Saturday, August 22, 2009

Riding in the Dark

Two nights ago I joined friends for a movie in Vancouver. Loath to sit in the lineup for the Lions Gate Bridge for a half hour, I instead rode my bike across from West Van, through the craziness of downtown and over the Burrard Bridge, using the new bike lane. It was great! In the past, I've ridden the Burrard Bridge, stuck between the speeding traffic and the pedestrians I was sharing the sidewalk with. There was nothing there to keep me from falling into the car lanes, not a guardrail, not even a raised edge to the sidewalk. I was always worried that, as I passed a pedestrian from behind, yelling, "On your left!", they'd turn to look and bump me into traffic. But with the new bike lane, the pedestrians and I have a new, happier relationship. They aren't scared of being run down and I'm not scared of dying under the wheels of a bus. It's all good.

On the ride back home, which I shared with my friend and ardent bike commuter, David, we cut through Stanley Park. It was dark and there were few cars. And luckily, David's lights were much more efficient than my little 'emergency' ones. (I don't usually ride at night.) As we rode along the park roads in the darkness, I felt the adrenaline rise inside me. I became the child at play, the girl on an adventure. The night was warm and clear and beautiful and flying along the pavement felt good. The night closed in on us, our lights creating a tunnel we traveled through.

At night on a bike, you concentrate on what lies ahead, in your line of vision, and not on all the peripheral stuff. It's fun and your way is clear. It struck me that this is another way of living in the moment, this temporary cleaving of the darkness as you pass through it. It closes up again behind you and your world is defined by the reach of a beam of light. It feels good to be able to let everything else go and concentrate on just your small bit of time and space. It's freeing somehow.

When we left the pavement and turned up onto the gravel trail through the trees, the darkness became more intense and we had to slow to follow the curves, not seeing where the trail went except for a few feet ahead. A small, dark, shadow animal ran across the path between our wheels and startled me but it was probably no less startled by our presence. (David's reassurance that it was probably a rat didn't actually help.) When we finally emerged from the trail out onto the pavement by the bridge, my adrenaline was high. The pedaling back across the bridge to West Vancouver was easy and I was almost disappointed when we made it to our destination and I climbed off my bike. Just like that, playtime was over and the world expanded back to its usual self but it felt smaller now somehow, more friendly. Perhaps it's just a matter of how brightly you let your light shine.

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