I figure I’ve spent most of my life in a box. Boxed up in a house, in a school, in an office, in a store or in the glass, plastic and metal confines of a car; it’s all box time.
The transition to car-free living is like being mounted on a spring and catapulted out of the box. Every day, whether on foot or on our bikes we must venture out. The days of vacantly transferring our corpse-like bodies from work to school, to car to garage, to box to box are gone.
The morning was rough as the pothole, pocked and cracked roads we ride. My three children were in rare form, being both rambunctious and as slow as molasses on a cold day. Getting them out the door I assumed my usual role as the octopus drill sergeant, juggling backpacks, rain jackets, lunchboxes and children while barking orders to the troops.
The barometer was pitted against me; the forecast: cold, wet and windy. My shoulders constricted up to my ears, the tension settling into my face, to call me dour would be a loving compliment. I get the two little ones buckled in the bike trailer and my oldest I take to our bikes and pedal out. Outside.
The magic begins before the garage door has creaked closed. My breathing syncs to the rhythm of bike as the furrows in my brow soften. For the first time in the day, I feel aware. My eleven-year-old son pedals beside me; his cheeks glow rosy from the cold and exertion of the ride. I can’t believe the change in 5 months, transforming him from sluggish and soft to this young man before me. He is strong and lean, confident on his bike. Outside we are equals. Bicyclists.
Usually shy, my five-year-old is singing at the top of her lungs. Outside she is free of inhibition, a happy bird singing her morning song. Her one-year-old brother is nestled beside her. Outside he is content and relaxed. “Content” is an achievement for this non-stop powerhouse.
The streets are quiet; a few poor souls putter by at 35 mph locked inside their boxes. I pity them. Their faces are dour and their shoulders hunched around their ears like mine were in the box. They haven’t had the chance to be outside. We stop short as one wheels in front of us, brushing her teeth furiously, while texting on her cell phone. My son lets out a guffaw. She never even noticed us. Most of them don’t.
“We wouldn’t have seen (fill in the blank) if we had been driving.” Has become my children’s favorite saying. Today it was the circle of Morel mushrooms the oldest spotted by the schoolyard. My five-year-old wonders out loud who planted the hundreds of blossoming cherry, apple and dogwood trees? She says they surely weren’t here last year. At least we didn’t notice them from inside our boxes.
What else did we miss while doing box time? Pushing through the perceptual barrier of convenience and comfort has driven home the adage “out of the box”, and this Jack-is-not-going-back-in-the-box.
Venture out of the box and tell us about it! Join the revolution!