For the Lakota, mountains, lakes, rivers, springs, valleys, and woods were all finished beauty. –Luther Standing Bear, “Land of the Spotted Eagle”
I’m amazed at the beautiful places I can reach cycling from home. Albuquerque is big enough that it has everything we need, but it is compact enough that you can stretch your legs and reach open space. From almost any place in the city you can see the mountains, mesas, forests, fields and wetlands that surround us. We are enveloped in beauty. All underneath an oceanic sky. When I hop onto my bicycle I can pedal to everywhere I can see and many hidden places too. Cycling lends itself to seeking a harmony with landscapes. Cycling can make you feel like the wind itself. Your breath and blood and legs flowing round, propelling you forward in a gliding motion. This blog post includes photos from bicycling journeys I’ve started and ended from our home in Albuquerque.
Cyclists seek out roads and trails that are not too much of an imposition on the places we travel. Roads that fit into nature and are a way into the great mystery, where we receive a softening influence. I like cycling up roads that climb. It slows my speed down and my perceptions open to the world around me. I see birds soaring, leaves drifting down, sunlight splashing through the trees’ bare branches making crosshatched shadows on the ground. With my mind open and the air quiet and still, life reverberates unbounded. The particulars of the day come forward and kindle a sense of mystery and contemplation of the great whole.
Ecologists, biologists and others predict the effect of our actions on the living world, including ourselves. Cycling for me provides a poetry of motion and personal experience that compliments rational understanding. Cycling outside deepens the connections I feel for the natural world. I sally forth with humility, and finding affinity, I recover more of myself. There is no way I can dominate the landscape, but I can flow with it and feel its hospitality. Fear and uneasiness falls away. We are nature’s head and heart combined.
Cycling has worked well for me as a way to accommodate myself to the environment, and integrate information into my consciousness with direct experience. It is one thing to read the weather forecast, and completely another to feel it on your skin. One thing to read a description of a mountain range, or even look at it on Google Earth or a map, and all together different to explore the mountain and discover what’s there for yourself. It’s never too late to start cycling from home and experiencing the living library surrounding us, the human community and natural landscapes intertwined in a beautiful dance, discovering childlike wonder again, sensing joy anew. If we listen to our curiosity and courage bubbling up like laughter, we can experience synchronicity in discovery. When I return home I find myself appreciating things more. There is a beauty we can feel and be a part of.
Cycling is not the only way to open our perceptions and be in touch with the greater world, but it is one path. In this era of transitioning to a more sustainable society, it’s challenging to participate in mainstream activities and not be contributing to the problems of our times. We fly to conferences and meetings, and even my cycling requires car driving from time to time to go to events and races. My philosophy is to make it worthwhile and be aware of what I’m doing, while trying to pay attention to the little things we can do to make a difference. Cycling from home makes me feel a wonderful congruity with the world. I go with a beginner’s mind out into the unknown, which brings me closer, one step closer, to being happy living right here at home.