Found Underneath

Sunday Letter | #336

Parked bikes in the sun; pea gravel pocked with large stones from old buildings; my white-sneakered feet.
Core City, Detroit, MI

Spinning at home this winter inspired me to learn how to tune up my actual bike, which due to consecutive flats and moving around had languished, first in my parents’ garage, and then in the basement of our house. The last time I rode it regularly was five years ago, a time I look back on fondly. I was finishing See You in the Cosmos, riding to the gym in the afternoons, and about to go trekking in the Himalayas, not knowing if I’d even come back to Detroit when it was over. It was, for all its uncertainty, a happy time.

This week I started on what looks to be (knock on wood) the last major draft of the new book. On Saturday, Julia and I took our bikes to Eastern Market to get a few things for dinner; today we went to a local bakery for coffee and a brownie and happened upon a thrift store operating out of a pair of shipping containers. On the way back, we rode by a friend’s house and found them outside planting bok choy and adding trellises to their garden. We stopped to say hello and made vague plans for outdoor activities – a happy weekend.

I can’t say I intentionally tried to recreate the conditions of five years ago (or even thought to). But I’m recognizing this rhyme in my personal history, and I’m grateful. The Oscars are in the background as I type, and Chloe Zhao just won the award for Best Director. In her acceptance speech she’s quoting the opening lines of a Chinese Three-Character Classic: 人之初, 性本善 – “People at birth, are fundamentally good.”

As you might know, I’m quite fond of the form. And the lines seem to sparkle with exactly the kind of buoyant hope I’ve felt this week. If there was once goodness, then it follows that there still is goodness, to be found, somewhere, underneath.