By Libby Osgood, CND
When I’m riding a bike, I feel like I’m flying. The wind streams past my face, turning my hair into yellow streamers flowing away from my helmet. My shoulders are square with the world, and I’m ready to face any challenge, be it traffic lights, fellow bikers, oncoming traffic, or the weariness of a long ride.
There is a sense of playfulness that comes with the agility of bicycling, encouraging me to use the entire width of the path, carving a signature of curly, curvy squiggles into the ground. There’s also a sense of independence that comes with the speed of bicycling, allowing me to move faster than I could with my legs and yet, unlike being boxed in by a car, I’m open to the world, much more aware of my surroundings.
Biking is as natural to me as walking. I can’t think of a time when I didn’t know how to ride a bike, and yet I know it’s something I took for granted for many years. Everyone on Northcote Lane rode bikes. It’s how we played together. As I grew older, my bike spent more and more time in the garage, and I spent more and more time inside. My bike emerged for the occasional ride in my teenage years but was completely ignored during my college years. It wasn’t until later, when I searching for something to fill my post-work evening hours that I rediscovered the joys of biking.
A charity I was dedicated to sponsored a cycling event from one end of our little island to the other, covering a distance of 273km (160 miles) over three days. Training for the event and riding in it two years in a row reclaimed my love of biking, and I found the independence and silliness I left dormant in the garage for so many years.
Now an adult, I discovered there was a great spiritual element to biking as well. I could have long talks with God, rediscover the beauty of Prince Edward Island in autumn, and connect with a fellow cyclist in deep, uninterrupted conversation.
Believe it or not, I once met an angel along the trail in the form of a golden retriever. I was far from home, feeling frustrated and tired, unlikely to continue. I was about to call a friend to pick me up when this golden-furred angel from a nearby farm appeared and started to run alongside me. The two of us travelled at top speed for minutes, my two wheels and his four legs. Then he just disappeared, maybe to go help the next lost soul. I continued on, grateful for the companion, renewed with hope and determined to ride home.
My only regret with biking was that I had to leave my own dog at home. While I was out enjoying nature and breathing fresh air, Sampson, my little black fluffy Pomeranian, was left staring out the window, waiting for me to return. There were a few comic attempts to take him in a basket, but the first bump sent us home every time. Then, I discovered a backpack he could be strapped into. Though I would have to overcome feelings of ridiculousness, it was important to include him in this experience. He was aging, less able to go for walks, and his days were numbered. We rode together for hours at a time, him strengthening my back muscles with each mile, and me smiling more, knowing that the only thing people behind us could see was a bright red tongue and a mop of black fur. On his very last day on earth, well into his 19th year, we went for one last ride. Though there was sorrow, there was also joy and consolation in our connectedness.
My faith journey is very closely tied to my biking journey. I was born into my faith, a gift given to me by my parents. It was important when I was a kid, but as I got older, I started to store my faith in the garage of my heart. I was less open about it, less overt. I took it out on Sundays for mass, but wasn’t sure about the role it held in my life. It wasn’t until I began searching for more, when I made an intentional effort to claim my faith, that I could allow it to penetrate all the aspects of my life. Now, I’m so grateful that my faith has taken me on a journey to becoming a sister where I can openly seek the divine presence in each moment, and I smile to know that I had to take the same journey with my bike. I’m grateful my parents taught me how, but to get the fullness of it, I had to rediscover its joys as an adult and claim it for myself.
Now when I cycle, everything turns into a theological reflection – the path, the journey, the bumps along the way, the traffic light that forces us to slow down, where my attention is when I’m biking, and the necessity of feeling tired. Though Sampson is no longer on my back and I’ve only met one golden-furred angel, when I go biking, I’m surrounded and penetrated by beauty.