It was my first day back home. I had actually fallen asleep at a decent hour and slept a full 10 hours, so when I woke up last Tuesday, I felt refreshed and ready to go.
Jet lag after 27 hours of travel – you can exit stage left. Thank you.
And did I go. One of the very first things I did that very first day back home was get on my bike. It had been 18 days since I last rode Artemis, and I was desperate for that feeling of freedom that only comes when you’re on a bicycle.
Whoa, whoa, whoa. Artemis??
Yes, I must confess: I have named my bicycle. I know. Trust me, my boyfriend ribbed me for at least a week about this. But, if I were to believe in reincarnation, I must have been a sailor in a past life because sailors were deeply superstitious, and they believed ships had their own personalities. That’s why they always referred to ships as “she” and “her.” To the sailors of the pre-1900s, a ship was not a thing but a sentient being. Sailors loved and loathed their ships the same they would love and loathe other people. Sailing on certain ships was a stroke of great luck; sailing on others was a curse … you get the idea.
And here I am, in the 21st century, and I attribute personalities to my modes of transportation. My car is Bastet. My bike is Artemis.
Why Artemis? Artemis was the ancient Greek goddess associated with the moon (and her twin brother, Apollo, with the sun), and my bike is a lovely white and sea-foam green. It reminded me of moonlight. Plus, seeing as how my car is named after an ancient Egyptian goddess associated with love, beauty, and music, you can probably guess that I have a thing for ancient mythology.
And here is where the superstitious part comes in: when I finally settled on the name Artemis, it felt right. It seemed to fit. I feel like my bike is a goddess, and she has been Artemis ever since.
And I think there is something in naming your … stuff. Artemis feels like a friend. I love her the way I would love a best friend (well, maybe not quite as much as a best friend but still) and yes, I talk to her like she is one too. For example, when I’m trying to lock her up somewhere, and she keeps falling over or I can’t position the lock the way I want, I have been known to say things like, “Artemis! Behave yourself,” or “Artemis, why isn’t this working??”
I have also been known to say things like, “Artemis, time to get some exercise,” or “get ready, Artemis, because we’re going for a long one today.”
Which is exactly what we did that glorious Tuesday last week, when, after 18 days away, I finally got back on Artemis again. We went for a long one. It was pure heaven to be back on a bicycle. No other word describes it: heaven! I sat my 5-pounds-heavier butt on the seat, placed my right foot on the pedal, and pushed off with my left … and it was like everything fell away. The wind swept my hair back from my face and lifted it off my neck. The sun was pouring down and I felt the warmth spread all over. My core engaged, my abs tightened, my arms contracted. Talk about finding magic right in front of me.
Even when biking on the streets of LA, which includes cacophonies of car horns, sirens, helicopters, cat calls, and construction equipment. It includes hazards like potholes, pedestrians, car doors, stopped traffic, blocked streets, poorly timed traffic lights, and people who can’t drive. It involves breathing in the toxic waste that is the LA atmosphere, skirting around or dealing with people who think you’re a nuisance, and, just basically, trying not to get yourself killed. Bicycling in LA should be a reality show. But even with all that, I felt such a profound peace and happiness while riding Artemis … the kind of peace and happiness that comes when you’re deeply connected to what you are doing. Nothing else mattered on that ride except being on Artemis and feeling free.
It was such magic that I have ridden Artemis almost every day since I’ve been home. Even though my legs are screaming, my abs are tender, and I even feel tension in my back, I ride. I ride for that feeling of flying, for those moments of pure contentment… and guess what? I feel great all around. Despite screaming legs, tender abs, and a tense back, I feel amazing all day long on days I ride. I know it’s because of the bliss of riding a bike … and those couple of days I haven’t ridden for whatever reason (boring work stuff, I promise), I feel different. I feel more sluggish, a little less amazing, and a little more down. Endorphins are involved, I’m sure, but I’m telling ya: there is something in the peace of being on a bike.