Monthly Archives: March 2017

Focus

tandemI expected, I really did, to have lots to say about bikes here. I did not expect that in very short order, I would cease thinking very much about bikes. And yet, to a degree that’s exactly what’s happened.

I’d always wondered how my life would be, if I could actually ride in peace, to get where I’m going, or for pleasure, or some of each. I wondered how it would feel, and what I would think about, if I didn’t have to funnel so much of my energy, every moment that I spent on the bike, into simply fighting to stay alive. I thought, idly, that maybe I’d have time for my other interests, the things that have always been important to me but that I used to care about in a more active sense. Art, nature, various sciences, photography, storytelling, the making of things.

I thought that, but I didn’t really believe it, because I couldn’t feel it. It was just a theory, and one that occurred at some distance from where the center of me seems to reside.

willetjesbrugI was obsessed with bikes. With bikes and the riding of them, and the incredible difficulty and stress of continuing to ride them in a society that felt to me as if it were getting more and more cruel toward anyone perambulating outside the steel walls of automobiles.

I was so obsessed that I left the United States seeking solace — seeking the freedom to ride where I wanted to go (or nowhere at all) without fear. I neither expected nor wanted to lose the obsession. Yet, within the first couple of weeks, I adjusted to the sight of bikes everywhere. And I mean EVERYWHERE, all the time, being ridden by every kind of person to do every kind of task, and parked on every available surface at all times, everywhere you look. Not only did that quickly begin to feel normal, but I ceased to even notice them most of the time.

goldcurveAnd then, little by little, I stopped thinking about bicycling as a separate activity. Riding became walking, or breathing. I still ride almost every day; I just don’t focus on it in the same way. I don’t think about planning routes — unless it’s finding new ways to crisscross the city through the little alleys — or pedaling into the countryside looking for the fietspads that cut across the flat marshy fields and into little towns.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ll still gab obsessively about bikes if there’s a bike person around to talk to, but my thoughts are often occupied with…art, nature, science, stories, photography, and making things. With truth and human nature, with where the world is going, and how we can help it survive and help each other through this difficult, frightening time.

I don’t yet speak much Dutch, but apparently I have absorbed at least one aspect of the culture. Here, bicycles are a means to an end, and that end is life. butcher