Saturday, March 10, 2012

Second spring

Spring night grocery run

When I decided years ago to drop out of the car game for a while, I thought I sort of knew what I was getting into. But, it turned out to be kind of like marriage. You can think about it in terms of practicalities--there'll be a wedding, then a honeymoon, then we'll be living together, eating meals together, we won't be dating people any more--but you actually don't have any idea what the real experience of will be like. Biking everywhere all the time has been similar in that way. I could wrap my mind around shopping by bike, and that I would get colder and wetter, and that I would get more exercise and not be buying gas any more, but the real experience of being on a bike everyday for normal stuff hasn't been much about those things at all.

My first tastes of the real cycler's life came while doing routine things I had done for years by car. Grocery shopping and fishing, for instance. There was a certain seamlessness to life that kept taking me by surprise. It's like I had expected the scenes themselves to change, but instead it was the scene changes. Years later, it's still the transitions that have changed my world the most. This year it's the seasonal changes that have my attention.

There aren't just four seasons any more, for one thing. And there's more than temperature, daylight, and precipitation in their measure. There are tiny seasons marked by the wind, the smell of the river and plants, the spring peepers and birds and bullfrogs. The shapes and colors of clouds, where they come from, and where they're going. Where the hobo camps are, how many, and how boisterous. I would agree with you if all of that makes me sound like some inarticulate but earnest hippie. But, the funny thing is I'm much more of an average city Joe these days than I ever have been. I haunt coffee shops instead of trout streams, and I'm more likely to see a sunset on my flickr feed than behind the west hills.

I find I'm getting worse and worse at explaining my experiences to others, and that's part of the reason that this blog has floundered. I get stumped when people ask me basic questions about what it's like to bike all year. I've kind of lost the ability to relate it to things. When someone asks a simple question like, "What's it like riding in the rainy season?" I think "Where to begin? There are so many things you should know about the rain, man! There are so many types of rain, to start with." Then I give up and say something brilliant like "Sometimes you get wet." In that way it's a lot like trying to explain being married to single friends. By the time you start to understand it, you can't explain it anymore.

Happy second spring everyone. The one with the swirling winds, the rain that smells like laundry, the nervous frogs, the giggling birds, grey-green river, and the southwestern clouds that have important appointments somewhere northeast of here.

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Blogger Pondero said...

Sounds quite articulate to me. And compelling. More, please.

6:20 PM  
Anonymous George said...

I've been without car in San Francisco for six years
but only tried biking to work back during a month stationed in Japan. It must have rained every day -- and, yes, I understand what it was like, but, no, I can't explain it either. Keep it coming.

3:57 PM  
Anonymous Marge said...

Love it! Poetry by bike!

7:39 AM  

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