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Bike Paths

Bicycling is the national pastime in Taiwan and there are miles and miles of beautiful, dedicated, paved bike paths all over the country. This made all the difference for me on my recent trip there. My decision about even saying yes to the trip turned on this dime. Still, I had no idea just how great the bike paths would be. Just look at these! Not only beautifully maintained but just plain beautiful!

I got to thinking about paths, in general, as I began to write this. Life paths and bike paths. The qualities of the path affect each person differently and might or might not fit with who we are now and what we can reasonably do.

At certain points in last month’s bike journey with my son, the path we were on affected each of us very differently. The long beautiful ones, above, were of course pure joy to ride on. But below, you can see that we encountered a section that was steep enough to inspire the building of shallow steps on either side of a slightly stepped ramp, rather than having people go careening wildly down a very steep path. For Cole, it was fun to ride the ramp, but I was more comfortable (duh) walking my bike down the middle while using the steps. It accommodated both of us, but in different ways, since we are completely different riders. Experienced/inexperienced. Fearless/fearful. Young guy/Old Lady.

At another point, we rode for 1.75 miles in a tunnel I had described as having had no bike path. In truth, there was a raised sidewalk for bikes, with a curb (but no guardrail) and the curved tunnel wall on the other side. I could not ride on it. It was just as wide as a regular sidewalk but psychologically, I could not do it. The wall felt far too confining, even though I could see that there was room. I could also see that Cole had no problem with it. (He can also ride hands free, hands in pockets, arms jigging back and forth, etc.) I felt like I could easily fall off the curb and fly wildly into a passing car. I felt that I would be giving myself over to chance. I chose, instead, to ride carefully with traffic, pulling over whenever I heard a car coming. I guess I trusted the drivers to see me more than I trusted my own ability to ride in a straight line. And so, that path was not for me.

Right after the tunnel, we took a shortcut through a jungly area with a very steep, narrow road that was wet and a little slick underfoot. Again, I could see Cole riding it but could not make myself get on my bike until it flattened out a bit. The old “Afraid of Falling and Breaking a Hip” shtick. Purely psychological, because I could just as easily have fallen while walking my bike.

But it’s good to know what is and isn’t for you and not get too tangled up in it. Right? Sure, sometimes it’s also good to push your limits. I’d love to be as fearless and carefree as my son–and I remember when I was. I remember wiping out completely on my bike, years before he was born. I was goofing around on the way back to camp after a day of mountain biking (a thing I would not do now to begin with). Laughing and being silly, I took a big fall. Giant nasty scrape on my leg . . . the guys shooting the dirt and gravel off with their water bottles . . . still laughing. No fear, no regrets, just fun. Sigh.

Every path isn’t for every person at every stage of life. That’s all there is to it. That’s what I’m saying and I’m sticking with it. Done.

“Let each {one} take the path according to his capacity, understanding and temperament. His true guru will meet him along that path.” ― Sivananda

“If you don’t know where you want to go, then it doesn’t matter which path you take.” ― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

“There are two paths of which one may choose in the walk of life; one we are born with, and the one we consciously blaze. One is naturally true, while the other is a perceptive illusion. Choose wisely at each fork in the road.”― T.F. Hodge, From Within I Rise

If you’re looking for my cards or art, you’ll find all of that on my website. If you enjoy these letters, feel free to forward this one to anyone you think might like it. And if someone forwarded this one to you, you can sign up here to receive the letters right in your Inbox. Finally, you’ll find past letters and poems here.

Thanks for listening,

P.S. MerryThoughts is the name of my first book, out of print at the moment. The word is a British one, referring both to a wishbone and to the ritual of breaking the wishbone with the intention of either having a wish granted or being the one who marries first, thus the “merry thoughts.”

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