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Posts tagged: biking

Travel gives us a better view of home

(Photo by Cheryl-Anne Millsap)

After three weeks on the road, traveling through different countries and cultures, I was still waking up in the middle of the night, addled by dreams, confused by my surroundings, having forgotten I was home again. I would blink in the darkness, staring into shadowy corners until my eyes adjusted and I recognized my own bedroom. For days I struggled to adjust, my mind and imagination still filled with the people and places I’d seen, my body on a different schedule.

Finally, lured by a spectacular sunset, I got on my bicycle. I needed the exercise and the distraction. I rode through the park and formal gardens near my house, maneuvering around the people who were out for an evening stroll, who were admiring the spring growth, stopping to look closely at plants, reading the name on the placards identifying them before moving on.

I navigated neighborhood streets, crossed a bridge over a busy arterial and then pulled up at a popular overlook to take a photo of the city below me. It was just beginning to glow in the twilight and traffic lights looked like a necklace of red and green stones stretching north toward the mountains.

As I made my back home I passed a house that seemed to be filled with music, the vibrant sounds of Beethoven pouring out into the spring evening through open windows. Around another corner I caught the smell of wet paint and through a window I could see a man rolling onto the wall a fresh coat of clean white paint. I passed a pair of teenagers sitting on the hood of a car parked on the street, their heads close together as they talked to one another. Farther down the street a big tabby cat stared out a window, his eyes following me as I rode past.

When I finally pedaled up my driveway and pulled into my garage, I felt calmer and realized the ride had soothed whatever it was inside me that had been so jangled. I was finally home.

No matter what takes me to some place far away—the bargain-basement airfare, the invitation, the assignment—I make an effort treat each trip to each new place like it will be the last. Like I will never return. I want to see it all while I can. I want to hear what people are saying, taste the food, drink the wine, sniff the air and find the pulse. Open your eyes, open your ears, I tell myself. Don’t miss a thing.

But so often at home, I move through my day like an automaton, oblivious to the place that owns me, driving with blind eyes down familiar streets, through familiar neighborhoods, past familiar landmarks. I put my feet on the floor in the morning and, leading with my chin, push through the day.

That’s my loss. What makes any city exciting or interesting is its people; the countless ordinary lives lived each ordinary day. I had to travel around the world, and then around the block, to remember that.


Cheryl-Anne Millsap is a freelance writer based in Spokane, Washington. In addition to her Spokesman-Review Home Planet and Treasure Hunting columns and blogs and her CAMera: Travel and Photo blog, her essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” and can be reached at catmillsap@gmail.com

Summer wings

 
It's officially the last day of school, in my household at least. Although the weather hasn't cooperated, I'm looking forward to slowing down. To long walks and time to think. To watching little girls ride bicycles…
 
First published June, 2008

It was the best part of a summer day: When the long, cool twilight winds us down; when light plays with shadows and night moves up, painting the edges of the horizon. When the moon chases the sun across the sky.

When stars appear and the air is heavy with the perfume of red roses and green grass and hamburgers cooked on the grill. When cats pounce on imaginary prey and dogs bark, passing the word that the day is done.

I walked my own silly dogs, walking off a long day at work, walking off my dinner and shaking off the weight of everything that had settled on me since I opened my eyes that morning. They strained at their leashes, pulling me forward. I pulled back, dawdling, distracted by the scenes in the windows of the houses I passed. Golden windows that gave me glimpses of other lives. Other interiors.
I heard voices and looked up to see her coming toward me, riding under the branches of the tall shade trees that line the boulevard.

She was astride a shiny new bicycle. A helmet was strapped under her chin, her hands gripped the handlebars and her skinny legs pumped the pedals. Her face was tight with concentration.
Her father, home from work, still dressed in his crisp white shirt and dark trousers, trotted behind her. His arms were outstretched, ready to catch her if she lost control and crashed.
She raced down the sidewalk, passing me as I stopped on the pavement to watch, and was gone. Her father tossed a smile as he ran past.

Maybe it was the time of day, the shadowy, magical part of the day when time is fluid and plays tricks on us; when what was and what is stop for an instant and exchange glances. Perhaps it was my mood, tinged with violet like the evening sky.
But for a heartbeat, I was that little girl. For an instant I was 6 years old. I could feel the handlebars in my hands, and the pedals against the soles of my shoes.
The world rushed by me as I flew down the streets of my neighborhood, leaning into the curves as the wind tangled in my hair. I had wings. I had wheels. I was free to push myself as far as I dared to go, yet I was still safe. If I fell, there was someone there to save me.
The man and the child rounded the corner and were gone, heading home. My dogs, impatient with the delay, tugged at their leads, anxious to travel. They had things to see before calling it a day.

I walked on, but my mind was light years away. I was a girl on a bike. I was a mother, my heart in my throat, watching a child, wobbling and weaving, navigate the world without training wheels.

I could see who I had been. What escaped me, is who I have become.

And then, just as night settled around me, it was clear: I’m still a bit of both. I still have my wings. I still have my wheels.

And if I fall? I pick myself up.

Cheryl-Anne Millsap can be reached at cherylannemillsap@gmail.com
 
 

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About this blog

Cheryl-Anne Millsap's Home Planet column appears each week in the Wednesday "Pinch" supplement. Cheryl-Anne is a regular contributor to Spokane Public Radio and her essays can be heard on Public Radio stations across the country. She is the author of "Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons."

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