My mornings start early these days.
At 6am, I pull myself out of bed and down the stairs. I turn the oven on to 350, and then my second task (for pleasure) is to pick out a podcast to listen to in the quiet morning as I prepare breakfast, with my daughter sound asleep above me.
Generally, I choose something thoughtful and soulfully spiritual from On Being, or Insights at the Edge, or something quirky and entertaining from CBC Radio’s Q or Radiolab (much as I long to devour DNTO’s eposides, those are a precious shared experience with my daughter, reserved for weekend afternoons when we’re getting creative together.)
With the oven heating up, and some storytelling on the go, I pull veggies, meat and eggs out of the fridge for our morning frittata (baked in a cast iron pan in the oven), and start chopping veggies.
It is a sweet and steady routine.
The next stage of my morning involves a commute that I’ve broken up into a drive and a bike ride. The bike ride is on the highway, 45 minutes from where I park to where I’m learning the basics of carpentry framing (so I have the skills to build my tiny house on wheels).
When I started this commute I was only driving and I discovered that the last 12 kilometres of my drive took, on average, 45 minutes by car. As I sat on the highway morning after morning crawling along at about 15km an hour and fuming, I saw a cyclist whiz by.
It sparked a thought, which turned into more thoughts, and I decided to borrow a road bike, a bike rack for my car, find a parking spot at the beginning of the gridlock crawl, and start cycling the last 12 km instead of driving it.
I had hoped to be faster, but I am, in fact, a slowish cyclist, even when I’m trying my hardest to fly. However, 45 minutes of biking instead of getting tense and frustrated in a car feels so darn good.
Born of a practical desire, the biking portions of this commute each day, 45 minutes at 7:45am, and 3:45pm are teaching me so many things.
I don’t feel like I’m traveling on the same highway when I’m on the bicycle.
I see different things from the bike, like garbage on the side of the road. Piles of pine needles and leaves on the shoulder that slow me down. Small narrow footpaths coming and going from the highway.
I am often rocked by the back draft of wind coming off of particularly fast and large vehicles. I have a thrill of fear flush through me as I consider how two feet closer to me would lead to my demise and feel deeply vulnerability cycling next to solid vehicles moving at high speed.
There are places I stop when I’m on the highway, waiting to cross lanes at designated bike crossings (someone kind and helpful thought it would be important to provide these), timing myself for the gaps between vehicles, sometimes waiting a long time. Other times, there are small tunnels under the highway, created specifically for cyclists and pedestrians (I had no idea they existed before), and I’m so grateful for them too.
I experience a deep faith that, despite cycling next to fast-moving trucks, cars, and motorcycles, I’m inherently safe. The shoulder is wide, the drivers are consistent, and I am highly visible in my neon yellow jacket and flashing lights.
Landmarks are different when cycling.
I became very attached to a plastic chicken head lying on the shoulder of the highway halfway up a devastatingly long hill that I have to pedal up on my way home. This scabby dirty plastic toy told me I was almost finished the climb. I started looking for it, saying ‘hi friend’ when I passed it by, and I felt lost when it inevitably went missing.
I saw deer a couple days in a row. Once, when I was climbing that same brutal hill, a young buck was suddenly there, on my right hand side. To it’s right side was a steep hill. To it’s left was the highway. It kept dashing back and forth in a panic, towards the highway, then away. All I did as I continued to cycle up towards it was pray. “Please, please, please don’t go left. Please, bound up that hill, sweet deer just don’t jump into the traffic.”
I’ve been seeing a fair bit of roadkill as I drive more, small sad deflating cases of fur, flattened usually from a day or two on the road, poor disoriented dead creatures.
My breath felt tight, I held it shallow as I watched, and finally, as I came alongside, it bounded back into the forest, away from the highway. With relief, my breath came back and I pedaled even harder, away. Hoping it was gone, not wanting to see if it returned and jumped into traffic.
Another time, there was a grassy middle section between the two directions of highway. Traffic was thick and in the middle section a panicked deer dashed back and forth, to and fro. Again, I simply prayed “please, please, please stay put. Don’t jump out.” I don’t know what happened in the end, but traffic was too thick for the deer to have made it safely across the highway, and it was so panicked in the middle grassy area.
We humans have such an impact on our environments, with our roads, and our modes of transportation, and a natural world that is not able to adapt to our ways. Those deer really illustrated that for me.
In committing to this routine of driving and cycling, I’ve been learning about my own ability to adapt, and some things about carefulness, advance planning and the elements. Because I’m biking in the rain, cold, and sweet sunny weather, I have to be prepared for it all.
Sometimes, I get all of that weather in the same day. Which means extra changes of clothing and protective gear. Which means advanced packing to make sure it’s all with me.
It also involves planning for a bigger appetite because of an hour and a half a day of exercise. For about a week I made the mistake of not packing more healthy food, and my hunger drove me to buy whatever was available (mostly junky food) just to fill my belly after I’d eaten my snacks and lunch, all by 10am.
This new routine requires added planning for my body’s greater need for sleep, for rest, and a humbling acceptance that I simply can’t do it all.
If I add something into my routine, I have to subtract something else out. Much as the natural world has it’s limits that it can’t adapt around, my own body has it’s limits too, and I have to respect those.
One of my biggest experiences lately has been that of acceptance and perseverance. Of simply pushing through and showing up. “I’m tired, don’t want to get up early, don’t want to bike, don’t want to………” (fill in the blanks). Well, it doesn’t matter. I just have to do it.
This has been my mantra lately.
Don’t feel like it? Do it anyways. Just show up. And keep showing up.
Get up. Make breakfast. Pack the things I need for the day. Drive. Then cycle. Learn. Cycle. Then drive. Parent, clean, teach, work, sleep. And repeat.
Just keep showing up. Having faith that things will unfold. Being patient with the routines that are part of the process.
I have had so many excuses and desires to opt out. But, I just keep showing up. Oh, it’s cold and wet? Well, then I put on my mitts, rain jacket, and ride the bike anyways.
Guess what? It usually feels great in the end. Sometimes it doesn’t though. Guess what? I survive that too. But I just have to keep showing up.
I know that, in the middle of the grind of routines and sameness, I’ll soon find myself building that tiny house, doing other things, yet always, always, in the groove of the routines that are so necessary, even if they feel monotonous.
I’m discovering that the spaces in between thoughts of monotony and routine are illuminated moments of beauty and presence, when I let myself open up and notice what’s around me.
How about you? I am, as ever, curious.
Have you made any changes in routine or pace that have created a change in perspective? What is different for you because of that? Has it been a positive change? Perhaps there were surprises? Tell me about it…
Until next time,