Pedaler’s Paradise

by Kathy Ruff

I actuallly wrote the following passage I call “Pedaler’s Paradise” about a year ago but felt it fit in with my mood and the season.  So I thought I’d share it with you.

Many people search a lifetime to find paradise, their definition of heaven on earth.

I’m one of the lucky ones. I’ve found it. I’d like to share a glimpse of what paradise looks like to me.

As I mount and pedal my mountain bike on the trails of the old Switchback Railroad, the movement of my legs develops into a synchronistic rhythm. Energy exerted by my dominant foot begins a process of repetition, a repetition that somehow takes the clutter from within my mind and leaves it buried in the dust behind me.

Down, swish, around; down, swish, around; down, swish, around.

Along the way, my body falls into a type of remote movement. I can see, hear and feel the physical sensations, but the pedaling rhythm creates a strangely meditative condition where the contraction of the muscles and joints disappear as my mind and spirit transform.

Down, swish, around; down, swish, around; down, swish, around.

My mind experiences a subtle prod that nudges me into a different dimension, one where I am one with the nature around me – my paradise.

Like a blind person, my senses heighten as the crisp morning air gently brushes my face and hair, invigorating me from the inside out. The whispers of pine-scented air around my ears tell me this is nature’s way of petting. My mind and spirit purr like a kitten responding to a gentle, loving caress. The rhythm like the gentle petting air continues.

Down, swish, around; down, swish, around; down, swish, around.

But that caress expands into other sensory delights including the surround-sound amplification of a cacophony of songbirds and other morning creatures. Blackbirds converse with their mates or friends, sending an echo of caa’ing from the front, back and sides of the trail. Rustling leaves created by a squirrel forging for breakfast mask the sounds of the bike’s tires crackling along the gravel. The noise of rushing water as it traverses through its streambed, meandering between river rocks and over long ago downed trees, adds a uniquely energizing element to my journey.

Down, swish, around; down, swish, around; down, swish, around.

The picture of my paradise offers ever-changing, unexpected twists. One day a small tree lay across the trail ahead. It was small enough to walk over with my bike, so I continued my approach. As I neared, my reality changed. I quickly locked my brakes, turned my bike around and high-tailed my butt the way I had come. The tree apparently had not fallen victim to the elements but rather to a bear, a bear still eating the grub from its roots. It took me the better part of a week to return to my morning paradise.

My pedaler’s paradise has also included encounters with other creatures in the wild, creatures that have taught me lessons. The deer and rabbits coming from or going to their morning drink at the creek (pronounced as “crick” in local dialect) may have created a momentary fright, but each made me more aware of the natural beauty that surrounds us, whether we see it or not. A snapping turtle on the side of the trail reminded me to see how important it is to slow down and sometimes sit on the sidelines for a while. A coyote slithering across the trail less than 20 feet ahead of me made me realize how unprotected and naïve I can be and how interconnected our lives really are with nature.

Down, swish, around; down, swish, around; down, swish, around.

Continuing on the trail to the breast is one of the pinnacles of my excursion, even though I may continue up the trail for another few miles. On many early mornings, the water’s still surface exudes a perfectly reflective image of it surroundings. A southerly breeze splinters the mirrored calm, creating ripples that spread slowly across the surface.
As I sit on one of the benches located on the breast of the dam, a bird glides effortlessly, flowing with the gentle breeze across the wide expanse of the lake. A pair of small birds seems to play in the breeze, alternately exchanging the air currents over the water for those shooting up from the earthen side of the structure. Up and back, they continue their amusement, undistracted by my eyes.

My eyes see a solitary fisherman as he casts his rod away from his boat, patiently waiting for a nibble. White lines mar the cloudless blue sky as two jets navigate to their destinations while the remnants of the crescent moon fade in the western sky. In the distance, the trees and earth of two mountains converging from the left and right create an illusion of two big arms embracing the watershed — and me — in a gigantic hug.

Yet the sights and smells of my venture pale in comparison to the inner sensations that surface. Like the feeling of a tender touch from a lover or the warmth of a big fleece blanket, the smile on my face radiates from the inner contentment created by the experience. My spirit has lost its burden of societal pressures, and transformed its energies into peace, contentment, harmony and balance.  This is my paradise’s reward.

But now it’s time to go.  Down, swish, around; down, swish, around; down, swish, around.

For a little while I escape the pressing demands of everyday life and enter a different yet nearby world. What is only a short distance away for the body is light years away for the spirit and soul. I recharge my spiritual batteries, converting my pessimism to optimism, my fear to courage, my doubt to confidence. I am not who I was minutes before.

I am made new.  That transformation permeates my mind, body and spirit, touches everyone I meet and affects everything I do. I’ve released the toxicity of life and exchanged it for a calm and serenity unparalleled by the effects of any drug. My spirit explodes into a burst of energy that guides me through everything I do the rest of my day.

I leave the trail a bit sorrowful for not being able to stay, yet I go with a renewed body, mind and spirit I hope will remain. I take with me unrivaled joy, beauty and energy absorbed from the experience. My passions run high and my paradise remains with me.

Down, swish, around; down, swish, around; down, swish, around.

For me, this journey is not about competing or building endurance. It’s about becoming all I can be and aware of all that is within and around me in abundance. My pedaler’s paradise is an isolated heaven on earth, one of many waiting to be enjoyed.

As we each pedal along the paths of life, we can all find our own paradise as we become aware of the moments in our lives. We create our personal paradise. What’s yours?

About Kathy Ruff

Kathy Ruff is a seasoned, freelance business and inspirational writer and author of the Sharing Peace on the Path blog.
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