This latest letter is littered with alliteration, literally! Be advised that you’ve been advised.

The other day, a lady on a bicycle rode by me.  She had a wicker basket in front that was full of a beautiful bouquet of what appeared to be wildflowers. 

For all Edmonton readers (as we collectively and individually adjust to our city’s new bike lanes), please be assured that today’s entry will not host a lively discourse on either bike lanes or gardening.  Definitely not gardening. Mostly because I actually don’t want to write about something I know nothing about. 

Yes, I’m aware there are seeds, watering, soil, high levels of creativity and passion involved in gardening practices, but for the life of me, shrubberies are in some real danger around me unless they will themselves to survive. I can’t sing a seedling to full health though I have tried. Well, I may have tried once for a brief moment until I thought of something else more interesting to do/grow (like a song or a recipe). I will say that this past summer, I was able to keep a duo of flowerpots alive. The entire summer! It was a huge success for me.  They’re dying now but that’s more than fine with me because it’s fall and I made it this far.  Plants are supposed to die now.  I hope they are anyway. From what I read online, even herbaceous perennials die back and protect only the root and crown. Besides, I’m more interested in growing other things (like my children’s perpetual ravenousness). Next year I might attempt something even more garden-y. Maybe a small flowerbed.  Perennials should lighten my load on that one.

Lest I ramble further, let me reiterate, I saw a woman on a cycling contraption carrying cute cuttings.

I stopped to watch her.  I was obligated to unless I desired to be the one striking instead of the one being struck (physically and metaphorically respectively speaking). In the past half a year, I have been in deep thought about stance and this picture stopped me in my tracks, literally and figuratively.  All of the musings of the preceding months came together in that moment. 

How does one position oneself to move forward in life? Or, how then shall I ride? Viewing the valiant efforts of this individual, I believe the ride itself will require a preposterous positive posture.

Cycling continually calls for:

  • Boldness I think back to when I first learned to ride a bike. My Dad ran along side me as I began to pedal and then let go when I had the hang of it.  Perfect teaching moment and long-lasting memory.  Especially because I distinctly remember the paralyzing fear I felt as the speed picked up and I realized there might be a need to stop to avoid hitting the curb at the bottom of the hill.  Oh, did I mention the hill?  Yeah, a huge hill.  It was a mountain to this fearful little traveller.  My Dad knew I was going to be just fine. Biking requires boldness and boldness involves exercising faith and pushing past the fear in order to attempt things you haven’t done before.  Get rid of the training wheels when you’ve had enough pedalling time to know that the next step is dependent independence (which may be the next topic I tackle). That’s great exercise!
  • Wisdom and Experience Knowing when to go and when to stop is key to riding successfully. Don’t drag your feet when the wheels are moving fast. It wrecks your shoes.  Continue moving and get where you need to be.  Be bold and keep pedalling. When the wheels stop, put your foot down.  Even when circumstance has you standing still, you can still move forward internally and be ready. Balance while you’re moving and put your foot down when you’re not.  If you have to park your bike for a while, lock it up in a safe place and use the kickstand. Come back to your bike when you’ve had a bite to eat or a little rest. After all, biking is great fun.  You’d miss it if you didn’t do it. Wrestle with what this translates to in your life.
  • Balance.  Albert Einstein in a letter to his son Eduard wrote, “Life is like riding a bicycle.  To keep your balance you must keep moving.”  Regardless of the pace that you are riding at, your whole self has to be balanced.  All of you must choose to be moving in that direction.  This is what I mean by posture.  Being hunched over or sideways or upside down is not going to be very helpful. So assume the posture of an athlete, tailored to your particular cycle, be fit and avoid fits and get going already.  Take a closer look at anything that interferes with your posture. Change your shoes, get a more comfortable seat, add a jolly bell to the front, customize your ride, and/or make sure the bike is the right size for you.  Adjust what needs to be adjusted for optimal cycling.
  • Awareness.  Traffic, road conditions and weather do affect riding.  Protect the flowers in your basket with some plastic overtop if the clouds start to gather.  Wear a rain jacket and let the drops fall right off you.  Suit up and be warm. Don’t let a little bit of fog deter you. The fog will either let up or you’ll have to ride through it. To quote one of my latest songs “no trial lasts forever, not even this stormy gale”.  Follow the safety rules. Stay in the bike lane if there is one and dodge all distracted drivers. Try to be sweet when you have to do that.  Road rage is rather ineffective for cyclists. It’s hard to picture anyone being inspired by an epithet wielding bike rider with a wicker basket full of buds.
  •  Stamina.  Life is the same.  You can’t fill your schedule with copious amounts of activity, burn yourself out and expect to move forward or even stay on the bike.  There will be times where busy-ness is necessary but even so, rest and inspiration must be present in order to keep riding.

I could go on and on, but I think you get the drift (alert –  racing analogy attack).

It’s funny – I don’t really remember falling off my bike.  I just remember biking. I remember being scared now and again, having burning quads biking with my kids in the mountains and I am very sure I did fall several times both while I was learning and well after the fact.

I’ve thought about writing this particular entry for all these months but it wasn’t the right time until today. How could I possibly write about something unless I knew something about it or unless I was willing to admit that I knew about it?  I know what it looks like to stare at my metaphorical bike and wonder how on earth I am going to get on it.  I’ve looked at my bike and wondered if it truly matched me or conversely if I suited it. I know what it feels like to fall off said bike, privately and publicly and have to dust myself off, and get back on the blessed bike.  I know what it’s like to worry about the bike I have, its condition and my ability to cope with the weather. I remember my failures quite clearly.  I recall several falls.  I see them differently now.  It’s part of riding and becoming an experienced cyclist.  I might have been momentarily embarrassed or even seemingly humiliated, but I am deeply thankful for all of those events. 

Events are simply things that happened.  Happenings don’t define people unless they let them.  I’m still me, and hopefully becoming more of who I have been designed to be. What a motivating thought that is! I love the ride, the adventure.  I’m not going to stop biking because some blooming bumbler cut me off in traffic, or I had a flat tire one day, or it poured rain on me or someone laughed at my bike.  It’s part of wearing my “big girl” cycling shorts.  After all, challenges are part and parcel of life. What on earth would we talk about at coffee if everything were all peaches and biscuits?

I am overwhelmed at the beauty that surrounds me as I ride.  I thank God every day that I can ride. It’s part of the ride to have the occasional or regular tear escape my eyes but those tears don’t get to dictate my direction, the joy I have and the passion I hold is what gets my legs pedaling. I don’t have to change the traffic patterns or hold up a sign or a soapbox with me as I ride.  I know from my own experience that just seeing someone else cycle can be a huge encouragement.  And on a rainy September day, an unknown real life cyclist inspired my ride. Once again, I am amazed by God’s grace in my life and how He finds me everywhere, reminding me to ride.

Isn’t that the deep down dream of everyone: to make a difference by being and doing? As an artist, I carry words and melody, rhythm, art and the odd recipe in my wicker basket.  They’re specially picked and lovingly placed in my basket. I’m sure your basket is full of unique beauty – where are you riding these days?  Heavy traffic is not artist specific, it is a part of every journey and it cannot be allowed to dictate the destination.  It may affect the route slightly but never the delivery.

It can be daunting and at times dangerous to ride but who doesn’t want to receive an unexpected bloom or two or ten? Bouquets are inspirational and uplifting (perhaps with the exclusion of the presence of my present partially pathetic pots). I haven’t met anyone who refuses encouragement. Rejecting false boosting is one thing, but I’m talking about real blossoms of encouragement.  Saying something that means something to someone with no hidden agenda.  That’s the kind of delivery that is welcome.

For me this means writing songs from my soul that respectfully addresses the deep experiences of life with kindness and honesty.  Exhibiting actively an attitude of thankfulness for the privilege of singing these songs somewhere. Offering melodies that allow listeners to sink into the song like a hug from a lifelong friend.  Those are life changing moments that may not make the news, but become fused into the stories of important, ordinary, everyday, precious people.

What are your bouquets made of?  Maybe it’s time to recognize that you actually have a wicker basket in the first place. You do, everyone does!  Fill it full and start delivering, you are needed and your unique offerings are meant to be shared in our community.

In heavy traffic, surrounded by busy-ness, let’s choose to ride blissfully on our respective journeys, thoroughly enjoying the scenery, with a load full of beauty that we will cheerfully deliver to those who welcome the odd bud or two in their lives. We may even unknowingly inspire those who stop to notice amidst the chaos of the city.

In Falling Uphill, one man’s quest for happiness around the world on a bicycle began after he asked himself “If I could do anything, what would I do?”.  After experiencing significant loss, he reexamined his life and started a new adventure. An ordinary guy with an uncommon dream that saw 26,000 miles filled with joy and difficulty producing a changed life.  He biked with his whole self.

I intend to do the same.  Except maybe not with an actual bike. Preposterous? Yes, because a life marked by faith can seem quite unbelievable.  Positive? Yes, moving forward with great fullness and gratefulness. Posture? Holding firm to truth.

Let’s put our whole self in and do the hokey pokey

I choose to ride.  Will you?

I choose to be preposterous. Join me!

I choose to be positive. Hold me to that, please.

I choose to maintain my posture.  It’s not easy, but it’s essential.

That’s what it’s all about! Ride on!

(c) Sandra Foster, Ranenpur, September 10, 2014