The Church of Awe

If you can look at a spider mite, or a cumulonimbus cloud, or the ring around a full moon and not be simply knocked out by the wonder of it, I can't imagine what it would take to impress you. This day-to-day awe forms the core of my religious experience -- best described as the deepest imaginable appreciation and gratitude.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

It's All About the Belly Button

At some point in every bicycle ride, I experience a moment when I become fully, unabashedly me. Not that I'm not me the rest of the time – who or what could I ever be but me, really? But sometimes the fragments of me head off in many directions at once, or my mind is resolutely elsewhere or I'm just asleep at the switch and could be anyone.

But once I get on my bike and go through the initial battles with inertia – my body being at rest generally protests for the first 15 minutes or so the indignity of being put into motion – I begin to notice how great it is to be out and going.

A sprinkle of rain cooled me this morning and my skin started saying "Thank you" before the rest of me caught up to the fact that I was being rained on. My curmudgeonly mind's initial reaction was to worry that this was a harbinger of the deluge to come. "You'd better go back home while you're still just a few minutes away," it intoned in its concerned, managerial way.

But my skin had already begun to awaken my other senses and anarchy had begun: They were having none of this "go back to the house" nonsense. I could smell the soil and the corn and the weeds in the ditch alongside the road. I could hear the usual summertime cacophony of bird, frog and insect, accompanied by the rhythmic swoosh of my bike tires on the blacktop. The ride was a Mardi Gras of green – the nearly black green of the trees, the mid-level green of the cornfields through which I rode, the chartreuse and neon green of roadside weeds.

All at once, all my parts and pieces pulled themselves together and we became one. One being, in motion, with cicadas setting the cadence. On every bike ride in the past dozen years or so I've reached this point in which I become sensationally aware of this being just about as happy as a human can be. That's a lot of years and a lot of bliss.

Often, it's bliss bought and paid for with much struggle. These days, for instance, I'm getting back into shape after having parked my bike for a very long time. Why I ever let myself do that, I'll never know, but it's literally been years since I considered myself a cyclist. So now, hills I once considered a nice little warm-up are crazy challenging. And as always, just managing my internal conversation ("Give UP!" "What are you thinking?" "You're too old for this!" and "You look like a jerk!") is most of the battle. The body is happy to be working again and ready to be put through its paces. So I head for the hills and struggle. And once I get to the top, the Who-hooo factor sets in and bliss soon follows.

The roads were relatively traffic-free this morning and, without planning, I found myself doing something I've wanted to do since I was 8: I rode hands-free. All the while, in my head, was my mother's voice warning, "Look, Ma! No hands; Look, Ma, no TEETH! Kathryn, don't DO that ..."

When I was a kid, all the boys in the neighborhood would go whizzing past on their bicycles, riding hands-free like a troupe of unicyclists. I always wanted to join them, but the idea of spending the rest of my life with no front teeth made me timid and inept.

But this morning, I got it. In the same way the distinction "balance" happens all of a sudden and you go from training wheels to two wheels, this morning, I let go with both hands and realized that the key is all in the belly button. Focus your attention on the belly and balance takes care of itself. The yogis have been saying that for centuries, but this morning, I got it.

This opens up a whole new world of possibilities. That unicycle I've always wanted, for instance ...


Blogger Jeremy Smith said...

Really get what you're saying here KC when you get behind the handlebars and aim down the singledtrack. That singlemindedness is really self-unifying. Pushing aside all the nonsense (necessary or not) from the path...on towards our balance. And its all about balance these days.

Found you through this month's Utne article and really like what you offered. Heading out to the "that really cool tipi in the sky" myself, see you there.

9:25 PM  
Blogger KC_Compton said...

Thanks, Jeremy. Ride ON!


7:23 AM  
Blogger Ellobie said...

Oh! I can't wait for it to be warm enough to get my bike out! I'll try to keep my chin up and not pout (too much) about how slow spring is in coming to Chicago this year. Thanks for the help!

10:58 AM  
Blogger KC_Compton said...

Maybe all this delayed springtime means a longer, more temperate summer. At any rate, it's almost officially ridable out there and I'm champing at the bit!

Thanks for your comments! --KC

12:46 PM  

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