One early morning in a 1970s summer, I woke before my sisters and went for a bike ride. Bike rides were a many-a-day occurrence in our seventies’ summers, but we tended to ride in packs, to someone’s house to play, then to the corner store to buy grape hubba bubba gum, then home again. On this particular fresh morning, just after sunrise, I hopped on my banana seat solo. For me, it seemed like a very big deal, freeing and bold, to take some “me-time”, for once not a single one of my three sisters present, and not telling my Mom where I was headed because I did not know. I was eight or nine years old.
I rode up to the top of Stoughton Street, though I did not know the street name at that time. In my mind, it was the street with three hills, perfect for bike riding. I paused at the top of the first hill and smelled something sweet in the air. It wasn’t dough baking from the neighborhood pizza shop, and it wasn’t coming out from any of the houses. It was organic, maybe flowers, but it was fresh and significantly sweet and the smell made the time even more magical than it was before. I looked down at my hands on the handlebars, my tanned legs in position to ride, and smiled. This was a perfect moment, and I remember it still. It was all down hill from there.
I felt safe and held in the larger world by something bigger than myself, but also so free, bold and capable. Eight years old maybe, and I had it all figured out. As the years unfolded after that time, I have struggled to find that feeling again and I’ve had glimpses, but I know that top-of-the-hill feeling will be what I experience ultimately when all is resolved, when all questions are answered, when I can finally trust and let go. I have had hints along the way, little epiphanies that keep me headed in the right direction, toward freedom and an all-consuming love and strength.
So much of this hill-climbing life for me has been about understanding, adjustment, and realization about things I probably knew completely well when I was born. In childhood, we tangle ourselves up, and then we have to untwist it all as we grow. What a mess. If we knew the inner-workings of each man’s mind, then we would know how each life is an epic story; a book we couldn’t put down and a movie that has us on the edge of our seats. As I continue to write my book, I find I’m often stumbling and falling, but being pulled somehow towards sweetness. What a ride.
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