Riding Out Writer’s Block

I’m not going to wait until next week’s “new beginnings” time to start anew with the blog.  For a while I’ve been struggling with “writer’s block,” I guess: the sense that there’s always something more urgent, more imperative, or more interesting to do than write.  Bad habits play a role: I have worked my way into thinking that I need to write at least 500 or 600 words to produce a blog substantive enough to be interesting.   Bad timing plays a role: my cycling life has been curtailed a little by bad weather, conflicting scheduling, the end of the academic semester, more compulsory (and compelling) morning and evening activities.  But we all know deep inside what I have told my writing students for decades, that really it’s all just evasion on some level.  If one needs to write, one writes.

And I do need to write, and I need to channel and focus and hone and refine and imagine and reflect and laugh and wrestle with the irreducible minimum with which we all work: words and syntax.  I hope to write more often, sometimes at length and sometimes briefly, but to keep the words moving as water does, horizontally and vertically, beneath, on and above the surface of the earth, in all three physical states and in diverse isotopic form, in various combinations and mixtures and also in its own purity.  Seeking their own level, their own natural state of being at any one moment.  We’ll see.  Here goes.

Today is the first time I have ridden my bike since December 5.  November in northern Virginia was nasty and glum, and December has frequently been nasty, glum, and unusually cold.  My admirable colleague All Seasons Cyclist (see Blogroll) would sneer at my wimpiness, of course, since he is known to tour the lakeshores of the northern Midwest in sub-zero (Fahrenheit) weather.  But for me windy, rainy, below 40°–I’m not going.  Instead I ride my simple but effective indoor bike, whose most egregious flaw is an unreplacable ultra-wide seat.  I hesitate to set up one of my bikes on a mag trainer, because that makes using it outdoors a real pain, and we get a reasonable amount of temperate winter weather.

Today’s ride was in the sun, with temperatures rising to 46°.  That’s well within my comfort zone.  Just the Gortex jacket with my bionic baselayer, and I am almost too warm.  The sun is so low in the sky right now that it seems to rise and set in practically the same spot, and it surely looks like it struggles to attain any significant angle above the southern horizon.  But it’s warm enough to make a huge difference in comfort, especially in combination with wind from the south, which if not actually warm is at least relatively benign, especially at low velocity.

Not much nature about today, though the hardy winter songbirds like juncos and the overwinterers such as cardinals still move amid the underbrush.  As I came out of the right-of-way I passed a couple of kids with skateboards, who must have had some destination unbeknownst to me.  Rolling along, I was nearly alone as a cyclist, though the numerous groups of walkers indicated that some local residents had guests to entertain and/or a bit of festive weight to shed.  And eventually I passed a couple of slow riders, then a pair of kids goofing off and swerving around—grrrrr.  Around Vienna there was a guy on the trail with what looked like a baby carriage full of old bedding and stuff in plastic bags; I took him to be homeless.  Still in the same area of the trail on my way home.  A couple or three riders in fancy gear passed by, and on the way home from Herndon three such riding together, including two guys in intrepid-looking winter gear and an even more intrepid woman with long blonde hair, who had cycling shorts on in the mid-40s air.  Fifty-five is about as low as I’ll go in shorts; my legs feel more stressed if they’re colder, and I don’t want anything torn or otherwise injured by being not quite supple enough.

All these snappy folks passed me of course, but I was chagrined to be passed by a guy riding a collapsible bike with small wheels, maybe 20 or 22” in diameter.  The thing was geared so that his cadence was about the same as mine: 80 rpm.  But those little tires had to rotate like crazy.  His position on the bike was a bit like a carnival clown’s on a miniature cycle, with knees flying wildly out to the side. He was not going much faster than I, but my body was much in need of a moderate reintroduction to the experience of pedaling a bike along for about 100 minutes.  So I let him go, and enjoyed the remaining ride at my own pace.  I vow there will be many more such excursions ahead.

©Arnold J. Bradford, 2013.

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