“Can I sail through the changing ocean tides?
Can I handle the seasons of my life?” Stevie Nicks, Fleetwood Mac, Landslide
THIS was meant to be a blog about bikes. You see, in the past few weeks, I’ve been trying to stay motivated and energised in that last month of winter – my most dreaded season – when all I really want to do is hibernate. And so, I’ve been searching for beauty in situations close to home in Brisbane, places where I may not have noticed joy before. And all of a sudden, I discovered this city was full of beautiful bicycles and I started to photograph them for this blog.
But in the past few days, while swirling this idea around my head in the same manner one might an expensive brandy around their palate at this time of year, savouring every nuance, it occurred to me this was no longer a blog about bikes, but the seasons of our lives. That there really is a time to reap and a time to sow. There’s a time to get out there and embrace the world, and a time to allow yourself to fall fallow. And, after a huge year of travel which has taken me around the world and back a few times, that’s what I’ve been doing. Greasing and adjusting the old chain.
A couple of years ago when I lived in Singapore, I had a deep conversation with my then Kiwi flat mate. We were bemoaning yet another humid day which comes from living 100 kilometres from the Equator, and the fact that the sun rises at the same time every day, and sets at the same time every day, regardless of season. You can set your watch by the afternoon torrential downpours and, while dissecting this monotonous predictability, we decided that we needed seasons to define our years and our lives.
At this point, some of my readers will scoff at a girl who lives in sub-tropical Brisbane discussing the concept of seasons. Isn’t it hot there all the time, they’ll argue. And, relatively speaking if you are comparing Brisbane to Tasmania, for instance, you are probably right. But even here, where the sun shines for perhaps too many drought-riddled days of the year, we have seasons. (Last month, we shivered through the coldest winter day in 100 years when the temperature plunged to 2.6 degrees). The frangipani tree off the back deck loses its pungent flowers and lush green foliage and closes up like a hermit. My creaky Queenslander cottage moans like an old man with crook knees. And every draft that blows across the continent seems to squirm uneasily between the nooks and crannies of the tin and timber, finding nowhere to settle among the high ceilings designed for long summer days.
When the crisp mornings eventually concede to warm days, and when my schedule allows, I’ve been sitting on my back deck and basking in the winter sunshine, willing the bloody frangipani to come to life. Allowing myself time to reflect and regroup. To think about painting the proverbial bike a different colour. Or maybe trading it in for something completely new. That’s what we should do in winter. Dream. Polish the handlebars. Stare at our reflection.
Riding a bike for many of us remains one of our first memories of mastery. Sure, we all learned to walk and talk a long time before we ever surrendered our feet to three wheels, and eventually two, but it’s one of those defining life moments. That point in time where you whizz down a hill, carefree and reckless and hope the brakes work when you get to the bottom. I don’t know too many Aussies from a certain era who don’t have a scar on one or both knees from when they’ve had the inevitable gutser. God, I can’t even remember when last time I wrapped my mouth around that fantastic word. Nor, come to think of it, the last time I rode a bike.
But soon enough we learn that life is full of gutsers and dodgy brakes and greasy chains. There’s potholes and pitfalls galore, as is there supreme pleasure. So, in this last month of winter, be kind, be gentle, be compassionate to yourself and others. And, if like me, you are preparing to get back on that bike and cruise into spring, may the wind always be on your back and the soft sun on your face, as you ride through the inevitable seasons of your life.