My Compass

Last week I made a return trip to the New Forest, which I  last visited only a few weeks ago. You can read about that trip here:

This time my long-suffering spouse came with me and we spent a couple of days enjoying the idyllic surroundings together on our bikes. This time I took my mountain bike and  hauled her bike out of the shed, blew the cobwebs off the handlebars, oiled the chain, checked the brakes and then wondered how we last put the bike rack on the back of the car. We’d done it before, but not for a long time; not since she drove us to Dover at the start of the cycling holiday I went on with our son last summer in Belgium. Eventually we managed to get the rack and the bikes onto the back of the car and were ready to go. Well, almost. The GPS decided that this was as good a time as any to refuse to cooperate. My long – suffering spouse calmly printed out directions to our hotel before we set off for the place we had – not so long ago – bought the gadgetry upon which we had come to rely so heavily upon. There we discovered that it was indeed in need of more love and attention than the staff could offer there and then. We rolled out of the car park content on relying on the print out of the route, no sooner had we done so than the bikes, together with the bike rack, slid off the back of the car.

It was at this point that I began to well and truly lose my bearings, and started thinking that we were not going to be going on this trip after all.

Luckliy, I came to my senses and asked someone who would know what we were doing wrong. The guy from the shop came out from behind the counter and came and had a look, told us what we were doing wrong. We set the bike rack and the bikes once more onto the back of the car – much more securely this time – and set off.

I spent the next couple of hours looking at the wing mirror transfixed on the wheel I could see jutting out from behind the back of the car. Not a very relaxing activity, let me tell you. Suffice to say, we arrived safely at our hotel and shortly afterwards set off to drive into the forest to start cycling.

Our trip had started with a problem with our navigation system. And as for me, my mental navigation system (never very reliable at the best of times) flickered briefly into life as we drove in the general direction of the forest, and then shut down completely. Tarmac, not gravel paths, appeared everywhere I looked. Peering at the cycle routes map I had taken on my recent trip they yielded nothing but lots of lines in a confusing array of different colours and designs.

Then my long – suffering spouse suggested we set off in one direction and, lo and behold, a gravel path leading into the forest appeared.

We didn’t cover miles and miles, nor were the distances we did cover recorded anywhere (no computer on my mountain bike, remember.) But she guided us along the forest paths, through gates and across cattle grids. She was my compass.

I forgot the times I have craved solitude, the wish to be…away. I frowned at the times I have been short with her, wanting to avoid the pressure I might feel at the simplest, most reasonable of her requests. And I struggled to remember what I had been feeling like only a few short weeks before when my doctors cut my hours at work by 66% because I was fast approaching meltdown.

But still, I could not find my way.

She showed me how to stop halfway up a hill and, slightly out of breath, listen to the sounds of the forest. She named the different kinds of trees, patted donkeys and horses, and once, with sudden joy, pointed out a rabbit as it crouched by the side of the path; all of which I would have failed to notice had I been on my own, being too busy…cycling.

The Waking

I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.

I learn by going where I have to go.

We think by feeling. What is there to know?

I hear my being dance from ear to ear.

I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Of those so close beside me, which are you?

God bless the Ground!   I shall walk softly there,

And learn by going where I have to go.

Light takes the Tree; but who can tell us how?

The lowly worm climbs up a winding stair;

I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Great Nature has another thing to do

To you and me; so take the lively air,

And, lovely, learn by going where to go.

This shaking keeps me steady. I should know.

What falls away is always. And is near.

I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

I learn by going where I have to go.

Theodore Roethke (1908 – 1963)

This entry was posted in anxiety, Bi Polar Disorder, Cycling, Depression, Mental Health, Mountain Bike, Poetry, Spouse, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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