What Used to Be . . .

Wrote this two years ago. Revisiting the past in order to prepare for the future.


10:08 a.m., sunshine glints off the leaves of the Pin Oak tree. Drops of dew, still clinging to webs spun nights before, rebound against the wind. Pine Creek crawls, hugging the rims of earth that border it. The “dee, dee, dee” of the chickadees dances with the cardinals’ “cheer, cheer, cheer.” A chipmunk—no, a dead leaf—no, a chipmunk, caramel fur, dark chocolate stripes, scurries into my path, narrowly escaping death by tire. The crunch of the shale clinks against aluminum frame. I steer, missing dips, splits, traps intentionally set by the colluding characters, rain, wind, dirt. Nature is never more chaotic than before traffic picks up, than before footfalls silence its deafening noise. And I, as spy, attempt to blend, to meld with the nectar of the Japanese Honeysuckle, to loosen myself so that the wind can carry me to undiscovered lands, can wrap my scent around the nostrils of those on the other side of the globe, those loosening too, wishing that I may also swallow a whiff of their existence.

I pedal, not with purpose, not with destination, but with hopes of colliding with chaos foreign to my own. The hemlocks, maples, and oaks applaud my efforts as they swell into one another, intertwining, forming one hand, palm, fingers, life’s creases, clapping against the wind. I and the gusts silently communicate, my head turned up, ears open, willing the current into the hole within me. I am positioned to receive. “Where have you been?” I inquire.

“Everywhere. Always.”

Some questions receive answers even though they have not been asked.

And then my personal chaos, the one ravaging my mind, commandeers thoughts, allowing the wind’s answers to become its own.

“What faces have you caressed?”

“Everywhere. Always.”

“What arms have you wrapped yourself around?”

“Everywhere Always.”

“What tears have you inspired as you press into pupils, into psyches that work to block you with sunshades and umbrellas.”

“Everywhere. Always.”

The absence of sensation is sometimes better than cracking oneself open, acorn on asphalt, unable to plant, a seedling that never sprouts. My chaos collides with the trail’s. Our winds dance with one another, twisting, turning, bowing, creating pink, blue, and orange hues, that slam together like the knuckles of clinched fists, hand wrestling to hold one another.

Then, there is the music, louder than my chain squealing in agony as it is assaulted by rocks spit from rotating tires, louder than the buzz of the bee racing me to the cornfield, louder than the digital numbers ticking away on the odometer, dictating miles ridden, a reminder of the amount of road that still must be traveled

I hear Marvin’s song, not blasting through earbuds, but riffing in the wind, “Sing, little sparrow, sing,” joined by Billie’s chilling trill. Southern trees aren’t the only one’s bearing strange fruit. Some of the strangest fruits don’t even hang from trees.

Their voices crash against leaves, reverberating down branches, trunks, sap swishing inside, connecting with the earth on which I ride, sending my insides a quiver. It is only on the trail, that this quaking is tolerable.

Those who argue that nature is quiet amidst noise have not yet heard beneath their own screams for silence. It is unapologetically its own chaos. And so, I ride all trail, nature, having politely parted itself like the red sea, opening its mouth, promising not to swallow. It allows me to commingle with the syrupy scent of the Honeysuckle even as I ponder the growth as a climbing, strangling weed. Even as I wonder this of myself.

Despite the answers, mine and the wind’s, I ride because to ride is to be, to move out of skin, past thriving desires and deceased ones buried far under. It is to soar, to morph into an chickadee or a cardinal, beings that need the wind, but those that also know that the wind needs them. Without wings bobbing from side to side, without feathers tussled by an invisible breeze, how would we know the wind exists? Without it kissing cheeks, producing tears which have no origin, how would we know that we exist? Without the trail, without its chaos, without our own, would we continue to ride?

Originally published in The Hemlock.


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