The Search for Urban Spirituality on Two Wheels
Everett extracts spiritual lessons from cycling, about loving one’s neighbor and adjusting to life’s rhythms.
Laura Everett’s Holy Spokes is a refreshing blend of history, personal anecdotes, and encouragement toward exercise both physical and spiritual.
For Everett, a United Church of Christ minister and the executive director of the Massachusetts Council of Churches, “the metaphor of the road is thick with possibilities.” Cycling is not just for commuting; it connects her with the city and hones her faith, too.
Everett hasn’t always been a bicycle nut. In fact, she only started cycling because her car broke down; some church friends offered to build her a bike from secondhand parts. As time passed, she grew to appreciate the manifold spiritual benefits of cycling: it forces her to slow down, experience the weather, truly see her neighbors, and acknowledge her vulnerability.
The book takes a long view of cycling and cities. Everett marvels that an 1880s technology is still in use, yet identifies traces of gender discrimination: women’s bike frames were designed such that they wouldn’t have to open their legs wide in a dress.
Meanwhile, riding through disparate areas of Boston spotlights its venerable history, but also its patches of deprivation. And cycling itself isn’t without risk, of course, as evidenced by the white-painted “Ghost Bike” memorials she dedicates.
Paul Soupiset’s sketches—of a Boston map, a diagram of bike parts, and recurring motifs of chains and tires—enhance the text, as do frequent epigraphs from writings by and about Brother Lawrence.
Each chapter adopts the name of a bike part and lends it a symbolic function: the saddle represents endurance, brakes stand for limitations, and so on. That thematic approach introduces a touch of repetition, but provides a logical framework.
While not a straightforward memoir, the book gives moving glimpses into its author’s life, such as her decision to marry Abbi, one of the friends who persuaded her to begin cycling. To paraphrase Lance Armstrong, though, it’s not all about the bike. Cycling enthusiasts may get the most out of this, but Everett extracts spiritual lessons applicable to anyone seeking to love their neighbor and adapt to life’s rhythms of joy and suffering.
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