When I moved across the country -- from Washington, DC to Portland, OR, at age twenty-four -- my one and only aim was to "be an artist." Thus starts my fifteen years of teaching jobs and art shows, public projects, rejections, and picture books, the building of my current life. On that fated journey West, I made the very bad decision to buy a new car -- a silver Honda Civic whose interior I can still almost smell. In my second year of "being an artist" and all the part-time, low-paying jobs it entails, I couldn't pay my debts. My student loans got deferred, my credit cards got cut up, and my cute little car got... repossessed. (A relief, by that point.) A friend gave me a bike.
I remember my first ride, guided by my friend Beth through Portland's streets. I remember her saying, "don't weave in and out of cars, stay straight and in the view of drivers." I remember wavering when I turned corners, sweating profusely, and generally hating it. That was before the rainy season. I don't remember if it took weeks or months to really enjoy biking. But I spent the next three years commuting solely by bike (and bus and borrowed friend.) Those rides are some of my great moments in Portland. Once I found a free drawing table that I balanced all the way home. Once I felt like I was riding straight into the moon (the basis for the painting below) and it was magic. Many times I felt connected to my fellow riders, strong in my own skin, and just happier to be alive. (Something I've never felt in a car.)
I am on my third bike now, and the first one I actually paid for -- $150 on Craigslist. These days, I share a car with my husband and turn out to be naturally lazy. I bike less than I should and gripe about how busy Portland has gotten. But sometimes still, I feel the magic. Go, Bikes, Go!