If an hour when you were a kid was worth tuppence (who gets bored on their summer holidays? Kids, that’s who), then an hour today is worth The Bank of England
And a warm welcome, just generally. This has been a week punctuated by supersneezes and starlight.
I don’t say this enough, but I’m feeling sentimental so: to those of you who support this newsletter financially, an especially warm thank you!
73 percent of this newsletter is based on books I read, digest and subsequently regurgitate in your vague direction — books I buy using money almost exactly like the money that some of you wonderful humans send my way. It’s a virtuous cycle.
And it’s cool that a couple of you made the most of the PayPal link that I dropped in last week — cheers! This way you can choose your own one-off contribution.
For those of you new around these parts, welcome 👋 My name is David and I’m a writer, outdoor instructor and cyclist-at-large with Thighs of Steel. In this newsletter, I write stories that help you and me understand the world (and ourselves) a little better.
Sometimes I watch the stars. (Usually for about five seconds before my hands freeze.)
Welcome to edition 389.
2024: Gaping Abundance
2024 will be my first year without a major Thighs of Steel cycle-raising adventure since 2017.
2023 & 2022: Glasgow to Athens co-organiser
2021: Spell It Out record-breaking co-organiser
2020: Around The World lockdown cyclist
2019: London to Athens core team facilitator
2018: Ljubljana to Sofia cyclist
2017: Bugger all
2017, it’s fair to say, was not a great year. To be honest, I felt like shit most of the time — it was (famously) the year of raging Man Sloth Mode.
For about a year, I did nothing…
Thighs of Steel, it’s fair to say, saved my life. At least, it saved the purposeful part of me that needed something to do, rather than simply something to write (although it also helped with a heck of a lot of that).
The last three years in particular have been dominated, all year round, by organising and then riding Europe’s longest charity bike ride. Ergo: 2024 has a whole lot of gaping hole where Thighs of Steel once was.
As well as crapping my pants about not having anything to do (nor any regular income — maybe why I’m feeling so sentimental about you folks 🥰), I’m also choosing to see this hole as a gaping abundance of opportunity.
Quite apart from all those Thighs of Steel bullet points, my life has changed a lot since 2017. I think this is best illustrated with a couple of photos, taken six years and about six miles apart:
In other words: six years is a lot of lifetime and there is no reason to suspect that the next six years will be anything other than, well, full. Almost certainly fuller of life than any previous six year segment in the soap opera Dave (now in its forty-second season) because (and here’s the kicker) that’s how life works, kiddo.
If you thought childhood was wasted on the young, just wait until you try adulthood. It’s amazing. All the dreams of youth, but with the utterly misplaced power to make those dreams a reality (or at least some updated adult version).
This time we have on earth is damnful of promise. If an hour when you were a kid was worth tuppence (who gets bored on their summer holidays? Kids, that’s who), then an hour today is worth The Bank of England.
That’s why it seems like our six year segments only get richer and richer as we age: we make our time count double and double again.
Time might seem to pass more quickly now we’re older and, sure, part of that is because our brains are slowly calcifying, but it’s also because we compress more meaning into our hours.
Now I’m an adult, I’ll be devilled black and blue if I’m going to spend a second longer than I have to on anything that I don’t see as majorly meaningful, even if (especially if) that means making my own meaning.
Everything I’ve done and almost every word I’ve written since 2017 has edged me closer to an expansively dense existence that prioritises the healing power of jolly well getting outside, and sharing those connective encounters and experiences with other people, both in the flesh and on the page (hello you 👋).
Thighs of Steel has been a huge chunk of that story so far, but it’s by no means the end. More like the prologue.
This year, I have signed up to study for something called The Certificate in Advanced Wilderness Therapeutic Approaches.
Big scary title.
But, if my experience is anything to go by (not to mention the experience of the hundreds of people I’ve guided in the outdoors in the past six years), then the blockbuster slamdunk approach of all our therapeutic encounters with wild nature is this: healing by being.
Unlike the pell-mell of what seems like everything else, nature is there.
Nature is there. Always there*. Simply there. Abundantly there. Quietly there. Raucously there. So go: go! See for yourself, feel for yourself. Slow down to tree time. Stretch yourself over aeons. Be outside forever. Lean your forehead against a tree and breathe in the oxygen that this living tree breathes out. Heal by being.
* Not necessarily always there if we fuck it up too much. Still: by and large, on our puny human timescales, it seems to be always there. Even if ‘it’ is a weed and ‘there’ are the cracks in the crumbling concrete of a carbon junky civilisation. 😘
You Can’t Do Everything; Stop Trying
2023 will forever be remembered (by no one at all) as The Year I Read Oliver Burkeman.
Below are three links to three short-ish articles by the aforementioned Olly B, all warning us against the ironclad belief that we are immortal, a common belief that lures us into dangerous waters of endless distraction.
I am aware of the contradiction: more content to remind us to reserve our time for what’s important.
So while you could open all these links in new tabs to join the serried ranks of recipes for Mexican fire ant soufflé, podcasts on crypto meta AI parody gameshows and videos about the perils of PVC double glazing that, gasping for attention, will all simultaneously autoplay on double speed in a dystopic Honey Smacks symphony of post-capitalist shock and awe, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend that approach.
Instead, gently ponder my compression of the articles into sentence-length maxims that might transform your life for the wondrous better. (And the links are there for those who love to flirt with deep water.)
If you enjoyed this story, then please remember that I have NO WAY OF KNOWING 😱 unless you heart, comment, reply or share.
Thanks for your eyeballs, thanks for your support.