Sunday, May 9, 2010

I think I'll go outside for awhile and just smile

It's been another way-past-gorgeous weekend, and I've tried to take full advantage of it.

My world's opened up a lot lately, starting with the spring weather. (It's been a long, cold, lonely winter, since I'm quoting 60s pop songs.) The last few days have seen sunshine, light breezes, and temps in the low 70s. The thing that's really brought me out of my environmental and regular-mental shell, though, has been getting a bike.

First my friend Chris bought a bike so expensive and spiffy that the store gave him a second bike free; he rides the cheap one to work every day and saves the fancy one for weekend expeditions. Then Nicki the art teacher bought used bikes for fifty bucks each for herself and her husband Dex. They were happy with their purchase, so I took the plunge and got my own two-wheeler from the same place.

And that has made all the difference. (I can steal from great poets, too.) As long as the weather's decent, there's no more slogging to school or waiting for the bus to Yangjae or Gangnam for me. It's great to be out, with the blood pumping, the breeze in my hair (though I hope it doesn't blow the rest of the pigment out) and the rushing water of the stream in my ears.

On Tuesday, I rode east along the stream for a half hour, most of the way to the Han River, and on my way back sat on the patio and had dinner at the Loving Hut vegan buffet, warming passing pedestrians with my benevolent expression. On Friday, after school I did my long run for the week-- 60 minutes-- and then Nicki wanted to know where the Loving Hut was, so she and Dex and I rode our bikes there and had a really nice time talking and eating. (No animals were harmed for our dinner, but some bull was shot in the conversation.)

Yesterday I got my run in again, 35 minutes, and a little later took the bike out, west this time. Technically, I live four blocks outside the city of Seoul, in Gwacheon, part of Gyeonggi province, and it's nice being out here; it's less polluted and terrifically less crowded than in most of the city. I didn't have much idea what lay more than two miles or so west of my apartment; that's as far as I'd gone in that direction on my runs.

I buzzed along at a steady clip on the path, past ajummas walking their purse dogs and little kids on bikes and skates, runners and ducks and herons and an old man with an ice-cream cart on a footbridge and a guy playing his clarinet inside a long tunnel under the road-- great acoustics, if a bit spooky-- and, four miles or so out, found a big public park. There were picnic tables and softball fields and an oval for skating and an honest-to-God soccer stadium, with artificial turf and seats for about 2000, roughly 1993 of which were untenanted. And a ten-foot-high pillar topped with three two-foot-long cast-iron statues of sperm. I'm not kidding and I have no explanation.

So I sat with my feet up and a can of Gatorade in my hand watching the blue shirts and black shirts play soccer against a backdrop of lush green mountains as dusk drew near and I thought: this is very fine indeed.

Today, Sunday, I watched the Mets win an exciting game and the Doctor defeat the Vampire Fish from Space, both on my laptop, and then it was time to get out and get moving. I rode the bike to Yangjae, looking for bungee cords to strap stuff with-- no dice, and no bungee cords either, but that's okay. Then I wheeled down to Citizen's Forest Park to sit out at picnic tables and watch the people play and listen to the birds sing and correct papers. After an hour of that, I rode over to E-Mart, then home, then out again to correct some more homework at a table at Alice Park. And then I rode around some more, just because I could.

Groovin' on a Sunday afternoon. Really couldn't get away too soon.

I'm so much better than I used to be. Of course, it's the weather, and the fun of biking, but for all my life even the happy times seemed tinged with melancholy, an awareness that it's all evanescent. But now-- credit spiritual influences from many places, credit my being more mature (don't laugh)-- I know how to live in the now. (Well, not all the time, but...) I felt truly alive; I feel it more and more often.

So maybe I'm halfway, emotionally and spiritually, to where I'm going. The two lessons I've internalized in recent years from Buddhism and other spiritual sources are being present and being detached. I'm a lot better at the former, which isn't easy for someone with my wiring. (They say "Be here now" but a good day for me was, for most of my life, to be somewhere near before too long.)

Regarding detachment, it has taken me quite awhile to grok how becoming detached from outcomes doesn't involve alienation or withdrawal from life. It's really quite the contrary; it allows you to be fully there and truly happy despite transitory conditions.

It's that last part I've not gotten to yet; if I'm dependent on sunny days, warm weather and fresh air to bring me up... well, there are overcast days, winter rain and smog coming. When my inside is sunny no matter what the weather outside-- literally and figuratively-- I'll have reached my next rest area on the path.

And when I get there, I've got a water bottle clamped to my bike.

1 comment:

Ron said...

As long as the nice weather holds, I would love to go to a baseball game with you this weekend. If you don't mind the extra company, Jill and Geoffrey said they are interested too (although G is usually a game time decision when it comes to weekend activities). Do they serve beer at the baseball games here? I can live without hot dogs or popcorn, but beer would be tough! ;-)