April 11, 2023

The next time you find yourself stuck, paralyzed by the fear of writing and dreading the task of wrestling your thoughts onto the page, go outside and ride a bike. I’m serious. “The sky is spitting sleet!” you object, but I think this is one thousand times better than riding between the sunbeams beneath a bluebell sky. Do you know what kind of people are outside in this kind of weather? The ones with stories.

When you’re riding a bike you take people by surprise. They don’t have time to prepare for your coming, to fix their hair and pull their face into an expression of cool nonchalance. You pounce on them from around the curve, catching them in a vulnerable tableau, forever frozen in time against the backdrop of rolling hills and corn fields.

There’s a family alongside the trail, the father and grandfather on their hands and knees, cracked hands scraping the stones embedded in the earth while nearby the grandmother purposefully pans a metal detector across the frozen grass. A young girl clad head to toe in a retina-searing pink toddles your way before going airborne as she’s yanked back to her mother’s side. Whirring past, you briefly lock eyes with an astute German Shepherd before you’re over the rise and off to the next scene.

You don’t have to wait long before you find him, this unkempt and gangly man with a weekend’s worth of stubble smudged across his jaw. He’s slouched forward in an oversized trapper hat and red flannel jacket, his neck cranked at an impossible angle to stare up into the trees. He announces with his whole body that he has no intention of acknowledging you—you do not exist in his world—and as you fly past you glance up to the branches and see nothing of note.

Stopping to snap a photo of a lone tree blossoming white amongst the redbuds, an elderly trio pauses to ask what you’ve seen. You mention the baby black-capped chickadee that hopped across your path earlier and they tell you where to find killdeer. “I once photographed a nest of red-tailed hawks the moment they hatched,” the gentleman on the right shares. You trade him a look of awe in exchange for more of the story. “I climbed that tree every day for weeks just to get that photo. And later, when they were out of the nest, one hopped right up onto my shoe and looked me in the eye. They knew me.”

And so it goes for as long as you can pedal, the road unfolding and its people offering up their stories just for you.

Posted on:
April 11, 2023
3 minute read, 441 words
essays and shorts
creative writing essay nonfiction
See Also:
I can ride my bike with no handlebars
All writing is editing