dreaming in the shadows of the Sleeping Maiden

Mt. Tamalpais, July 31, 2012

Mt. Tam glimpsed from Bon Air Landing, Greenbrae

Earlier today I was out riding my bike along the path by the Corte Madera Creek. This was my first ride in the new training program I set for myself. I planned to get out early, but by the time I took care of chores, it was close to noon. At this time on the path those who would be out would be either the very young or the very old int he company of their respective caretakers. The “adults” would be at work, presumably.

As I went about the business of my loops, I biked by kids who were happily and chattily meandering in small circles on the path. I biked by other kids still, much younger and quieter in strollers pushed by mothers or nannies, some talking loudly into tiny mikes clipped to their ears.

Among the geriatric set I passed, some were holding on to leashed pooches ambling this way and that, depending on the whims of their pets. Others, fully hatted and buttoned up and gloved with barely an inch of skin exposed, gripped Nordic poles and made strides through a snowy bank of the imagination, as if each step were a tiny catapult that could spring them forward and free of the infirmities gathering force with the passing of years behind them.

As I rode along back and forth, with the wind hindering and then helping me along, I thought of what it would be like to be young again. Not because I feel so terribly old, but because I wish I would have gotten myself on a bike a long time ago. For a moment, I envied all the young kids out there for the rides they’ll have, the ones I’ll never get to take. Or rather, the ones I’ll never have the chance now to call up in memory.

This was my Faustian moment on the bike, right around the bend in the creek, but there was no Mephistopheles rounding the corner from the other direction on a Binachi, showing off a devilish map of ripped muscles under shiny spandex.

Instead of the sinister specter of Mephistopheles, what came around the bend at that moment was an old woman in a wheelchair. Her dress, though bright and clean and ironed, was old too; it must have been something she wore perhaps 20 30 years ago. The chunky turquoise necklaces draped around her neck, lit up her face, while they seemed to weigh down her fragile frame. When she saw me, she smiled and reached out with one hand, finger pointed, as if she were about to accuse me of something or maybe bless me. She said something, but what, I didn’t hear as I rode past her. A barbed fear in the pit of my stomach had powered my feet as they bore down on the pedals and I rode on as if I had seen a ghost. A familiar ghost: me, down the line of years, asking for an account of what had I done with all that was given to me. Like this day in its full beauty of summer…

Yes, start where you are, even if that place is between envy and fear.