Monday, May 02, 2011

country ride

There are days when I think I am far too fragile. Limping along to old age. On other days, I wake up believing I am omnipotent – able to carry the load of two, half my age.

I never seem to stay within the range of a golden middle ground.

Today I set the goals high. Shun the car, get out the bike and pump some air into the tires already. How is it that it’s May and I haven’t even wiped the dust off of the seat since, oh, maybe November?

There’s a reason for it. The farmhouse is a little ways away from campus. Twelve minutes by car, but a good 55 minutes by bike.

No matter, the day is bright and I don’t have to get to the Law School before noon. This is the moment to let go of the car dependency.

I step outside.

Wait a minute... What’s this? Someone has pulled my pansies out of the flower pots? And chomped their heads off? There’s so much going on outside right now: buds, grasses, new plants – why would anyone want to feast on potted pansy blossoms?

Ah, farm life.

Ed pumps up my tires and oils my chain. I wipe off a year of grime. I am set to go.

Gosh it’s chilly out there. Windy too. But so... pretty! One of my ongoing complaints about condo living was that I biked from one parking lot to the next before I hit the trail. Not here. So close to campus and so... rural.



But it has been a cold spring and the foliage is still on the spartan side. The wind is kicking up some now and I think that another layer of warm wraps may have been a good idea. As I come closer to the city, I see how delayed this spring has been.


And now it's afternoon. I’m done with meetings and such at the Law School. Next stage: pedal over to Whole Foods and pick up fruits, veggies and dinner foods. The goal is to go there only once a week.
But -- I’m on my bike. How can I purchase foods for the whole week? I can take whatever fits into my saddle bags on the rear. No more than that.

So I shop. And I overdo it. Three full bags of groceries do not fit into even hefty saddlebags. I wedge and strap the remaining items onto the back, between the bags. The whole thing looks like a red lama with two pot bellies and a hump in the middle. Twelve miles with this stuff? Perhaps you know the saying: you do it if you don’t have the options of not doing it. Off I go.  I pedal the hour and ten minutes that it takes to go now from Whole Foods to the farmette. And I have all the essentials – the fruits for the week, the breakfast foods, the snack stuff, the pack of seafood, the pack of chicken meat.

As I pedal home, I’m thinking – I have to quit being so ambitious. I struggle with hills (thankfully, there are few, though they all come upon you in the very last stretch, when you are most tired). The bike wobbles each time I slow down. And finally, two more turns after this farm and I'm home.


Ed has been working outdoors, mainly on his Geo’s malfunctioning headlights. Isis, the cat, is out as well. Yep, home.

The sun is gone now, the air is cool. I’m hoping that the nighttime prowler will give up on my flowers. Go search for the dandelions. You can have as many of those as you wish.


I’m sitting in the living room of the farmhouse, watching the light. It’s quite a show.

People in houses (rather than apartments or condos) do, of course, typically have light coming from any number of places. But what’s fascinating about this little house is that if you sit in the living room, you can look to your right and face an east window, look ahead and see the world to the north, to the left – the western skies, and in back of you, there are the southern hills.

It’s not that the living room itself is especially full of windows. It has only one (west facing). But it has all these little rooms feeding off of it. I feel like I am in the head of an octopus and my arms are reaching out to the world.

So in the morning, if you look out the west window, you can tell it’s a sunny day, but it is a diffuse light.

(I'm in the kitchen here)

Anyway, I know this is such a ho hum thing, but right now, it’s evening and I am watching the light.

Earlier, I faced one of the big objections I had to moving here: there are a lot of floorboards. Wall to wall carpeting may be so retro, but it hides a lot of dust. You can’t get by with missed cleanings too long with wood floors. It shows. I’ve been in the farmhouse for ten days now, and it is time to clean.

On the upside, if movement rather than couch potato status is good for your health, I'll gain years of life here (if I don’t die first driving down country lanes without headlights – see previous post).

Ed is away today, sailing with his friend. Out on Lake Michigan. May they survive the winds and cold waters -- is all I can say (I politely declined the only half-serious invitation to join them.) I am alone here, for the first time. It gives me a chance to take stock. To contemplate things a bit.

I would have enjoyed a chance to sit outside and watch birds swoop from one tree to the next, but there was a brutal cool wind blowing. I opted for more weeding and maintenance work outdoors. At the local nursery, I noted that their usual varieties of annuals were not yet outside for our shopping pleasure. I see the signs, too.


Crazy spring, the sales person tells me. I ask her -- so, you think I should hold off with plantings? The earth’s too cold still! Crazy spring.

Crazy...maybe. But I’ve been through 31 springs in Madison. This one is on the cool side, yes, there’s that. But the days are so long now and the trees are nearly green and the flowers are clinging tenaciously to the promise of warmer days. Who can complain?!

In the meantime, the sun moves down, blinding me for a brief second from my left. Beautiful.


And, toward the east, beams of light from that western exposure throw dappled reflections against glass paned doors.


May light. Brutally strong and blissfully long lasting. And still, I’m glad Ed is driving my 93 Ford tonight. His 92 Geo needs tinkering to get the lights going without fail.