Riding the Wheel

Apr 16 2012

“Count Leo Tolstoi, the Russian novelist, now rides the wheel,
much to the astonishment of the peasants on his estate.”
Scientific Amercian
April 18, 1896

Gosh, I know how those peasants feel.

Riding a bicycle balances risk and accomplishment on the very fine edge of a blade, and to send our small children intentionally down that path feels a lot like parenting, condensed.

Our hearts beat quickly, our breath becomes shallow, and we cheer and we cringe in equal measure as we mamas and dads watch our children succeed and then fail in rapid succession, from one push of the pedal to the next.

“Get a bicycle. You will certainly not regret it, if you live.”
Mark Twain, Taming the Bicycle

Sometimes when I write, it’s with fond memories, my fingers flying over the keys to capture the funny moments. The hilarity. The absurd. The ridiculous.

Sometimes when I write, it’s with vague concepts that tease me from my peripheral vision, flitting out of sight as soon as I turn my head. I type and I delete and I type and I delete and I type and I delete.

And sometimes when I write, I feel again what I felt when I was there. This is that time. I’m jittery and nervous and elated all over again, as though I’m standing on the asphalt path in the woods and watching my boys harness their courage and speed and fear of failure. Watching them triumph over the falls and scratches and scrapes. Watching them choose perseverance and attempt again that at which they have only ever failed, because, by some magic of the human mixed with divine, they choose to believe that this time will be different and that this time they will succeed and this time they will FLY.

We’re all up on two wheels now. All of us! Seven people.

Which feels big. HUGE. As though my two five-year-olds learning to ride bikes grants our whole family new freedoms and opens all of us to wild possibilities. As though their victory is really our victory. And as though they’ve tied our hearts like kites to the back of their bikes to send us aloft with their joy and philosophy.

“It’s not about the bike.”
Lance Armstrong

Ah, boys.

You’re doing such a very fine job of being you.

“Look at mmmeeeeee!”
Cai Woolsey, age 5

Way to fly, babies mine. Way to FLY.


“After your first day of cycling, one dream is inevitable. A memory of motion lingers in the muscles of your legs, and round and round they seem to go. You ride through Dreamland on wonderful dream bicycles that change and grow.”
H.G. Wells, The Wheels of Chance