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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.

Sunday, September 21, 2014


"I've dreamed a lot.  I'm tired now of dreaming but not 
tired of dreaming.   No one tired of dreaming because
to dream is to forget, and forgetting does not weigh
on us, it is a dreamless sleep throughout which we 
remain awake.  In dreams I have achieved everything."
Fernando Pessoa

I am tired.  I did not bounce back from the 1000K Appalachian Adventure as readily as I would like.  I suppose I grow old or lazy or a combination of the two. Indeed, only yesterday did I do a century ride and it has been almost two weeks since the ending of the adventure, an adventure I did write about but cannot yet share.  Yes, yesterday I rode 116 miles with friends from Louisville to Mammoth Cave, or at least most of the ride was with friends. 

 Near the end I tire, really tire, and I ride in alone not stopping when the others stop for ice cream.   I must say I do enjoy parts of the ride, particularly the first fifty or sixty miles, before it becomes a chore rather than a pleasure, and for some odd reason those last few  miles when I was alone and the rain fell from the sky hard and steady. a malleable wall to fight. Mental or physical weariness, that is the question, for sometimes when a dream is fulfilled, despite that dream being satisfied, it takes awhile to lose the longing for that dream, to accept it is now a reality, particularly a reality that had a conclusion. For it is the human condition to strive for what we have not yet achieved or to perfect an experience that was imperfect, to be a bit dissatisfied however satisfying the experience.  It is why we go on.  It is why we dream.

And yet despite being weary, I do cherish the conversation with friends too seldom seen; I do smile and laugh and admire the flowers and the scenery, and I do mourn and let go of something, or at least let go a bit  of something that has haunted me for far too long, a might have been that I know very well would not have had a good conclusion for true happiness cannot be achieved on the back of others suffering, at least for me. 

The course brings back so many memories of trips to Mammoth Cave, both with friends and family.  And I sleep after I arrive and replenish my body, sleeping longer than I have in a number of years other than when ill, and perhaps replenish my soul. Being with my daughter who met me there does me good, for despite being her own person she is half me, bound by blood and the first suckle, bound by years of shared experiences, both happy and sad, and bound by love.

No, I do regret  not having to ride home as I have always done in the past other than the year nobody rode home due to unusually inclement weather, or I don't regret it enough to change my mind. For just a moment I worry that I have lost my love of the bike, of the effort, of the joyful way it makes me feel,  but deep down I know that soon my bicycle will call to me as a lover calls to his beloved, that I will once again be seduced by his blandishments,  and both my body and spirit will answer the call.  And I will have new dreams of achievements, some of which will become real and some of which will not, but all of which will nourish my soul.  And they will not weigh on me, but lift me upwards to new experiences and other achievements, however minor they may seem.  But until I hear his sylvan voice, I will rest knowing that however far he strays he will return.  And that even while resting, perhaps particularly while resting, I can dream.