One warm, foggy October evening in 2005 after work I decided to do my first bike ride on Lithia Springs Road after dark from start to finish. Always before I would start in the daylight and try to end in daylight, or at worst finish soon after dusk. But this time it was too late in the day. This trip would require the balance of several competing factors: concentration vs. relaxation, perseverance vs. patience and domination vs. acquiescence.
I’ve known all my life that physical exercise begets good physical condition. I recently learned mental exercise slows the normal regression of mental capacity with age. Similarly, emotional exercise keeps us sharper and dynamic emotionally. Pressing myself into questionable and difficult enterprises helps make me flexible emotionally and keeps me from regressing into excessive cautiousness. Sometimes I purposefully scare myself by engaging in some kind of exposed activity just to prove to me that I can do it.
Tonight’s bike trip was such an exercise. After sunset, in fog and cloud cover, cool, rainy, windy, on a slick road over slicker clumps of wet fallen leaves, on a steep road with difficulty reducing speed going down and difficulty pedaling going up, rough narrow shoulders to dodge onto when meeting cars – is that enough negative factors? It would have been easier to stay in my warm cabin and cook an earlier supper. But I did it anyway.
The trip reached a point of such darkness and fogginess that near the end of the pedal back up the hill (the second half of the trip) that I could not see past my front tire. The world was reduced to my body pumping the pedals in a damp, cool cocoon. After awhile I got into a state of complete balance – not too fast, not too slow, not too hot, not too chilly, not too energized, not too tired – just me rolling the pedals forward and the bike tires rolling up the hill. It was intensely concentrated but pleasant.
It was a nice way to get in touch with myself.