19 August 2009

Asymptotically approaching zen*

*(The title is an homage to my high school physics teacher, who, when we told her she was a "genius", replied that she was "asymptotically approaching genius levels"... i.e., getting close but never quite there.)

In the past couple of years, I've come to the conclusion that I might be at my happiest when I'm riding a bike. At the very least, the wind on my face and satisfaction of gliding along while taking in the scenery and actually getting places has proven to lift my spirits when I'm low, or calm me down when I'm anxious. And, of course, if there's even a small hill involved, it burns calories, and I could always stand to burn more calories.

Another constant in my life, whether intended or it's just something I gravitate towards, is bridges. As in, things that you cross to get over water. In undergrad, I liked them so much that I tried to slip one into every design project I had, and for my senior thesis I actually designed a building ON a bridge.

So imagine my immense pleasure when I discovered that, here in Portland, there's an annual "Bridge Pedal", an event where all of the bridges in the city are shut down to car traffic and opened up to cyclists. And in a bike-and-bridge-happy city such as Portland, this means that 11 bridges were shut down to allow the passage of no less than 20,000 people on bikes. That's a crowd roughly the size of the LA Marathon on bikes, crossing the river on bridges meant for trains, trucks, and even a couple of Interstates! Below is an image of a group of riders already on the highway "merging" with another group of riders who are taking an entrance ramp (on the far right).

Talk about exhilarating. This guy only looks grumpy because he just got done climbing a big hill like the rest of us. The reward is getting to stop at a rest stop in the middle of a dormant highway - note the I-5 signs up ahead.

This looks like a dream I had. About highways for bikes.

We had a drum group at this rest stop. Note the "Suicide Counseling" sign on the far right. We're WAY up over the river at this point...

The St. Johns Bridge was out of the way, but most certainly worth it.

Waiting for a train to pass in the Pearl District.

At the finish line, treats such as donuts and ice cream bars were waiting.

For a while now, I've been waiting for the Universe to tell me what to do or where to go. In the meantime, Portland stepped up and said, "hey, I don't know about the Universe, but we like you a lot, and by the way, there's this bike ride you ought to join us on..." So here I am. It's a relief to show up in one of the greenest, most livable places in the country and to actually be encouraged to stay. And it's remarkable to find peace in the instability of unemployment. So unless the Universe has any better ideas, I think I'll just keep trying to achieve zen here.

Someday, I hope I'll look back on this period of time and say, "wow, what a learning experience that was!"


eventer79 said...

Go, Sr. Ethel!!!

And hooray for zen -- that is how I feel when I ride my horse.

liz said...

wow, this looks awesome! your blog is awesome right now too. although unemployment sucks, it is making for some really good reading for your blog fans!