Thursday, August 09, 2007

50 miles before work

Date: Aug. 8
Mileage: 51.2
July mileage: 179.6
Temperature upon departure: 55
Inches of rain today: 0"

I used to be a 9-to-5'er, a standard-issue worker, staring bleary-eyed into my morning bowl of Wheaties and scraping ice off windshields in the predawn darkness. When I fell into the copy-editing side of newspapering, those shifts got thrown out the window - along with my prime-time TV habit, my alarm clock, and any chance of a functional social life with the other standard-issue workers. So what did I gain in return? Sometimes I wonder.

I rolled out of bed today at 8:21 to a face full of daylight that had been up for three and a half hours. In the height of summer, more than five passed by the time I woke up. But I'll never miss any of it. In fact, with as well as I've been sleeping lately, I bid the long daylight good riddance.

I lingered over breakfast for a while - who knows how long, really, as time creeps slowly in the a.m. hours. I sipped the elixir of life that some call coffee and watched thick tufts of fog crawl up the mainland mountains. The sun may come out today yet.

I debated the appeal of hiking or biking. As fog clung to view-blocking elevations, I decided I deserved at least one dry day on the bike.

Roadie is extra rickety in dry weather. A steady diet of rainwater has found its way into his headset, his bracket shell, his hubs. Rainwater now serves as his lube and without it, he creeks and groans like an 80-year-old man being dragged along on a reluctant outing. I felt bad about his life of neglect, but I also know that geography combined with my lifestyle means any bike of mine is going to be higher maintenance than a pop princess at a cocaine party. I have convinced myself that life rolls along smoother after you learn to accept the rust and the grit.

Sunlight crept through the fog in sharp beams - fingers of God light that always inject the landscape with quiet reflection. When I lose myself in those moments, I never remember, later, what kind of things I thought about or what inspiration I found. I do remember smiling and waving at a shoulder-grazing tour bus as children pressed their faces against the rear windows. In commute-mode, I let near-misses like that make me angry. But this morning, seeing those comically contorted faces reminded me that we all had the same destination ... the pursuit of wonder.

I turned around at mile 26 and meandered back to a beachside picnic area, where I set my rickety old man of a bike on the ground and shuffled in my bike shoes along the gravel shoreline. Several steps later, I discovered a blueberry patch glistening with dew and not-quite-ripe berries. I rustled through the leaves like a greedy grizzly and began popping the purple orbs in my mouth. A few were so sour they made me wince; regardless, there's something intensely sweet about devouring berries in the wild. Maybe it's the serendipity of finding them, the satisfaction of earning them; maybe there's a hunger that fruit snacks and Power Bars can't fill.

Somewhere, many miles away from that beach, my real life waited. The one with flickering screens, the meetings, the deadlines, the bad news that hasn't even happened yet. And there I was, all those miles away, mildly hypnotized by the calm rhythm of waves as I walked along with blueberry juice oozing between my fingers. It's a place I can escape to every day. It isn't even hard.

My friends always groan when I tell them my schedule. "You work from 2 to 11? That must be awful."

And all I can do is smile.