Monday, June 18, 2007

Choices

Date: June 18
Mileage: 25.1
June mileage: 404.8
Temperature upon departure: 49

Yesterday I penciled in a weightlifting session at the gym and this morning I scratched it out. Instead, I chose to go out for yet another bike ride. I chose to go for a ride because my eyelids felt as heavy as my legs. I chose to go for a ride because I should be “tapering” for whatever “race” I may be registered for this weekend. I chose to go for a ride because it was 49 degrees out. I chose to go for a ride because it was raining.

But I chose it, so therefore I’m free.

I moved against the wind at a decent clip, fighting my way north in a barrage of rainwater that didn’t concern me, with a slight chill that didn’t affect me. I chose the rainwater. I chose the chill. I chose the subtle pangs of muscle fatigue. I had nothing left to fear.

Beyond me was a world I cannot chose, so it is more fascinating than anything I can imagine. Drapes of clouds drooped over the mountains. Heavily weighted by water vapor, the clouds fell beneath treetops and rose again in swirling puffs of gray. The view was strikingly similar to that of a forest on fire, spewing streams of smoke into a hazy sky.

I wavered on the pedals a moment, only because I remembered the way the mountains burned. When we were kids we would mash our fixed-gear Huffy’s all the way to the top of the highest neighborhood street, where an unobstructed view of Lone Peak revealed the source of the brown smog, and it choked out the horizon. Smoke rose from rows of charred brush. It was dull gray like the overcast sky, but in spots it was as black as our magic-maker-colored fingernails. The air smelled toxically sweet, like barbecue-flavored potato chips gone horribly wrong, or the time Andrea stuck a Barbie in the oven, just to prove that things melt. We’d crinkle our noses and lick our lips to taste the carbon, and we’d gasp as faraway wisps of fire stabbed at the air. We’d say it was ugly but we knew it was beautiful, with its crimson-filtered sunsets and flames that glowed orange in the blackest part of night.

Even long after we stopped riding our bikes, and bought beater cars and moved to the city, we’d still drive to the benches and sit for hours, just to watch the mountains burn.

Now the wildfires are far away, replaced by a world cold and drenched in natural flame retardant. The air smells sweet like springtime, with earth doused in moss and lupine. But the image remains.

Will I ever chose to live in the desert again?

Will I ever chose to not ride a bicycle again?

Will I ever have it taken away from me again?

I think I may be destined for it all. But beauty will always be a choice.


(I realize I basically took this exact same photo yesterday. But today there were fewer boats, more distinct reflections, and otherworldly blue light on the glacier - which didn't really register in the image, but just the same ...)