Bicycling, and Balance

I’ve been marking for days, weeks, even. Hell, I’ve been marking for years.

My dining room table is covered with snowdrifts of midterm essays circled by coffee rings. At this time of year the task of marking hangs over everything, clouding my vision, sometimes even making me disconsolate. It leaks into all the rooms of the house.

It’s called “affective labour.” As Melissa Gregg writes, “the fulfilling nature of [an academic’s] job makes employees self-motivated agents, ready and willing to work.” Times and spaces once reserved for leisure (the living room, the weekend) are given over to the academy. Gregg calls this “sacrificial labour.” She argues that academics’ ability to create highly flexible (and endless) work schedules has become a model for white collar labourers across all sectors.

Trust me, I know all about this. My father the academic; the long hot summers through which he worked and we waited for him to stop working.

Sometimes you have to say no to the work. Sunday was the end of Daylight Savings, the sun like warm honey. I invited The Scrabble Player over for a bike ride.

The warmth of the sun felt strange on our skin. We pumped up my tires and drove to the nearest cafe, Tango Palace.

With a bicycle, the world opens up. New streets, new perspective. Having just moved to the East End of Toronto and feeling doubtful about it, that bike ride was a game-changer.

After latte and conversation on a park bench, we zoomed down Leslie Street in search of Leslie Spit. We never did find it. Instead, winding trails took us to rocks and water near The Beach, cerulean blue horizon embracing us.

The glaze over my eyes dissolved. The light, the new fresh colours, and the water dazzled.

Like most people, I crave a balance between work and play and love. The solution is partly political, partly spiritual.

And that horizon, honest and implacable.

FYI:For the next few weeks, as I continue to mark, I’m inviting guest bloggers to write food stories for this site. If you have an idea for an entry, message me. Until then, happy spring!


  1. What a beautiful entry – and what stunning pictures! I have a stack of grade nine essays in front of me right now. I think it may be time for a walk in the beaches.

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