A master Japanese potter will deliberately mark his beautiful and delicate masterpiece with a single blemish. They have a word for this, I am sure but I do not know what it is. Not the point. The point is everything is flawed either by accident or by design, incidental or deliberate, natural or man-made. We know this deep in our bones and yet somehow we strive for perfection. Hopelessly in search of the flawless. So it should not come as a surprise when the simple and humble bike breaks or stops working. They do though and usually at the worst time.
My heart is pounding hard, I can feel it deep in my jawbone. I normally try to breathe through my nose mostly but not now, I am sucking in all the oxygen I can get. My mouth is wide open and I am eating the air and swallowing hard. Legs are pumping and pushing the bike crank round and round, one agonizing revolution after another. Up the hill I go, over slippery roots, uneven rocks, and loose, wet dirt. My quads are burning with lactic acid, the arches of my feet ache from attempting to hold my feet fast to the wet pedals.
Every muscle and fiber of my body wants to tighten down and strain against the steep hill climb. I have to intentionally relax my upper body in times like this so I don't injure myself or make a tactical mistake and crash because I'm too tense. It's an odd feeling; pushing my lower body to it's bitter edge while simultaneously relaxing my upper body. Being careful not to relax so much that I lose my grip or steering control. My hands resting on the grips, lightly with all of my fingers relaxed and straight.
I open my mouth wide to relax my jaw. It's at this moment, during my hardest effort that it breaks, my sweetness, my bike. Not break exactly but expose a flaw, show me a blemish, introduce me to its lack of perfection. It gave way under the force of my hard-charging legs. The pedal stopped resisting and just gave way completely with no fight, no nothing. All I got was the unmistakable sound of the gears changing and not finding it's home, anywhere. The chain jumped free and then jammed.
So there I lay, with my bike. Both of us flawed, broken, covered in mud, sweat, and alone. I'm still breathing heavy. Cussing, of course, looking up at the trees that just stand there looming over me like shocked bystanders at some horrible accident. They are no help to me. I'm not hurt but I am mad. How can I make this better; me, my bike, my riding, my living? How can I do this by myself, where has my master potter gone? How can I fix the flaws, overcome the mistakes, make the right choices? How?