"Taoism teaches a person to flow with life."
In those first moments of being alone in his new home, a sense of overwhelming questioning over took my son. He silently contemplated, "Am I doing the right thing, why am I here, I left everyone I know, my family, I am alone". Well, as he later considered, he was not really alone, he was with some people he knew from his college, he was in a foreign country, but one in which he had visited before, knew the language of and actually was the land of his heritage. It was a tough time those first few days, since there was no internet hooked up yet, no skype. He had just his international cell phone, which he used. He spoke to his father, with such desparation, it was unnerving.
What came next did not surprise us, here at home. When children are born, one of the first things they do is learn to self soothe, some quicker than others, some with expert and lasting effect. They learn to navigate what is new and accomplish things, making barriers merely an opportunity to overcome.
While some may not understand this, one who was listening sent my son a silver bike. Whether it was G-d, his Guardian Angel, the Universe or man, he was given the opportunity to understand something and to overcome his angst, to surpass his shyness, to stretch his possibilities and experience the Tao of the Silver Bike.
"Bought this today at the town square bike auction and tried to do some research right away...to no avail! He couldn't find anything out about it, it says 'WG' on it, and the badge on the front says Koeln, or cologne, and some other german words."He was hopeful to figure the mystery out.
In those first few days of being there in Luebeck, getting to know the lay of the land, the kids observed that bikes were how everyone got around. It was a smaller city center, the Innenstadt of Luebeck, it could be easily walked. They also found they could walk to school which was out of the Innenstadt or ride the buses for free as students.
Shifts nice between 1 and 2
The police have a semi annual bike auction and this turned out to be something of importance. A group of kids wandered over to the square not far from the Marian Kirche and their student housing. Without roommates, my son often went with some of the other kids he knew in his student house, to look around, and get to know the place he would call home for the next year.
The auction was in full swing with little left to buy. At some point he observed an older, rusty bike that seemed like an "old shop daughter". If you have ever read Corrie Ten Boom, you know that this refers to watches in her father's pre-WWII Haarlam shop that had lain around so long no one would think of buying them. They were still there when the Germans invaded and were snapped up along with other merchandise by soldiers wishing to send something home to their families. They bought these items as if on a holiday to remember their excusion. This old bike was very much an "old shop daughter" or winkeldochters.
Well, my son "won" this bike in the auction. He is fond of old things and used to getting his hands dirty at our shop. He is used to working hard and is fascinated with the history of things. This bike proved to be no different. It gave him a life line, a way to connect, to be occupied. While the other kids went in search of their next beer, partying until they could not function, our son sought solace in this bike, fixing it up, working it into a bit of its former self.
Bikes in Germany are very common place. People use them all the time. They park them everywhere. Usually they are locked up and there is some attempt to keep them safe. Sometimes when a bike is locked for a very long time, never moved, abandoned, the police pick it up for the auction. This bike was probably a bike that a woman had most of her life. Perhaps she became ill or passed away and it was not re-claimed by her family. It made it's way to the bike auction by the serendipitous nature of life. It found it's new caring owner by sheer chance.
"The reflector cleaned up nice.. chrome a little bit."
My son bought this bike because the price was right. He liked the character of it, the challenge of it. Back home he takes a little of his money and buys a car, spends time and effort on it and sells it. He likes to do this, he is invested in re-cycling many things. He likes to fix things up and make them new. Many an old computer has passed through his hands, onto students in need.
"Generator cleaned up pretty nice...but its really loud when engaged and running."
This bike got the royal treatment.
When he finished tweeking it and making it ready, it was a new way to school.
What I remember most is his first description of the bike ride he took, unlike one in his whole life. He got the generator for the light to work and he and a few friends took the bikes out for a night ride. Through the cobbled streets of the ancient Innenstadt, down the darkened alley ways, the cool breeze touching his face, the silence, except for the sound of the simple bikes, imprinted on his brain. When he described it to me, I could hear the sound of the whoosh, whoosh of the tires, feel the stillness of the night, see the small houses so close together with a light on here and there, smell the night air, and almost feel young again myself.
Told in such a passionate and imaginative way, I felt he became one with the bike. The time he had spent on it bonded him to it in a way that could only be understood by someone who cared for their ride in a similar way.
" Emailed a German bike museum...they couldn't identify it for me."
The bike had a kit on it with old tools for its repair. He had held those tools in his hands, remembering all the tools at home in the barn and in the shop he had left behind. Once skype was up and running, it was all about the bike. His father found a tube of German polish at home that was very old and showed it to him, and he was off soon to purchase some to clean up the metal of the bike.
"The generator works!"
He searched the internet for information about the bike, visited a few bike shops and found that his bike was unique. The company was long gone, and some parts appeared to be pre war or shortly after.
His strength has always been in his determination to learn more than the obvious. Many others did not at first understand or appreciate his love of an old girl's bike, but that served to help them understand his interests and learn about him.
"Cool chain cover, and very unique crank/ sprocket...there are 3 'arrows' look closely!"
The opportunity presented itself to pick up other later model bikes and soon he would fix them up and give them away to people who might need one. He had a bike for his brother when he came to visit. In the basement of their student house, bikes were often left by students leaving the country so, a few months into this school year, the housemeister would pronounce which bikes would be available to take and cut the locks. They would be given a few weeks with further notice, then they would be gotten rid of. So my son would wait and fix up what they needed and pass them on.
He acquired a bike helmet at my insistance. It was not so hard to convince him as his friend had a bike accident in the first month and he witnessed more than enough not to fight it. He considered how he might bring his bike home. He was told that it would be about 50 Euros and it could be put in cargo on the plane. He considered this possibility.
After some time, he rode less due to the weather. He made more and more friends, had more experiences, traveled and studied. He considerd what he would do with this bike.
He had an idea to put it back into the system for another person to find and experience. He thought of chaining it up in the city randomly when he would leave for America. He considered how it would find its way to someone else, perhaps another person who needed it, to work on, and to ride.
If no one came for it, the police eventually would and it would end up in the auction, for someone to buy. He took it out again recently and someone stole the unique ornament off of it, one of the coolest pieces in his opinion. He no longer considered taking it home and thought hard again about who might want it and who he could give it to.
" Based on the 3spd on my bike - F&S Dreigang Modell 55, the bike was made in the range from 1955-1962, assuming the dreigang is original to the bike."
One of the bikes he fixed and rode is on its way to a student in Berlin to use. Still this one is left.
Last weekend he made a new friend. She is connected in a way to many of his interests and he thought of the bike again. She is scheduled to take the bike on Thursday.
The way we work ourselves through life and it's ultimate challenges is by using what we know, embracing the familiar while remaining open to the new. We take our steps toward our goals in our own fashion, we expand as we need to, we experience as we can. We seek the balance in the flow of life to appreciate each course of it as it streams along.
The bike was given to the girl he met. She is someone who he felt would really appreciate it, and indeed she did. The universe dropped her magically in his lap the last days of his time in Germany. They met serendipitously in Travemunde and spent time some time visiting in Luebeck together. She took this bike. Perhaps it rests on her parent's farm, or she rides it to work in the Innenstadt where she works for the city of Luebeck. Whatever the case, it rests in good hands.
Copyright 2011 by SheilaTGTG55
Copyright 2011 by HBL all photography