We took our first family bike ride the other day. Lydia and little Gideon buckled into a little chariot behind their mother’s new bicycle, while their father rode his new bike in slow circle up ahead around Clara on her purple bike. Clara pumped her legs triple time to keep up with us, her tiny tires spinning as fast as she could possibly spin them and she maneuvered in a staggering line down the road out of our subdivision.
I could tell when we reached the goat pasture around the corner and turned back around that Clara was not going to be able to make it all the way back on her own. Her legs were weak, her forehead wet under her pink helmet. She was wavering and having to correct her balance with her feet far more often than she had on the way there.
“We’re almost there,” I told her, continuing in my slow orbit around her drunken comet. “We can almost see the house.”
Out of breath she begged, “Can we stop for a moment at the mailbox so I can relax? I want to do something there.” she panted and continued to pedal along.
“Sure, of course we can stop.” I knew what she had planned. She loves stopping at the mailbox because there is a trail behind the boxes that leads to a forest full of high-bush cranberries. Secretly, I also wanted a rest. I was starting to get dizzy.
We finally arrived at the pull off and I climbed off my bike and went to check on the kids in the chariot. I was distracted by a particularly deep conversation with Gideon concerning “Boofs” and “Abums”, and I lost track of where Clara was for a moment.
I noticed she wasn’t in the forest where I expected her to be. I turned around to find her sitting next to her bike, legs gently crossed, eyes closed with her hands turned palm upward on her knees.
“Clara,” I asked calmly. “What are you doing?”
But she didn’t respond. She sat there, like a statue of Buddha. A stone carving of a little girl in polkadotted capris. Slowly breathing in and out, eyes closed, motionless.
A moment or two later she opened her eyes to look at us. We were standing in a short line waiting for her. “Hi Dad,” she said calmly. “I think I heard you ask what I was doing. But I was relaxing. And when I relax I just ignore everything and it all goes away and I focus on nothing.” She blinked at us, as if this were a normal thing for a young girl to do.
I helped her to her feet and dusted off her pants. She stood looking up at me, calmly. A changed girl from the frustrated little ball of sweat and agony that had followed us back from the goat pasture. “Well…” I said finally. “Well… I guess now we can focus on getting home and we can all relax with some Popsicles!”
“Okay,” she said quietly and pedaled off in a straight line toward the house.