Forty-seven is maybe a little late to be learning a new physical skill. And yet there I was cycling up and down Diagonal Drive in City Park with both hands off the handlebars for longer and longer periods of time.

Forty-seven years old and I’m finally trying to learn how to ride my bike hands-free. Growing up never felt like the time to do it; I was always on my way somewhere and didn’t want to take the time to slow down. Seattle wasn’t the time either; all those hills meant I had to constantly worry about trying to shift, trying to get enough leverage to make it up a hill when I’d failed to shift into a climbing gear before getting on the incline, hanging onto the brakes to keep control while going back down a hill. But now here I am on my way to being an Old Lady, with a life carefully arranged to give me enough time to just slow down and bike aimlessly around the very flat, fairly-well-paved park.

It felt like the right thing to do after finishing off the roughs for one side of Parallax. There’s a lot left to do; I’ve only finished thirty-six of the ninety pages that will make up both sides of this chapter – 45p apiece – and I’ve still got six pages to rough out of the other side. But I found myself thinking ahead to stuff I’ll have to do when it’s time to put it all together in a book – put together acknowledgements, make title pages, decide what kind of backmatter we want after the stories, stuff like that – and I really just wanted something to keep my mind off of that. It’s nowhere near time to worry about that stuff. So I distracted myself.

Riding hands-free is nerve-wracking at first but it’s getting easy pretty quickly. I keep pedaling, using the subtle back-and-forth balance change that creates in the whole system of myself and the bicycle to keep things mostly upright. I decide to change lanes and something happens to how I’m interacting with that back-and-forth; I couldn’t tell you what’s going on but the part of my body that’s been balancing me on a bicycle since somewhere in the late seventies knows what to do, and I sort of… drift over to another lane, and, if I’m lucky, even straighten out, without much thought. It’s kind of spooky to think about how little my conscious mind is involved in this.

There’s probably a metaphor for something in there. I dunno. I’m gonna go to one of the cafes around here that’s open into the evening, plug my computer in, and see how far I can get through those remaining six rough pages in the hour or so I’ll spend there.

  1. I know people who didn’t begin horse riding till after fifty. And I’m thinking of the YouTube video of the guy who was kinda pudgy and out of shape from age 17 on who decided at the age of 65 to start going regularly to the gym and became totally ripped. Too old and too late are in the mind.

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