Life In Slow Motion

What keeps us going?

My brother Christofer and I moved to New York City in the spring of 1995. We unloaded his rusty, red Isuzu pickup into the freshly painted hallways of 447 West 56th Street, and then took a walk. I was grossly overwhelmed and outpaced. The scale and speed of the city was too much. My heart raced, my lungs burned, my eyes bugged, and I ached to run back to the quiet green hamlets of upstate New York.

Later that week, I went for my first bike ride in Central Park. My expectations were low. I was spoiled by years of mountain biking in the Adirondacks just beyond my doorstep. But my eyes widened, as I turned northward past The Met. A canopy of pale green bloomed overhead. Tulips opened at my feet. I raced down what we now call, simply, The Big Hill, and began climbing towards Adam C. Powell Boulevard.

On the left side of Park Drive, at the northernmost point of the loop, there is a terrific outcropping of granite hanging precipitously over the bike lane. A few small springs flow from its fissures. Leafy ferns grow from the edges. And as I passed beneath its shadow and up the hill, I remember thinking, “I can do this.”

Of course, the climb was steep. It still is. I ran it three times in a row on Saturday morning, and rode my bike up it just this morning. It is — almost poetically — the terminus of a sometimes long, sometimes excruciating loop through this urban oasis. It is — existentially — a trough, a low point. It’s the hardest part.

And so it’s not surprising that one thinks, “Fuck it,” more than once there. The going is tough. The challenge is great. And the distance from home is greater.

So what keeps us going?

For me, I guess, it’s that I know there’s another side. Once one crests The Big Hill — quads burning, heart pounding, lungs tapped — there is a great descent. I tuck, and dig into the downhill. The rush of wind grows in my ears as I speed closer to home.

There are a number of failed horticultural experiments on my rooftop. A few clay pots lay fallow, filled with matted soil and dried stems. Just now, though, I noticed a few tiny yellow flowers sprouting from the dirt. I didn’t plant them. I didn’t water them. They just grew. They pushed through the dead roots and dusty earth towards the sun. Because, I guess, it’s all they knew to do. It’s what they do.

And it’s what we do. We keep going.

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