Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Freezing fog

Date: Feb. 5
Mileage: 25.2
February mileage: 121.6
Temperature upon departure: 34

When I left my office tonight, the landscape was enveloped in vision-obscuring fog. Halfway-frozen droplets drifted sluggishly through the thick air. Where they collided with solid objects, shields of white frost were beginning to form. Fatally silent as fog tends to be, the scrape of my footsteps on the gravel was by contrast deafening. So I stopped to listen, for a moment, to nothing at all. The churn of a newspaper press echoed somewhere distant - by the sound of it, distance measured in miles, at least. The drifting droplets began to collide with my body. Their icy grip tightened around my skin, and I could feel frost shields forming around me.

I thought of Dave and Doug, of several dozen other cyclists out on the Arrowhead 135 trail, noses wrapped in a shield of neoprene and dangling closer, closer to the handlebars. The headlines today screamed "ARCTIC BLAST." Not in the Arctic, just beyond my home, but somewhere distant - somewhere in northern Minnesota. Where schools and highways shut down and the feds closed up shop. Everything moves real slow when it's 40 below. It would be 2 a.m. there. Were the cyclists, too, stopped in the midst of endless ice fog, struggling with the disconnect of intense physical effort and minds they had to shut down a long time ago. Were they, too, listening, for a moment, to nothing at all? Waiting, for a moment, for nothing at all? Wondering where the wilderness trail ends, or if it even began?

I thought of Geoff, still gripped by injury and the crushing disappointment of two months of effort for naught. We set these goals in our search for purpose until they become our purpose; we embark on these journeys in our search for identity until they become our identity. To take away my bike would be the first step on a slippery slope that in the end could strip me of who I am. I would be unmolded, undefined, drifting. If Geoff is stripped of his ability to run, who is he? Even in temporary setbacks, life has a way of moving on.

I could almost feel the ice crystals shattering as I began to walk again, with an unfocused gaze drifting toward a faint stream of orange light. I imagined it was just a street light or possibly a house. But as the light crept through the opaque night, it cast a blurry path of impossible warmth and comfortable direction. I felt like I could follow and it would take me where I wanted to go, if only I could remember where I wanted to go.

I drift, for a moment, but eventually the fog has to lift.