Tag Archives: balance

Volunteering: Pride Goeth Before

Philosophical question for you all: If a guy falls off his bike in the woods, and there’s no one around to see it, does it still hurt?

The answer in my case is, yes.

I’ve been enjoying my new role this year as a volunteer Ambassador for the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail (SBHT), which runs along the National Lakeshore from Empire to Glen Arbor, then northeast though the Port Oneida Historic District. The current total length is 22 miles, with one more five-mile segment to go, which will reach the end of the National Lakeshore property near the Good Harbor Trail.

Being an Ambassador means traveling the SBHT on foot or by bike in a fancy orange vest, picking up litter, checking trail conditions, and answering questions from people on the trail. I get to choose my hours and which parts of the trail I want to cover.

On the job at the Dune Climb.

I’ve done this many times this summer, and believe me, I’m worth every penny they pay me. Which is none. I haven’t even found a penny on the trail yet, so this is truly a labor of love.

I make up for this by giving people at least one incorrect piece of information every time I’m out there. Like last weekend, when I told someone the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive was still closed – only to find they’d opened it for three days behind my back. Why don’t they TELL ME these things?

Not that I’m complaining. I’m out on the trail anyway when I go up north, so why not get some volunteering done at the same time?

And thus I found myself cruising the section near the Dune Climb one afternoon, and passed by a bright red piece of plastic I took to be trash. I slowed down and put my bike into a tight left turn to go back and fetch said trash. But I’d unclipped only my right foot, and thus when I began to tip too much during the turn, my still clipped-in left foot was unable to save me.

What followed was that helpless feeling I’ve written about before – you know you’re going down and there’s not a damn thing you can do about it. I suffered bruises to my left elbow, left hip, and ego, not necessarily in that order. Otherwise intact, I remounted and continued the ride. So no lasting harm done.

And the red trash? Actually a marker flag. Probably a utility indicator. So I left it there, and it remains there still. Fool me once and all that.

Other than the occasional unfortunate incident, I’m having a great time. The trail is beautiful and a great way to get in a long ride without getting on M109 and M22, both of which can feature heavy, fast-moving traffic, including logging trucks and other such monstrosities. And stopping in Glen Arbor for coffee and/or ice cream is a great way to take a break from my hot, sweaty, trail labors.

And for those of you wondering how I’m recovering from said fall? Just fine, thank you. In fact, this morning I tripped during my morning run and bruised elbow and hip on my right side. I suppose it was inevitable – the karma was achieving balance.

P.S. This time I was with other people. And it also hurt. Just another data point.

Staying in Balance

With such terrific spring weather here in southeast Michigan this week, I’ve gotten outside to run or ride every evening after work. It’s felt like forever since I’ve been able to just toss on the gear and go, without worrying about being warm enough or bringing a headlamp.

While I was out on the bike this week, a brief lecture by my Monday Aikido class instructor kept popping into my head. He’d spoken about the need to balance our study of Aikido so that we practice both leading a technique (Shite) and receiving, or following, the technique (Uke). “With our Western attitude,” he’d said, “we can focus too much on being Shite. We like feeling that we’re in control.”

But if the two people performing an Aikido technique both try to be Shite at the same time, the technique cannot succeed. One person must agree to be Uke, and follow Shite’s lead properly, for the technique to be executed safely and harmoniously. “It would probably be useful for us to study Uke even more,” he concluded, “to bring our training into better balance.”

Believe it or not, it's just as much fun to be thrown this way as it is to perform the throw.

Believe it or not, it’s as much fun to be thrown this way as it is to perform the throw.

Carrying the idea into everyday life, he pointed out there are many events in our lives that we cannot control. “We can fight that and try to be Shite,” my instructor had said, “or we can be Uke, and let ourselves be led down the road. Perhaps it will take us somewhere interesting.”

The next evening, after a long day at work, I got on the bike and headed out to nowhere in particular. I’d felt mostly like Uke during the day, working on the priorities of the moment, and I was ready to be in control for a change. I turned onto a couple of roads I’d never taken before, and checked out the progress being made on the Border-to-Border Trail in Dexter. It felt wonderful to cruise along at my own speed, make on-the-spot decisions about which route to take, and choose when I was ready to head home. I was finally being Shite, I remember thinking.

Or was I?

After that moment of satisfaction, I suddenly realized the bigger picture. Yes, I had chosen which roads to ride on – but I had followed those roads instead of plowing through someone’s yard. I was choosing my speed, yet I was fitting with the condition of the roads, the mechanics of the bike, and the strength in my legs that evening. I’d decided when to head home, but I’d wanted to return before dark, and I had no control over the sun. In short, there was a lot of Uke mixed in with that little bit of Shite.

And that wasn’t a bad thing at all.

Dexter DQ

At least I get to decide whether to get ice cream. Shite, right? Except for that line I have to wait in…