From darkness to clarity

By Michael Collier

One of my favorite cycling experiences is riding in the low light of late afternoons in December. In the San Francisco Bay Area, it’s possible to see a full moon rising right after a golden sunset — with a great view of the Golden Gate.

Sunset over Mount Tamalpais, Calif.

Sunset over Mount Tamalpais, Calif. Photo by Michael Collier.

Darkness dominates our waking hours come winter, when the Dec. 21 solstice brings the longest nights and shortest days of the year. It’s what makes us want to sleep in and go down early. As the daylight hours shorten, so do my rides.

Instead of 40-50 miles, I am satisfied with 30 miles up on top of the East Bay ridge line between Berkeley‘s Grizzly Peak and Sibley Volcanic regional park in the Oakland hills. The serenity is comforting, even as he days slip into darkness.

On the shortest day of the year — and the longest night — a friend of mine who practices inner healing held an event for her Facebook friends that aimed to open us up to the state of darkness, the abyss of nothingness. I used the process to let go of some of my demons.

I got on my bike the day after Christmas and rode back up the ridge to Grizzly Peak on a brilliant sunny morning. I felt a lightness of spirit as I viewed 360 degrees of vistas from Mount Diablo to the east to Skyline south of San Francisco.

A sense of clarity envelopes me as I near a personal milestone: to ride 250,000 feet of elevation gain on my bike this year. I am at just under 245,000 feet and expect to crack my ceiling on Sunday.

As I approach that milestone, I realize the importance of having short-term goals. They keep me attentive and on a course — and keep my mind free and clear and concentrated on riding and soaking up the beauty of my surroundings.

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On one of the darkest nights of the year, clouds veil a near-full moon over the San Francisco Bay area sky. Photo by Michael Collier.

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