Holy Spokes: The Search for Urban Spirituality on Two Wheels

For most people, having their car break down on the highway during a stormy night would be a crisis. The mishap, however, inspired Laura Everett, a minister in the United Church of Christ, to abandon nearly all driving in favor of bicycling. With encouragement from "cycling sherpas" in her congregation and social circle, Everett began navigating Boston's labyrinthine streets as an all-weather cyclist, which quickly became an enjoyable challenge and essential component to her spiritual life.

"Runners, swimmers and rowers sometimes speak of this--the repetitive motion that allows one's mind to clear.... And so my time on the bicycle became reflective. My internal conversation became chatty, even. As I came to know Boston's roads better and better, my mind would drift and mull over my prayers: the triple-decker house with the foreclosed sign, the roadside shrine to a child killed by a stray gunshot, the despair that seemed to cling to every building on some blocks, the defiant signs of life on others."

Marrying practicality with philosophy, Holy Spokes provides detailed historical overviews of the sport, descriptions of bicycle construction (Everett has become skilled at building bikes), the mechanics of riding and the sport's physicality. With chapter titles representing various bicycle parts and their symbolic qualities to life ("Saddle ǀ Endurance," "Lights ǀ Visibility," "Brakes ǀ Limitations"), Holy Spokes is structured as a series of interconnected essays, blending Everett's appreciation for urban design along with mindfulness writings by a 17th-century monk named Brother Lawrence (a non-cyclist, to Everett's knowledge).

Although occasional repetition causes some narrative wobbles, Everett's insights gleaned from viewing Boston by bike can be appreciated by dedicated cyclists and non-athletes alike who seek a broader spiritual perspective to life. --Melissa Firman, writer, editor and blogger at melissafirman.com

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