Gliding down a hill on my bicycle, I see a break in the tarred path up ahead. These cracks, potholes, and raised pavement happen a lot in Minnesota with our extreme changes in temperature. There are also the tree roots that raise the tar in defiance.
Unevenness and cracks at a distance can be tricky to judge. You know they’re there, but you’re uncertain how bad they actually are.
When my shoulders, elbows and hands begin to ache, I realize that I’ve stiffened and braced myself in anticipation of the jarring punch of a bump or the slip and slide of loose sand.
I run through my offending body parts, telling myself to relax my shoulders, loosen my spine, unlock my elbows, and open up my death grip on the handlebars. Unlocking joints and muscles allows them to act as the shock absorbers they were intended to be.
But what serves as a shock absorber when life gets bumpy? When something difficult or just mean happens? Chocolate and wine are a temporary balm for the soul. But for long term global and personal stress management, nature is my go to bump absorber.
Outside, I get lost in the world of trees, water and rocks. Both my problems and the world’s problems seem further away. The natural world is full of miracles. It makes me believe that things will be okay. I want to remain in that state of belief forever.
But hiding inside myself or in what feels safe, in my controllable home environment, is not the answer. When being a homebody or woods woman turns into avoiding challenges and bumps, it is no longer healthy. When I feel my hands begin to cramp, I know I’m holding too tightly to life’s handlebars.
Deep breath in. Hold. Exhale. It’s the release you feel in an exhale, a sigh, that’s what I’m looking for.
Plans are coming together for a two-day bike ride of around 35 miles per day. Steve and my dogs, Java and Latte, have volunteered to be my SAG (support and gear) team. They’ll carry my stuff and drive ahead to set up camp. They’ll be close enough that they can come get me if I run into trouble.
I expect this is going to be hard, but then that’s the point. I know that pain will be my companion. I want to see what I can do despite it. I don’t normally take ibuprofen because it contributes to bone loss, but I’m considering this a special occasion and will take it if I need to. All things in moderation…
I haven’t been cycling as much as I’d hoped because of our stormy, hot and humid weather, but my daily dog walks, twice a week aqua aerobics and once a week regular foundation strength classes have been preparing me (I hope).
I’ll be outside and doing slow travel, and that makes me happy.