Silent Moving: A Soundtrack Real

January 2015
A fair chunk of what I write about in this blog are the upstream thoughts the break loose and float silently into view as I ride my bike along the North Saskatchewan River in Edmonton. I keep a Go
Pro on my handlebars to preserve the scenes. And, then, typically, I add music as I edit the video, falsifying it all. Falsifying it toward a kind of truth, for sure. The music does stand in for feeling of the ride, music suggested by the sky or the light or the joy of it all.

But the truth is that the rides are very quiet. No car radio. No bass line. No iPod. No screens emitting sounds of any kinds. But there are things to hear. Below are seven short pieces in real-time flows of a morning commute earlier this month. Together, they make a silent case for why I talk so much about riding a bicycle.

Chapter One (38 seconds): Cars Cars Cars Cars Cars Then No Cars

On days like this, as I pedal north on the 142 St. service road, the red-eyed, segmented, million-ton steel inchworm of traffic stopping and starting its way along asphalted soil, I try not to draw any conclusions. Because there are things to hear that, if I am judging, I don't hear: the bite of the riveted tires on the snowpack and the click of the shifter and the groan of the brakes.

Chapter Two (142 seconds): The Long Decline

The drop from the 142 St. Bridge into the MacKinnon Ravine has some rattles, clicks, dingdings and an inaudible good morning as I slip by a pedestrian. When you haven't spoken for a few minutes, the sound of your own voice, and that of the stranger, is wonderful. At 1:35, on the right, are my favourite trees. I sometimes say hello to them, especially if I am reading Whitman. And sometimes I hear voices of those I have never met who fought to keep this path free of automobiles.

Chapter Three (32 seconds): Big Trees

In The Gift, Hyde tells the story of Emerson's inveighing against enthusiasm as he led his friend Whitman through the streets of Boston. Don't speak so frankly about the body, the sage of Concord advised the poet. "Each point," Whitman recalled, "was unanswerable, no judge's charge ever more complete and convincing." Whitman did not, says Hyde, debate the master's caution. "I only answer'd Emerson's vehement arguments with silence, under the elms of Boston Common." I somehow hear the idea of Whitman's voice as I move along River Road, even though the trees feel more like X-ray images at this time of year.

Chapter Four (56 seconds): Fellow Rider

I had met Brian only a couple days before as we unlocked bikes at the end of the day. He told me this was his first winter a-bike. He wanted to be stronger and healthier and he was sick of sitting in car traffic on 107 Ave.

Chapter Five (30 seconds): Uphill

Climbing up the switchback hill into Faraone Park, the silent conversation can become more insistent. It's not always the $%&# easiest climb. Typically, I recall the sound of the fixie-ated Darren Markland gearing past me last summer as the rain hit. And then a fanfare as the bridge comes into view.

Chapter Six (22 seconds): Downtown

The sounds of the city return as my ride points east down 100 Ave. A more insistent beat makes itself felt as cars and pedestrians flow by. Vehicles are closer and I find myself talking out loud and narrating my way down the thread of curb lane. And I routinely hear Knopfler: Then she let a big truck/Crease her hip! And then that guitar effect.

Chapter Seven (53 seconds): The Cage

The morning commute and all its sounds -- the bike sounds, the thoughts, the music, the voices, the trees, Whitman, the cars, all of this and more -- are punctuated by the neat click of Brian's kickstand.

Until the sounds of the ride home. 


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