I ride my bicycle as much as 6 days a week sometimes. I thoroughly enjoy riding. When I am in hiking country, I hike daily for similar named reasons.
I like hiking/biking to or along water features especially, creeks, rivers and lakes. I love biking woods and meadows. I am not enthusiastic about city streets or urban paths running under high voltage wires.
I was riding along the north branch of the Chicago river yesterday. I found myself having difficulty watching the trail because I was mesmerized by the woods on either side of me. The lush foliage aided by the river, the greens and browns of the tree trunks, the dead trees and leaves in various states of decay and the wildflowers, oh my. I suddenly understood, I am in the greatest multi-dimensional art museum there is. Nature baby!
I am presently in a city with one of the great art museums, The Art Institute of Chicago and also the Museum of Contemporary Art. But I seem drawn to the palette of nature more than any. No 2 days are identical. No 2 minutes are identical on these river trails I ride.
There is a woman I met, Kelly. She is a natural artist in residence in Oregon and she takes items from nature and creates a new art piece, simple and beautiful. She sees it. I cannot do that, but I can enjoy her art and the raw materials she infuses it with.
Even in Dallas, where I live, and the main creeks the bike paths run alongside, are filthy with debris and pollution, I found an appreciation for urban landscapes. Plastic bags and water bottles mingle with turtles, mallards and egrets. I used to get so agitated at the trash but I surrendered to the reality that it is a constant and I am powerless to remedy it and so step back and look and see how nature adapts.
I realize even while I am moving in nature I am smelling the roses. All smells are not equal. In a car I might miss the smell of an oak or pine tree or the smell of death of a small mammal. The stealth of biking or hiking allows me to spot a family of deer, I stop my movement, we stare at each other and get as excited as a little kid at Disneyland.
A good bike ride is no less educational or entertaining as a trip to the Louvre. But the air is fresher and the ride is cheaper. My museum has no humidity control, air conditioning, uniformed guards or expensive lighting. Some days may be unbearably hot and humid, but I never ask for a refund.
I do enjoy a great art exhibit. I appreciate the artists. I am adorned with tattoo art. I own some art books. I have dozens of pieces of art on my walls, floors and garden. So, I am hardly a neanderthal.
When I think about the marvelous art I enjoy almost daily, I can actually claim moments of gratitude. I may be an agnostic but that means that I am awed by whatever force(s) created this thing we call life/death.
I used to have an aversion to being present for death. But the past several years have brought intimate contact with the passing of family and friends. Nature is one of the most visible examples of impermanence. My study of impermanence began with my study of Buddhism. It now allows me to reside in life alongside death. Nature does not sanitize death or decay like people desperately try to do. From dust were ye made and dust ye shall be. And then in some way I will be part of the great art exhibit called Earth.
City after city has demonstrated what a positive impact greenways have on the locals. No one asked me but I urge you to get out long enough to hear every bird nearby, smell every scent and see the various colors only visible when all the barriers are absent.
Just as rivers full of water
fill the ocean full,
even so does that here given
benefit the dead (the hungry ghosts).
May whatever you wish or want quickly come to be,
may all your aspirations be fulfilled,
as the moon on the full moon night,
or as a radiant, bright gem.