Seattle is sleepy. We have been eclipsed in shadow for two hours already, and it isn’t yet half after six. The darkness drives droves of people inside, into their cars, and into coffee shops. All that are left on the street tonight are some hardcore cyclist commuters, the homeless population that doesn’t have a shelter to retreat to, a few cars scattered about, and me.
It is quiet, dark, and the cold nips at me, urging me to move forward. I am comfortable, wrapped in my down jacket from my mother and my neon windbreaker from my father. I feel squeezed into one long, warm hug as I take my time down the empty streets toward my home.
It feels like the city is mine, still and expectant, wondering “will she stay out and play?” And I do. I feel the muscles in my legs working to drag me up this long, steady hill, and I go even slower to catch the red light. I want to soak it in, feel the joy of simply being here and now for as long as possible.
When I finally make it over that endless hill, I pick up my pace, weaving around potholes and parked cars. The wind sweeps across my ears, blanketing my drums in a comforting ‘woosh’ and teaching me exactly the place where pain and pleasure meet. And then, with only white noise rustling in my brain, the words start to come.
At first just one little word comes and rests against my arm before vanishing, with a touch that is intimate but not intimidating. Another places itself, like an understanding hand, against my shoulder before heading off into the ether again. And soon it is entire phrases that are touching down, reminding me that they are there, that I have work to do, that I have tales to tell.
Last week I wrote about the fear that clings to me as I hustle my way around on my bicycle. I got the same question again and again: why do you ride then?
I ride because cycling offers me a chance to be quiet, to be in my body, and to be rhythmic for a few moments every single day. This solitude, while surrounded by others, allows me to do my best thinking and allows the thoughts, feelings, and images I am trying to get down to solidify into actual text. It’s the time when I feel connected to myself, where no screens or duties are allowed.
Cycling isn’t just an exercise in physical achievement, conquering fears, or simple transportation. It is a state of being where I feel authentically myself — and no matter how many times I worry about my safety, I wouldn’t give that up for the world.