Saturday, February 7, 2009

Turn Like a Mountain Biker

Years ago when my partner and I were young and fit, we used to go mountain biking. This being Pennsylvania, we have some impressive trails—hilly and circuitous.

And although I played sports my entire life—racquetball, volleyball, and fastpitch softball—and my partner did not, she could blow me away on a mountain bike.


Because she didn't try to control the bike's every move; she melded with it. And she would fly. My view on the trail was either the dust in her wake or the blue, puffy-clouded sky . . . because I was laying on my back, having gone over the handle bars.

Last week in my woodturning class as I was using my arch nemesis—the parting tool—the instructor peered over my shoulder and tapped lightly on the knuckles on my right hand. They were dead white. "You can't turn with a grip like that," she said.

It was my mountain bike grip.

Aha. Therein lies the problem. I've been trying to control my tools so rigidly, they've been fighting back.

So I asked my partner to explain to me her mountain biking technique. She said, "You have to relax and become one with the bike. You have to keep everything loose, unlock your joints, keep calm and let the 'chi' flow through your body."

"What's chi?" I giggled adolescently.

"'Chi' is energy, one's life force."

So I thanked Yoda and resolved to change my approach to woodturning.

I thought of the sea turtles in Finding Nemo—the rad surfer-dudes who rode the East Australian Current. Mellow and laid back, they would literally go with the flow.

"Be a turtle." I thought to myself in class this morning. "Become one with your tools."

It worked. No gouged wood, no fisticuffs with the parting tool, and only mild sweating. There's a life lesson in there somewhere.

And while I'm still at the bottom of the learning curve, there is one thing I'm good at . . . and that's turning eggs. My first egg was so real looking, I put it in the refrigerator in a bowl of hard-boiled eggs. Despite the teeth marks from my dogs, who decided the egg was a much coveted chew toy, my partner packed it with 2 other real eggs and took it with her to work for lunch.

Maybe she knows all about chi and melding and being calm and all that weirdo woo-woo stuff.

But I know all about being an immature practical joker.