Monday, November 4, 2013

The Late Cyclist

My watch has a life of its own. It lost an hour on Sunday morning without my knowing about it. Not a big deal, except that I was scheduled to join friends on an early morning bike ride. I arrived at our meeting place at what I thought was almost an hour early, only to realize I was an hour late. My group had gone on without me I am sad to say.

That meant that I would be riding alone into the wind for almost a hundred miles. I would lose the physical benefits of drafting and the psychological benefits of company and working for the group. It was my day to go deep before El Tour de Tucson, part of the "training," if you can call what I squeeze into a life of teaching, house-holding, and volunteer work training.

"S*#t!" I thought, followed shortly after by "Oh well..."

So, I pulled my bike off the rack and set out into the climbs, the flats, the intermittent downhills, and the winds.

The ride ran its course from feeling fit and strong to labored pain. And, of course, as the pain increased, the focus on the here and now grew sharper and sharper and more basic. My thoughts progressed from the lofty "What am I in this life?" to "Man, my butt hurts," to "I doubt I can keep moving," to no thoughts at all in a dogged, animal stubbornness to finish.

I got to the bottom of things: breath, blood, movement, solitude.

I wore myself out, which, I guess, was the point of going deep. And, more than anything, it was where I wanted to be on this lovely November day of the All Souls Procession. I would go downtown after the ride and join the Tucson ceremony that honors death, and by extension, life.

So, with long, lonely miles in my legs I walked with the others who remembered those who have left us. Several tens of thousands, maybe a hundred thousand, lined the streets and walked in memory. I carried a drum and danced in the street, with painted face and wearing a cyclist cap: I was the dead cyclist. The late cyclist.

Maybe, as much any label, that it is what I will leave behind, how people will describe me. Even though I have never been very fast, or accomplished, recognized as a cyclist. It was part of what runs through me, independent of talent or winning anything.

In this life, anyway, the clock time did not coincide with talent, opportunity, or strength of will.

A woman next to me in the All Souls Procession asked me if I knew a man who had died recently on Mount Lemmon while descending on his bike. I did, but only by name and appearance.

"He loved to ride," she said.

She then told me she was walking in his memory, in honor of his vision.

So was I, I guess, so was I.

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