Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Beauty of the Ride

The sun setting on 2014

Normally in this space at this time of year, I reminisce about the year gone by and the adventures that Mike and I have had. Instead, I am going to share a post I drafted in May of this year, but never published. It's an important sentiment - one I (and many of us) too often forget. And now that Mike and I are enjoying some quality riding time in Maine and New Hampshire, it is even more relevant - especially as I spend that riding time reflecting on the past year, adventures shared, accomplishments achieved, family, friends, and most recently, a friend we lost too soon.

May your 2015 be filled with peace, and may you always revel in the Beauty of the Ride. xo

Last Thursday, the weather here was gorgeous. After work, the boys were heading out into the woods for a quick-paced SS MTB ride, but I didn't feel like trying to keep up. So, I kitted up and headed out for a solo road ride, intending fully to just enjoy my ride. 
Before I even really got going, I came across two youngsters on bikes on a neighborhood street. The boy, I noticed, was wearing a helmet, but backwards. I slowed and commented, "Buddy, your helmet is on backwards. Can I help you fix it?" He rode right up to me, and we took it off. I showed him how to tell the difference between the front and the back, and put it on his head. It was really too big for him, and the straps also needed adjusting. I asked him to have his parents fix it for him, and showed him on my helmet, how tight they should be. By then, we were friends, and he thanked me for helping him and exclaimed to me about how he and his friend were "racing" their bikes on the street, and when they got to the big puddle, they lifted their feet and rode right through. I left him to play, with a huge smile on my face - a beautiful start to my ride.
Not long after, between Bedford and Concord, I stopped again - this time to strip off gloves and arm warmers. The temps were warm, and I was really enjoying the beautiful weather. Cars were giving wide berth and being respectful, other riders were waving as they, too, enjoyed their rides. It was a beautiful night and everyone seemed to be enjoying and taking it in.
As I was heading into Concord, I encountered my friend Paula. I stopped to say hello, and we stood for quite a long time chatting. Sadly, Paula and I share a common bond - losing someone in our family to suicide. We chatted about how she was doing, and the upcoming 5th anniversary of my brother's death. It was good to talk to her - so many people don't talk about surviving suicide, and it's hard. Paula and I may have bonded over that commonality, but we have also quickly become good friends. I treasured that time, and rode away, again, with a smile.
In fact, I spent a good portion of my ride smiling. Instead of being down, I was happy. It sounds counter intuitive, but I thought about my brother - remembering good times, remembering bad times, but also thinking about what a big part of my life he was, and continues to be. I smiled at memories of rivalries, fights and the love we shared. I smiled because I know Paula will also be okay, and because I am glad to have her as a friend.
As I continued my ride, I saw the springtime beauty everywhere. The flowering trees, the daffodils and tulips finally in full bloom, the sun setting in the sky. I thought also of my late grandmother - she loved flowers, and the spring, and I was reminded of happy times with her. And then, in Carlisle, I passed a farm. Farms have a distinct smell, and I was reminded of my aunt - as a child, we used to visit her farmhouse and that smell was the same! More beautiful memories. I am lucky. I may have lost these important people, but they each left an indelible beauty mark on the fabric of my life.
So often, I go out and ride, and I have a purpose - usually it's training, sometimes it's getting to a defined place. Those rides are good, but with purpose, I often miss the joy and the beauty that surrounds me as I pedal down the road. It is rides like this, with no purpose, and riding only for the joy, that are the best.
When I got home, I was happy and still smiling. Mike asked, "How was your ride?" and I replied, simply, "It was beautiful".