#TellHisStory Storytellers Series
Story has the power to change the world, one paragraph at a time. I share this space, once a week, with some great storytellers I’ve met during my years of writing.
This week’s featured storyteller is Claire Burge, an author and entrepreneur who will “take your creativity to the nth degree.” We are former colleagues at TheHighCalling.org.
Be sure to come back Wednesday to link your own stories or photos with us in the #TellHisStory community.
Creativity Needs to Fly Off the Edge Every Now and Then
By Claire Burge
Inching forward, I straddle the too-large bike seat. My legs and arms are bare; my dripping hair hangs down by back, making me feel cold. I’m only wearing a little pink bikini. The sun was too hot in the water, so I decided to occupy myself on the bike under the trees for a while. My knee and elbow guards along with my helmet lie forgotten in my bedroom.
I shouldn’t be on this bike, but my generous father gave away my own bicycle to some ex-convict who needed a fresh start in his post-time life. I arrived home from school to witness the end of the transaction.
I need to learn how to cycle this too-large bike, which is challenging when your house is built on a nearly perpendicular hill with a driveway so long and curvy it takes a car a good five minutes to reach the top.
I’m preventing myself from flying forward by straining hard on my calves. I started this at the top of the stone driveway that ends in front of our double-door garage. The driveway curves sharply to the right because straight ahead there is a sheer drop-off the size of a door — just past the mulberry tree. To the left of the mulberry tree on the edge of the drop-off is the four-row, bricked rhubarb garden and just below the edge is the compost heap: sweaty and emulsive in its rotten state. The smell is earthy and suffocating in the sweltering summer heat. My plan is to sit properly in the saddle once I’ve cleared the turn in front of the tree and compost heap drop-off. This gives me a relatively long run of at least another ten metres before a disastrous cactus garden waits with all its poison and prickliness. I plan to get used to the new handle bars and pedals on this ten-meter stretch before having to focus really hard to clear the cactus garden and come back up again with every ounce of might that my little legs can muster against those big wheels. I reckon that my plan is well thought out and execution will run seamlessly.
I stop inching forward and let myself go: I fly down the first few metres just as I expected I would. I start turning the bike to avoid the drop-off. All continues according to plan until I push lightly on the brakes to ease into the corner. I push a little harder, not feeling anything in the wheels. Another push—still nothing. I push down all the way but feel nothing. The bike is picking up speed by the second, and I realise that I don’t know this large frame well enough to avoid the cactus garden or the heavily-trafficked road waiting at the bottom of the driveway. My little mind is darting in front of my eyes as if I’m watching myself in a cartoon during breakfast. The brakes are not working. I press, press, press, press—hoping—but nothing. I have no choice but to fly straight over the edge. I know the stinky compost is below, but right now that is the least of my worries. Before the edge I need to clear low-hanging mulberry branches that are hard and strong. They gnarl like an old woman’s hands that have cooked and cleaned for too many children for too long. The crossbar of the bicycle is solid and straight: I am on my dad’s bicycle, so I can’t slide into the section that normally slopes down for ladies. I can’t swing my leg over and abandon the bike because the frame is too big for me. I can’t let my hands go because I will lose balance and fall on the hard brick drive, which will hurt far more than landing in compost.
At the very last second I look straight ahead and fly.
The rhubarb streaks past me. I feel the big, granular leaves scraping my skin. A mulberry whips against my cheek and forehead and I feel its ripe juice running down over my eyebrows. I must have been crying unawares, because my mouth fills with a delicious taste of rich, salty berry juice at about the same time that I land softly into the middle of the vilest of smells. I lie in the warmth of the mushy mess, peeping at the cars through the cactus garden. Laughter peels out of me like a chameleon tongue.
I am up on the bike, flying down the drive, through the air, over the edge and into the mess again, and again, and again.
Mom makes sure that I scrub up good that night.
Claire’s book, Spin: Taking Your Creativity to the Nth Degree is a journal that will help you discover your own creativity in surprising ways. Take the risk and gift yourself with this book. It will uncover parts of your life that you don’t even know need to be uncovered …
You can buy Spin here.