Scene from Giro Bello bicycle ride, Sonoma County, June 21, 2019.

Years ago, as I was preparing to embark on my first ever overseas trip, I wrote the following poem. It was an effort to capture the sense of freedom, adventure, movement, and anticipation of the unknown that I was feeling at the time.

Moving at the Speed of Life
By Catherine Brozena

Red light.
I am waiting.
Staring, waiting,
Weightless in wonder
My warm car quivers with
Patterned pulse to the engine.
I am waiting at the intersection,
As the hum of human connection speaks,
The silver streaks of train transport
Trailing a gray blaze along the tracks overhead
Blaze silver slivers,
A blur of machinery accelerating quickly past me.
But I am still.

I am moving now,
Moving so fast, finding path
Across the bridge to the other side.
Life coming at me at high speed.
I rise with the road, changes in altitude
Changes, always coming,
Messes with my mind.
Road rising to the empty, breathless sky above,
Cobalt blue sky that I get lost in.
I am moving with the changes in the road.
Curves in the concrete
Curves in the rolling green hills
Mirror back the sunshine,
And the cobalt sky,
Guard rails glisten like jeweled necklaces
That surround me with promise.

Middle of the night.
I take off, floating into depth of darkness
My movement hardly real,
As giant wings,
Effortlessly hurl me forward at hyper-speed.
I am suspended, extended
Between road and sky,
What was and is passing by.
Between dusk and dawn,
Breathless yawn
Stretching my body among the seats.
Among the stars.

I know I will find my way.
Drifting along in dreams unfettered,
As the stewardess reminds me,
That I am free to move about the cabin now…

These many years later, I’ve come to realize that movement is an essential element to my happiness. While I have strong emotions that tie me to a sense of place and home, not a day goes by where I am not somehow moving — throwing myself out into the world to run, bike, walk, hike, and lately (thanks to the proliferation of electric scooters all over town) scooting! I recently got myself my own set of automotive wheels that, I confess, has brought me great joy as it now allows me to hit the road to just about anywhere there is a road.

But my ultimate favorite movement is still that which comes from the power of my own body. It’s invigorating. And for someone like me, who often struggles with depression, the endorphin rush I get from exercise movement is a key factor in keeping myself balanced. Not to mention that moving outdoors opens the theatre of my mind and brings me absolute peace.

Recently, I had the opportunity to experience bodily movement in a whole new way by completing my first ever metric century. For those less versed in bicycle lingo (as I was until recently), a century is a 100-mile bicycle ride. For this first time experimenting with long bicycle rides, I opted for a slightly less intense “metric” century which is equivalent to 100 kilometers, or in the case of this particular bicycle ride, about 68 miles.

Words cannot describe the joy I felt as I rode my bicycle for (yes) more than 6 hours through the most beautiful landscapes of Northern California. With music blaring through my headphones, I felt a sense of absolute freedom. Absolute happiness. Unbounded hope. I was in command of my own destiny and my body was going to get me to my destination. It felt like anything was possible.

When I think of the joy and freedom that I get from movement, I cannot help but wonder why we would ever want to restrict the movement of others. I believe that there should be no boundaries to human movement and migration. I believe that every human being should have a right to move their bodies and place themselves into settings where they feel safe, free, hopeful, alive, and in control of their destiny.

There are many people in this world right now who are fleeing violent and painful circumstances. There are many who are seeking a better life for themselves and their families. There are many who are moving their bodies across lands, across borders, in pursuit of hope, happiness, the promise of a better life. Yes, large, unrestricted movement of human persons across political borders does pose legitimate challenges to our laws, our economies, and the collective resources in our communities. But such movement should be met with compassion and a willingness on our part to address the complex reasons that cause those mass migrations. This wonderful podcast exploring migration as a human right is a fascinating deep-dive into all the complexities.

I believe that freedom to move as a human person is a fundamental human right. I cannot imagine life without that freedom. Oh, the new horizons it can open for us all.