Some tiny creature, mad with wrath,

Is coming nearer on the path.

--Edward Gorey

Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S. Outlying Islands

Writer, lawyer, cyclist, rock climber, wanderer of dark residential streets, friend.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Kissed By Spring

Over two weeks since last I arrived at work on two wheels, last night I went to bed in a drizzle and doubted my triangle-shaped Tuesday commute would allow for a bike. Even as late as the shower this morning, I remained uncertain. Emerging from the shower, however, I found sun streaming through the open bathroom door and spilling down the tile wall.

I wandered into the living room, wrapped in a towel, hair wild about my head, and leaned over a chair into a high livingroom window, spattered opaque with last night's rain, a thousand jewels obscuring my street view with their brilliant twinkling in the morning sun. But unlocking and then sliding open the tall window, I had the immediate sensation of childhood springtime, a day to bring only a light jacket to school that would never leave my bag once out of Mom's sight.

From an elevated dais somewhere down the block birds sang reveille, the neighborhood's morning news, the facing houses chin-tucked and enshadowed while the sun tried in vain to read the newspaper over their shoulders. The road shone still. The brief pause following the opening of the window -- outside air startled into stillness, momentarily, to find such a warm and generous portal to explore -- ended, and the damp morning chill warily poked its nose through the screen, before entering like a familiar houseguest into an unfamiliar party, head high, hand outstretched in greeting, presumptuous without importuning.

An invitation to ride I couldn't decline.

Forty-five minutes later, fed, vitamin'd, dressed in shin-length cut-off cargo pants instead of the fleece-lined tights to which I've grown all too accustomed, I hit the street. (Actually, first I wrestled with my messenger bag, which for whatever reason continues to baffle me utterly. The cats were laughing, I swear. If they're not careful, one of these days I'm going to bathe them. Then we'll see what's so goddamned funny.)

On the street, for the first time in two months of learning, I was comfortable on my still new-to-me fixed-gear cycle from the second my foot left the ground. I started on the sidewalk and was snapped into both pedals before I reached the first driveway ramp into the street. On the street, my cadence was immediately smooth and easy as I held back just a bit heading down my hill to the light, acclimating my legs to the locomotive circles that would define their next 20 minutes or so. Passing to the right of cars waiting at the light, my head swiveled unthinkingly scanning at once the traffic and the road surface for hazards, errant cars making unexpected moves, pedestrians, pocks and gravel. And this was so easy, all of a sudden; my pedaling required no thought: as I looked for an appealing opening to join the flow of traffic, my feet found just the right degree of hesitation, accelerating momentarily when something appeared to open up, and then resisting again at precisely the moment I decided the opening wasn't as good as it first had seemed -- no intermediation whatsoever, hard wiring.

Finally merging into the thoroughfare's morning rush, I discovered that my wrists and my tailbone ached from Sunday's long ride, that my thighs felt a bit hollow and stiff, but my legs warmed easily enough to the movement, and my right shin to the knee was stimulated rather than chilled by the breeze to which it was exposed. For a change, my eyes didn't water as their humor adjusted to the outside air.

Everywhere I rode, every hill taken slowly, every time I allowed myself to quicken to catch a light, every intersection, every abrupt ninety-degree change of direction to angle around a car and thus avoid stopping, all were as natural as picking up a pen and paper, or down-shifting to pass someone on the interstate, like breathing almost, no anxiety for the ever-present risk of someone (quite possibly me) doing something stupid, just being -- on the bike -- on the road -- in traffic -- in the morning breeze.

Kissed by spring, which -- like the jail-trail ride into Oakland I have to look forward to this afternoon -- can't come soon enough. Every day should begin with such promise.

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Blogger matt said...

Great post; I love morning like that when everything just "clicks", and the riding feels fairly effortless. (of course it was effortless.. your ride in is all downhill!!! ) :-P

11:23 AM  

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