These are how my summer days are going: in a nearby park in partial shade I teach kids how to ride bikes. Two, maybe three groups per day. I put sunscreen on everywhere but especially in the folds of my ears, the inside elbows, the backs of my hands. The kids on bikes: they’re pushing off, gripping the handlebars for dear life. Starting to tip over but they catch themselves with their feet. Sometimes it will go on for hours–the pushing, the stopping, the starting over.
In between sessions I go to a nearby indoor ice rink where I refill my water bottle with very cold water and sit on a bench for a moment in the chilled air. I watch the kids practice their skating. It is very impressive, the ten-year-olds who can skate backwards on one foot.
Then back to watching kids fall off bikes. Trying to figure out why some kids get it in five minutes and for others it takes days. I give them tips. I tell them: don’t look down. Really give yourself a big push with that foot. Sometimes I am so bold as to say: get off you bike, take a breath, calm yourself.
On my days off I go surfing. I give myself similar advice. Calm yourself.
Sometimes when I ride I scan my body looking for the answer–what is it that makes this work? Beneath me the bike flinches the board tilts and quick! I move my body to keep myself up before I even know what’s happening. I don’t think this is the kind of thing that can be taught with words.
Surfing is a recently acquired skill. The process of acquiring it was very frustrating. I had some teachers. People gave me advice. But really I just learned (the only way to learn is) by going out there again and again.
We’ve been so conditioned to teach and be taught to. We assume that we need to be taught. But you can, you know, just throw the body in and learn. You might be fascinated to see. How it learns without you even knowing it. On your good days. On your bad days. In your sleep.
Surfing? Wow! I’d like to try that but I don’t have the confidence. Same goes for ice skating. Goes back to when I was 100 pounds heavier. I just don’t have the bodily confidence but for some reason that didn’t keep me off a bike and I should go back to doing that at some point. Riding a bike was an escape away from the insanity of my family life when I was younger. It got me away as far and as fast as I could go in the 1970’s Bronx. Surfing was, alas, never an option at Orchard Beach, but it would be nice…