Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Being there

Be there to hear it, it will be the only time,
most of all to hear,
the flute of your whole existence,
rehearsed by the sorrows,
play itself into total exhaustion.
 - Galway Kinnell

As daylight fades, the goal is Whitfield, population 300 (which includes the surrounding area).

Normally I'd be working hard to get there. There's always some uncertainty about reaching the next control. But the King Valley is pancake-flat and full of rural, almost Mediterranean beauty. Little farm towns and signs pointing to wine trails, local food, B&Bs. The air temperature is perfect, the views expansive and bucolic, the light soft. With fresh legs this would be no problem.

After three long days on the bike, it's natural to slip into a sort of grim execution mode. Treat each leg  as a task to be done, a project, no more. What I'm really working at right now is staying awake, taking it all in, easing up a bit. Savoring this place. After all, it might be the only time.

Connecting to a place in more than a surface way requires energy, and patience. Things that might be in short supply after riding 900km. There's also a real risk of losing focus. At the moment I'd rather be a dreamy tourist heading to a B&B. Not Rider #3, who needs to get to Whitfield and eventually Mansfield, before sleeping.

If it were natural to focus on a goal for days on end, events like this would simply not exist. I'm sure of that.

At least I'm not alone. Not another rider in sight, but coming from the trees along the road is a raucous thrumming. Surrounded by cicadas! Thousands of them, from the sound of it.

An ancient, original song. More rhythm than white noise, less melody than birdsong.  Enthusiastic and everywhere and not exact. Tiny variations in tone that are mysterious, impossible to pin down. Does each insect have its own signature? Does the sound itself vary according to phase?

The warmth of spring draws them up from underground, next to the tree roots. Inspires them to shed their skins and sing. The sound envelops everything, like water. It's impossible not to feel buoyant, alive.

The road to Whitfield starts winding next to a low ridge of hills, climbing gradually. Trees are dense on either side of the road, as well as overhead. To the right in a thicket runs a small creek or watering ditch, where cattle are gathered. Maybe that's just where they like to hang out. Cicadas are thick in the trees among them. The thrumming is deafening, so loud you want to laugh.

On a gentle roller I stand up for more leverage. With each pedal stroke the Waterford seems to respond by wagging, back and forth. Back and forth. Then, the wagging feels exaggerated, on the verge of losing my balance. And again. Either this is a trance or something is wrong.

I pull over and feel the front tire. It's soft.


1 comment :

  1. Flats - the great demoralizer. :/ Glad you made it through the heat, though, and still had something left to appreciate the view around you.