Thursday, November 18, 2010

Easy as falling off a bike?

Isn’t it amazing that we can remember how to do things? I hadn’t done any large scale catering for over ten years. I hadn’t been on a push bike for at least twelve months. In the last couple of weeks I have tackled both.
My Rottnest Island bike adventure deteriorated into a farcical comedy on the first day with me falling off within a few meters of the bike hire. Feeling like a fool, I looked down to see the handlebars sat at a 45 degree angle to the wheel. A minute and a man with a spanner fixed that.  The second day saw me trying to ride with the handlebars rotated 180 degrees. I hadn’t the heart to tell the others why I was so far behind in case they laughed their way into an accident. I huffed and puffed my way up hills, feeling very unfit until...I noticed the brakes were locking on. Heaved them off the wheel and managed to make my way back to the bike shop on day three. I explained to the very nice man what was happening. His eyes scanned the bike, then me, then the bike again. “You do know why this is happening, don’t you?’ he asked. ‘Der,’ I thought, ‘well, no, that’s why I am here.’ He smirked at me ‘The front wheel has been rotated 360 degrees and is pulling the cable on, especially when you go around bends.’ Thanking him, I scuttled out quickly, wondering if I could get away with leaving the bike at the accommodation rather than having to return to the bike shop for further humiliation. Obviously, my remembered skills were directed towards the actual bike riding, nothing of mechanics remained in my middle aged brain.
The catering went very smoothly, a little panic driven over ordering and some extreme tiredness, but basically all the skills I needed were there, lying dormant in some deep recess of my brain and I flicked into automatic even having a flash of inspiration that lead to a new sugar free dessert recipe.
I guess we all learn in different ways. Certainly, my capacity for retention is greatest when I have been physically active in a task. Swimming, bike riding, knitting, Tai Chi, all need just a little prod to awaken the body memory. Names, computer programs, telephone and all other numbers, need constant use and repetition for them to be imprinted.
The newest grandee will soon be one, watching him, I can see learning in action. This new person is stretching mind and limbs, awake with curiosity and wonder. His learning is experiential, using all of his senses. He isn’t trying to remember anything. I wonder if this is where we return to as we get older, that the sensual memories are the last to leave?  I hope that the appreciation of nature, music, food, comfort, touch and companionship will stay with me long after I forget how to figure out many lettuce 26 people can eat in a week.

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