch us, in a reciprocal, healthy, even healing way. By opening up and giving ourselves up to the experience of place, we receive knowledge that is otherwise elusive.
When we cycle we have a much more intimate view of our surroundings. With a careful operator, the bicycle moves in a way that is relatively unobtrusive. It just flows, “each moment unfurling into the next”, as Sellers puts it. “The tires carry on a conversation with the road, and you are both a part of it and listening to it all at once”. Cycling teaches us how to get along.
Sellers addresses the social dimension of cycling. Group riding made her feel “like we were doing ballet on a roadway.” She talks about the “exquisite timing” of group riding and how that makes her “more at ease with people on land”. People on land? Sellers uses a trope making cycling a metaphor for flying, evoking our ancient kinship with the animal kingdom. We need to feel that sense of wonder and awe. Cycling stokes our vital forces. Wakes us up. Connects us.
As well as improving the way we get along with others, cycling makes us feel more like ourselves. Sellers’ writes, “When I was on my bike, I could not only envision a happy, outgoing future self; I was her.” That experience of being happy, present, and connected is powerful.
Resources: Once again, here’s the link to Sellers’ article. “Pedal, Pedal, Pedal.”