Friday, November 05, 2010

What We Do When We Do Our Best

Five years ago today, I wrote these words:
"OK, let's see how this blogging thing goes."
At the time, I had only a vague notion of what I might write next and no idea of what twists and turns might lie on the path ahead. Today, I have only a vague notion of what I might write next and no idea of what twists and turns might lie on the path ahead. But I don't need to know the whole path, heck I don't want to know the whole path. I've got what I need to get going, the reason to turn the pedal over at least one more time. Stick around and I might get around to telling you about it. Maybe. As I said, I'm not really sure where this is going.

I have two very neat machines here. One is simple and amazing. A couple of wheels, some pedals. A bit of chain. A part you sit on and a part you hang on to. Here's the weird thing, though: It only works when it's going. You've got to put some faith into it, roll past a bit of fear and a lot of uncertainty. You give it a little push of your motion, catch your breath when you are sure you are about to fall but still follow it into that fall. And the bike rolls under the very spot you were about to fall into and you learn something magical, something called balance. And your world will never be as small as it was before. You've grown wheels that feel just like wings.

The other machine is complex and amazing. Wires and electrons and keyboards and all the glowing screens in all the coffee shops in all the world. Servers in cold rooms and satellites in space and light running through fibers. An encyclopedia written by everybody with a keyboard, a place where damn near anybody can publish and damn near everybody does. We've built the world's biggest and best copy machine and we mostly use it to forward bad jokes and send pictures of cats doing dumb things. We are the most stupid, cute, wonderful, amazing creatures on earth. If cats invented the internet, they'd be forwarding a billion pictures of us doing dumb things.

I use the internet to do a very little thing, a tiny thing, a trivial thing. I call it Kent's Bike Blog. Note the lack of global scope. I don't write about the entire world, I just write about bike stuff that interests me. I try to keep it to bikes, but I don't always succeed. If I was just writing it for me, I'd write it in a notebook and lock it away, but I write it on the internet so I reckon I must be thinking I have something to say to folks. I try to be somewhat interesting or useful in some way.

I've been quieter here lately for several reasons. One is Twitter, which provides a 140 character outlet for the "hey look at that" pointers that previously might expand to fill blog post. Another reason for silence is that given by David Byrne, "Say something once, why say it again?" I've written a lot of words over the past five years and on some subjects I figure I've said enough. But the final reason is that sometimes you have to be quiet to figure something out. I've been trying to figure out if I've said all I need to say or if maybe the words should go in a book or a tweet or some other venue.

I've written previously about a formative experience I had in the open spaces of Wyoming that showed me that we do indeed get what we need. I was blessed enough to get a reminder a few hours ago from an internet friend, a woman who wrote not just of her fear, but her desire to ride past that fear. She wrote not only to ask for help, but she wrote to help. And Hollie, this may surprise you, but your post really, really, helped me. Thank you.

Hollie reminded me that we pedal forward, not because we know what lies ahead or because we do not fear, we pedal because we love to pedal and we suspect there is something down the trail we need to find.

I've found beauty in quiet places and friends I know only through pixels. I've crashed into gates I didn't see, walked when I couldn't pedal and retreated for home when I know deep down I could have lost two days and kept going. But sometimes you have to stop, be quiet, go home, regroup and refill. And then you get an answer. Not the whole answer, but enough. Just a bit. The thing that brings you back to the only path you can possibly travel.

When we do our best, we seldom have that clean, clear certainty that we are doing our best. We are only doing what we can. I think I have a few more things to say here, things about riding and living and rolling around this beautiful world on two wheels.

For now I'll just say thanks, thanks to Hollie and all the rest of you who read Kent's Bike Blog and help me keep 'em rolling.

Kent "Mountain Turtle" Peterson
Issaquah, WA USA

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