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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Henryville to Salem Ride in the Fall

"How beautiful, buoyant, and glad is the morning.
The first sunshine on the leaves: the first wind
laden with the breath of flowers - that deep sigh
with which they seem to waken from sleep; the first
dew, untouched even by the light foot of the early
hare; the first chirping of the early birds, as if 
eager to begin song and flight;
all is redolent of the strength given by rest, 
and the joy of a conscious life."
Letitia Landon




Sometimes dawn slaps you in the face, demanding your attention, there before you even know it.  And sometimes dawn languidly stretches, slowly seeps into the world, clad in shades of purple, pink, and gray.  Today is just such a morning as I wait in my car, facing east, seeing if anyone will show for my ride.  Would it be heresy to say that I hope that nobody shows, that I feel like riding, but I don’t feel like company?  And with the paid ride on the schedule and the distance to my ride, I get my wish.  Just my bike and me.
 
Heading through the forestry, the signs of fall surround me.  Early fallen leaves, surely premature, scatter the ground and the smell of leaf mold hangs delicately in the air taking me back to childhood and long hikes in the wooded terrain surrounding our home.  Back then fall meant acorn fights and leaf forts and school starting.  Back then meant high school football games and enviously watching my brothers play knowing that as a girl I was not allowed to compete due to my gender.  I am awakened from this reverie by a solitary runner, the rhythm of his breathing and his footsteps surging through my consciousness.  And briefly I am running here again with Carol, my running partner, before her injury, and I mourn and rejoice:  mourn for the loss of Carol and of my running days, but rejoice that I had the experience.  And I rejoice that I am here, that I am on my bike, and that the weather is perfect.
 
The trees are beginning to apologetically blush in shades of orange and yellow and red.  A falling leaf gently brushes my arm, softly caressing me, as if to apologize for this betrayal.  A squirrel scampers heedlessly across the road, his gait more of a series of arching bounds than a run, acorn in mouth, more concerned about the winter that looms ahead than me.  I suppose that my bicycle and I seem rather harmless in the face of all the danger in his world. 
 
As I leave the forested roads and slowly enter farmland, I see the changes here as well.  Soy bean fields have been neatly harvested, the fields given a flat top.  Ears of corn yield to gravity, resigned,  their  heads now facing the earth patiently awaiting their reaping rather than pointing toward the heavens, mostly brown now.  All the green in the world is relentlessly, slowly being leached away in preparation for the coming gray, colorless winter.  What green there is somehow is not as brilliant. Varying patterns of stains appear on the road, courtesy of  fallen persimmons and walnuts as the earth continues to bless us with her bounty despite our endless abuse. 
 


It is too early, this fall, this precursor to winter, the season that leaves me deeply aching, yearning inside, like a missed opportunity:  the feeling that something important has eluded me, slipped through my fingers ungrasped.  "How the hell did this happen without my noticing," I ask myself. It is too early to think about wool base layers and long pants and wool socks and balaclavas and how to keep my fingers and toes warm.  It is too early for most of my friends to hang their bicycles on garage walls leaving them forlornly abandoned until spring giggles and makes her presence known. 
 
Today I wanted to be alone, just me and my bike, but by spring I will be starved for the sight of their faces and the sound of their laughter and chatter.  I will be starved for greenness and the sound of life, the signs of rebirth. I know no amount of dragging my feet will slow this annual progression, and perhaps in the end I would not want it to.  Because this is what everything is all about, cycling, in more ways than one. How very odd….even in change there is continuity.



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