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Red, White and Black & Blue

With the Fourth of July holiday behind us, my parents’ house is quiet once again, our many guests having stripped their sheets, loaded their cars, and headed home.


So it was nice to wake up Monday morning without the urgency to wrestle the troops at 7AM for a bike ride as I’d done all weekend. No multitasking to fill water bottles, make peanut butter and banana sandwiches, and secure bikes onto cars. I had enjoyed every moment of their visit, but being “camp counselor” comes with responsibilities. Whilst the troops are cycling along the canal, enjoying the scenery, I was thinking, “What will we make for lunch? Will they want to go to the beach? Are there enough clean towels? Should I buy more corn for dinner?”

Now I had the morning to ride without those thoughts. And as I was putting on my bike shoes, a woman parked next me, also gearing up for a ride said, “Beautiful day.”

“Yes,” I said.

“I love it out here, it’s my meditation,” the woman said. “It’s my present moment focus. That’s why I don’t wear a helmet.”

“Wait.” I looked at her. “Why don’t you wear a helmet?”

“It interferes with my thoughts. A friend of mine recently fell and punctured a lung and broke a wrist,” she said, adding, “because he lost track of his present moment focus.”

“Or maybe a car door got in his way,” I offered.

She shrugged. “People use present moment focus for pain management, too. But if you truly focus on being present in the moment, you shouldn’t need a helmet.”

I thought about my two serious bike accidents when I was younger, the first resulting in losing my front teeth, the second in getting the spikes from the cog stuck in my calf. And while a helmet would not have helped in either case, had I been more focused on the moment, i.e. not goofing around, they may not have happened. I do see folks talking on their cell phones while cycling, some even trying to text. When we multitask, we are not focusing on any one of them 100%, leaving a wider margin for error in each, which, take it from me, can result in unpleasant dental visits for the rest of your life.

As the woman pedaled away, I looked at my helmet. Should I test out her theory for my 25-mile ride and see if this expanded polystyrene hat really interferes with my appreciation of the breeze coming off the water, the sights of cranes diving for fish or the pungent aroma of salty air tickling my nose? Will the peace of mind I usually leave with, be twofold?

I looked down the canal and saw the woman, now a faint speck in the distance. In minutes I would pass her, this smiling, happy-go-lucky, “I’ve never had an accident” cyclist, and I would tap on my helmet and give the thumbs up sign. She may have something there with her theory, but I didn’t want to be the one to let the air out of her tires and tell her most doctors wouldn’t agree.

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