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Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Memorial Ride

"Just as a painter needs light in order to
put the finishing touches to his painting, so
I need an inner light, which I feel I never have
enough of in the autumn."
Leo Tolstoy

What an incredible few days of riding it has been.  Chilly mornings that give way to afternoons warm enough to ride in jersey and shorts.   Fall, tenacious and stubborn, has held on this year.  Rain seems to be a thing of the past, a distant memory, and while the trees are beginning to shed leaves that should be gone a week or more by now, they lack the wild, riotous colors that normally characterize this time of year.  I suspect the two are linked, but I really don't know and I have been too busy riding to read and find out.  Riding:  it is what I do.  Not quickly anymore, but I still turn the pedals.  It is only on the bike that I seem halfway whole.

Wednesday: it is my husband's birthday.  So as not to drown the office with my loss, I take off work deciding to ride and spend the day alone with my thoughts able to laugh or cry or sing without encumbrance.  In truth, I will do all three, a wild sweep of emotions. While I take my GPS,  I also want  freedom, so I do not plot a route.  I take the Surly so the gravel will not be a deterrent if a road should call me, and off I pedal hoping to find glimpses of him in the blue of the sky, in the caress of a leave that brushes my arm as it pirouettes to the ground, its last dance with the wind before settling,  in the last of the bird calls, in the wing of the hawk that flies overhead, its shadow gently kissing me.  It is almost as if he is here when I come upon these signs:  

Where, I wonder, Alice like, am I to keep going to.  I feel as if he were speaking to me because I know he would chastise me for grieving for him so and for not moving on quickly enough.  Then I reach the "almost there" sign.  I had not intended to go that direction, but I cannot help myself; however, I never reach "there" to find out what it was or why I would want to go there. "What," I wonder, "did I miss?"  But still, I obey the first sign and keep going.

I spend the days picking new roads and then using my GPS to find a road I am familiar with when I began to be concerned about how far I am from home and being sure I can return before dark as I have no lights on my bike presently and no rescue wagon.  I think about my posterior vitreous detachment and how quickly things can  happen and try to drink up every color and sensation and swallow it whole so that it never leaves me.  My understanding is that it is quite normal and will possibly never trouble me again other than being annoying as all get out, but it could result in a tear that would have more dire consequences. Well, maybe not normal, but not earth shattering.  I do tend to over dramatize at times.  I think how I miss having him say everything will be okay, and how somehow, even though it wasn't, the worry was much lighter when he lifted half of the burden.

I learn that when there is grass growing in the middle of a gravel road, it is a good indication that the road does not go through, but it also can lead to some lovely vistas and alone time.  I think of how the reflection of the trees in the water is like Plato's cave, beautiful but still just a reflection that only mimics reality.  I think of the the things I have learned about myself over the past two years, some of which I like and some which I don't and what I hope I can change and what I hope I can keep.  All in all, I think how very, very lucky I am to have health and a bicycle and rural roads that I can haunt in relative safety despite being a woman and alone.  And I am thankful for a beautiful, warm fall day perfect for meandering.

On Saturday's ride, later this week, Cathy introduces me to the person who first introduced her to bicycling, and it makes me wonder,  "What would my life have been and be now if I had never started bicycling?   And I think, perhaps it needs more thought though I think I may have an answer, or as good of an answer you can have with a "what if," a path whose destination you will never really know because you chose not to travel it.  Like the man you almost married or the career you might have embarked upon.

But today, today I was alone, just me, my bike, and the roads, calling to me like an ancient Siren called to the mariner, seductive and full of promises. There is not enough light, external or internal, to flesh out the day in the way I would like, but I appreciate that I have the day.  And I know that I need to just "keep going" and maybe one day I will know where it is I am suppose to be going to since I am "almost there." 

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