Sunday, September 29, 2013

Pedaling downhill

When I was a child, I lived on a hill in Colorado, but it wasn't just a hill - it was a gateway.

In that neighborhood, when you learned to ride a bike, halfway up a hill already, it wasn't long before you were riding both down and up hills.  I was surprisingly adventurous as a child, while sheltered too, a unique mix of a person even back then, a person who was and is me.  I gave a glimpse of this already in my rollercoaster post.

I'm not sure how long it took for me to realize that one could actually go very fast on that hill.  Climbing the hill was not easy.  I pedaled very, very hard, standing a bit as I pedaled, weaving back and forth, just to keep going.

At some point, I couldn't pedal at all.  I had to get off my bike and walk.  It was tempting to stop at that point, stop just part way.  I remember thinking sometimes "Maybe this is enough."  But I quickly learned after stopping a few times, it generally wasn't enough, so I learned to keep going, even if it was hard, walking my bike as high as I could go.

In this moment, I am there, at the top of the hill, a beautiful Colorado valley below, surrounded by mountains.  If I was wise (and I wasn't always), I would stop to catch my breath and appreciate the view, even if somewhat obscured by the houses.  But that wasn't the reward.  It was just the space to launch. 

And so I would start on my descent, a bit slowly at first since the hill was steep at the top, and I had to find a way to my balance.  This took practice.  I did this day after day.  The longer it took to find my balance, the less of a reward down below.  As soon as the wobbling stopped, I would start pedaling.  Not coasting, pedaling.  Pedaling not up hill, but down.  This too took practice, to know how fast to pedal, to know how much was too much and how little was too little, both in duration and rate of speed.  If you pedaled too fast, it was dangerous below.  If you pedaled too slow, it was pointless.

For some reason, I didn't worry about obstacles.  They didn't even cross my mind.  This is surprising since I wasn't always this person, this person on the hill, and I'm not always this person now.  Some people would say I'm never this person, and this story may surprise them.  That's why I'm remixing her today, remixing me, remembering who I am, pulling just enough forward, simply by remembering...

At some point, and I'm not quite sure when I knew it, it was time to stop pedaling.  If you did it too soon, that would lessen the impact.  If you did it too late, you had worked yourself out of the reward.  It was quite a narrow window.  Once you stopped pedaling, though it was possible, it was generally difficult to start pedaling again, as the transition could scuttle your balance, a very bad idea as the rate of speed increased.

There were no bike helmets.  No parental figure, my own or otherwise, yelled at me to stop.  I never crashed, not once, never on the hill.  If I had, I might have stopped altogether, forever (I sense that happened later, in a different way).  At one point, around the age of 12 or so, I did this almost every day in the summer, like a kind of meditation.  Nobody seemed to notice at all, as if I was invisible.

If I quiet my spirit and listen, if I quiet my spirit and feel, she is with me, this person, the person on the bike. The threshold - when it appeared - it was like breaking through a barrier, the speed of Light within reach.

The view from the top of the hill was nothing in comparison.  The freedom, the joy, the elation of flying - it was a glimpse of heaven.

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