Fat Lady on a Bike: My Journey to Peace and Fitness

Join me and my wonderful Electra Townie bike on my continuing journey to inner peace and both inner and outer fitness.

Sunday, March 14, 2010


People who grow up in areas where there are obvious distinctions between winter and summer and then move to places without them often complain that they miss the seasons.  This suggests that if you don't have snow and sweltering heat, blazing foliage and a transition from sticks to buds, there are no variations by season. 

The fact is, if you live in a temperate or tropical clime and pay attention, there is quite a bit of variation by season and even by day in aspects of climate and flora other than gross weather patterns.  Native Hawaiians have a traditional moon calendar that outlines subtle changes based on moon phase over the course of a month.  The ocean is very different from day to day, depending on storms on the other side of the world, and there are definite seasonal distinctions in likelihood of high surf depending on what part of the island you are on.   And though plants in general flourish here all year long, there are definite growing seasons for individual plants:  our breadfruit tree offers ripe fruit starting in March, while our Tahitian limes are falling off the tree when we arrive in January, and pineapples ripen only in June.  And I feel sad that yellow ginger blossoms appear all over only at a time when we are usually not here to see them in the fall. 

Focusing only on the big picture, the differences in temperature and precipitation, and missing all those smaller yet very present indications of seasonality remind me of viewing success and failure only in absolute terms, in the attaining or not achieving of ultimate goals.  In both instances, all or nothing thinking keeps one from noticing and enjoying what is actually going on.

The past few days, we have started packing up our house in preparation for leaving for Massachusetts on Wednesday.  This process always promotes a valedictory mood in me, an urge to reflect on and evaluate my time here and contemplate the transition back to our mainland life.  Most years, these reflections are kind of painful, as I measure what I have accomplished against what I had planned and hoped to do and discover how much I have not done.  This year, for a lot of reasons, I have been reveling in what a great time of growth this winter has been for me and how much I have enjoyed it, and I am looking forward to staying in this state of being even while changing geographic states.

When I arrived here in January, I was still suffering significant deficits in both body and concentration from my bout this past fall with H1N1 and pneumonia.  Though I was obviously much better than when I first got out of the hospital, I was still unable to accomplish more than one focused task per day, whether that was physical or mental.  I could go shopping for groceries or I could cook dinner; I could have a conference call or I could go for a bike ride.  I noticed this past week that I was able to be productive for a full 8-hour day again, and could do it several days in a row before needing to back off and recharge.  Similarly, when I first got on my bike, I could ride for about 10 minutes before butt pain and jelly legs set in, and now I can go happily for 30-35 minutes.  And when I first made it to the end of the road, back in January, I had to shift down to the lowest gear on my middle gear ring (2-1) to struggle up the little slope just before I turn around; this morning, without even thinking about it, I got up it at pretty close to my normal cruising gear (2-4).  And yesterday I was able to go for the first time up the first hill at the other end of the road -- and I did it in gear 2-2! 

These felt like huge accomplishments to me, like the first glimmering of spring after a miserable winter, though in the great scheme of things they are probably more like subtle variations in wave height or wind direction.  I believe that my enjoyment and appreciation of them will help me keep going and growing as I make the transition back to New England.

A hui hou.

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