how beautiful the ordinary

My intention was to escort James on his way to work, and then figure out what I wanted to do for the morning–probably find a spot where I could sit down (preferably without having to pay for anything), read, maybe get some administrative stuff taken care of. Thirty five miles and two and a half hours later, I’ve decided that this morning–the one where I actually got absolutely nothing save an impromptu bike ride done–is exactly the morning I wanted all along.

For those of you not likely to take bicycling joy rides, I’ll try to describe the feeling. So much happens on a long(ish) bike ride. Not only are you seeing a huge variety of things (35 miles may not be tons, but it’s still a lot of different terrain to cover, especially in a city), but once you’re in a cycling groove, your mind is also turning over a ridiculous amount of thought, memory, daydreaming. So by the time you’re even only 10 miles in, the beginning of the ride–what you were thinking of then, what you saw as you went past–feels like a whole different lifetime away.

Because you move more slowly than in a car, it also feels like you actually see everything you go through, like each new turn is a whole new discovery. Even though I’ve been in Portland for about 10 years, I’m still humbled by how much I don’t know, how much I haven’t experienced. I took a little path along the Columbia River Slough this morning that I’ve only ever been on at night. It was absolutely stunning. Peaceful, calm water, hundreds of ducks, greenery and the occasional red-turning trees–all conspiring to make me feel like I was miles and miles away from anything or anyone else. Shortly after, I stumbled across the back side of Portland Meadows, our resident horse racing track. This morning, a handful of jockeys were out running their horses, totally oblivious to all but themselves, the horses underneath them and the track as it uncurled in front of them. That, too, was a little slice of Portland, and I seemingly the only one noticing it.

And the ride back along the Columbia River–absolutely spectacular. I know it gets boring to hear me talk about how amazing all these things I see when I’m biking or hiking or running are, and for that I’m sorry, but I always feel like maybe this time I’ll get it right. Maybe this will be the time I can finally describe it in such a way that anyone else will understand how achingly beautiful this world is, and how lucky I am to be in it, riding through on my bike.

It’s not like a bike ride is necessarily transformative. I certainly have put in hundreds–tens of thousands, really–of miles on my bike, and some of them were just that: miles. Miles spent getting from one place to another, miles in pouring rain, miles in miserable, cold damp where I just want to get home. And then there are rides like today, where everything seems right in the world, where I can be somehow witness to everything beautiful. I ride through, and the world unfurls around me in its lovely, perfect dance.

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