Force and Forgiveness

For someone who has finished a lot of things in her life, it may surprise you to know that it sometimes is difficult for me to start.  To start to read a book, sure.  To start to organize--of course.  To write an email, easy.  To go for a run outside can sometimes require force.  One advantage of dating a man in love with the sun is that he has many times gotten me onto a mountain, some inline skates, or (lately) on a bike.

On my birthday, he warned me that he'd bought me a "selfish" gift: inline skates.  (It was "selfish" because he wanted me to skate with him.)  Sure enough, what followed (and continues to follow) were (are) many kilometers along rivers or through forests on inline skates.  While I was in the USA, he became even more selfish.  He sent me a photo of a bike, asked me if I liked it, and the next day I saw that he'd bought it.  He then suggested a biking trip in Southern Bohemia (see previous post) upon my return.

So, I arrived back in Moravia to a red and black mountain bike.  Not wanting to waste any time, we soon took it out for a spin.  My boyfriend believing me to be nothing if not strong, our first bike ride involved a hill. *Reminder*, this is what my homeland looks like:

Notice, it's flat.  I'd been in the USA four weeks previous, riding in cars and trying to ration my consumption of s'mores and cheesecake.  (Did I mention that I had literally just returned to the Czech Republic?)  Suddenly I was in the sun, pushing with all the vigor in me to get up this hill.  I'm the kind of person who likes to power through challenges.  (My high school golf coach once asked us, "What do we do with challenges?"  I answered: we eat them for dinner.)  Powering up a long hill doesn't really work--especially on your first bike ride with a real hill.  I pushed slowly with alternating legs--my pulse raced and my legs slowed.  My breathing became inefficient.  I thought I'd just about made it, and pushed through the sliding crunch of rocks on dry soil. Turning left I only saw the ground continue in its incline.  I stopped the bike.  My feet felt unstable on the ground, and I doubled over with my weight on handle-bars.  Gasps for breath and the surprised, vulnerable expectation of tears. Normal breaths would not come. I felt completely powerless.  Beaten.

It was a glorious start to my biking career.  

Feeling the confused combination of disappointment in self and complete powerlessness, I raised my  right leg to the pedal.  As I pushed forward, the bike slid on the gravel and I stumbled.  Another attempt proved my strength was too small, so I began pushing my bike, inwardly feeling abandoned by Kaja who was around the next bend.

I don't know what convinced me to ever take a biking trip with Kaja again.  Maybe it was seeing him waiting for me around the curve. Maybe it was the generousness of the bike.  Or the fact that half an hour later Kaja didn't get angry when my clumsiness sent a cascade of juice and mineral water his way.  Perhaps it was the entirely downhill return to the flat or his cooking me dinner.  Whatever the case, not only was I persuaded to mount the bike again, but I was persuaded to do it wearing SPD shoes.

SPD?  For those of you who aren't familiar, once upon a time a man thought, "Hey, what if I put clips on the bottom of my shoes so that I could connect them to the pedals of my bicycle?  Then I could both push and pull while pedaling."  I first saw them in use by my roommate two years ago.  Seeing the SPD pedals on a friend's bike this summer made me think maybe, just maybe it wasn't crazy.  So, before we managed to head to Bohemia, I tried out the bike plus clip-in shoes.  Naturally, a couple falls happened, but I thought I had enough enough experience to not be nervous.

Two days later and over 300 kilometers away, I mounted the bike in Třebon.  Our first sight was an interesting chapel.  We continued along flat terrain.  Then there was a concrete path that looked like triplet two-year-old giants had gone and continuously thrown tantrums until the concrete was more patchwork than path.  (At that point, I wondered how any person--male or female--could feel comfortable in a bike saddle.)  Despite that fact, the woods were nice, and I could imagine I was riding through a scene of Jumanji.

We rode past families and artificial ponds, then a short jont along a main road.  I was happy to turn off the road, then surprised to see Kaja pull to an abrupt stop (a large truck was coming across a very narrow bridge).   *Note: with SPD pedals, it's essential to unclip the shoes from the pedals before stopping.*  This did not happen. 

I may have uttered a certain word (commonly used for excrement) before falling to the right over the curb.  I yanked my feet from the pedals and angrily kicked the bike away.

Photo: Karel Dušík
Photo: Karel Dušík
I had achieved my first major fall--bruises, scratches, and unjust blaming of Kaja included.  However, that in no way competed with my next fall.  Near a crossroad, Kaja slowed, visually warned me, and then braked. There was plenty of space to move around him.  I disengaged my right foot, but my left . . . in a second, my bike was flipped 180 degrees: the handlebars and seat stabilizing the wheels which freely spun above.

I was underneath.

Red blood pooled on my knee, and Kaja's face was white.

By the end of the day, I don't know who was the most injured--me, my bike, or Kaja, who had unjustly suffered my anger (for my own clumsiness) as well as my wrathful silence after the given injuries.  But love, endorphins, forgiveness, or all the above conquer all.  With a confused meal (a smoked fish still equipped with head, eyes, skin, and bones) and 40 km of biking behind us, we walked a bit in Třebon's main square, crowded with bikers and people ready for an evening outdoor performance, prior to escaping with our bikes over to a quiet castle courtyard. 

Photo: Karel Dušík
Nestled inside the courtyard was a secluded outdoor cafe. It was guarded by an abundance of potted plants.  We locked up our biked and walked into the oasis. Dried blood adorned my leg in a long drip from my knee to mid-shin.  The other leg was caked with mud, blood, and chain grease.  Certain angles revealed the growing bruises on my thigh that haloed the thin red scratches.  I put my helmet on a white wire chair, revealing my tousled, sweaty hairstyle.  In all of our attractive glory, we sipped espresso drinks from white mugs before replacing them on their spotless saucers.

At the end of the day all was forgiven.  I'd obtained some injuries (which I then eagerly showed anyone who would pay attention) and been unjust to Kaja.  But it was nothing that time, coffee, forgiveness, and a shower couldn't mend.  Two days later I was back on the bike in the Šumava region.  Then again the next day.  Then again the next weekend.  Then again yesterday, and we've already got our sights set on next weekend.

I might not always be the most willing to start something, and the better you know me, the more likely you are to see my frustration when I don't manage something perfectly the first time, but I can safely say that most things in life most worthwhile don't come without a little bit of fight, injury, and forgiveness.  So, thanks, Kaja, for pushing me outside (and most of all for the forgiveness).

In Šumava three days after the infamous Třebon trip, tired but grateful
that Kaja convinced me to get outside and on the bike.  Photo: Karel Dušík


Popular Posts