“Cycle tracks will abound in Utopia.”
The day before last I walked my bike out of my living-room in predawn hours and down the plank on my front porch that serves as a sort of ramp. I’ve used this ramp system for about ten years, since first injuring my back and unable to carry even my lightest bike up the short flight. Thankfully, since then, my back has healed. But since riding cargo bikes almost exclusively, which tend to be heavy even without cargo, the ramp has become the norm. And on this morning after walking the bike down the ramp I stood there for a couple minutes. It was not yet light and there was a crescent moon in the sky with Saturn and Jupiter visible. It was already humid; dampness hung in the summer’s air.
I was not looking forward to the day, I knew what I was walking into at work…another very busy and understaffed day. How many kitchens have I rushed around in, I wondered, as I stood there. The story of my life…hot bustling kitchens. But as I stood there gazing at the sky I was in awe. I felt small, and I felt stupid for worrying about my petty issues. But still I was not looking forward to the day ahead of me. So I whispered a prayer as I stood there in the predawn darkness in front of my house. I asked the Universe to show me Her beauty, to remove my fear and replace it with Her love. Then, knowing that it was already there and available for me—that all I had to do was accept it—I finished with thank you. And I hopped on my bike.
With the first push of my pedals I, in the early silence, could hear a squeak that I’ve been meaning to tend to, and it annoyed me as I hadn’t yet. My middle-aged body felt tired. After working evenings for decades I have still not adjusted to these early morning hours. I do not get enough sleep. And my legs were sore as I pushed through the humid darkness. But then as I let it go, the wet air felt good on my skin. As I rounded a corner seagulls fought for a scrap of something in the street. There was a person rummaging in a trash bin for cans, and hearing me coming (probably my squeak) he looked up and our eyes met. I nodded, suggesting a greeting. My problems are not real problems, I thought to myself, as I pushed up a slight incline.
My route to work is a direct one, mostly a straight line, and a main thoroughfare in the neighborhood. The commute is just shy of two miles and is often bustling with cars and people, but predawn it is quiet, except for the seagulls. While I pedaled I couldn’t take my eyes off the moon which hung low in the summer sky. I’d catch glimpses of it between buildings as it slowly set beyond the horizon, signaling the beginning of another day.
Sometimes—not always but sometimes—bicycling, for me, can be a meditative experience. Especially in the early morning hours. And on this day it was. I was conscious of my leg muscles pushing the pedals, and of my breath which sought oxygen to fuel my body. And even the sweat which now cling to my back and ran down my brow, in an effort to cool my middle-aged body. I was both the engine and the cargo. Over the years I have come to believe that we as humans do not have mystical experiences, but rather we—who are eternal souls—are mystical beings having human experiences. Thus, when we feel some sort of mystery or unexplainable experience we are actually remembering our True Self, what it is like to be whole. The veil is lifted, if even for just a brief second, but that is enough.
And as I pedaled and huffed and puffed my way to work, I was aware of the moon setting to my left while the first glimpse of light from the rising sun began to show to my right. A continuing and never ending cycle. For just a second or two it was as if nothing mattered and there were nothing to worry about…all there was, was that very minute. The past was just that, past, and the future was not yet here. Just now, that’s all there was. But then, just as with any mystical experience (or what I like to call, non-experience), I thought about it, and it was gone.
I’ve also come to believe that, to me, bicycling can actually be a form of spiritual practice, where I can experience what the Celts refer to as “thin space,” where the line between the seen and unseen blur. A glimpse to what is real. And on this morning I felt it. Knew it. Does this happen every time I hop on my bike? No, of course not. Rarely, actually. If it did I would never get off the bike. But it can, I know this.
When I arrived outside work to lock up the bike I was soaked with sweat, my body was doing what it was built to do. I was still dreading the day, but now much less. I had asked the Universe to show me Her beauty, to remove my fear, and She did. I knew now that no matter what happened, no matter what transpired throughout the day, nothing could harm me. That everything would be okay. And it was.