On wheels, on horseback, on foot: The best way to be outdoors

Last week my youngest son learned how to ride his bike. Not mastery yet due to these alarmingly steep hills surrounding us, but a solid start. This coming weekend my eldest son will be receiving First Communion; a cause for celebration and great joy in our family. It will be a big moment.

With both my children reaching personal milestones, this mama heart of mine is finding it hard to handle all that May contains. It's only natural, I suppose. I think that sometimes, the outliers to a moment get more keyed up than those actually going through it. The "big firsts" like graduation, marriage, new job, new home most certainly excite the main characters involved, but the loved ones supporting from the sidelines feel it intensely too.

What though of these small, hidden gem "firsts" that lead to the bigger moments in life? The more obscured "firsts" like learning to ride a bike. How about you? What memories of moments awaken when you stand outside sniffing this springtime air?

Oh those memories of our first bike! A perfectly muddy BMX, or perhaps a Huffy? Rainbow streamers on the handlebars, those plastic balls on the spokes making satisfying pinging sounds as the wheels turn. When the bike really picks up speed those same balls turn into swirls of blending color- much to the delight of street side observers. But don't look over to them! It's a guaranteed crash! Bloody knees and bruised ego.

At least in the dirt pits with your Mongoose the grime hides your blood when you get up to no good on the wheels. Single speeds and 10 speeds eventually morph into dirt bikes and go-carts. Then maybe golf carts as you take on work at the local course — your first real job. If your memory truly serves you well, still to this day you can hear the guttural music of a two-stroke, or at least the siren call of a distant Ducati or Honda CBX. Those are the kind of sounds that led you to complete the "learn to ride" succession by purchasing a motorcycle. In your opinion, it is still the best way to be outdoors.

There are those of us who may have overlooked the thrill of learning to ride a bike; too busy tending to pets to pay attention to much anything else. Ant farms and worm hollows created in the yard. Streams dammed up to house salamanders and tadpoles. Your type would catch bugs first in a mason jar, later in those special mesh bug houses complete with a magnifying glass, and you would consider the beetle for hours. Favorite field trips were to the local pond where you would toss breadcrumbs and name every blessed goose. Eventually you secured a hamster or fish then proved your aptitude as caregiver by earning that Brownie or Boy Scout merit badge in animal care. You demanded your family promote you with an animal designed for such a celebration: a dog or cat. And life was wonderful! Until you encountered your first stable: with that earliest whiff of tack your heart tumbled all around its ribs and you were smitten for life. On a hell-bent mission to learn to not only ride, but own a horse.

Thus your first job more than likely was mucking out stalls and you took your payment in horseback riding lessons. Back home you would practice long lining by tying your sibling up with rope and leading him or her around the meadow. You mailed away for freebies in your horse magazines; the curry combs lined your windowsill. Quite a bit of time passed, during which you made your mind up over stall or pasture and which feed to use. The moment came: you purchased your first horse. In your opinion, it is still the best way to be outdoors.

Fresh air mixed with memories-creating them or remembering them- make for a heady elixir. Breathe it in. And if you exhale a nostalgic sigh? Well, that's perfectly acceptable.

Get Outside contributor Tina Weikert lives in Bondville.


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