Saturday, July 16, 2011

Cycling...with nature

Heading down into the Otto Kerl valley

Dream Farm goat creamery outside of Black Earth

As with most silent sports, one can easily become more in tune with the changes that take place year to year, season to season, month to month.  It doesn't take long to fall into this rhythm if you choose to let the senses take over.

While on a ride yesterday, moving into the driftless zone of Southern Wisconsin, I became acutely aware of the differences this exact ride had roughly one year ago to date.  The corn stalks were about a foot taller last year at this time, the Japanese beetles had already turned many of the leaves into lace and the gypsy moths seemed to make cities out of side roads. 

After riding my favorite routes time and time again, I feel as if they are sometimes my "home".  I know it sounds strange to say that 30-50 miles of road could be so familiar that I would call it home, however, there is no other way I can describe this sensation.  I look forward to punctuations that mark certain dates.  Early March, my unconditioned legs burn climbing up the slightest hill and my lungs fill with the smell of freshly spread manure coming from the Aker family farmsteads.  Late March to early April the sandhill cranes return to the cornfields in hopes of finding leftovers from the previous harvest.  Early June, my legs become more fluid and I'm able to climb higher and look down upon my favorite goat farm to see the kids playing in the pasture.  July brings the loss of spots on this year's fawns along with a thickness of air that seems to add 10lbs. to the bike.  August warns that the summer is about to close with falling black walnuts that will make even the most fearless cyclist cringe.  And then into autumn, when the shadows become long, the light casts hues of yellow and orange and the geese begin to fly overhead in chevron formation.  I find these rhythms or cycles comforting not unlike holding my favorite coffee mug each morning.

Yesterday I took in the details as well as the big picture.  The smell of corn fields mid July during a long dry spell, the tiger lilies along the roadside that escaped long ago from someones yard, the patches of ripe blackberries that fueled me through the second half of my ride and the feeling that I'm so small in the big, beautiful world.

Being someone that spent so many years moving across the country and abroad, getting to know land so well is still a novelty for me.  If I grew up in one house and lived my entire life in one city or town I'm not sure that I would appreciate this awareness.  Instead, I may resent it.  For now I rejoice in "settling in" whether it be for the long haul or just a cycle in my life.

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