A friends sent me Hardy’s poem ‘At Castle Boterel’ and this snippet seemed to match perfectly my riding of recent days wending through the Rockies.
‘Primaeval rocks form the road’s steep border,
And much have they faced there, first and last,
Of the transitory in Earth’s long order ;
But what they record in colour and cast
Is—that we two passed. ‘
A few days ago Hercules and I rode down out of the mountains that had silently shepherded us this way and that over the last few weeks. Or perhaps it was more the rivers that shepherded us, carving valleys through steep sided peaks, moving rocks and silt downstream. As we rolled along the Toad River keeping pace with flotsam keeping pace with us, I wondered at how amazing it would be to track a water molecule in it’s cycle from vapour to cloud to rain to ice or snow, maybe repeating bits of the cycle before it completes the full loop, into the rivers, out to sea etc etc…. To be a little camera inside a molecule of water would be fascinating. One heck of a ride.
And thus my mind is full of all sorts of wonderings in my wanderings and often nothings and somethings, too. Floating in or out Winnie the Pooh style in either contented emptiness or gentle awareness, mostly I love the contemplative meditative action of sitting and spinning the pedals. A wheeled mantra. If Chimpy is chatty then sometimes I can distract him by losing myself in that motion, focussing on pulling my knees up and around or trying to keep my torso perfectly still. Or on other days Chimpy just can’t help himself but chatters around, getting in the way, making each pedal push feel like a marathon.
Last week the pedalling definitely felt like a marathon. Not just the Rockies but some cheeky germs in my lungs, all piled in with the emotion of being poorly away from home and the elation at become an Aunt for the first time. Emotion and mountains and a chest infection, I realise, have tired me out somewhat. Apart from the infection, they have all inspired and excited me too and, I suppose, have got me through, up and over in one piece (relatively).
Snowy mountains, icy lakes and silver trees were striking. Haughty elk on the roadside were amusing and majestic at once and eerie at night when calling out to each other in a curious transistor radio style vocal. The silence of a white day and the gentle non thud of snow slooping down off branches with a feathery plop. The childish joy at crunching fresh-footed where no one else has been and the quiet rush of gratefulness at finding a pile of unused firewood ready to go at a camp ground. The heavy drag of feeling poorly, engine slowed in mind and body, each pedal efforting more than ten on a normal day. The brain freeze on whizzing downhill for mile after mile from the mountains, eyes wide open for ice patches, nose dripping snotiscles over the cross bar.
The grateful rush of having someone smilingly refuse payment for warm drinks and snacks. Screamingly cold toes. The excitement at melting snow for water over a night time fire for the first time, followed by humoured annoyance at then dropping my dinner (and water) on said fire. My tight-chested teeth-gritted fear of riding hills with drop offs. The longing for home aching in the emptiness of a hotel room. Spontaneous, humbling, warming kindness of strangers toward this oft-smelly, ragged-haired cyclist. The gentle comforting hug of a hot bath and the moment before the sleep fairies carry me away into slumber, muscles and mind stilled. Happy tears on meeting my first nephew over Skype. That is what this last week has been about.
Hercules and I are resting here in Fort Nelson for as many days as is needed before carrying on (somewhat cautiously) down the road, south for a few hundred miles before turning left at Calgary.
Until next time,
Sarah and Hercules x
P.S Thank you to everyone who has donated to the L2L Charities recently. You can follow suit by donating here.
P.P.S Thanks and thanks to all the lovely local folk who have helped me lately. Wendi Laing, Joey McKay, Sandy Williams, Pam & Jim Boyde, the staff at Toad River Lodge, Sonja Leverkus, Gillian Leverkus and Woodlands Inn.
P.P.P.S I was glad to see my recent blog on Canada’s Residential Schools provoked so many comments. Hopefully it adds a teeny bit to outsiders’ understanding of the struggles of aboriginal communities and the longevity of the trauma and its cyclical nature, if nothing else.