A 16th-century Japanese tea master originated the four characters saying, “Ichi-go ichi-e.” This can be translated as, “In this moment, there is an opportunity.” It means that everything we experience is a unique treasure that will never be repeated in the same way again. If we let it slip away without enjoying it, the moment will be lost forever.
As parents, we look back through the images of our children in their younger years and chuckle at the funny things they used to say and do. We mumble things like, “Look at how cute he is here.” Or, “Can you believe she was so little?” At the root of these comments is a realization that time goes quickly when measured by our children. As adults, we treasure childhood for the unrepeatable nature of the moment and the innocence of days passed.
As cyclists, this is also true of the moments when we sneak away from civilization to ride our bikes, to explore a new country on two wheels, or get some air off a jump. For me, and perhaps for you, a childlike elation takes over when I’m riding. I am instantly transported to a world that exists only in the present. The precious moments I spend on my bike are something I truly savour in the midst of our hectic “normal” schedule.
I learned about Ichi-go ichi-e when our family of four travelled to Japan last summer to ride a 600-mile loop around the island of Hokkaido. We chose this as a softer alternative to previous adventures on the Baja Divide and the Canadian North. Dreams of sushi, temples, and pavement materialized into a relaxing family vacation where we rode our bikes though beautiful country on quiet roads. We stopped regularly to eat good food and slept comfortably in our tent each night.
Along the way, we realized that we were enjoying each moment immensely, free of worries about where we would get food and water or what unforeseen struggles lay in the next blank on the map. This trip had all the elements of our previous trips—quality time together, a self-propelled journey, foreign culture, and distant lands—but also included enough services that we were able to relax and enjoy each moment.
In the last month, the pace of my hectic life skidded to a stop as the COVID-19 pandemic swept our world. I had time to sit at my computer and look through pictures of past adventures, take quiet walks close to home, and dive into editing our footage from Japan. Initially, watching footage of our carefree days in Hokkaido filled me with a feeling of loss. I questioned whether or not we would ever have the opportunity to go on big foreign adventures again. However, as the days of self-isolation ticked by and our family found a routine of mini-adventures close to home, I started to savour the quality time together. We were skiing, biking, cooking, playing board games, and watching movies. The journeys were smaller and closer to home, but no less important. In the absence of a longer trip in a distant land, we started to see the kids taking on challenges of their own. Koby halved his time climbing our vacant ski hill. Once back in the parking lot, he announced that instead of driving home with us, he would find his own way home through our local nature park and golf course. Not to be outdone, Ava Fei decided she wanted to learn French. In these moments I am struck by the realization that our time as a family may never be this quiet and secluded again. Today, I can better appreciate this unique time that we have at home with those closest to us.
I can think of no better translation for the saying, “Ichi-go ichi-e.” I close this piece with a deep Japanese virtual bow—my respect and appreciation for everyone who is finding their own ways to make the most of these challenging times.
FULL FILM RELEASES FRIDAY, APRIL 17, 2020!
Until then, enjoy these previous short films from The Clark Family!
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The Clark Family: Dan, Alice, Koby, and Ava Fei
Cycling has been part of our life since our kids were born. When they were babies, cycling provided us a time-crunched workout between diaper changes. But these were solitary missions, not family adventures. Our cycling took on a new dimension in 2014 when we left our home and jobs and flew to the tip of South America for our first bike trip as a family. During our eight-month ride, north along the Andes of Chile, Argentina, and Bolivia we discovered the freedom that bikes and an open itinerary allow. We experienced the peace and solitude of roads less traveled, strengthened our family bonds, and were welcomed into a larger family of cyclists from around the world - our “Familia Ciclista.”