Last week was the first time in two months that I met my writing friends. I was pleasantly surprised, as usual, how easy it is to get back into the routine of writing on command, during our freewriting exercise. Afterwards I declared, “You never forget how, just like riding your bicycle.”
Well my Truegerman, before I continue, I have to clear up a leeetle misunderstanding. I wanted to write about health insurances, but as we agreed to do that next week, I stick to writing it next week. That is something I learned in Germany. Stick to it. It´s okay to be rigid. But as you, dear Truegerman, have been hanging around with foreigners (like me) too much, you have become very, very flexible. Well, maybe you already were before, but hanging around with us made you happy to use that skill! So here I am without my healthcare story and just my bike. That´s it.
I remember the first time I had a bike that was all mine. I´m the third of four children and that means hand me downs most of the time. It also meant that when I received something that was brand new, that was very special and nice.
In my case it was a bicycle I desired.
My dream came true in the shape of a speed bike, light blue, with ten gears that were all the rage 25 years ago. I rode that bike as if it was Rolls Royce, a beauty among its kind, sparkling in the sun because I even cleaned it!
I loved riding it everywhere: to school, to my friends houses, all over town. Nothing was too far. I was happy if it took me an hour to get somewhere. I rode it in the pouring rain and had to dry out in class. I felt independent. It also was the only “sport” that I could take up without working too hard on perfecting it. Just hop on the thing and take off. No special skill required. No years and years of sweat and toil on style and class. You can just do it. Perfect for Ms. Unsporty.
I felt independent and accomplished when I rode my bike. I didn´t have to wait for the streetcar, ask my Dad to drive me or dish out my few cents on ever more expensive tickets. While riding I loved mulling over my thoughts or just looking around and enjoying what I saw. I liked rides on smooth wood paths, in clean air, with the wind pulling my hair back, giving me a sense of speed. There was no competition, just movement and feeling really alive. I would plan my trips so I could avoid main roads and get to anywhere surrounded by as much green as possible.
While I write this I realize that I still love doing that.
A friend told me she knows how happy it makes me to accompany my son to school on the bike, when she sees me there. I must admit that in those moments I am usually extra happy because I am not getting stressed sitting in a car, snaking my way to the school in the daily traffic jam and having to figure out how to drop off my sons in relative safety. I feel like quite a bicylce snob and in my head I am writing articles for the schoolpaper about the many advantages of riding bikes in Frankfurt, even in the worst of weathers and imagine sticking signs on my tires that would read “Ride your Bike” or “It´s just water” as they turn and I coast past the crawling cars. I never do. I keep the snob under lock and key.
And then there was a moment about two years ago. I felt melancholic and the day was misty and gray. I rode my bike through the park, where the world did not enter with its noise. The weather muffled it. I felt the morning mist on my skin, breathed the cool air and felt that riding through the fog was as if you rode through a cloud. I was alone in the world and all that worried me would have to wait and faded into the accompanying fog. It was okay to feel melancholic, when you felt so alive at the same time.
Most times we ride our bikes to move us from point A to point B. Or we want to exercise and build muscle or be the fastest person on the block. But that day I experienced the soothing and healing power of just having taken a ride for the sake of taking a ride, not trying to get anywhere specific, but arriving at myself.