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Look! No Hands… I'm flying

Reminiscences that begat the Rhythm Cycles Series

The bicycle, that wonder of freedom-bringing wind-blown impulses, perching, gliding, flying….

My dad removes training wheels in a ceremony of big-girl excitement. Comforted by his closeness, his hand on the seat, I begin shakily, moving slowly ahead.  Suddenly, I sense that instant of perfect balance.  I hear cheers behind me!   I can ride, no FLY alone!  

Pumping, straining up the hill, almost there, breathing hard, a bit of fear, then a breakneck glide down, no one to stop me, true freedom on a pair of wheels….Look, no hands, I'm flying!!!!  My bike, ultimate escape of whirling zeal, fueled by a peanut butter sandwich in one hand and a wrist on the handlebar. Can't stop now, I gotta meet Billy! 

I finished college, got a job, apartment, responsibility.  Bikes are stashed in the corner of the basement, losing air and attitude.  An occasional glance, a blip of remorse, I should take one to my place to ride again. 

In Heidelberg, there is a narrow street between high walls, punctuated with darkened doorways and shaded windows, that I call, "the street where the bicycles live."  I never saw a person around, but bikes reside there, hanging out in twos, threes and fives, trading shadowy secrets.  As the two-wheeled comrades await their next adventure, they huddle against planes and angles of buildings in a tableau of circles, ellipses and triangular shapes.  

My young friend, Klaas, and I went to sketch Bicycle Street.  He complained that it was too hard to draw all the spokes, cables, pedals and such.  I showed him the few simple lines and shapes forming each bike, the space around and within it.  I explained that the movement was stilled for the moment so we should quickly sketch the anticipated escape, the ride from the dark shadows to the open street.    

Life mimics the bicycle's ride, but makes too many stops along the way, spinning wheels to seek perfection instead of breaking away in energetic glides. 

It's wonderfully pleasant to feel cool air whisk by on a bike ride, but so annoying when it boxes your ears from a car window.  

I don't want to be too busy to stop, too preoccupied to see or too deep in me to ride away and say,  "Look! No hands….. I'm flying!


About Sue Russell

Sue Russell's work varies from expressive realism to conceptual abstraction.


Her favorite subjects are musicians; people involved in daily routines, objects in intriguing places…the rhythm of life.  She carries a sketchbook wherever she goes, capturing movement with line, space with shapes and ideas in words.  After the images and ideas have meshed, she takes a paint-filled brush and lets the passion of the moment emerge from the surface, sometimes quietly, sometimes with fanfare.


Russell has a BFA in Graphic Design from the University of Georgia and an MA from Arizona State University. She has 30 years experience teaching and exhibiting art in the US, Saudi Arabia and Germany and currently shows her work at Gallery 209 in Brunswick and The Little Art Gallery in Raleigh, NC.


Russell and her husband, Padgett Cleveland, lived and worked in Saudi Arabia and Germany and traveled around the world with backpacks, sketchbooks, cameras and journals, honing their observation skills and enjoying life.  They returned to the states in 2000 and reside in Brunswick, Georgia and Cedar Mountain, North Carolina.                                                    Back To Top