Saturday, August 17, 2013

Death & A Bicycle

"Ice Angel" by Dominic Harris and Cinimod Studio

Growing up, my parents gave me anchors when really all I wanted were wings. Free to fly, to do, and just be... playful, creative, and carefree.

That much has not changed, only it's life and age that ground me now.

Presently rooted in old routines with little adventure, I long for days light as feathers.

I once believed that God gave us shoulder blades so when we died we'd sprout wings, turn into angels, and fly to heaven.

Pretty deep for a kid raised in a family where religion was rarely spoken.

I rarely talk about death anymore, but think about it often. Though maybe not as often as some, like actor, writer, director, Woody Allen, whose obsession with mortality has made him famous with lines like these:

"In my next life I want to live my life backwards. You start out dead and get that out of the way. Then you wake up in an old people's home feeling better every day. You get kicked out for being too healthy, go collect your pension, and then when you start to work, you get a gold watch and a party on your first day. You work for 40 years until you're young enough to enjoy your retirement. You party, drink alcohol, and are generally promiscuous, then you are ready for high school. You then go to primary school, you become a kid, you play. You have no responsibilities; you become a baby until you are born. And then you spend your last 9 months floating in luxurious spa-like conditions with central heating and room service on tap, larger quarters every day and then Voila! You finish off as an orgasm!"

My view of death is much less sexy and far more encompassing. It's about loss, those big and small. Not only the cessation of life, but also of things: a home, a job, separation from friends and family, the cancellation of a favorite television show, the closing of a nearby bookstore, the inability to do things that were once easy.

It's been many decades since I was a child, rode a bicycle or had my knees forever covered with band-aids.

I've been told that once you learn how to ride a bike, you never forget. But knowing and doing are very different things.

I know that as I lay in bed with ice packs on both legs, a sore arm and aching back, I may need to rethink the idea of owning and riding a bicycle. At first I wanted one for practical reasons for exercise and transport, but now realize it was probably more about the desire to relive my youth and enjoy the pure sense of freedom that comes from having both feet off the ground and one's hair blowing in the wind.

"Forever Bicycles" by Ai Weiwei

But it's precisely the act of both feet off the ground that created this mess in the first place.

Make that... second place.

The first place was in Target when I decided to test out a cute yellow Schwinn cruiser. I thought I'd give it a whirl down the aisle, but slid off the seat and crashed into a display rack.

Michael, my husband, stayed calm but concerned then matter-of-factly said, "That doesn't exactly bode well."

I wasn't discouraged. I attributed the mishap to slippery pants and a poorly assembled bicycle seat. The price was right, but the fit was all wrong.

The second place, the cause of my current aches and pains, took place in front of a friend's house. Lu had just bought a used Diamondback bicycle for herself and wanted me to try it for size and take it for a spin. Only I had never ridden a bike with speeds and hand brakes and didn't expect to spin out of control down a hill with little friction between the tires and the road. I did manage to slow down fairly well, but once my foot failed to touch the ground squarely, both the bike and I tumbled onto a grassy curb, which thankfully softened my fall. Remarkably, I wasn't shaken or hurt, though I'm feeling the effects a day later. I even got back on the bike for a second try, but just barely managed to stay upright.

As much as I'd love to glide through the air and feel the momentum of moving forward, being able to stop and remain still... is equally important.

Just look at me here... happy, confident, and perfectly balanced on two pedals while wearing a dress.

I'm curious about the dress, but baffled by the hand gesture over my heart. 
Maybe I was pledging allegiance to our country, swearing something on my honor or praying... not to fall down. Your guess is as good as mine.

I do remember the bike. It was a hand-me-down from my cousin who for some reason hand-painted it white. It wasn't pretty, but I got pretty darn mad the day it was stolen from our porch.

My second bike was a Schwinn, brand new and blue. It lasted for years until my brother decided to take it apart to see how things worked, or in this case... never worked again.

That was the last time I thought about a bicycle until now.

Bruises hurt, but not being able to accomplish what I set out to do hurts more.

Riding a bike shouldn't be this hard.

For some reason I seem unable to pick up where I left off... as a teenager cruising down the block on a bike, which was more like an extension of myself, rather than on foreign machine parts that attack!

'The Road Not Taken' can be a difficult one.

Jon Rawlinson

Giving up on mastering a bike would be more than disappointing; it would be another loss to endure. I live to ride again... once the bumps and bruises subside and I find a bike that fits and functions perfectly for me.

Until then, I'm grateful I don't drive. I'd hate to think of the damage I could do on the road with a huge chunk of metal the size and weight of a car or even a motorcycle.

Motorcycle as in a Vespa? Ooooo...'Wings On Two Wheels'!

Imagine... me with both feet off the ground and hair blowing in the wind.

Guess if I can dream it, I can do it... ride a bicycle that is.


Purchasing, owning, riding, trips or tips... please share some of your bicycle experiences.

Here are a few links you might find interesting:

Ice Angel project by Dominic Harris and Cinimod Studio here.

Ai Weiwei's installation titled: "Stacked" viewed here and a video of his installation  titled: "Forever Bicycles" seen here.

Robert Frost's poem 'The Road Not Taken' here.

Sheryl Crow's video 'Everyday Is A Winding Road' here.

"Philadelphia Woman Finds Her Stolen Bike Via Social Media" here.

'Bike New York' uses an interesting method to teach youngsters (and me) how to ride a bicycle here.

To Our Friend
Christopher 'Robin' Hood
A Lover of Motorcycles and A Great Auto Mechanic
August 25, 1952- August 6, 2013

We Will Miss You

XOX... Dyan


  1. OUCH! Ouch! It must hurt in many ways. Two times, two places, and the realization of our vunerability as we age. As the wiseman says to the tormented monster in John Gardner's novel, GRENDEL, "The ultimate evil is that Time is perpetually perishing, and being actual involves elimination."...."Everything fades;alternatives exclude." Much speed in the healing of the wounds.
    I suspect the meditation of TM or mindfulness has gotten it right. That is, in terms of the here and now. The daily practice which gets us to focus on our breathing, mantras, etc. are the keys to our awareness and presence. Past and future are ideas in the mind and have ways of sabotaging or high-jacking our present. We tend to identify with our ideas and not our awareness. which is the solid reality for us all.... btw: I've bicycled, (including the training wheels years), for over half a century.I've fallen less as I age....Stay away from old trolley tracks, they can be treacherous.

    1. Hey Joe... I'm healed!

      Not in a religious sense but in a 'time passing' kind of way. All the aches and bruises from falling off that bike are gone except for the memory of the event, which I'm afraid will linger until I master the 'Art of Cycling'.

      Your comments are always so interesting and often profound. The words "Everything Fades" still linger weeks after I've read them. Sounds like you've mastered a difficult skill... 'Meditation". I envy your ability to remain in the present while... everything else around you fades.

  2. Here are some of my thoughts comments on your latest blog (in no particular order)

    What a delightful, sweet thought you had as a child about us having shoulder blades that would turn into angel wings after we die. Speaking of angels, you look like a little angel in the picture of you on the bicycle. Do you remember when that picture was taken? As I recall, we all wore dresses in those days. I used to have "school clothes" which came off when I got home and put on my "play clothes".

    Sorry about your bicycling mishaps. I know you can ride a bike again. If you could do it as a kid, you can still do it now. I think you just need a wide open space like an empty parking lot where you don't have to be careful about running into anything and it is level. I checked out the video of the training method and thought that it's a great idea. You could try that only not take off the pedals. Just hold your legs out and practice. I'll bet you get the hang of it in no time.

    My best Christmas present was a bicycle. It had stars cut out of the part that the pedals were connected to and I thought it was the most beautiful bike I had ever seen. Nobody helped me learn how to ride it. I just took it on our street and practiced until I got it. I can still remember the triumph I felt when I was able to ride it. That bike was the source of many hours and miles of pleasure just riding up and down our street and later venturing out to go visit friends or go to the drugstore to get cigarettes for my mom (it was a long ride with lots of hills to go up and not a ride I enjoyed so she bribed me with money for me to get a milkshake or ice cream soda while I was there)

    The best bicycle experience was when Rob and I went to Hawaii for our 25th wedding anniversary and we did the Maui Downhill Bicycle Tour. They took us up to the top of a mountain in a van where we were actually above the clouds and we watched the sun rise. It was freezing and we wore winter coats, hats and gloves. (I remember packing those things for our trip and thinking how crazy it was that we were packing those thing to go to Hawaii!) Believe me, we were very glad to have them when we got up there! After the sunrise we got on bikes with special brakes and proceeded to go down the mountain. It was serpentine roads so you zig-zagged your way down. There were lots of places to pull over to take in the incredible views as you went along. There was also a wonderful breakfast at an unusual restaurant along the way. The van followed behind us and as we reached lower altitudes, we peeled off layers of clothes which they stored in the van. They were also there for anyone who needed to stop or had a mishap. When we reached the bottom after a few hours, we were in shorts and it was hot.

    Like you, I also think a great deal about death these days, much more that I think I should. I also think a lot about aging and am not one bit happy about it. To me aging equates with loss. However, it still beats the alternative! I do know one thing for sure....I'm not going peacefully into that good night. I'll fight it the whole way!

    Question: Who was Christopher Hood?

    1. Bevo!

      Thanks for thinking of me as a sweet child. Looking back I was kind of sweet and definitely innocent. Like most kids, I lived totally in the present with the past and future left to the adults. No wonder I worry so much today... I'm now 'the adult'!

      Anyway... I was 7 years old in that photo, which surprised me, as I look more like 11 or 12. I was always the stockiest and tallest girl in my class until 6th grade when Elise Weston arrived on the scene while I stopped growing height-wise.

      Thanks for having faith in me with your encouraging words "I know you can ride a bike again." Sounds like you were born a thrill seeker... teaching yourself to ride a bike and sticking with it until you got it right and as an adult doing that downhill bike tour in Maui. Wow! You do love a good adventure, whereas I love a good book.

      Surely my friend... you will not be one who goes gently into that good night.

  3. I forgot to add that it was very sad that your bicycle was stolen off your porch.

    When Rob and I were first married we bought a couple of 3-speed bicycles which we rode all over the place on weekends. We got a bike rack for our car and took them to various parks or places too far to get there by bike. I have pleasant memories of our many happy hours riding those bikes. We still have them but they sit in our garage gathering dust these days.