Thursday, September 11, 2014

Thursday's Reflection: Traveling on a Stationary Bike

One of the therapeutic prescriptions for the ankle I broke the end of March was to use a stationary bike, and I have been doing that most every morning for almost 6 months. I pedal and pedal and yet I have not gone very far. In fact, I have stayed in the same place. The view from my bike is exactly the same as it was when I first started using it, and yet, I keep pedaling, content to stop where I started. I know, however,  even as I pedal in place, my ankle is healing, being restored, and in the process I am growing and changing and, I hope, improving. 

Sometimes we can go a long distance without ever changing locations. 

When our children were young, we spent many summer and fall weekends at my parents' lake home in northern Wisconsin. I remember our son Geof, when he was four or five, spending hours on their pontoon securely tied to the dock.  We would ask him where he was going and he would confidently announce New York or Chicago or even some place further away and more exotic. He knew he was still in the same place, Jensen Hus on Teal Lake, but that wasn't the point. In his imagination, he traveled from there to someplace else and back again and in the process he saw many sights and thought many thoughts and stretched his mind and spirit. 

Perhaps that saying, "wherever I go, there I am," which makes us smile in its obvious truth, holds more wisdom than it appears. Natalie Goldberg, the guru of writing practice, says "Awake is another country." When we are awake, when we are mindful, when we are open, we are in another state of being. Even when it seems we aren't going anywhere. 

Of course, I am not content to merely pedal for the assigned time or to wait patiently till the alarm on my I-phone rings. Instead, I read while I am exercising. Recently, I read a book of essays by Nora Ephron, I Remember Nothing: And Other Reflections, that made me laugh out loud, delighting me with her observations and insights about life, especially aging. Each day I could hardly wait to join Nora for a morning ride. Now I am reading a book edited by William Zinsser, Going on Faith, Writing as a Spiritual Quest. If I were sitting in my comfortable reading chair, instead of on the bike, I know I would be underlining much of what I am reading. I would be taking notes and reflecting more about what these essays by people like Mary Gordon and Patricia Hampl have to offer. As it is, however, I just let their words float by and over and around me, being open to whatever needs to stick. 

The thoughts in these essays are like passing scenery. If I were really riding a bike from here to someplace else, I would see many things. I would pass people without knowing who they are or what they do in life or even where they are going. I would stop at red lights, and I would look both ways at intersections, but I would keep going. I would notice lovely homes and gardens and sites along the way, but I wouldn't get off my bike to examine what I see more closely. I would be satisfied with the impression, the overall picture. Yes, I would note some specifics. If an eagle flew over while biking along the Mississippi River, I would thrill in its majesty. I would observe subtle changes in the seasons. The sumac is beginning to change its wardrobe, for example, and I would smile at people on a bicycle built for two, hoping they are as companionable as they appear to be. 

But I would keep going, moving from here to there and back here again.

Sometimes it is necessary to stand still. Sometimes you know it is time to make big leaps. Other times trusting that whatever we are doing is the wisest choice, even when it seems we are not moving and nothing is happening. Sometimes our inner voice alerts us to be the observer and not the main player on the stage. Sometimes we need to just keep pedaling and pedaling, knowing eventually we will get where we need to be. 

An Invitation
Can you recall times when you were pedaling for all you were worth and nothing seemed to be happening? What did you learn and experience along the way? 

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