Straight on at roundabout


What happens when you stop?
January 18, 2014, 1:41 pm
Filed under: Rambling nonsense, Why

Sometimes, when I am on a plane, I try to imagine what is going on down on the ground below me.  At the moment of passing overhead people are living their lives while I skid by overhead at 35,000 feet en route to somewhere.

Underneath me people are standing in thier gardens, tending vegetable beds, arguing, laughing or even making love.  For some reason I always picture people living their lives outdoors but they are standing around being in the ‘now’.

And sometimes I stand in mu own garden and look at the jets flying high overhead and I slightly envy the people on those flights.  But it is not the destinations that intrigue me.  It is the envy of being enveloped in the artificial snug of  the airline.

Being in transit somewhere somehow seems more valuable to me than actualy being somewhere in particular.

Riding a bike somewhere is a similar sensation for me.

I’ll happily spend many hours eating up the miles progressing towards a control point on an audax ride.  Hour after hour, mile after mile, daydream after daydream I can turn the pedals.  I’ll pass through all sorts of unremarked terrains – and, especially at night, I might not feel deprived as I roll along.  The fact that I can’t see the surrounding countryside won’t necessarily bother me.

But then I’ll have to stop.

A puncture will make me halt.  Or maybe I have to double check my directions.  And I am suddenly tipped out of my transit into the terrain.  I will stop moving and it will fee very odd.

Some years ago, in the dead of night I stopped in the woods near Sonning Common close to Henley.  My companion was lost ahead of me and I was waiting at a turning he’d missed hoping that he’d retrace once he had realised his mistake.

I had a pee while I was waiting and then I stood listening and trying to see his lights returning up the road.

And then I was struck by the enveloping quiet and peace of the moment.  I won’t call this a noiseless silence because that might imply a Dylan Thomas-esq inky blackness.  It wasn’t really deadly silent – there just wasn’t any noise that you would have noticed.  Rather it was a refreshing calm – like clear cool water slaking a thirst.

No cars, no pedal turning and no breeze shaking the trees.  Just a hush.  Couples with a few moments of rest.

At that moment I stepped out of the constant quest of becoming or moving and I was here.  In those minutes of stillness I was present in a place I don’t think I have been to before and no one knew I was there.  My existence was not contingent on making progress nor did it depend on any action on my part.  And despite my unwitnessed state I continued to be.

Just as I realised this, I saw the white glimmer of my friend Martin’s headlights and shortly heard him resuming the anecdote he had been telling me before we separated.  The moment disappeared.

Life can feel like riding a bike.  If we don’t keep moving forward we fall off.  But when you do unclip and put both feet down… I ride because of moments like that.

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