Fall, Winter...


There are many unexpected insights that come into view when I'm in the bicycle saddle. Many of the poetic variety have to do with the sense of freedom achieved when propelling myself.

But when the weather changes, so does my perspective. It's still gorgeous out there. There are views that make me stop and fish out the camera, like this purply-rose sky and the two snow-heavy spruce trees pointing into it.

North of MacKinnon Ravine, today

But with the glory, there is a keen sense of weakness, of marginalization. A cyclist's lane actually disappears into snow and slush. Trails are not cleared as quickly as main streets. Sidewalks over bridges   are pockmarked lunar surfaces. Even with winter tires, the act of turning a corner or moving from one car tire track into another can be enough to send my back tire out from under me. And then a split second of terror as my pedal-clipped boot fights to get loose and find the ground to prevent a fall. It's a story to which metal-encased cyborg car drivers are oblivious.

When you fall down, get right back up!

That piece of hockey rink wisdom is imparted to all of us, hockey or not, when, as children, adolescents, or young adults we have to figure out how to deal with setbacks and failure and that sense that we are the narrators but not the whole story.

Thoughts of falling off my bike echo those scenes, but they also prefigure the ones to come, when falling can be much more serious. Or fatal.

Senior citizens live everywhere with obstacles that threaten to bring them down. A dog-eared carpet, the threshold into an elevator, the speed of those whipping by, a dog,  ice, a wet floor, an incline, stairs, a door not held open, a misplaced walker, a chair not replaced, and on an on. A maze of hazards not seen by the world that moves on its metalled tracks.

Tonight as I cycled home through a stunning snowfall, I cut into the parking lot at Andy's IGA on 142 St. I glided across the ice, watching the illuminated snowflakes and their shadows dart this way and that, when an oldtimer walked out from beside his car. Our lives intersected for the time it took to exhange a look and these words.

"Good evening," I said through my balaclava. "Nice night for a ride!"
"Huh! I don't think so," he returned with a smile, adding, "I've got an artifical hip and if I fall at my age, I'm not getting back up."
My thoughts went everywhere, but I simply said: "That's the best thing. Just stay upright, sir."
"Have a good night," he said. "Have a good adventure."

That adventure can get lonely when it's one step at a time.

Self-portrait, Nov. 8, 2012


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