These days, the majority of my outdoor time is spent on my bike, commuting to and from work. Ever since I finished school, I’ve been having a hard time making time to get out hiking again… I look at my schedule and it appears that I have plenty of time to do so, but somehow my weekends fill up with social activities and errands and housework and catching-up and the next thing I know, it’s Monday again and I’m back on my bike, riding to work.
But every morning and every afternoon, I revel in that time spent on my bike.
Lately in the mornings, it’s been cold and misty out. I layer up and unlock the woodshed where I keep my bike, haul it out, and hit the road. If I’m comfortably warm when I leave the house, I’ll be sweating and miserable by the time I get to work; if I’m freezing cold when I leave the house, I’ll be reasonably warm by the time I get to work. I have yet to find a happy medium.
If the sun is shining, it lights up the dew on the spiderwebs that adorn the bushes. They look like tiny jewels, glinting in the morning golden hour. A few minutes into my bike ride, by the time I get to the park, my eyelashes are covered in dew too; I can feel the cold droplets hit my cheekbones when I blink.
I’m lucky to live in a city with plentiful bike paths and bike lanes almost everywhere I need to go. About half my commute is along a wide bike path in the park. Every morning, the same old man is sitting at the same spot at the same picnic table up on the hill, and he watches me ride by. Most of the time, I don’t recognize the other people I pass day to day, which always makes me wonder.
Some days I have earbuds in and I listen to podcasts. Sometimes I listen to NPR, but lately it’s been She Explores or The Sporkful. (Check out Castbox if you’re looking for a good podcast app! It’s great!). A lot of times I don’t listen to anything though. I prefer to be able to hear what’s going on around me, and let my thoughts wander where they will. I don’t know if it’s meditative, or rather, a time for me to think about things that I don’t have time to think about during the rest of my day.
Commuting by bike forces me to tune into my surroundings and myself.
Every day, I notice things like how the leaves are bursting into fall colors, or the air is wetter or dryer, or the angle of the sunlight is different than it was the day before. Sometimes I can smell wafts of aroma from nearby restaurants, or the dampness of the creek along the bike path, or the stench of exhaust from the cars roaring by me when I exit the park and merge onto the road to downtown.
Some days, I feel as if I’m flying to work. I make it through all the stoplights and intersections without a hitch, and pedal easily the whole way. Other days, I feel as if it takes every ounce of my strength, like I’m pedaling through molasses or my gears are set too high even when I’ve down-shifted. I’ve yet to figure out why biking is easier some days than others; is it the windspeed and direction? my own energy level? my recent dietary choices? how much sleep or exercise I got the day before? So many variables. All I know is that biking makes it abundantly clear when your body is feeling physically in shape or not, and that it literally varies day to day. Do you know what I’m talking about? Anyone else ever experience this?
All this is to say, I appreciate the time I get to spend on my bike commute every day, even on the days when it sucks and hurts and I’m tired. I appreciate that it forces me to spend time outside in the elements even when I’m working an indoor desk job. I appreciate that it makes me look at the world around me and notice changes and consistencies. I appreciate that it makes me tune into my body and my thoughts. And I appreciate that I live in a place where I have the option to bike to work, and the ability to do so.
There are many more things I could say in my ode to the bike commute, but I think I’ll leave it here for now. I just wanted to share my thoughts, since it’s something I’ve been ruminating on for a while and I think it’s good to acknowledge the little routine things in our lives sometimes and appreciate the ways they fulfill us. 🙂