Ride Like a Girl, Fly Like a Bird
Oct. 4, 2010
Total mileage: 2,800
I used to have dreams in which I could fly. Nothing terrifying was forcing me to flee, neither monsters nor murderers. I would simply decide it would be pleasant to fly, throw out my arms and take a few steps and jump, and then I’d be soaring high above the landscape. It was wild freedom, and I hated to wake up from it.
I no longer have these dreams, but I didn’t understand why until this week. The same exhilarating feeling from my old dreams now is part of my everyday life: I only have to hop on my bike to fly.
The catalyst for this revelation was a woman riding on the Shunga Trail. The first time I saw her was about a week ago. I’ve been going out of my way on the evening commute to put in extra miles. Because the days are getting shorter and the light is fading earlier, I’ve been finishing up my ride on the Shunga when the sun is lowering in the sky. It seems the safest option, even though the trail traffic forces me to adopt a slower pace.
It was on one of these evenings that I first saw her, riding towards me on a shiny new bike. Her smile was wide and deeply genuine, the kind that most often flashes on a child’s face although she had clearly left childhood behind half a century earlier. I wondered if there was something sweet and funny happening behind me on the trail to cause such a smile, and didn’t give it another thought until I saw her again a few days later with the same expression on her face. Imagine the best present you’ve ever received, or meeting a loved one at the airport, or watching a baby take its first steps. The smile on your face is only one-tenth the depth of hers.
Sometimes she’s riding alone, other times she’s with a husband or a grandchild, but always with the same smile–relaxed, broad, ecstatic. I wish you could see it, but she would be self-conscious if I stopped her for a photograph. There’s nothing on the trail causing that grin. It’s a feeling inside her. She’s 70 years old and she’s rediscovered cycling. She’s flying.