Singletrack Commute, revisited

This morning I drummed myself up out of bed shortly after the sun rose above Grotto Mountain. It was a close call. I hit the snooze button once, and then twice, and then finally I sleepily calculated the time I had left before work and then rolled out. I have time, I thought. I have time.

I was on my bike before I knew what was happening and it was far from natural. The crank was loose, I could feel that. My derailleur was ghost shifting, there was that too. A backpack on my back with a change of clothes and my work things and that was immensely uncomfortable. It was colder than I had dressed for. This wasn’t my normal bike ride where I’m stripped down to almost nothing with no weight on my back, jumping on my lungs and my heart and my legs to push harder. This was a slow, labored and arduous thing. Not a workout, but a struggle.

But as I circled through Spray Village around the reservoir I looked east to my right. Through the valley gap between Grotto Mountain and Pigeon Mountain the sun had scrambled through the clouds and albeit still covered within, there were rays of it that struck the ground around me. Simple beams of light through the atmosphere.

I circled into the singletrack and started to climb. I jumped three whitetail deer who likely didn’t expect to see a rider so early and whispered at them to be calm like they could understand. More pedaling and then a descent, and a flat, and another descent, and another flat. I cornered poorly and pedaled without strength. I had hoped for amazing insight through this morning’s ride – it has happened before – but all I understood was a need to get to work on time and the pressures of making something to do during the day, and the fear that things are simply passing me by. I didn’t have an ounce of flow, right out of the gates. These trails might well have been concrete.

I spent the day trying to manufacture meaning, but didn’t until the very end.

A friend at work introduced his daughter as I was leaving and she just walked by. He called her back and she came, but wasn’t interested. She didn’t shake hands, she didn’t bump knuckles, she simply did not care. I don’t fault her for that in the slightest. She’s maybe 8 years old and has better things to do than meet some old guy, but as I spun my bike slowly homeward I thought about how quickly we move through our days and miss the small moments of meeting others. How we look at someone and see what they look like and quickly throw them out with the bathwater, or embrace them wholehearted.

At the market there is a booth from a vendor called MountainMystics. You’ll look at these guys – as I did – as something out of the ordinary to be dismissed. What you won’t see, or know, is that these two guys who look like lost, homeless souls, forage nature for their food, and produce medicine from plants that they gather in the wild, and cook amazing meals of natural products to share with friends and waste very little. Their understanding of sustainability, and their embodiment of it, goes well beyond the lip service that most of us pay. They are contributing to the betterment of our community more than most of us every will, without being the cool kids.

We trip through our days and stumble on good things. We need to keep our eyes open.

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