In the slow lane
My husband and I spent four days farming a small plot of land in Armstrong, BC with my in-laws. In between the watering, weeding, feeding and picking, I stole off on a rusty mountain bike for a ride through the country.
I have been seeing a counselor for some time. She’s been encouraging me to find language for my emotions: words that have been lost to years of hurt, replaced with numbness, silence. So for me, this description of a bicycle ride is much more than a vignette, it is an exercise in truth-telling — describing the way I felt as I cycled.
My eyes are bright with readiness.
I hoist myself upon the metal frame, balancing as I locate the pedals beneath my feet, readying for the open road.
I’ve waited for this ride for days. Years. It’s long been a dream of mine to pedal a basket-adorned bicycle down long country roads and today is the culmination of this small, yet urgent dream.
I climb on. Steady myself. The seat is resting at perfect height and my runners rest firmly in place as my hands close in around the black-spackled handlebars.
I check the road. Empty. And I am off.
I’m quickly barreling down Thomas Haynes Drive, past the Ecological Reserve, and an indifferent herd of fifteen or so cattle. I continue. It’s 11 AM and the sun is nearly straight overhead, but a gentle breeze is carrying me: cooling my already-flushed cheeks, combing my loosely-tied hair, and peeling the fatigue from my frame, my face, and replacing it with calmness. Joy.
I press on, press up. Shoulder-high corn fields pass me on the right. I can see they’re nearly ready for picking. The Dover Creek Farm disappears behind me, on my left. Cracks, creases and patchwork cement flow beneath my sneakers, pedaling wildly. And I am free.
This ride feels like living. Like life after numb. The remembering. The carelessness of childhood which is, in its essence, the most true living of all. It’s the perfect embrace of beauty. Of time and place. The unhurried presentness a seven-year-old has mastered in her 2,679 days of breathing in life. She hasn’t had time to numb. She hasn’t yet descended into the torturous loss of perfect love. She hasn’t yet said goodbye to daddy, mommy. She hasn’t yet locked up the first, middle or last parts of her heart to save herself from the confusion and pain of misdealt authority: teachers, politicians and preachers. Her eyes are still fierce with life, clear as an untouched glacial spring. She is new. She is here. She is now.
I bend low. Careening down a steep hill, a corner beckoning below. I near the turn when, suddenly, a large milk-chocolate frame appears. Sleek. Alert. A deer, waiting for my move. I slow, and as I do my foot grazes the spokes, sending a sharp-pitched shriek towards her. The deer (who I decide is a female because she looks so stunning,) is startled, turns and darts from the shoulder to a nearby clearing, just as I pass.
I am over half-way. My destination: the Junction Café, in the heart of town, which later reminds me of the Whistlestop from the film Fried Green Tomatoes, which I love.
I am coasting now. I close my eyes, just for a moment. I want to feel the ride save from my eyes. As I close them the scents and sounds emerge: the soft whistling of wind streaming past my face, and the smell: a mixture of dried straw, distant manure, and the freshness of this morning’s early dew.
I reemerge to a sprinkler throwing a refreshing haze onto my course. It lasts for: one-mississippi, two-mississippi, three gone. My legs are beginning to tire, heavy as lead, but yesterday’s drive reminds me there are only a few miles of straight road ahead. I sigh with relief and reach for my water bottle.
I feel bright, free. I breath in deep. Smile. I can feel the greyness fleeing. The colours are becoming more vivid. The greens are a rainbow, now: autumn winter tones, lemonade, ginger, palm – the world is spilling over. I can feel my breath slow. Deeper now, deeper. I am slipping, now, along the road, effortlessly.
And later, at Junction Café I read: “For man, the vast marvel is to be alive. For man, as for flower and beast and bird, the supreme triumph is to be most vividly, most perfectly alive. We ought to dance with rapture that we should be alive and in the flesh, and part of the living, incarnate cosmos.” – D.H. Lawrence
Christina Crook is a writer who lives in Toronto, Ontario; see her blog here