Thursday, November 17, 2005
The Days Dwindle DownSo far it's been an exceptionally warm November here on the Delmarva Peninsula, more like a normal October. October itself was not normal, it was warm and dry, almost a continuation of summer. I'm not complaining, mind you, just saying. However, later today things are supposed to change and a cold front come blowing in. I’ve just ridden back from the Post Office, and I can feel that the wind has already changed.
Sometime last spring I pulled my ancient Raleigh three-speed out of the garage, cleaned off the cobwebs and took it to a bikeshop for an overhaul: new tires, brake work, lube job, whatever it needed. It seemed to me that it was time for me to walk the walk (ride the ride?) that I've been talking for quite some time, and become a bicycle commuter.
And so I began cycling to the college through the lovely greening of spring, soft wind and drizzles of May. I continued with summer school in June and July, pedaling past the corn and soybean fields, watching the plants grow taller with every rainstorm and subsequent days of sunshine. Roadside wildflowers came and went, vetch and chicory, queen anne's lace, golden rod and milkweed. Butterflies kept me company, though I know they were really there for the flowers. In our dry late summer/early autumn everything became brown and brittle, I worried about the second crop of soybeans rattling in the wind. The wild morning glory vines didn't mind the heat, they grew up the telephone poles, over the soybean and corn stalks, purple blossoms cheering me on as I got closer to my goal.
When fall classes began I rode past crops being harvested, the air full of noise, dust and chaff. It became a different landscape than the one I'd known the previous months, open now, and spacious. Buzzards and hawks wheeled overhead in the dry blue sky, looking for mice in the empty fields. Once we got some rain, the trees slowly began to show traces of color, although it hasn't been much of an autumn here for that. The dry weather returned, and only the crape myrtles were really glorious. Now the trees are almost bare, curled dry leaves blowing everywhere - only the ginko in our front yard still a bright yellow flame. This coming storm will drop that tonight in a golden rain of leaves on the yard and sidewalks.
Every morning that I heave my backpack onto my shoulders and pedal off to the college, I wonder - is this the last of my cycle commuting for the winter? I suspect this morning may have been it. I don't know how dedicated I can be once the temperature drops and the headwind that I'm always facing becomes icy.
I'll only have to make this committment to green commuting for a short while longer, one way or the other. I've given my notice to my department head, and the end of the semester will be the end of my morning travels to the college. Our long-planned move to New Mexico is becoming a reality, so that my winter will be spent sorting, giving away, selling, tossing out, the enormous collection of Stuff we seem to have. I'm overwhelmed by this collection of Stuff, and at a loss how to begin diminishing it.
I will miss my cycling seasons down to the college. Riding, commuting, doing errands - I seem to have grown addicted to it, as runners are rumored to do with running (never happened to me, I blew my knees out and was all too happy to quit). I arrive for my classes sweaty and happy, alive and full of energy. I feel closer to the place I inhabit, feel that I, like the birds, butterflies, wildflowers, dry leaves and soybeans, am a real part of nature. It's an addiction I hope to continue, and recommend to all. In saving some gallons of gasoline, I’ve unexpectedly saved a part of myself that I wasn’t even aware needed saving. The old Raleigh is going with me to Albuquerque. I hope it’s a city with bike lanes.
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No subject for immortal verse
That we who lived by honest dreams
Defend the bad against the worse."
-- Cecil Day-Lewis from Where Are The War Poets?
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