Reinhabiting Myself

Vacationing in Falmouth, MA the week after my return
Vacationing in Falmouth, MA the week after my return

A month! A month has passed since I finished the trip without any effort on my part. In fact, it is a month already completely against my wishes. For an undertaking so removed from my ordinary life, it feels like the trip should have more of a gravitational pull on the time around it. Time leading up to the beginning of the trip did accelerate as if pulled by the tour before me, I was anxious about being unprepared, but time has continued to fly as though those long, faraway days on the road are of little consequence. They should be harder to move on from. Like water running through my fingers, they’re slipping through my grasp. The trip is fast becoming a collection of memories less felt in the body than conjured in the mind. And still I can’t seem to gather them into a satisfactory whole. What was the meaning of it all?

The irony, of course, is that I never endeavoured to go on a pilgrimage or a quest for insight and meaning. I was simply taking some time away from the humdrum of graduate school to cycle Canada. I love cycling and wanted to see more of my so-called homeland. And I did just that but now that explanation feels incomplete. The trip was more; I just don’t know what exactly. So when you ask me how the trip was, I wish I could say more than, “It was great”.

I loved the writing. For all the effort it required to put something intelligible on the page when what I really wanted to do was relax, maybe sleep, the writing was invigorating. Accounting for my day on the road felt worthwhile and substantial to me. Writing in general is exciting to me. I’m not a particularly talkative or emotive person, so the expression possible in the written word is nothing less than enthralling to me. Maybe that’s the way it is with life. It’s so fleeting all we can hope for is to get a few good words down. It is what I hope for.

I loved the cycling. I have always thought that cycling down a quiet road or path is about as close to the effortless flight of a bird as we humans can get. It’s like spreading your arms, pushing off with your feet, and against all odds you’re smoothly sailing through the air. Don’t get me wrong, there were times when I wasn’t sure whether my legs could handle another inch of hills and headwinds. My wings were tattered and trembling but come morning, it was as if all was reborn. I’m looking forward to future bicycle tours (maybe not as long) and I love seeing the stream of cyclists on my morning and evening commutes. Cycling gives me hope for humanity and our world.

Canada was a lot stranger than I expected. The countries we inhabit, imagine are of course much more than the fictive unity we endow them with. And as any other modern citizen, I’ve seen and heard endless depictions, images, and narratives of the different parts making up my “homeland;” nevertheless, it’s a different knowing from that of cycling in place day after day. As a Canadian living in the USA who was supposedly cycling back home, I was repeatedly struck by how foreign the different places felt. In fact, the language barrier cycling through Quebec came to feel like an appropriate sign of my otherness; it was rather disconcerting when people started speaking English to me again. I’m not saying Canada itself was strange but that all of its differences are supposed to be one and more my home than some place connecting my current home in Boston and previous home in Ontario is odd.

But home I am again and life has picked up right where I supposedly put it down for a bit. The equipment is cleaned and packed away, my bike is a commuter again, and the daily responsibilities, routines are back. If I want to gather some significant whole to the summer, I’ll have to attach a compelling soundtrack to give it the rise, fall, and meaningful crescendo of a good movie trailer. M83’s “Outro” has been used repeatedly to great effect the last few years. I don’t think my trip would quite measure up to the journey depicted in the upcoming film Tracks but you get the idea. Everything feels so important and meaningful with a good soundtrack. Without the music, we’re just cycling from one place to the next and that’s pretty good. If you can write about it, that’s pretty awesome.


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