Thursday, June 16, 2011

Mountain Rider

Ten o'clock rolled around at the CUP. Everything was quiet but lit up with bright fluorescent overheads. The floors, some colorless tile, reflected the light, and beyond my square, frameless window existed only pure blackness. I stripped in my office and pulled on my bike shorts and my favorite; the HooRWA riding shirt I earned last year for a 75 mile ride in the hills of New England. Black LG sleeves slid on, and cycling shoes strapped to my feet. Finally I grabbed my cycling gloves and helmet.


As I rolled down the quiet hallway to the door I shut off the lights and the put the CUP to rest for the night. I opened the outside door, heavy and metal, breathed deep the cool and damp night air. As I let the door swing closed behind me I turned on my rear flashing red lights and my forward white light...which provided very little in the way of sight. The moon, big and bright, shone overhead. Clicking into my pedals, i started off slowly, the gravel popping under my tires as I trekked slowly toward the road.


Nobody was out and about. People were in their beds with lovers or pets or both. Many alone. Houses were quiet. The very occasional car drove lazily by. My plan tonight was to bike over the mountain, over Mt. Pleasant, the highest point in Ithaca. I had moved to Ellis Hollow mainly because I wanted that mountain close and I wanted it to challenge me. It loomed in the distance, dark, silhouetted in the light of the moon.


Breathe.


Up Stevenson road I went, slowly, deliberately. The pungent sweetness of freshly spread manure hung heavily in the air. Large swaths of field, eerily lit by the pale moonlight, seemed alive and as one with the light wind that caused ripples as if the vegetation had turned liquid. My useless light, dulled by the moon, shone only on pavement a few feet ahead. And yet there was the shadow of bicycle and rider, pushing along, finding no difficulty riding up hills that only existed in daylight.


Onto Turkey Hill and then, oh, the steep, steep Mt. Pleasant. Leather shoes creaked and chain with metal rings strained up the first leg. Dark: Hidden in the shadows of trees, the road became an abyss. But no matter. There was no hill, only darkness. Only the distant call of a bullfrog, the rustle of leaves, the running of a deer scared by a quiet two-wheeled animal prowling the mountain. Heating up, but cooled by the night, the slow up and then down, down, down so very fast. Wind whipping by, pulling at clothes and face, watering eyes....then up...


The road up the mountain is bordered mainly by field, and the fields are low and quiet even in the wind. The moon, my god, the moon shone so bright. At the highest point I stopped. A circular rainbow surrounded that big white moon. So bright was she you could see the blue sky. In the distance, shadows...mountains...hid a storm. Orange flashes like fireworks, brilliant in size and stature, defined the dark edges and colored the horizon. Close to me, fluttering around the fields, a million fireflies flashed... green, green, yellow...green, reddish...dancing the dance of spring and summer.


I never knew the night could be so colorful.


Getting off my bicycle I stood there. I stood in amazement and watched the beauty of life and color unfold about me. I watched this dance on the mountain of atmosphere and biosphere, intricately woven together, playing out an ancient ritual that will continue long past the time I am gone and done. Dust and atoms I will be to feed the future plays of our planet.


I blinked.


Then shook my head.


All people, so afraid of their shadow. Afraid to live. Afraid of the night. Hiding in houses, wrapped up, confined and consoled by a television or computer that tries so very hard to convince them that the lives they lead, the world they have surrounded themselves with is right and good, that they should be afraid of everything and listen, listen, listen to the electric preacher that comforts them and reinforces their bad decisions, their life of possessions.


In the end we posses nothing but memories and experiences. We are the culmination of those experiences at our end.


These memories, these feelings, these sights and smells...oh the smells...


Riding down Ringwood the scent of wood smoke teased my nostrils and then, the smell of skunk assaulted them. Fragrant tones colored the breeze as more flowers have bloomed, more plants have unraveled their sex and life into the air. I sang and whistled "Yellow Submarine" as my bicycle coasted down the mountain...for joy and for the ears of animals and especially deer that might run into my speedy path...


I rode on. Home.


Found my box. Put my bicycle away. Sat down.


And I remembered.


The only thing I could do is share and hope that someday, those I share this with, will have a story for me, and experience they loved or will come to love, and will enrich my life with it.


My one night over the mountain ends...with the thought of many more to come teasing my mind.