Sunday, June 19, 2016

Defy gravity

Compared to most places on the planet, where I live is fast and stressful. It's not a big city by population, but it's part of a large urban area and the environment is man-made, high-speed, competitive. Maybe even disrespectful. In general, it's not normal to be glad to see another human being.

This is the theme in many settings: the freeway derby, the way people walking on a sidewalk see each other as obstacles, the way in the supermarket we hope you'll just move along. Even on a recreational trail, the humanoids can be rude and self-righteous.

There's a reason that in the Bay Area, you're never far from a cup of coffee, whether Starbucks, Peet's, or independent roaster. My dad used to joke that if you fall one cup of coffee behind the crowd, they'll run you over. The vibe is definitely not relaxed or laid back. And it takes its toll.

Maybe it's an introvert thing, but for balance I need regular dips into a quiet, natural, peaceful environment. It's the only way to to reset my blood pressure, cortisol, adrenaline back to sustainable levels. I can actually feel the muscles in my body relax. It's an electro-chemical reaction.

Sometimes, that environment is the road (on a bike). Continuous movement, flow, is a real place of its own. And exercise is a powerful way of managing stress. But exercise itself is not enough. Working out inside in a gym day in, day out, or riding in the shoulder of a busy highway, those wouldn't work.

Fortunately, there are other ways. The fringe of the urban boundary is 3 miles from home. On the other side lie some of the most beautiful cycling roads you'll find anywhere.

Of course when I can wrangle it, you'll find me even further afield...

Here, all the lead weights in my diver's vest just vaporize. There's a giddiness to defying gravity. Like that, I can breathe again, I'm OK. I'm on the surface.

So it's a little humbling, daunting, to face that I have a real need to periodically recharge. There's an extra requirement, a tax on awareness, time, and effort. In the rat race where faster is always better, it can be a weakness. A vulnerability.

On the other hand, I'm lucky to have access to these places. A worthy bike. The gate in the driveway, four days from my house. This is Northern California. A visitor once said that in 20 minutes in any direction from any freeway, you'll find yourself in the middle of beautiful nature. The land of plenty.

Writing this post has made me wonder: might there be people in the world who are not as lucky? Who do not have a way to renew themselves?

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