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 ...)

6 comments:

  1. Jill,

    I am a closet "Up In Alaska" fan. When I am reading your site, my coworkers always say "Is that the girl you read about in Alaska." "No!", I quickly retort....

    I really enjoyed your post today. "...I chose it, so therefore I am free." That comment really strikes me. I commute to work daily, but only 12 miles at a stint. I I can usually only get about 500 miles a month in, so I am always in awe of your mileage. Raining, windy, 100 degrees, whatever.....we choose it to be free. We choose it to be alive.

    I too worry about the day when cycling will be taken from me.

    Thanks for all your writing on the blog. I enjoy reading it, so keep up the great work!

    Adam
    roadie
    4 stars, 2 bars

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  2. I am always amazed by your photographs but today, the writing captured my attention even more.
    Excellent choice of words! :^)

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  3. Anonymous12:36 PM

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    ReplyDelete
  4. I enjoyed the writing and the photography. As in my mind, taking the "same" picture twice is not the issue as it is never the same. Your eyes, your mind, your heart saw something different the second time. I enjoyed both images immensely. When I take landscapes down here in Utah, it is always about what I see, and what I felt when I pushed the button.

    JIm Rudnicki, Layton, UT
    Pics from Bryce on this week's post.

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  5. NOT the same picture at all. They both tell their own stories, and I like them both. Did you notice the boater in todays pic is doing something with the engine? I could imagine he's stranded alone. Yesterdays photo looks like a fisherman's traffic jam.

    As far as not riding sometime in the future, I STILL get passed going uphill by guys who could be my father (70+). Here's hoping we are these old guys to the next generation coming along...

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  6. You shoe to take this picture, from essentially the same vantagepoint as yesterday. What an excellent choice, both in the ride and the picture.

    You could take a picture from this vantage everyday and I'd still look forward to it..

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