This post is dedicated to my uncle Jim, who always notices when I get too quiet.
Cycling through a newly summered city
On my ride home, pleasure takes me in hand again
Work’s worries slip through the wheels and onto the road behind me
Out of my head
Twilight moves deftly through this newly summered city
Like an expert waiter
Offering elixirs of leisure
Work’s currency traded for evensong
Thrumming through the fragrant, quiet streets
Cycling and poetry move together
Encircling each other
On my ride home
Through a newly summered city
I have wanted to write here again in this blog so badly over the past three months, but every time I try, a small, brusque man walks through my thoughts, crossing items off my list, and my sense of propriety once again shushes my creativity. The list of things I am thinking and feeling and experiencing, but can’t write about publicly, is very long these days. I can’t really talk about my jobs – old and new, or the lives of others I am intimately involved in, lives that are full of emotions and complications.
So what can I say? As I was riding home tonight, I was inspired to try again, and my need to write must take refuge in the forgiving land of metaphor.
I began a new job at the start of June, and the months previous that led me there were full of conflicting emotion. Much like the route I cycled for five years, my work in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver was incredibly hard to leave, even though I had often looked for an escape button in times of trouble.
The lovely thing is, my new commute to my new location includes my old route, but it takes me much further afield, into an entirely different part of the city. Every day, I travel from east to west, from poor to wealthy, from cheap apartment-town to well-kept heritage-homeville.
And although my work is very different, I am still myself – my ability to cycle hasn’t changed, and my personal quirks on and off the road remain my allies. My skills, applied in a new context, pushed further into a new neighbourhood, still get me to where I need to go each day.
And I like the way my commute speaks directly to my experience – I am in a new position that is about as far as the west is from the east of my old work. I have travelled to an unmapped country in my career, and its customs still mystify me, although much like the insatiable travellers of old who realised that many new comforts await those who are willing to leave their homes behind, I have been enjoying many of my new freedoms – a beautiful office, the space to create and think, and the under-rated solitude of administrative life that eluded me for many years in the service industry.
I’ve also had a fair bit of comeuppance – those moments where you realise you have become the person you used to judge. I am now the “husband” who works late, and calls home at half past seven with mumbled apologies, the friend whose mind strays to the many emails jostling her inbox while half-listening on a lunch-date, the woman whose apartment feels more and more like a high traffic landing pad than a pleasing garden of well-curated space.
I am sure, with time, I’ll find my stride. My bike again is instructive on this matter – although my commute is now an hour each way, I have lost track of that road time already, and the path has, after a mere month, become internalised to the point that I would rather bike than bus, rather roll along with my morning thoughts and evening prayers. The ride keeps getting faster and smoother.
What I can say is simply this: I am hurtling through my 30th year, propelled by great and sweeping change. At times it’s made me breathless, or strained my muscles, or threatened to exhaust me. I’ve been drenched by sudden downpours, lost a few items from my basket, and been jarred slightly off course by a few potholes. But I’m still completely addicted to the road – and I’m going to keep riding it.