I feel the rush of cool air slap my senses awake as I open the front door of the house with my bicycle at my side.
Often I believe I am awake after quietly enjoying my cup of coffee in the breakfast nook as the stars fade and the sun rises. The awareness my brain experiences is merely a chemical reaction to the invasion of an outside chemical; o dear sweet caffeine!
The residual fog of sleep left by my morning caffeine is quickly cleared by Mother-as-Her-Winter-Air causes my eyes to water and clears my nose with a level of crispness only She provides, like leaping into a cold spring-fed pool on a hot summer afternoon. With my brain fully awake, I smile at the prospect of an invigorating ride to my place of employment.
The air is fresh, most would say impossibly so in a town like this dear City of Angels. The mountain tops are capped in the fresh snow from the weekend which adds to my delight in the moment as I pedal away down Whittier Boulevard.
My Los Angeles!
There are a few other early risers sitting at bus stops along the way. They have their hands tightly stuffed into pockets and the look of cold on their faces. Though free of the stress of driving in traffic they still are bound to the rules of the steel carriages they ride.
I smile again as I think about the below freezing temperatures in the land of my birth, the gracious Midwest. Despite the natives’ shivers here, I feel content in my shorts and a short sleeved shirt.
“Pedal faster to get warmer” is the rule I live by. A simple concept learned young: move or die!
I must have been here too long; all melodramatic like the tens of thousands who make their pilgrimage here to find fame and fortune on a big screen, silver screen or any screen really. Silk screen your famousness for all the Hipsters to buy! Download the App today!
My motivation to pedal faster has little to do with Goosebumps on my skin and much more to do with the daily ritual I participate within as a member of the Morning Bicycle Path Congregation.
Every morning they rise before the Almighty Sun and gather together along a three to four mile stretch devoid of petroleum powered traffic. The Bicycle Path is our holy place, our place of safety free from the mad steel carriages and the drugged drivers directing them haphazardly down the street, eyes pinned open by Starbuck’s and ears tuned out to the propaganda of popular radio—slowly melting and cooking all brain function into a charred piece of burnt toast.
Their grey matter was once a beautiful, fully functional mind but has become a blackened miserable representation of what it once was and hoped to one day become.
The Morning Bicycle Path Congregation has found immunity to those effects returning daily to immerse into the calm of the Path. Every day I see each one in the same order and that in itself brings inner calm to my Soul. The Grey Three are the foundation, Fathers of the Morning Bicycle Path Congregation. When one is missing the day becomes a mysterious imbalance.
A permanent smile has overcome my face as my feet pedal rhythmically onto the Bicycle Path.
In the distance I see a small man bundled up in a warm coat. It is as it is each day! He is of the Old Mexico, representative of the stoic father figure who leads with his actions first. He carries a somber face, wide and weathered. I feel if he actually smiled his entire face may disappear! I suppose that is why he carries it somber but with an animated look lurking behind the scenes. He displays rarely a noticeable gesture, save a twinkle in his eyes as I ride past him each morning.
I imagine the struggles he has endured in this lifetime. Inside there is a Soul with the resolve to continue on like the stoic statue of marble and gold he admired as a child in the hallowed grounds of the Catholic sanctuary. He may not have been given the ideal lot in life but he wakes each morning knowing today is another day to be his best as he slips on his old leather boots and heads down to the Bicycle Path.
That twinkle behind his eyes betrays the spark of life few see, let alone understand, and he carries it daily.
The electronic voice of my coach echoes inside my head, “Five miles in nineteen minutes, twelve seconds. Lap time, three minutes sixteen seconds.” It is an affirmation that I am tracking properly in the queue and that I will soon run into the next Father of the Morning Bicycle Path Congregation.
He wears a bright hooded sweatshirt bearing the symbol of a local high school football team. Everything about his movement speaks to motivating others from the ever full spring of enthusiasm for life dwelling within his Soul. Each day as I approach him I see his smile grow until I am within range. Suddenly his arms are thrown into the air and he proclaims gleefully, “Good Morning!”
Today I see his figure in the distance; right on queue. His bushy white beard glows brightly in the freshly risen sun and his walking staff bounds along with each of his joyful steps. He sees me and stops to raise both arms into the air, staff raised high!
The Grand Wizard’s voice booms across the San Gabriel Wash, “Good Morning! Ha, ha!” His grin is wide as I acknowledge the same with a wave and my bubbliest, “Good Morning!”
My bicycle swoops quickly down a small hill, it is like a burst of lightening. As gravity pushes me faster down the small incline, I am closer to the third Father of the Morning Bicycle Path Congregation.
When I first saw this gentleman months ago it was in the earliest of morn, before the sun awoke. I was approaching him swiftly so I yelled out my usual notification, “Passing on your left!” The hooded figure never turned an inch, simply kept walking. He carried a sturdy staff at his side, presumably to use on steep climbs. He has always been a mainstay, dark hooded sweatshirt and matching thick sweat pants.
After weeks of passing him, one day I did not see him on my way to my place of employment. It made a part of me sad, a tiny part of my routine had been severed. A few more days passed and still no Old Man in the familiar hooded sweat shirt and matching pants.
Then one day, I saw him coming toward me in the distance. Maybe he simply altered his time of departure? The answer became evident as I neared him and saw the bouncing little four legged ball of fur scampering just ahead of him, eagerly pulling on its tiny leash as it explored the surplus of smells residing alongside the Bicycle Path.
A puppy by the gods, a puppy was the reason!
So that was the change in schedule. The Old Man was now awakened to the soft kisses of a wet nose and sloppy little puppy tongue. I smiled and said “Hi” as his new companion pulled on the leash to get a closer look at this mad man flying towards him on a bicycle.
A new smile began to plant itself within the Old Man; I could see it sprouting from his Soul. I have watched each day as his puppy grows closer to a full size dog and each day he trots more obediently next to his human.
Today is the same only today the Old Man reveals a real live smile as I shoot him my typical grin and morning greeting. I chuckle out loud and continue onwards.
I sometimes think about those poor Souls trapped within their steel carriages up on Highway 605 ingesting heavy dosages of caffeine and petroleum based product emitted from the exhaust of the steel carriages all around them.
Slowly their Souls slip into a slumber as they attempt to deal with the cards the Devil dealt when they signed the lease of their mobile prison. It saddens me so I choose not to dwell on the plight of the prisoners of technology and design of humanity.
I am blessed to be free; riding my bicycle as my Soul contently awakens to a new day. I find contentment in each day as I ride past the other members of the Morning Bicycle Path Congregation, particularly our Fathers.
Life is indeed what we create; I cannot wait to ride my bicycle home tonight!
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Assistant Editor: Paige Vignola
Images via the author