There were a lot of challenges this past week. My ankle was sore, I had a head cold and there was more activity than I could assimilate at work. The weather was mending from the long-standing snows, but the north wind cut like a straight razor. So I was happy when the weather station said the temperature would be 50 and the sun would shine. I needed some solitary roaming in the great out-of-doors.
I left at 11 for a lovely, well-maintained bike path with great scenery and convenient pit-stops. The mercury had not yet climbed out of the mid-40s and the sun was like a gray sticker in a grayer sky, but the wind was gentle and the day felt almost balmy compared to the past few weeks.
In order to get to the trail, the first leg of my customary bicycle ride took me through the back part of a cemetery where last summer and fall I would invariably see a comically fat groundhog. I didn’t see it today and surmised the animal must be deep in hibernation. The dumpy rodent would not have seen his shadow today, that’s for sure. One day in the early winter, before the bad weather, I saw five does grazing in the cemetery. They were curious about me, but not as nervous about a human creature as deer should be. They were nonchalant as they made their decision to glide on towards the power line.
But today there were no deer and no groundhog, just the brown vacuity of a graveyard in the dead of winter. I was glad to arrive at the bike path and observe that not many other people were out for a ride or jog. I thought it might be crowded since this is our first respite from the fierceness of January. I rode past wet woodlands, still full of water from the thaw, past ponds trying to absorb the thick ice that had settled in them, past a few remote residential areas where people were snug inside. The summer smell of food sizzling on the grill did not waft past as I rode on to the end of the path.
A group of serious cyclists were just entering the end of the trail heading back the way I had come. They were colorfully decked out as if they had just come off the Tour d’France. The lead fellow, a middle aged man who looked as if he had a tapeworm, asked me if the path was clear or was there still snow on it. I told him the Township kept the snow off the trail. “You may find some on the edges your first mile or so, but after that it is smooth sailing.” I think the man looked disappointed. It was as if he wanted to turn back and he was looking for an excuse for doing so. He didn’t even thank me for the information.
I know people like that, don’t you? Always looking for an excuse not to move forward.
Daniel G. Ford, Ph. D.